Monday, May 20, 2013

LawProf Indictment

I'm going to yield the floor to Mr. Jeff Matthews, who posted over at The Faculty Lounge concerning the ongoing debate over the Legal Job Market:

I am not a big fan of personal attack, but there are indeed some issues which bear introspection among academians.

I don't begrudge law profs maximizing their salaries. I don't mind their reluctance to give up pay, nor would I ever expect them to. I don't mind them questioning whether the problem is as bad as some say. I don't mind that they continue the casebook method despite complaints by students that, given how hard it is to land a job, maybe a more hands-on approach is in order. These things are open for debate.

But, in all honesty (and no profs need respond), for years we have all known that the law schools have been posting misleading employment statistics. While the language they employed was technically true, they have been selective in their data gathering and categorizing, without full disclosure as to the means used to skew the results. This has been common knowledge for at least 20 years. My graduating class from UT Law in 1993 can attest to it. Ask just about any of the 500+ attorneys we graduated that year. This has been the case for EVERY lawyer in any graduating class after mine in any school that I have ever known. I have never seen ONE lawyer, when the topic came up, who didn't agree the stats were bogus.

Though it has become common knowledge among lawyers after the fact (of attending law school for a while to figure out the bunk by watching all the hopeless-sounding 3rd-years ahead of us), it most certainly was not widespread knowledge among many of the members of the entering classes who really did not know many lawyers to begin with. I do think the advent of scamblogging has made the scam more transparent the more popular scamblogging has become. (Gotta love the internet for those who would have more trouble finding answers by walking pavement.)

So, in the sense that law school systematically published misleading figures, knowing they were misleading, in order to get kids with stars in their eyes to pony up $100k+, I call BS on that. Every law professor should have rebuked this practice until it was stopped. But you all (or dang near everyone of you) sat there quietly. You knew it, too. We know you did. Heck, Professor Powers even gave us 3rd years a speech about how not to worry that we didn't have jobs line-up like we expected we ought to have. It was apologetic with a dose of encouragement thrown in.

That practice was shameful. I hope you guys are more vocal about truth-in-education in the future. You don't have to be all negative on law school, but at least stand up and call for the truth when you see your compadres and employers teaming up to pull stunts like these. Don't just sit quietly and watch all those kids have their hopes dashed so that you feel obliged to give moral encouragement to "Hang in there. It's not so bad. Give it time. You'll be fine." This is little consolation, even if the damage is repaired over time by the efforts of the kids whose hopes were dashed.

Posted by: Jeff Matthews | May 07, 2013 at 11:55 PM

Straight up, Jeff,  'nuff said.  By my view of the comments, no LawProf responded directly to Jeff.

When it comes to the self-interested ScamDeans and LawProfs, caveat emptor, everybody.  Those hefty, tenured ("non-profit") salaries don't just drop out of the sky, you know.  Some would say that Our Promethian Betters deserve no less.


  1. "Though it has become common knowledge among lawyers after the fact (of attending law school for a while to figure out the bunk by watching all the hopeless-sounding 3rd-years ahead of us), it most certainly was not widespread knowledge among many of the members of the entering classes who really did not know many lawyers to begin with. I do think the advent of scamblogging has made the scam more transparent the more popular scamblogging has become."

    Those from modest backgrounds typically do not know many lawyers, before they enter law school. Plus, the student is convinced that he or she will succeed. Also, the ABA-accredited diploma mills have been able to publish misleading and false employment data. For $ome rea$on, judges/politicians in black robes and law school pigs are basically now arguing that the students were foolish to believe the numbers posted by the law schools.

    In the end, the only way to impact the law school cockroaches is to continue to publish the truth. As with any other commercial enterprise, the law school indu$try only understands money. If enrollments continue to decrease, the bastards will take notice.

    1. I agree that those of us who are the first lawyers in our families had no personal connections to warn us about the unconscionable level of bullshit spewed by schools. Many of us also thought the government regulated schools receiving federal money or at least checked up on their postgraduate employment claims. When I explain the scam to many boomers, including a judge I clerked for, they are surprised that this has been allowed to if they also had no idea how rigged the system had become.

    2. I knew plenty of lawyers, went to one of the very top law schools and was still a victim of the scam. If you went to the Ivy League (maybe not Cornell included) or Michigan, you were in pretty good shape back then. There was not such a glut of lawyers that grads of the top schools were unemployed and underemployed in any significant numbers. As time went on, I noticed Harvard and Yale Law grads older than me being permanently displaced from their jobs - starting maybe 10- 15 years ago. Today it is more common than not to be displaced. There was no way to know that when I went to law school. I had a lawyer in the family generation of my parents who had a job, went to my top law school years before me (but was not a parent or sibling, so he did not get me in) and he was able to work as long as he wanted. Not the case with my top Ivy law degree - temp work and unemployment for the last decade, while I spend all my time trying to get a job or work.

      There were no employment stats when I went to law school. It was a given that if you went to Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Penn or Michigan that you had a good career ahead of you. Things just changed because the law schools were allowed to overexpand with free government money.

    3. Are you actually saying that graduates of Harvard, Yale, Columbia,Penn and University of Chicago are having much difficulty getting jobs? Hard to believe. Even if they don't get big law, you would think that the Government would be snapping them up (as soon as hiring freezes are lifted anyway), or Public Interest companies. I get below the top ten or so may be having difficulties, but the top five? Things can't be that bad?

    4. Graduates of top law schools are having great difficulty getting jobs down the road. Maybe not in the first year after law school, but surely later on.

      The legal profession is very similar to Nazi Germany or the South before the Civil rights movement. If you are older, you do not meet the qualifications for any law firm job, unless you bring many hundreds of thousands of dollars of guaranteed business. It is like being Jewish in Nazi Germany or black in the South before the civil rights movement.

      There are just a handful of in house and government jobs that are open to any one person, because the jobs all require very specific experience and open infrequently. Some of the bigger companies will not keep older lawyers in junior level jobs. There may be no place to work and no fallback to earn income in if you are an older grad of one of these law schools.

      Many lawyers from top law schools are in terrible spot - no jobs, no prospects and a law degree absolutely without economic value because the permanent jobs where older lawyers can work until Social Security retirement age (generally age 66 for people retiring now and age 67 got younger people) do no exist, except in very small numbers.

    5. Well, I'm an older lawyer. but I have been solo for years and years. Of course, I started out in mid-law and learned how to practice there, opened up my own practice in a relatively small town and I have done very well . . but I specialized in something very few lawyers in my town do, which gave me an edge. I think I realized long ago that relying on yourself in this business was the only way to go in the long run. I'm sure that is much easier said than done in today's market.

    6. It is all relative, but YES, recent grands from T14 law schools are having a tough time. At least tougher than EVER before. Many are struggling to find positions immediately following graduation. Just take a look at how many grads 9 months out UVA, Michigan, Penn, and Duke are hiring themselves.

      Sure, a T14 law degree is better than T100 or a TTT degree, but it is still a law degree, which in this economy is a net negative (especially given the loans today's graduates leave with).

      Also, government hiring is virtually non-existent and no, "as soon as hiring freezes are lifted" (not happening anytime soon) Government most certainly WILL NOT be "snapping them up".

    7. Yep. Starting your own practice and relying on yourself worked for you years ago. It's totally the way to go, I agree.

      But there are now 17 You's trying this same approach ... and you're still here, too. Not to mention the twenty-some others from earlier years trying to be You, too.

      Saturation effects a market economy. No one hires unneeded people simply because they hold a gold-plated degree. The JD is versatile if you consider you can use the back of it as scratch paper, and you can use it to wrap fish.

  2. Most tenured law professors have their heads squarely up their six-figure butts when it comes to the ground-zero reality of law practice. Why would we ever expect them to, like, read their school's own promotional materials?

  3. Sorry, off topic. But holy cow Batman, CBS News today, detailing the obscene profit the Fed makes off student loans (prepare to be disgusted):

    1. Boomer wealth transfer scam.

  4. Providing accurate --hell, at least non-deceptive-- information about employment outcomes is half of the battle.

    The other half of the battle is trimming the number of seats in law schools to something that corresponds to the market realities of demand for lawyers. It must be applied along with the truth-in-advertising remedy.

    The academy may finally be reluctantly, grudgingly, getting around to accepting the truth-in-advertising part. That's a start. But the equally needed 'reduction-in-seats' part of reform will only be reached through layoffs of the professoriate (not simply non-replacement of retiring faculty), closing of something approaching one-third of the existing law schools, and then deeply reducing the number of seats in the remaining law schools. Like most patients being forced onto a diet for health reasons, the patient won't like it, and will protest vehemently. So what. If the profession is to survive, the academy must be starved down to a manageable size and the deliberate overbooking in which it has long engaged must halt instantly.

  5. One way to achieve the closure of schools and drastic reduction in law school seats is to force disclosure of more long-term employment data. Even from the top schools, the value of a law degree at age 53 or older is dubious because so few people who are more than 25 years out of law school can get and keep legal jobs. The problem starts a lot earlier for many top law school grads. If the stats for the older classes are wholesale disaster - very high unemployment and underemployment and very low median incomes, there you have it. The promise of success and even a legal job is an empty one if most people from top law schools are going to be forced into solo practice, part-time work or outright unemployment in their 50s and 60s, if not a lot sooner.

    1. Absolutely correct. This blog should be carrying this message loud and clear. It will need to be stated forcefully and with repetition because we're dealing with an ingrained cultural myth of the successfully employed lawyer, and the norm for professional people to mask severe underemployment by calling it 'solo practice.'

  6. Law Schools presently engage in a form of deception simply by through their enrollment numbers. The schools and their more upright professors may not even intend deceipt but the mere fact of a school's existence at present weight sends a powerful, subconscious message.

    Given the relative positions of 20-somethings and their ever-so-proud, pro-education parents vs. the academy, the simple fact the well-established state or public academy has long offered a certain number of 1-L seats unfortunately --yet inevitably-- creates the impression larger society wants a correlative number of professionals who will have some meaningful role to play in the profession (i.e., a career).

    Of course, as in all things, it's buyer beware, and it's your fault for failing to do research. It may not be justified reliance, but the simple fact that established state and public law schools have been vomiting forth graduates at current levels for the lifetimes of the now-prospective students, inevitably leads many to conclude that the profession will actually support such numbers ... just as I assume a large cruise ship will safely carry 3000 passengers coming aboard with me, and assume that a commercial airliner having taken off from La Guardia bound for France will have a fuel tank sufficiently large to allow trans-Atlantic transport. My logical assumptions lead me to conclusions that draw me away from researching the details.

    The academy may mean no harm, but the mere fact of its existence at its present weight sends the subsconcious message that it's living a socially healthy lifestyle and selling a socially useful product. It's most certainly not. For now, however, it's up to these blogs to sound the alarm.

    Add to this the similar fact that vast majority of prospective law students --and almost all non-lawyers-- focus on the prestigious law firm associateship as the law school prize, yet few know the prize (which exists only for the lucky few who clear the hurdles) is a 3-4 year 'career' at the firm. The Academy looks to these rarified gigs and tells the lemmings, "Hang in there. It's not so bad. Give it time. You'll be fine. Your degree is worth loads over time."

    The next area that needs to see the light of day is the absolute poverty of career outcomes in law over the past 20 years, and the schools' complicty in creating so many lawyers that the degree often ends up being be worthless for many graduates... even those that seemingly win the associateship lottery and get some experience.