Friday, June 28, 2013

Guest Post: To the Class of 2016: Most of You Will Be Forgotten and NO ONE Will Feel Sorry For You

This post is republished here at its author's request.  The original can be seen here.

This post is meant for the graduating class of 2016. In a few months, law school classes will begin. Some of you are pondering whether law school will be the right choice for your personal future. Others plan to matriculate and have already paid their seat deposit and the security deposit for housing. But before you pay the tuition bill and commit yourself to three years of law school, there is something you should know.

I started blogging for two reasons. First, it was to lend another voice to many forgotten attorneys and others trying to spread a message: Going to law school and becoming a lawyer does not guarantee a financially comfortable life nor an exciting career.

In fact, chances are good that you are going to be financially screwed for a very long time if you have taken out large student loans. Many law school graduates will have a difficult time finding an entry level position and even if they find one, the job might not be secure. It is now common knowledge that most average and even some top law schools have been lying about their post-graduate employment statistics. Schools known to be regional powerhouses are now being exposed as trap schools as their reputations relied heavily on unemployed graduates keeping their mouth shut due to social pressure. Finally, low-ranked schools have become the new “lawyer jokes” among practitioners, law students and even some law school professors and administrators.

This message has received mainstream media attention since 2007. There are many articles, blogs and websites that tell you not to go to law school unless you meet a very narrow criteria. And even if you do go, you should drop out after one semester or one year if you do not achieve a certain class rank or if you receive no job offers after participating in the school’s OCI.

This message is no longer being dismissed as the bitter ramblings of the stupid and lazy. It has been shared and confirmed by many who have lived it and suffered for many years but kept it a secret among their family and friends. It has been analyzed and confirmed by disinterested third-parties. It has even been acknowledged by a growing number of academics whose salary depends on discrediting the message and shaming those who spread it.

And now I will explain the second reason why I started blogging. While I am sympathetic to many recent unemployed and disillusioned law school graduates and practicing lawyers, I believe there comes a point in time where those who choose to ignore the above message and fail deserve no sympathy and should suffer the consequences of their actions. It is now time that we put the fear of God into the minds of idealistic lawyer wannabes.

Presently, I have to believe that everyone planning to go to law school this fall know the risks involved. You are knowingly  putting your financial future at risk if you borrow anywhere between $100,000 to over $200,000 on top of your undergrad debt to go to law school. I have to believe that you are knowingly making a decision to enter a profession where there is a small chance of making the coveted $160,000 per year salary and a large chance of working at a small law firm at $30K-$70K per year or just being unemployed. I have to believe that you know that student loan debt will be almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy during your young, productive and fun-filled years. I also have to believe that you are knowingly putting yourself in a position where you will pay at least $1,000 per month in student loan payments for a minimum of 10 years.

But some of you are not going to listen. You still think people like us are bitter losers. You think we’re trying to limit competition and entry into the profession. You’re probably thinking that now is the best time to go because there are fewer applicants, better chances of admission and larger tuition discount offers. You’re betting that the economy will improve in 2016 when Barack Obama is elected to his third term in office. You think you will be ok because you study harder, pray longer and you went through a lot of shit in your life and survived. And the WORST excuse is, “What else am I going to do?”

So if you really want to go despite the many warnings out there, then go. But know this: IF YOU FAIL THE LAW SCHOOL GAME, YOU DESERVE YOUR SHITTY FATE AND I WILL DO NOTHING TO HELP YOU.

If you graduate law school and find yourself in unmanageable debt for possibly the rest of your life, I have no sympathy for you. You deserve to live like an indentured servant for the rest of your life. Go cry to mommy who probably co-signed your student loans and will have to cash out her retirement to pay it.

If you don’t get a job after graduation, I don’t give a shit. Don’t come to me for a job because I’m not hiring you. If I need help, I’ll look for a college graduate or a contract attorney.

If you decide to start your own law firm, don’t come to me for help. I will not mentor anyone from the Class of 2016 nor refer you clients unless there is something in it for me.

If a client tells me that you fucked up his case, no matter how small, I will not hesitate to tell the client to go after you. I will tell the client to file a complaint with the State Bar, file a malpractice claim against you in small claims court or consult with a malpractice attorney. Especially if I see you driving a luxury car or living the “lawyer lifestyle” because you can surely afford to defend a malpractice claim.


  1. Wow, where to begin.

    While we want to be sympathetic, at some point it becomes pretty hard not to simply say it's the job of, well, grown-ups (i.e., law students well past the age of majority) to understand the risks they're taking, seek guidance, and make their choice.

    Senior practitioners won't stoop to even this modest level of sympathy: if you're not in their circle, you're dirt. You're beneath dirt. You're the slime in the water table under the layer of silt beneath the dirt.

    I once heard a partner all but sneer when talking about, ew, government lawyers (in jobs most would nearly kill for today). Snooty? Yup. Fair? Not at all. They don't care.

    I wrote The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book back in the 90s. I wrote that book after work, into the wee hours. I hoped it would be helpful, and to many it has been (or so I've been told), but to be honest it was more a matter of mental exercise. I enjoyed it.

    Nearly twenty years later I wrote Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold. I was becoming concerned . . . alarmed . . . at just how bad were most prelaw books, and how misled were law students. This project was less enjoyable, but important. After the book came out, I shared pieces of it (for free) on various forums . . . to instant hate. What was fascinating was the enormous psychological momentum for students to *believe*. I was not just wrong, I was a heretic. Even students who should damned well have known better were playing games, or were shamed into silence.

    What was remarkable to me was that my efforts, in effect a pro bono contribution of sorts, were not just dismissed, but the senile rant of someone not to be trusted. No, the collective "intelligence" was it, and anyone who deviated from that insipid advice (get drunk, brief cases, take lots of notes in class, color code...) was not just wrong but a threat to be silenced.

    That was in 2008. While GGG might (in retrospect) have been a bit too positive, the book foretold the impact of what had not yet happened.

    Charles Cooper started a draft of Con Law: The Scam of the Century the following year, and as he and I had worked together on his book Later-in-Life Lawyers, Con Law became a joint effort of sorts. The inspiration for it, however, is his.

    A reader who had read The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book wrote his own, Planet Law School, which in conversations started my own 20-year awareness of just how badly the Legal-Education Industrial Complex had begun to eat its own.

    It should be striking that a series of insiders (both professors and practitioners) have come to these conclusions at pretty much the same time, mostly independently, and yet for individual reasons don't really have much dog in the fight, except as a matter of professional ethics, responsibility, and pride. From our perspective, this *adds* weight to what we have to say. To others, perhaps not.

    I have a different take on Campos, for example. He stuck his neck out. He paid a price. (Trust me; he paid.) He said his piece. He helped at least some, and likely many. What more do you want?

    In agreement with the OP:

    For all students, at whatever stage, YOU have a decision to make. Do you trust everything you've been taught, told, and wanted to believe for 16 years, or do you trust us? Either way, it is you, not we, who will pay the price.

    Take our advice, or leave it.

    We hope you make the right choice, because we can see the train wreck that is your life if you proceed, even if it is Harvard, unless you're damned sure that the law is for you AND you're going to do it right.

    I would never want to say, in effect, "Piss off." That's not me. But, at some point, you do need to choose. If you choose wrong, you won't be harming just yourself. You'll drag down your family, friends (what few are left), and any client you happen to suck onto (although it might be a contest between who's dragging whom).


    1. Sir Adam -

      Professionally. We might not think that ostracism is, or should be, such a big deal. But think back to third grade and when Johnny (and Johnny's friends) wouldn't talk to you.

      Faculty lounges are not unlike recess.

      In tort law, the hurdle of the middle of the 20th century was the refusal of physicians to testify against their brethren, however incompetent. The same occurred on police forces in protection of fellow officers, however malevolent. And, ahem, among lawyers, however corrupt.

      Don't discount the power of the clique. Things of great value are denied to those who will not conform, and the definition of "conform" is often quite narrow.


  2. An addendum for students who don't (yet) think law school is a scam; who aren't sure; who think maybe it is but they're different; or who refuse to believe it but are (rightfully) damned scared:

    Life has become a series of Wiki-sources, where if you don't see something that answers your question, NOW!, you're frustrated, and maybe you just tune out. You get to law school, and these *&^$! cases are in Greek (well, Latin), damned long, and boring as hell. You're stuck in the worst of all worlds, where you wasted time on cases (or just give up), have no time for what IS important, and pretty much revel in gloom. (And we're not even to grades and debt.)

    Before you go, or before you go back, you really should read, yes, read, several books. The whole book, or at least as much as will tell you whether it's worth finishing.

    Get them on Amazon. Get them in the library. Ask me and I will buy you one.

    Choose and read any one of the following:

    Con Law (Cooper & Messinger); or Don't Go to Law School (Campos); or Failing Law Schools (Tamanaha); or The Lawyer Bubble (Harper). More will come.

    Which one(s)?

    It doesn't matter, just as it doesn't matter which commercial outline you buy. Just READ it.

    If you're in law school, or (better yet) about to go, now you need to read ALL of the following:

    Planet Law School (Falcon)

    Law School: Getting In, Getting Good, Getting the Gold (Messinger)

    Law School Undercover (Professor "X")

    Law School Fast Track (Hibbard)

    Slacker's Guide to Law School (Doria. Good section on "Should I go?" and damned funny.)

    Here's where I'm going to refer back to the OP: If you're not willing to read a measly half-dozen books, what on Earth are you doing in law school? Seriously. A lawyer reads ALL DAY. Every day. You'd better damned well like it, and be good at it, and be able to glean what you need from ANY source, boring or not.

    Then for the real world, three books by Morten Lund:

    Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney

    Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum

    Jagged Rocks of Wisdom--Negotiation: Mastering the Art of the Deal.

    You MUST read Lund (even if you don't go to law school). If you read just one page and can stand it, *that's* law practice. If you can't stand it, that's an even better lesson. It's written by a partner, as a partner will speak and think, almost. (Think Drill Instructor but without bullets, or at least without physical bullets.)

    Lund's books are superb . . . an absolute must for anyone in ANY office, law or otherwise.

    If you're in the mood, The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book (Messinger). It's dated, but the author has his moments.

    There's also The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law (Hermmann), but it's so expensive (ABA!) as to be ridiculous. (It's a good book, just not worth that relative to Lund's books. You can pretty much buy two of Lund's for the price of Hermmann's, and Lund's are better.)

    I would recommend a few others, but I cannot. Most prelaw books are not just dreck, they're flat-out wrong. Read them all, and decide for yourself.

    Color code cases? Sure, waste your semester until just before finals, and realize you've no idea what you've been reading, or even what the Hell is going on. Brief cases? Same. Be the best gunner there ever was, and a suck-up to boot? Join the ranks of former-gunner suck-up losers.

    I'm sorry messages like this have to be this way, but there it is.

    With aloha,


  3. Nice post, but still FAR too favorable to the law school cartel.

    Say what??

    "Going to law school and becoming a lawyer does not guarantee a financially comfortable life nor an exciting career."

    NO, NO, NO. This type of statement is far too mild and subconsciously reinforces mind-set of the young person who's curious about experimenting with law school.

    There are no "guarantees" in any line of work. Or in life. And financial comfort and excitement have always been the preserve of the lucky few. If the lack thereof is the worst indictment of Law School, I'd enroll in law skool today so I could be Socratimzed by a law professor over Pennoyer v. Neff.

    No. Here's the skinny:

    Going to law school and becoming a lawyer now gives you a less than a 50% chance (I'd say 35%-40% chance) at getting some kind of paid, legal-related job after you graduate, which given the extreme overproduction of JDs and constant turnover, will have a life of a 2-4 years at best. (I'm talking about basic employment at a job that's financially on par with what successful college graduates make ... not "financially comfortable" and not "exciting"). Again, that's the successful outcome for about 35%-45% of the law grads/licensees.

    That means about 50% or so of the grads won't get ANY law job and will lack any experience to 'go solo.'

    Fifty percent of you aren't coming back alive.

    For the less-than-50% who do manage to get 'jobbed,' you'll work 2-4 years in a hypercompetitive Survivor game, probably hate it, then be a solo by default in a hopelessly overcrowded market, where the chaces of your fledging practice making it are 1 in 3 ... at best. The increased numbers of JDs waiting in the wings makes a solo or micro-firm practice an increasingly unlikely proposition.

    Yeah, I understand you're a winner and a striver, and have always been in the top half of your class. I get it. Bottom half is loserville, and that's never been you. I get it. The bottom half doesn't deserve to live, and are probably Communist drug addicts. I get it. You'll be in the job/employment half. Got it.

    Law School is 3 years. I'm talking about your life beyond that.

    The 50% survival rate isn't the story. I accept you'll be upper half in law school and win the job hunt.

    Assuming these big given, your gig will last 2-4 years at a hyper-cutthroat job. After your uncomfortable exit (i.e., replacement by a new law grad), you'll be a solo by default in a now hopelessly overcrowded market, where the chaces of a fledging practice succeeding are about 1 in 3, and growing slimmer by the year. Your ability to survive in this market will depend on your ability to (a) live off/depend on a spouse's primary income, (b) live far closer to the student-mode model than the yup model, and (c) have no indebtedness of any kind-- school, mortgage, car note. Oh yeah, and getting paying clients, meaning ones that don't need you to pay their filing fees and case expenses.

    Still wanna go?

  4. Harsh, but I must agree that anyone who borrows huge sums to go to law school now, when the scam has been so clearly exposed, is not deserving of much sympathy if it doesn't work out the way they'd planned.

  5. So tired of these kinds of articles

  6. I have to agree with @6:35. Even though Thane makes some good points, there's not enough oomph in his message. The "shelf-life" issue is particularly underemphasized when considering law school. My own personal experience, I attended a TTT with the hope of practicing patent law. I have multiple graduate degrees in marketable scientific areas. I was top 20% after my 1L year and had a number of OCI interviews lined up, but struck out of all of them. Part of that was me not fully understanding how the interview process went, part of it was just being in a very competitive job environment. In any event, I was ultimately able to secure a good patent associate position with a general practice firm. The pay was decent, but not $100,000, let alone $160,000. After two years I was shown the door despite performing very well. At some point my work started drying up, and before you know it I was on the street looking for my next opportunity. I had too few years of experience at that point to apply for in-house positions, so I was limited to firms. In the end, I was unable to land on my feet, and have since spent nearly a decade doing contract work, including many document review jobs, in order to pay the bills and service my over $100,000 in student loan debt. Yes, I still have that much debt, which includes undergrad too BTW, after all these years. I've made progress on my loans, but only because my wife makes a very comfortable living - otherwise I would be 100% screwed. Keep in mind, that tuition at my law school has more than doubled to the mid 40's since I graduated. So, if I'm having difficulty paying my bills, anyone graduating today at these outrageous prices is just plain stupid, unless mummy and daddy are paying your way, which is recommended of course! Truth be told, I would not go to LS today without a full or partial scholarship at these prices. Welcome to the life of a debt slave if you decide to continue your quest to become a lawyer.

    1. ANAON @ 08:11.
      Your story sucks man. I feel for you. I'm guessing you graduated LS around 2003? I'm also guessing that you've essentially given up on trying to become a patent attorney because you have not practiced for too long and law firms won't look at you because of your age and staleness?
      I'm amazed that you didn't land a $100K+ job as a patent associate. I mean, even 6 years ago first year patent associates at many firms were making $150K/year. Were you at a very small boutique?

    2. No I was at a (at that time) a 100-attorney shop. Not NY, but very reputable in my state. Indeed, I have given up looking for patent positions. And to be honest, it's quite stressful writing patents under a partner's deadline. I'm definitely not as wealthy now, but happier in many respects since I don't carry my job home with me. As soon as I leave the office, I could care less what happens there. My goal is to ultimately open my own practice - possibly even practice in the patent area, but it certainly won't be the primary practice area since the likelihood of landing patent clients is very difficult for solos. I had attempted to open my own shop a number of years ago during a period of unemployment, but it was completely underfunded. Which brings up an important point ... all those people spouting off about "well why don't you just open your own practice." Easier said than done my friend. First, there's the little thing called money. For a recent graduate in debt to the tune of $200K, opening your own practice is a failed business from the get go. I can attest that soloing is a money pit. I did it for 6 months and feel fortunate to have realized how much of a pipedream it was at that time. Once I'm in a better financial position, my hope is to go down that path again. So to all the budding patent attorneys out there, the market is completely saturated except for electrical engineers and other obscure engineering areas, e.g., optics, lasers, etc. Bio and Chem are compeltely saturated and you need a Ph.D. to even get the interview these days.

    3. And just to correct something you mention, I DID find a job as a patent associate, it's just that it ended after only two (2) years. With no other viable opportunities, what is one to do if no firms/companies are willing to hire you. Again, you don't have enough money to make a legitimate go of solo practice, and you don't have enough experience to get the in-house positions. That pretty much leaves you doing document review, contract attorney work or non-legal work. Right now I'm doing JD-preferred for what it's worth and for the first time since leaving science to go to law school, I finally feel like there is a decent career path beyond document review. This whole situation reminds me of the Beanie Baby craze from a number of years ago, which emphasizes how supply and demand are inextricably linked. Too many Beanie-Babies results in a reduced cost. Similarly, too many lawyers means you have to be stellar to get the job ... or connected :)

    4. Your story sounds fairly similar to mine except you at least got in a couple of years as an associate and you did a bit better than me in law school.
      I never got that experience coming out of law school. Being 40 now, I'm essentially foreclosed from that line of work.

      I'm also in a JD preferred job but I occasionally get calls from patent recruiters. As soon as they hear that I don't have prep/pros experience they're off the phone faster than a cheetah. I also applied for an in-house gig about a month ago but as you say, corporations pretty much won't look at you unless you have a few years at a biglaw shop. That's just another large swath of jobs that are unavailable to people like us.

      Aslo agree with you on opening a solo shop. Off the top of my head I know five engineers turned patent attorneys who tried to solo fresh out of law school without experience. They all sank without a trace.

      Its not just that you need an experienced mentor to get a start in this field, it's that there really are not that many paying clients out there who are willing to spend the money it takes to protect their inventions, and most of the time their inventions are crap anyway. The solos I know who do well share several features in common; at least 10+ years in biglaw at the partner level as well as technical experience. Still, even they have to think about ways to get paying clients and they work hard.

      I wish you luck. I have also somewhat abandoned the hope that I can become a patent attorney. At least I work in a corporation where I can hopefully continue to distinguish myself and advance my career in a different way. I'm at the stage of life where I realize I was swindled by the law school scam and have come to grips with it. I no longer have a limitless future ahead of me, but I'm making peace with that and trying to think about all my blessings like my health and my family. I won't get rich or even affluent, but at least I can turn off my brain after 9 hours at work and see my kids, have great medical, paid vacation, etc.

    5. 11:35, I hear you loud and clear. Exact same experience.

      10:51, your story is very similar and sounds like many I've heard.

      This is why we do this, and thank you for your comments. Part of the message of the scamblogs is to show that many are in similar boats, despite the hand-waving of ScamDeans and law school apologists. As anecdotes pile up, they become data.

    6. Just a minor point about people envisioning themselves as solo patent lawyers post law school. Big companies hire big law firms. Period! The reason being is that a company usually has oodles of cash to spend and they want to rely upon the large law firm's malpractice retainer in the event the attorney screws up. Usually the work gets outsourced to the firms by the GC or top in-house patent guy. If you're the GC, what are you going to say to the board of directors when they ask you why you gave the work to a rinky dink solo patent practitioner who screwed everthing up as opposed to sending the work to BigFlaw? At that point, you - as GC - might as well starting looking for a new job immediately. That's the way it works. Thus, as a small, solo patent practitioner, you are faced with representing garage inventors with lots of big ideas and not a lot of money. At that point, you have to ask yourself whether the return on investment is worth the hassle, particularly when malpractice insurance for IP is very high.

    7. All -

      I agree with the points above, and indeed cover the shelf-life issue in GGG: It is not possible to overstate how absolutely inflexible employers on are on this point. (They're so inflexible they would stop the meeting if you even mentioned it. Assuming, that is, that you even get the meeting, which you almost certainly would not.) In fairness, this is the harsh world *partners* have to deal with, too.

      If a student misses the window, the probability drops to near-zero. If a graduate has missed the window, for all practical purposes, for all high-paying employers, the probability *is* zero.

      It is near-criminal how students are essentially sluice-gated into taking on massive levels of debt based on old assumptions that, while valid decades ago when the odds, while challenging, were better and law school was less expensive (and loan terms more favorable) . . . are now simply insane.

      But . . . and here's where I switch sides . . . IF someone is going to go anyway, for whatever reason, it is now quadruply important that they NOT do law school as everyone else does. That is a nearly assured route to a financial death.

      Brief cases? Not the way you're "supposed" to. Color-code? You must be joking. Frenetic note-taking? No way. Gunning and extra brown-nosing? Ha! Party-till-you-drop the summer before? Your future competitors thank you.


  7. Imagine if only 30%-50% of medical and dental school grads landed physician and dental positions, after finishing their programs. Or picture hospitals and dentist's offices discriminating against students and grads who were 30 years old, because they're "too old." Hell, if most physicians loathed their jobs the way lawyers do, you would see weekly specials on network and cable TV.

    Simply put, this is a terrible decision. As David Segal noted in his epic NYT piece, "Is Law School a Losing Game?":

    "This gets to what might be the ultimate ugly truth about law school: plenty of those who borrow, study and glad-hand their way into the gated community of Big Law are miserable soon after they move in. The billable-hour business model pins them to their desks and devours their free time.

    Hence the cliché: law school is a pie-eating contest where the first prize is more pie."

    What a great "profession," huh?!?!

    1. Great analogy. Law schools should follow the medical/dental school models. Unfortunately, law has a rather unique puzzling method which obviously barely works.

    2. Hospitals don't discriminate against med grads who are too old because the medical school discriminate against medical school applicants who are too old. There's a definite "use by date" and it is very difficult to get accepted to med school as, for example, a 30 year old.

      Otherwise, I agree that law schools should follow a med school model. Med schools do not admit much more than there are slots available in residency programs. (Have there been upsets? Yes. But by and large the numbers of students graduating fairly closely approximates the need.)

    3. Nando said: ". . . [L]aw school is a pie-eating contest where the first prize is more pie."

    4. Very creative! But, you might be risking service of a complaint from a certain patent attorney (supra), desperate for work and more than willing to stoop to dirty copyright enforcement.

  8. this is very promising:

    1. So sad, their pet lawmaker/in-house lobbyist had to leave their payroll.

    2. I LIKE it! Hope to see one of these canned professors on my next document review.

    3. "Hope to see one of these canned professors on my next "

      Wait - "Hope to see one of these professors caned on my next..."

      There. FIFY.

    4. I'm curious how they managed to increase enrollment from 152 to 171 from '11 to '12 during a down cycle. Hmm I wonder if their stats took a hit? Oh wait...

      And bullshit by the dean saying the class size falls between 150 and 170. It was 212 for class entering in 2010.

      There must be many more stories like this, just not as public. Keep spreading the news to 0Ls.

  9. Well come on all of you Sharp Young Minds
    The law school Profs need your young behinds.
    They got themselves in a terrible jam,
    in a present-day version of Vietnam.
    So pick up some books and sign a big loan,
    we're gonna have a whole lotta fun!

    And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we learning for?
    Don't ask me, I don't give a damn.
    My next stop is the repayment plan.
    And it's 5, 6, 7, open up the damned flood gates,
    Well there ain't no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

    Well come on torts profs, let's move fast.
    'cause your pay checks are fading fast.
    Gotta go out, and teach one more set.
    The only good student is one in debt.
    And you know your joy will only be won
    when they blow you during a Practicum.

    And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we learning for?
    Don't ask me, I don't give a damn.
    My next stop is the repayment plan.
    And it's 5, 6, 7, open up the damned flood gates,
    Well there ain't no time to wonder why
    Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

    Come on lemmings, don't be slow
    Why man, the law is go, go, go
    There's plenty good money to be made
    By selling lemmings on visions of the trade.
    Just hope and pray that if you make the grade,
    You won't end up in some big charade.

    Yes, and it's 1, 2, 3....

    Well come on mothers across the land,
    Send your kids to Law-Disneyland.
    Come on fathers, don't hesitate
    To send your kids off to masturbate.
    Be the first one on the block,
    To have your kid come home in a box.

    And it's 1, 2, 3, what are we learning for?....

  10. The shelf life point is the most important because the other issues are covered quite well on the internet. There are many times the number of entry level and 3-8 years of experience lawyer jobs as there are career positions. Very few law grads, even from top schools, will get a career as a lawyer.

    The up or out system has devastated the higher end job market - glutted the market with thousands of highly qualified and now unemployed oe underemployed law graduates. Law firms can hire 45 summers, fire 35 lawyers in the firm to make room for the 40 or so first years after only 5 lawyers leave the firm voluntarily that year and do this year after year. There are legal jobs, or jobs of any type, for less than half of the 40 leavers who have to leave that class.

    The post big law jobs do not exist in the numbers that the big firms hire first year associates and fire more experienced associates at. The fired lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell or Davis Polk, and Harvard and Chicago law schools are competing for small law and government jobs - the type of jobs grads of second tier law schools used to get. It is likely that half the class at the law schools below Harvard and Yale is unemployed or underemployed by age 50, and the number of unemployed or underemployed from Harvard and Yale Law is significant too after several years from graduation.

    Very few associates are leaving big law voluntarily because there are few decent post-big law jobs compared to the 7,000 plus forced deparatures from big law each year.

    Law schools glut the market with too many lawyers and big law gluts the market with too many highly credentialed lawyers. You probably have a 50% shot at a legal career at best if you are hired by big law and a 50% chance of unemployment and underemployment.

    Once you hit your mid -50s, your chance of a career from any law school drops to a very low percentage, even if you came from big law and a top 8 law school.

    1. This post is spot on.

      Three years of school for three years of work, or Up or Out, with no more possibility of Up.

      Students need to be exposed to "Law Firms: Beyond the Law School Scam." The vast ocean of job-seekers created by decades of Up-or-Out has now killed the system. The vast majority of the Class of 2016 will be unemployed or severely underemployed by 2019. And that's optimistically and naively assuming they're the ones who actually get job offers. If not, they're DOA in 2016.

      What are you 0L's possibly thinking?

  11. LS is a fool's bet. the structural change is so massive that it cannot be ignored.

  12. " I believe there comes a point in time where those who choose to ignore the above message and fail deserve no sympathy and should suffer the consequences of their actions. "

    I think this is unfair, because I think it unfairly estimates the length and breadth of your (plural your) reach.

    Just because those of us who've had their eyes opened have, well, their eyes open, does not mean everyone has heard your message.

    It amazes me when I sit and chat with a bunch of lawyers at a CLE or other similar gathering. The vast majority of them don't have a CLUE that 50% of the new grads aren't getting jobs. So how many of them, when asked by prospective students, say "don't do it and here's why"? None.

    I don't mean this in derogation, but there's a bit of an echo-chamber effect with those who seek out and support spreading this information, in that they tend not to realize that those who are not within the echo chamber may have yet to even hear a whisper of the truth.

    1. This is because all the old timers are too busy making money. They have neither the time nor the inclination to give a rats butt about stoopid law school graduates. But there is a trend here ... hmmm ... let me see ... the moral of the story is ... the legal profession is (and has been for MANY years) getting worse over time - NOT better!

    2. Plenty of us old timers are warning prospective law students about the risks of attending law school. Our children who hear about friends or acquaintances who want to attend law school are also issuing warnings that law school is a death sentence for their careers. None of our children are going to law school except for the lone idiots who are convinced they are special snowflakes (and everyone else thinks full of themselves) and that a law degree from a top school is going to make them President of the United States.

      People really need to do the diligence before attending law school. There is access to the internet at every college and every public library, so there is no excuse for not checking out the legal job market before spending three years in law school, even if you get a full scholarship. At a minimum, you are giving up three years of earnings and will have to pay your living expenses. If you come out unemployed right after law school or down the road, your opportunities to use your college or law degree to get and hold a skilled job are likely to be quite limited.

      It is plain dumb not to spend the time to check out the job market for lawyers before enrolling in law school.

    3. Anon 11:21 -

      Only SOME old-timers are too busy making money. Many others have simply exited stage left--even those who were making good money. If they can (and if anyone can, they can) semi-retire into a comfy not-quite-great but still rather cushy position. Your main point is quite right.

      And this truth deserves special attention:

      "It amazes me when I sit and chat with a bunch of lawyers at a CLE or other similar gathering. The vast majority of them don't have a CLUE that 50% of the new grads aren't getting jobs. So how many of them, when asked by prospective students, say "don't do it and here's why"? None.

      I don't mean this in derogation, but there's a bit of an echo-chamber effect with those who seek out and support spreading this information, in that they tend not to realize that those who are not within the echo chamber may have yet to even hear a whisper of the truth."

      Both points are spot on.

    4. I would first get my information about the job market from the internet. Joe who is 52 years old and Sally who is 38 may not have any idea of what the job market is like for recent grads. Talking to a handful of people who have good jobs is a good idea, but the best introduction to a field is on the internet where many points of view are posted, anonymously. Joe and Sally may not want to admit they are about to lose their jobs, were unemployed for several years, are barely eking out a living or have multiple classmates and friends who are lawyers but cannot find work. You get the real information from the internet.

  13. Just to clarify, the up or out policies of larger law firms became a severely glutting factor in the lawyer job market about a decade ago.

    Before the year 2000, there were midsized law firms in more significant numbers that employed collectively more older lawyers without hundreds of thousands of dollars of portable business. Today these midsized firms have been replaced by large firms that employ mostly younger lawyers.

    Also the up or out model changed from giving lawyers enough time to move to a new job a decade ago to public statements by big law firm management to their lawyers today saying "not everyone is going to get jobs" when they leave big law.

    The first year hiring at large law firms has no relation at all to the number of career jobs for these lawyers, nor are large law firms required to limit their hiring so as not to leave large numbers of their lawyers displaced and unemployable.

    The disappearance of midsized law firms in very significant numbers and the brutal nature of up or out policies in the last few years led to a new structure in the U.S. legal profession - large numbers of jobs for lawyers in their first 5,10(market getting smaller), and (to a lesser extent) 15 years of practice (with smaller numbers jobs after 8 years or so) and few jobs for more experienced lawyers.

    It is really dire when your elite academic record- top undergrad school - Harvard, Yale Stanford, Princeton, Dartmouth, Swarthmore - honors, top 8 law school and years of big law experience results your being totally unemployable. You cannot get any skilled employment of any type because your experience in most cases does not match the demand for services today. In fact many lawyers with these elite records are suffering - spending years in unemployment, in a futile job search. and are left with solo practice where they cannot make a living as their sole option.

    1. This is all completely true. I worked in biglaw from 1993-2004. I have observed how it works for 20 years now. There is an ever dwindling chance of being meaningfully employed with each passing year from the first year out of law school....and that is already starting from a less than 50% chance of getting any meaningful law job within 9 months of graduation.

    2. I agree. This is something that 0Ls and law students just don't get. Even if you're lucky enough to actually get a job practicing law when you graduate, there's a good chance that you'll find yourself unemployed and unable to find a law job 10 years later. Nobody wants to hire a senior associate with no portable business.

    3. The state of the legal job market today is that there are relatively few jobs where an employer needs a person to perform a service and does not already have sufficient staffing. This is a relative thing. While there are some open jobs, there are many times that number of job seekers in the legal job market, and all of the jobs that are open require specific experience that one can only get from being hired by a law firm, corporation or the government to work in a specific practice area, usually for at least3 years, and maybe 5 to 8 years, or in a relatively few cases 10 years plus.

      Because there is such an oversupply of lawyers already employed right now in law firms (they almost all have excess capacity), no one is hiring experienced lawyers outside the first few years of the up or out system to perform a service. The only demand is if the lawyer can bring the law firm hundreds of thousands of dollars of guaranteed business.

      There are very limited numbers of in house jobs relative to the number of job seekers (maybe 2,000+ jobs a year nationally for 7,000 plus job seekers coming out of big law in a normal non-layoff year). The government is not hiring much at all.

      Where does a lawyer work a few or several years out of law school? For most lawyers, the answer by default is solo practice out of the desk or table in their home. If that does not work out, as it does not in most cases because there is a huge oversupply of solos, the lawyer can always become a real estate broker or go into sales, working on commission.

  14. At least there are jobs in e-discovery.

  15. 52% of US college grads are either in jobs that dont require degrees or unemployed


    1. 76.556% of statistics are made up.

    2. "Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that." - Homer Simpson

  16. Nasty and vile. These are the first two words that come to mind when reading this post. I am a member of the class of 2013. I know I am different. I am the special snowflake. And I am darn proud I went to law school. This post, at the end, is rude on many levels. Some will succeed in law, even from “fourth tier crappers,” as they are oft called from the scambloggers. To tell another person not to go because many have done bad is not good enough. Many people know the odds are against them in life, and they take a risk. Law school could be called a risk, but it’s not as big of a risk as having a child or marrying the wrong person. You learn much in law school, but how much does one learn by getting in a mortgage that makes them a slave. And $30k to $70k is not bad at all, especially with IBR. And, yes, IBR will exist for a very, very long time (if not forever in some shape or form).

    Thank you for sharing your views on the matter, but you have no excuse to be mean to the students of 2016. If anything, I will provide them refuge, and I will continue the call: “if you want to go to law school — don’t you dare let anyone stop you!”

    1. Very amusing Mr. Infinity. You have a unique sense of humor.

      (I know its you because you used the same wording of providing refuge in a recent post on your blog, Epic Fail)

    2. "And $30k to $70k is not bad at all, especially with IBR. And, yes, IBR will exist for a very, very long time (if not forever in some shape or form)."

      I pay a LOT of taxes. Why should I be forced (at threat of gov't compulsion) to subsidize YOUR law school mistake?

      This "Tra-la-la-lah I can just use IBR" attitude is sickening. It's sickening coming from students and it's sickening coming from school admins.

      It's like saying, "It's okay to borrow $200K that I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to do more than service the interest on, because the taxpayers will cover me. All good."

    3. IBR needs to be tweaked soon or it will be here forever. It will be the our generation's social security.

      The problem is that once IBR's protections are gone, a shitload of people will default on their loans. This will guarantee that our "recovering" economy will take a hit. The only other way to solve it is to allow student loans to be dischargeable in BK.

  17. Here's a nice article from Lee Adler from Money Morning.

    Enjoy, guys.

  18. Also, with the patent issue...

    ...for some reason *Dentists* are a significant market for patent work.

    Dentists seem to like patents.

    Don't know if this helps anyone, but it's true.

  19. One of the many reasons I love Gerry Spence:

  20. Interesting line of comments.

    Thane, you keep telling people to purchase certain books about the law school scam. They can get 99% of the information for free on the net. Please focus your recommendations to free resources.

    6:35, I and people like me have been saying this since 2005. People don't listen or don't want to listen thinking they are different. So the hell with them. You can only warn people for so long. At this point, these people should be warned that no one will feel sorry for them.

    1. Forgotten -

      Yes, students should look to free resources. But . . . and here's where I get feisty . . . it seems that there has developed a perverse, REverse valuation of information.

      We are often told "Information is gold!" Nonsense. Information is crap. There's too much, and much that's out there is wrong, or misleading, or badly applied. Much of the *actually-useful* information is hidden, often in the open. Yet the neophyte will not be able to know which is which. This is a danger of "free" information, which in the real world costs us dearly. Here, this cost is paid by the classes of 2009, 2010, 2011 . . . .

      If my take on the common "wisdom" is even partly correct, one reason the law school scam *is* the law school scam is because of the mass acculturation of numerous strands into mostly-wrong advice. There are many reasons this happened. Primary among them is the type of "history" of law and law school that survives by vocal gunners and those who, for their own reasons, want to put newbies in their place. All one need to is read the vulgar pablum of many online forums.

      In college, grad school, and law school I worked throughout, and lived on air. So I know what it's like to be told to buy something. But note that I never said to *buy* it. Ask the library to get it for you. Or ask me, and I'll buy a copy myself and give it to them. It's not about the money, but neither should it be a reflexive dismissal of the value of money. This is an anti-free-market perspective that has taken a dangerous hold.

      Not least, what does a 0L think will happen when they graduate and are expected to spend *thousands* of dollars *every year* on bar fees, CLE, and such, which actually ARE mostly vaccuous wastes of money?

      I leave it to students to decide. They should read it all. And if they're not willing to buy and read a few extra books, they absolutely should not go to law school. Period. This is their first test.


    2. Thane, the only problem I have with your book is that I never knew who you were. You came out of nowhere and you have a history of publishing pro-law school books. I have a suspicion that you are here just to promote your book. If I am going to recommend a book, I'd suggest buying Tamanaha's "Failing Law Schools" and Campos's "Don't Go To Law School Unless...." At least Campos and Tamanaha sounded the warning call back when it was considered heresy to talk critically about law school. And for free.

      You said:

      But note that I never said to *buy* it. Ask the library to get it for you. Or ask me, and I'll buy a copy myself and give it to them. It's not about the money, but neither should it be a reflexive dismissal of the value of money. This is an anti-free-market perspective that has taken a dangerous hold.

      Put your money where your mouth is. Reduce the price of your book to two cents and make it available only on Kindle. I am guessing that 99% of the information in your book is available for free online.

    3. Two thoughts:

      1 - you get what you pay for. Free information is free for a reason. It has little value. And the good stuff is hidden in a pile if shitty free information. Signal to noise ratios and all that.

      2 - Thane's book is $2.99. You are an idiot if you are seriously telling students to avoid reading it because they have to pay for it. It's not a $150 casebook!

      Your message is a bit misguided and dangerous.

    4. Atty -

      I have been here in one form or another for nearly two decades. I have been accused of being many things, but a mouthpiece for law schools is not one of them.

      Are the books pro law school? Seriously? Have you read any?

      I would certainly support anyone arguing for Tamanaha's or Campos' books, but why and how is that an objection? (And by the way, Cooper's and my book is half to one-quarter the price of either.) Take your pick. Or read it online. Whatever.

      "Put your money where your mouth is. Reduce the price of your book to two cents and make it available only on Kindle."

      Wow. Just . . . wow.

    5. Forgotten attorney, you seriously never knew who Thane Messenger was until now?

      That unfortunately shows how new you are to this scene, not him. At least do your research before mouthing off. Plus why are the mods on this site publishing blog posts from somewhere else, especially FA's drivel.

      Complain about the price of the book, but please also complain about the book by Campos (half the length, twice the price, and just old posts from ITLSS - so four times the complaints please) and the Tamahana book (a real book, but 5 times the price, so five times as many complaints please.) I have read all three and con law is by far the best in terms if content, common sense, and value for money.

      Plus the other two are written by law professors, both of whom are still law professors!!! Where is your anger about that?

      Better yet, just go and spend the three bucks and read the book before spouting crap about it. We have few resources backing up our position on this site, so your trashing the one we have a good relationship with out of what seems like a mix of ignorance and spite is kind of pathetic.

      Mods, please keep FA in the comments only in the future.

    6. "3:21"/Thane obviously suffers from Unwarranted Self-Importance. Love the plug to buy his book.

      Speaking of books, didn't he also write one a few years ago that hyped law school attendance?

      Some people have no shame. And some of them like to pretend that they went to "Harvard."

    7. "'3:21'/Thane"

      Anon 1:52 -

      'Twas in fact not I. I do appreciate the comment from whoever did write it, but you're not likely to believe anything from USIs (or WSIs), apparently.

      Read, don't read. Attend, don't attend. Insult, don't insult.


    8. Another lesson from an otherwise pointless exchange; and a warning to anyone thinking about law school and being a lawyer; and another--perhaps more important--reason not to go:

      This is your world. Read through these threads. Read through forums elsewhere. Absorb the profane attacks (especially elsewhere), often for the most mindless of "offenses".

      "The Kardashians aren't the most awesome chicks on the planet?!?!?! Eff you, you f..... a..... sh..... m......."

      These are the people you will be working with until you quit law, or die. [Not the Kardashians, but those in basements writing about them.] These are the thoughts of people freed from the social conventions of actually confronting their victims--looking at someone while they talk.

      This is not the norm in all professions. There is snarkiness everywhere to be sure, especially with the advent of the internet. But even so, the law is different, and worse. In business school you will face competition just as severe, if not moreso. Yet in most cases it is a competition to beat you with a better proverbial mousetrap. In graduate school the sluice is sufficiently restricted (usually) to provide some indication of future, so much of the contest is in brown-nosing and pseudo-intellectual naval-gazing.

      In law, however, the game is more zero sum. By design. There are no mousetraps. There aren't even clever Socratic discussions, anymore. It's re-regurgitated nonsense, mostly misunderstood by confused and frustrated law students distracted by, well, the Kardashians. Add a forced curve and decimated demand, and you have the makings of those who will cut you down just because they can. Perhaps that's their sense of power.

      Do not think this is especially true only now. When I was in law school, many years ago, there were those who played these same nasty games, although more subdued because much was in person. [Except for the library, where cases were frequently ripped out of reporters.] Often with absolutely no personal benefit other than to put someone down.

      So, disregard the content discussed, and read instead the personal attacks and venom and frustration.

      This is your world, if you so choose.



    These links were posted upthread, too, but I wanted to borrow them to make a comment about the level of dissembling still being perpetrated by LS administrators.

    Here's a quote from the VT LS president: “We’ve been utterly unaffected by the drop in employment and the reason is there is such a diversity in the direction our students go in,” he said. (emphasis added by me).

    And the reporter just uncritically laps this up - after all, surely a LS president wouldn't LIE to a reporter - and uses it as the basis for this statement: "Another piece of news for VLS is that the job placement rate for their graduates — which, historically, has hovered at around 75 percent within two to three months of passing the bar — hasn’t declined, despite the downturn in the legal profession, according to Mihaly."

    This is utter, utter garbage. VT is running 44% in 2012 for legal jobs to its grads. In 2009 it was running about 50%. I don't know what it was running in 2004, but hopefully it was higher than in 2009.

    And even if you add up ALL FT employment, including starbucks or whatever they use for coffee in VT, you don't even get to 60%, let alone 75.

    You can only get to that 75% "placement rate" if you include even all the short-term part-time employment, including those few that have school-funded part-time jobs.

    Note even ignoring the numbers, the wording "placement" is misleading - do you go to LS hoping for "placement" into starbucks? Or a law job?.

    Note the comment upthread at 10:15 a.m. yesterday about how, despite the amount of information being put out by `sites like this one, many people (and prospective students) haven't gotten the news.

    Wonder why? Maybe because we still have "official" disinformation campaigns like this one that news people pass along unquestioningly. Note that the chances of prospective VT Law students stumbling upon this local VT article (and/or being shown it by their parents, friends, school counselors) are much higher IMHO than the chances of them or their parents/etc. stumbling on the Segal NYT articles from 2011.

    That was yesterday's news, after all, and after all, we have it on highest authority that VT law grads are magically and utterly unaffected as it regards their employment prospects.

    What a crock.

  22. I don't know about no life after law school, at least for grads over the last decades. I know there are a lot of anecdotal complaints how big law lawyers move to unemployed or underemployed lawyers, but I have seen no studies supporting these assertions. In fact, this study says the exact opposite. It seems that many lawyers are doing quite well for themselves a decade after graduation.

    1. Thank you for missing the point.

      That study is:

      1 - ancient
      2 - written by law professors as a sales piece
      3 - follows only grads of one top 10 school from one year
      4 - contains so much statistical vagueness and trickery that it makes US News good in comparison.

  23. This study was before the recession, covered only people 10 years out of law school and glossed over the numbers of women lawyers who did not have jobs - about half the women if I recall correctly. A decade after graduation may not be long enough to experience real troubles back then because these people averaged about 37 years old. The numbers are much worse today. If you go 20 or 30 years out of law school, the numbers will go from worse to horrible. Also, the job market has worsened for people a few years out of law school in the last several years. It is no longer 2007. If this survey had used the ABA or NALP standards for reporting, the numbers would look a lot worse. Not the high percentage full time permanent employment in jobs requiring a JD, along with a handful of voluntary leavers in real business or non profit jobs and not the high salaries that UVa claims for the first year class. You can bet that few of the women who took off in this survey were able to get paying jobs that required their law degrees when it came or comes time for their kids to go to college and they need the money to pay the tuition.

    1. what I find most interesting about this article is not that there are jobs available, but the life satisfaction many lawyers seem to have. You read these sites, and everybody talks like working as a lawyer is a life in Hell . . but this article belies these assertions.

    2. These are young people being surveyed, and many are in second tier cities, not New York, Boston or Washington. This was 2007- good times. You need to take the response with a grain of salt.

      Most people are okay with the life style. I did big law for years and years. Not that it is easy, it is actually quite hard if one is trying to balance family and work. I was never unhappy. In fear of losing my job, maybe, but it was very pleasant to work in big law.

      The problem is the difficulty of holding on to a job. The problem may be more acute in a larger city and definitely becomes more acute the older one gets. At 37 or 38, lawyers are still young enough for most or many to not suffer acute age discrimination that is the mantra of the legal profession. After age 50, it is a different story. Years of a futile job search is very stressful and would make any happy person very unhappy with their careers.

      Try the class of 1977 and the class of 1987 at UVa today in the midst of a jobs crisis in the legal profession and use ABA and NALP standards, and ask about job satisfaction. There will be a lot of ruined, ended careers and a good share of bitter lawyers - bitter that they were scammed by the law schools and law firms glutting the profession and making it very hard or impossible for many of these older lawyers to work in any type of gainful employment.

  24. For lawyer looking for work over the age of 50 with a Harvard, Yale, Princeton undergrad degree and top 8 law degree, and years of big law experience, no law firm will hire or retain that person without a huge book of guaranteed portable business. Very few lawyers have that book of business, and many spend the bulk of their time looking for work, without a real job.

    Being a lawyer over the age 50 is like being a minority before the civil rights laws were passed, - you simply cannot find any work. But age-related discrimination in the up or out context is perfectly legal because it is based on experience, not age. After all, people can attend law school at age 80.

    Let me explain the economics of health insurance for such a person. All of you will be required to carry health insurance starting in 2014 for you and your dependents, or pay a penalty. If you are finally lucky enough to get a temporary job after two years of complete unemployment, at the princely sum of $70 an hour and the skies open up and you get 1,000 hours of work from that temporary job, the liklihood is that you will not have health insurance from that job. Many temp employers follow the minimum standard and treat temp lawyers like food servers at McDonald's. You need to work at least 30 hours a week for a full year in order to qualify for health insurance, and during that first year, you are not eligible for employer provided health insurance. The liklihood is that you never get to health insurance because you are not there long enough. If you have to pay for your own health insurance and buy it on the individual market, it is after tax. You do not get the tax benefit of employer provided health insurance. You may be down to $40,000 or less of earnings for that year, which is what the $70,000 job would pay if it provided health insurance and the employer spent the same amount as they paid you, but allocated some to health insurance. This is after two years of unemployment and with a top 8 law degree, Harvard, Yale or Princeton undergrad degree and years of big law experience. You are making less than the paralegal who just graduated from your top college last year, and unlike that person, do not have a real, full time permanent job and you cannot get such a job in a glutted lawyer market.

    So good luck with your legal career. And do not think that your Ivy background confers an advantage. When you get older, it has about the value of a roll of toilet paper.

    1. This is worth emphasizing to any prelaw out there:

      "[N]o law firm will hire or retain that person without a huge book of guaranteed portable business. Very few lawyers have that book of business, and many spend the bulk of their time looking for work...."

      Anon 6:39 is exactly right, and if anything understates the case.

      1. Employers will hire only those fresh-meat grads who are of use. Law graduates have zero practical knowledge (what should be a shocking indictment of their education), which means zero initial use, which means that employers use rank/grade as proxies for raw talent for *future* use. They don't like this, but perversely it helps them (because only their level of graduate is of any legal threat, *and* their many former associates present future business opportunities), so they go along.

      2. Thereafter, lateral hires happen only for those who, yes, add value. "Value" equals portable business. This applies to ALL lateral hires, at all levels.

      Build yourself a business (think Lincoln Lawyer) and, yes, you can find a home. Chances are, however, that if that is true, YOU'RE the one in the driver's seat.

      Read Morten Lund's book on negotiation for a hint of both how firms approach this and how lawyers do.

      In short, for anyone considering a law career, a post such as Anon 6:39's should be read and re-read a few times.


  25. Just to clarify, you may get some tax benefit from buying your own health insurance on the individual market, but the insurance will be significantly more expensive than if it were employer-provided. It may substantially reduce what you earn as a temp and make being a temp without employer provided health insurance very disadvantageous.

    It is important to understand the carnage that up or out has wreaked on the job market for experienced lawyers. It is brutal, and the law schools are pretending that carnage does not exist.

    The communications from my top law school ask for gifts or invite me to some obscure seminar, and sometimes to a very expensive meeting. The law school does not offer job help, retraining help - nothing. They are blind to the suffering of so many of their grads.

    Some us really need retraining to work again. There is no job after big law that will hire us. There are too many of us and as a result the skills that most of us have do not match the job market.