Friday, May 3, 2013

What are you going to do for the rest of your life?

"Howrey's Bankruptcy and Big Law Firms' Small Future" by Paul M. Barrett (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has done many, many stories about the crisis in law and legal education. This week the cover story is Big Law's impending collapse. The accompanying video report also discusses the plight of law students and young lawyers. It places a chunk of blame at the door of law schools for "puffing" those employment stats.

There are numerous links contained within the online article linking back to their prior coverage.

Consider the reported plight of Ben Davidson, a Howrey alum:
“When Howrey imploded, it was kind of a shock,” says Ben Davidson, who joined the firm in 1997 and assumed he’d spend the rest of his career there. He attended law school at night at George Washington University while working as a patent examiner for the federal government. He had climbed the ladder to “income partner,” a designation in between associate and full equity partner. “An event like that,” Davidson adds, “forces you to ask, what are you doing as a lawyer and what are you going to do for the rest of your life?”
Those are questions that law school graduates expecting diplomas in the next few weeks ought to be asking themselves. A surplus of new talent means many won’t find the kind of well-paid positions that made the profession attractive. Many won’t find any job at all, at least not one that requires the J.D. they paid more than $150,000 in tuition to acquire.
What do the Ben Davidson's of the legal world do for the rest of their lives? How will law professors justify their salaries when there are no Big Law jobs for them to compare their relative value to? What about the legal support industries such as Martindale and Westlaw and all the legal publishers who put out massively expensive books that only Big Law and law schools buy? What else will disappear as the bubble pops? English, History, Poly Sci and Philosophy majors?


  1. If only the useless majors would disappear, or at least be relegated to hobbyist status they deserve.

    I have a question perhaps someone can explain: Why exactly is it so terrible that Ben Davidson got to "income partner"? Yes, I understand its likely a position he cannot get promoted above.

    But so what? Isn't "income partner" still better than associate and even better paid?

  2. "What else will disappear as the bubble pops? English, History, Poly Sci and Philosophy majors?"

    They can't get rid of those and remain universities....the Law School is a professional school for graduate-level students, not a branch of an undergraduate program. The former teaches a small number of students, while the latter teaches most of the students who go through the college system (in most states undergrads have to take at least one course from each of the four majors R A B listed.)

    I understand the hatred of places like Cooley - they promise a well-paid life and give nothing useful in return. I'm just not getting why the traditional university has to sink with the law schools.

    1. Law schools are cash cows for universities. LS doesn't just pay for itself. There is a substantial surplus thanks to all that left over tuition money that's fed into other programs and colleges within the universities.

  3. Will people choose these majors knowing law school is not an option after? Will people choose cheaper routes to these degrees armed with this knowledge? Like community college first instead of the full four year university liberal arts degree?

    1. Yes, they will choose them. I chose one of those majors simply because I was too young to understand what I was being sold there and I didn't realise just how huge the disconnect was between being good at studying and being good at real life. People commit to a major often before they're 20 years old, usually before having a serious job. At that point in life, we think being interested in something and being good at it is enough to make it a worthwhile use of our time, and god knows that no one in the college hierarchy is going to tell you any different. It's only later that it becomes apparent that liberal arts is a distraction from reality.