Friday, June 21, 2013

Interview with Con Law Author Charles Cooper

Charles’ story is a good example of the I Did Everything Right journey that so many of us have traveled. 

I asked him some questions, he wrote some thoughtful responses, and I have edited it for length (yes, this is edited).  As many of you may remember, Charles provided a glimpse of his story in Con Law: Avoiding…Or Beating…the Scam of the Century.  I thought that having a more detailed account of his story would be interesting to readers. 

Once Upon A Time

I went to law school on the east coast in the early 2000s after thinking about it for a number of years and graduated in 2004. The school, at the time, was classed as a “tier 2” school, ranked around 70-80, give or take, and would be categorized as “regional”… I think it still is, although I haven’t actually checked the most current rankings – it never moves, regardless of how much money it pumps into self-promotion and expansion.

Coming out of law school, I initially worked in a two-lawyer firm in a semi-rural setting, focusing on residential real estate closings. This was a far cry from what I had envisioned myself doing after law school, which was working in transactional biglaw in a major city (a familiar tale).  Despite having all the right credentials other than being young – I was a nontraditional student, albeit only by a few years, including being a hair’s breadth from the top 10% of the class, grading onto law review and ending up on the editorial board, winning a national writing competition, and having the paper published in the practice guide for the relevant national specialty bar association - I ended up at graduation with no job offers.  I was left scrounging around for anything I could get my hands on until a couple of weeks before I actually took the bar exam.

After two years of working for $45K with no benefits and few prospects (and $45K with no benefits, once benefits are paid for out of pocket for the wife and kids, leaves precious little, including none for paying student loans which were deferred for that entire time), I was given an extremely lucky break. I had been working on a minor commercial real estate closing for one of our clients.  One of the few benefits of working in a small law setting was that I was handling these kinds of transactions solo very early, although my competence was certainly questionable at the time. The closing itself was held at the downtown office of a medium-sized and extremely good law firm, and afterwards one of the partners approached me and asked if I would be interested in coming aboard based upon my handling of the matter we had all been working on. They had been looking for an associate to join the practice group, and I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I jumped at the chance, and this led to a pay raise of about $30K plus real benefits. Life was pretty good at that point, and I thought I was on the right track as a lawyer.

Although I didn’t particularly enjoy the residential real estate closings I had been working on for the prior two years, they did have a certain repetitiveness, predictability, simplicity and lack of conflict that suited me. Moving into a high-end commercial real estate practice as a junior(ish) associate was the other end of the spectrum; everything was always new, unpredictable, complex and full of conflict – even conflict between parties on the same side. It was as if the entire system thrived upon conflict, as more conflict equaled more work and more billable hours.

I hated waking up and realizing that I had to go to the office. I hated being at the office because it was problem after problem. I hated leaving the office because I knew that I would worry about all the calls and emails and problems that would be waiting for me the next morning. And it wasn’t just me. The stress levels of the others in the firm were equally high, and I’m sure my boss wasn’t exactly having it easy. It just seemed that constant stress was something that was accepted by everyone, a kind of nagging stress that just never went away. There were no breaks, and if there ever looked like a time when the stress levels could potentially diminish, someone almost without question stepped in to stir the pot. Associate turnover was high.

…I hated waking up and realizing that I had to go to the office. I hated being at the office because it was problem after problem. I hated leaving the office because I knew that I would worry about all the calls and emails and problems that would be waiting for me the next morning. And it wasn’t just me. The stress levels of the others in the firm were equally high, and I’m sure my boss wasn’t exactly having it easy. It just seemed that constant stress was something that was accepted by everyone, a kind of nagging stress that just never went away. There were no breaks, and if there ever looked like a time when the stress levels could potentially diminish, someone almost without question stepped in to stir the pot. Associate turnover was high.

During the entire five years of my time in those two law firms, I cannot remember one day I actually enjoyed my work. Not one.

After the Recession

I had nothing to fall back on. I thought about trying teaching, but even that was a long shot given the economic conditions at the time where everybody and their brother wanted to seek refuge in the classroom. To cover up the shame that I was now unemployed, and to bide my time, I started my own firm (sound even more familiar?) I found an office to rent in an office-share arrangement, bought a cheap computer and printer, supplies, had cards made up, spent weeks writing announcements, letters, making calls, advertising (paid and unpaid), having files transferred to me from my old firm, arranging meetings with clients and friends, spending money on lunches, etc. After literally pounding the pavement non-stop for months, I gave up – I had not one piece of paying business. It was an absolute money-pit.

So I called up a few doc review recruiters and ended up working in a doc review mill for one of the large firms in town for a few months, making $25 per hour, no benefits, and still trying to get my own firm off the ground at the same time.  $25 per hour, no benefits, with seven years of higher education, a professional degree, and five years of decent experience as a lawyer. I was making more than that before I even set foot in college, let alone law school.

It’s worth noting that my two lucky breaks – getting the medium-law job and getting my government job – were exactly that; lucky breaks. I could not have predicted getting them, I cannot give advice on what I did right or wrong, because I just have no idea.  There was no planning, no networking, no informational interviews or LinkedIn or Facebook. Plain luck played a far bigger role than any career advisor could ever have predicted.

My debt remains higher than it was when I graduated, thanks to accrued interest and Sallie Mae’s fees for countless loan forbearances during the long lean times.

Hindsight

Did I know the risks? It would be easy to say that no, I didn’t know the risks. But I did. I just thought I knew better, or that I was a special snowflake who would succeed. What’s worse, I did succeed in law school terms and still ended up without a decent job in the end.  Lawyers I spoke to warned me off, some jokingly, some seriously, but they were successful and employed. The guide books I read were all universally upbeat and bullish about the prospects for lawyers.  The economy was reasonable. It seemed like a fair game to play at the time.

It’s just that all of this advice was dwarfed by the immense law school advertising machine; the statistics, the surveys, the salary data, the carefully-crafted language, all cleverly presented in a way designed to stir the imagination of applicants. How can one ignore average salary statistics – real numbers! – and instead believe a lawyer who tells you do avoid the profession, but who drives a new BMW and has been practicing for two decades?  The only thing I really didn’t calculate was the extraordinary, outright misinformation that law schools were publishing about the success of their graduates.  When I was applying to law schools (and even when I was first writing about law school afterwards), the idea that law schools would lie was way off anybody’s radar.

A Note for Those Few Readers Who May Remember Charles from Other Websites:

I started Nontradlaw back in 1999 as a means for people like me to discuss the ins and outs of law school, free from the buffoonery, filth, and aggression that pervaded the typical law school discussion boards back then, and which still pervades many of them today. Law applicants – can’t take them anywhere.  My role in the site was as the administrator, and although the very early versions of the site have been lost as the site changed formats, I have always taken a very hands-off role and every relevant thread that has ever been posted – except one – is still there.

I think the issue many scambloggers had with some of my posts is that I warned against taking a binary approach to the issues; to me, law school has never been an absolute scam, and it still isn’t.  I think that this is now the commonly-held wisdom; even today, dybbuk has written a post in which he acknowledges that the T13 schools all boast over 75% employment, and that the chances of getting a well-paid lawyer job from those schools is very high.  That sums up what my position has been all along – not every part of the system is a scam, and painting with a finer brush is necessary to take this debate to the next level.

Just one of the original scambloggers remains – Nando over at Third Tier Reality.  The rest (as far as I know) have all but disappeared off the face of the earth, most with no explanation as to why they decided to give up the fight.  And I’ll be the first to admit that in some of my posts on my blog, Nando was used as an example of what I thought was wrong (and still do think is wrong) with the original premise of the scamblogs.  It’s just too extreme, and it discourages open debate.  I did not write particularly favorable things about his approach to the fight, many of which I would, in hindsight, have not written – clearly, he’s a key player in the movement, he’s dedicated, he’s stood the test of time, but hindsight is 20/20. His readership seems large, and while I still don’t agree that his approach is the best way forward, it’s working for some people.  So Nando, this is my olive branch.  You’ve proven me wrong.

It’s also worth noting that while anyone can start a blog and go on the record as being part of the anti-law school movement in a matter of minutes, writing a (good) book can take years. The work on Con Law started four, almost five years ago, but was largely unseen by the general public. Writing a book tends to take place in private.  What appears to be a sudden change of heart is really just the public end result of opinions that were held for many years prior.

Repaying those Loans?

It’ll take me another twenty-eight years, but I’m making the payments on the longest payment plan, so obviously they will be done at some distant point in the future. Anyone who is making their payments regularly under a plan of defined length will pay their loans off eventually – that’s how loans work.  But I have been out of law school for almost a decade, and only recently started paying my loans properly.  Overall, I will have been under the burden of student loans for close to forty years when all is said and done

Student loans are a trap, and they have been carefully tweaked by lobbyists to be exactly that.  Large fees, penalties, mortgage-sized debt, long repayment plans, forbearances and deferrals, odd interest rates.  It’s all a means to keep students paying their loans each and every month, year after year after year.  Without regular payments from existing borrowers (and a regular supply of new borrowers), the lenders’ business model fails. It’s like Philip Morris – they need new smokers every year to stay in business, and work hard to make their products addictive while masking the dangers.

I was in a nightmare of debt from law school – credit cards racked up, huge student loans, slowly sinking. And it took a mammoth effort to pay the consumer debt (accumulated on top of student debt during law school) to get to the point at which we can now start to think about paying the student debt. With a stable income and with an almost-mindless, robotic approach to making sure that you live within your budget – a budget that includes the minimums on the student loans – it will be paid off.

But yes, for all intents and purposes, my loans will be hanging over me for the rest of my useful life, the same situation many of us are in. And that’s as good as never paying them off from a practical and psychological standpoint.  I consider myself average for student debt; making it, but barely. Some have less debt and are making payments on a more aggressive schedule. Some are beyond the point of no return, and it’s those grads who really need to speak up and get the message out that something is wrong.

…on a practical level, the general public really doesn’t like lawyers. I imagine that law graduates are at the bottom of the list for assistance, and our best bet as a movement could well be to take a seat at the wider student loan reform table, along with graduates of all disciplines, rather than trying to carve out our own path to student loan relief.

But I am starting to see changes in the way activists are organizing.  Sites like Outside the Law School Scam, for instance, where ten or so writers, all of whom (sorry – there’s no good way of saying this) would have very small, quiet, and insignificant voices if writing alone (or who would probably spend most of their time in-fighting) have come together and are generating some sensible, thoughtful, and widely read pieces on these subjects.  Standing together makes us far stronger than our component parts, especially when the tendency in the past has to be towards attacking each other over minor differences rather than attacking the major problems with the system that we all generally agree upon.

I decided to conclude with my favorite excerpt, which exemplifies the wide destructive path of the law school scam.  For many of us and our families, we saw law school as the stepping stone where a child of a lower-middle class family could step into an upper-middle class life by working hard and investing a lot of time and effort into “schooling.”  Yet, for most of us, law school actually might end up having the reverse intergenerational effect:

…not only do I not come from a wealthy family, my kids won’t either. They are now teenagers, and they probably don’t even remember a time when law school and student debt wasn’t crushing the life out of me and my wife. At this rate, law school and student debt will be the reason my grandkids won’t get the full financial attention they should either.

That’s a wrap!

If you have not already, please write a review for this book on Amazon.  Two minutes of your time can help to get this book read by more prospective law students.

Con Law: Avoiding...or Beating...the Scam of the Century (The Real Student's Guide to Law School and the Legal Profession), by Charles Cooper and Thane Messinger



43 comments:

  1. There's no way that law school is the "scam of the century." Pretty much every single word that comes out of Obama's mouth beats out the law schools at the scam pageant by a country mile.

    Are you sure that Nando is still blogging? He seems to have gone MIA. LOL, maybe he took so many pictures of turds that he finally turned into one himself. Somehow I think that would be a smooth transition for him ...

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    1. I find the political "discussions" on this board to be troubling. They undermine the message, and many people will discount the argument. I'm in high tech, and a great many of those in this industry appreciate and embrace Obama's place in history.

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    2. Yeah dude the Obama bashing sounds dumb. You truly believe that every word he says is a lie? If not, then don't write it here.

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    3. People here are probably pro-Obama, so the truth probably isn't going to go down well here. Yeah, he isn't a good president, and seems worse every year. In 50 or 75 or 100 years he will probably go down as one one of the worst presidents, maybe the absolute worst ever. A real shame, too. I'm a Lefty. But it's probably not a good move to bring a political discussion when we're talking about law school.

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    4. Okay guys, you win. Law school is the biggest scam of the century - as long as you don't consider any of the many bigger scams that we're not allowed to discuss.

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    5. And @1055,

      It sounds like you and your co-workers have some unresolved race hang-ups. I will offer my kind suggestion that you start letting your wife have sex with a black man while you watch.

      Maybe THAT would pay off your immense "debt."

      Student loan debt is peanuts. It's just too bad that white guilt and black-booty worship aren't "dischargeable" in bankruptcy.

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  2. One interesting thing to note is that this guy graduated in 2004 with top grades and law review and still couldn't find a decent job. The problem of too many JD's too few jobs didn't begin in 2008. Its been going on for a long time - since at least the early 1990's (when I graduated from LS) and maybe longer than that. However, with today's debt load, the stakes are much higher.

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    1. I graduated in 1985 (pre-USNWR rankings)from a school that now drifts in and out of the T25. Too few jobs was very much an issue back then but those of us in the top tier were largely immune, second tier folks mostly managed to find their way and a lot of lower tier grads figured something out. Since then it's been like the movie Titanic, where as the ship sinks people keep scrambling higher up toward the stern. Right now HY&S are like Leonardo, Kate and the baker on the rail waiting until they, too, will plunge into the icy water.

      And you are right about the debt. I came out with $10,500.00 in student loans and had doubled my earning potential in three years, so that in five years I had recouped the entire cost of law school including living expenses and lost income, with interest. In 1988 I borrowed $103,500.00 to buy my first house. Few will double their earning capacity anymore and you can't get a mortgage if you're carrying $140,000.00 in student loans.

      Practicing law has become totally miserable; the profession is imploding as the lawyers who have jobs scramble and scrape for a declining pool of business. But those of us who got out before the bubble burst in 1989 had and have options that later graduates will never have. The best anyone can do now is work to see to it that there will be as few future graduates as possible.

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    2. Agreed. The employment problems have been going on for decades, but because debt loads have never been astronomical until the past few five or six years, it has been easier for grads from before that time to hide their "failure" or just struggle through and service their loans. We're now well past the tipping point where the reality for many grads is that their debt is so huge that they can't service it on the opportunities available for them in the legal profession. There's no more hiding this dirty little secret under the rug.

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    3. Actually, Charles, it isn't just the debt. I doubled my earning capacity by going to law school. The worst anyone probably did back then was make their earning potential no better and no worse. Nowadays I know recent graduates who killed theirs because they can't get a lawyer job and their JD is like a millstone hung around the neck of their resume.

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    4. I don't agree that the worst anyone did back then (early to mid 2000s) was make their earning potential no better and no worse. I'm a prime example - my earning potential was dramatically lower after law school than before, and still is. Over the decade since I graduated, I think I've probably missed out on close to a million dollars of lost earnings based upon what I was doing beforehand and where I would be today had I maintained that path instead of choosing law school.

      The JD remains a millstone around the neck of my resume, and also a millstone around the neck of my financial stability. My loans are still pretty much at the same balance they were the day I graduated from law school.

      It's all a matter of perspective. For a political science grad back in the early 2000s, law school probably did work out well for some (initially, at least). For me, coming from a STEM background, it was literally the worst decision I have ever made in my life by a long margin.

      I think the debt is the true killer. I could (and sometimes have) removed the JD from my resume and move on with my life, but I can't remove the debt.

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    5. I don't disagree with you, Charles. I was talking about when I got out of school in the mid 1980s.

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    6. Er wha????

      That is thirty years ago, retard!

      It's like giving advice that people should invest in Ford because in 1980 everyone thought we would be driving flying fucking cars by 2000.

      What stupid advice! "Thirty years ago things were great!!!"

      How about you put that fucking disclaimer on your advice, you moron. That way people would ignore it immediately instead of listening to your baby boomer senile ramblings about how great the legal profession is.

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    7. 7:12, why don't you read all the comments before making a jackass out of yourself. I offered no advice, I pointed out that the shortage of jobs goes back a lot farther than 6:48 said it did. We then further discussed, in an adult fashion, how the economics have changed since the 1980s. I illustrated how law school was an economically viable proposition for many (but not all) back then and a fool's errand for almost everyone today.

      At which TTT did they teach you to make your case with infantile name calling and profanity?

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  3. What's so bad about $45k with no benefits coming out of a tier 2 school?

    -Just a commentor in Egypt, who may or may not be Mr. Infinity.

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    1. Nothing bad about it (although if you haven't had to buy health insurance for a family with kids on the open market, the costs will make your jaw drop.) That $45K was probably the equivalent of a $30-35K job with benefits.

      The problem arises when the calculations made before attending law school are based upon figures published by the law school itself, and which in my case put the average starting salary at almost twice that. Even my most conservative estimates of what would happen if it all went wrong and I ended up in the bottom 25% of the salary range were far better than the salary I ended up with.

      Had I expected $45K with no benefits upon graduation, then my calculations going into law school in terms of debt, opportunity costs and so forth, would have been far different. I still may have gone, but I would have been far more careful about how much I spent on law school.

      The thing I didn't factor in was that the law school was just lying through its statistics!

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  4. Nando's blog is crap, by the way, and I don't say that to start anything here. But, I would probably agree with much of the scamblogs today if it was not for his blog.

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    1. "Crap" haha. Was that intentional. Nando was the first blog I read. It saved me. So I'll give him his fair due.

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    2. So you do not agree with the statements of persons B-Z because you do not like the statements of person A? That's some airtight logic.
      Toilet pics and coarse language aside, I think what gets a lot of professors, admins and others' panties in a bunch about Nando's blog is that it reflects law school and law practice as it actually is -- an absolute moral cesspool -- rather than the "profession" that law schools and the ABA would like dumb young kids to believe in.

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  5. Applications to law schools are down and will continue to drop. The once popular view that law being a great career choice is now a myth. In fact, it's slowly becoming where anyone pursuing law has to be crazy to take on such monumental debt for poor employment prospects. I look forward to reading your book and hope it is a huge success.

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  6. One thing is for certain, if you do not like conflict . . do not become a Lawyer. Some of us thrive in that environment. Some don't. Being a lawyer is a problem solving or causing profession, depending on how you see it. BUT, how many people like their jobs out there? I would guess most people are either bored stiff or stressed out by their jobs. Most people lead lives of quiet desperation. Law does give you the opportunity for working for yourself and not being one of the working drones out there at the beck and call of Corporate America. Its not all about money. Sometimes its about independence. So yea, there are "cons", but there are pros to. Of course, whether you can make it on your own is another issue.

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    1. True, one does have opportunities to work for oneself as a lawyer, but no more so than working for oneself in any other field.

      In fact, with most self-employed careers, you don't start off behind the eight ball to the tune of $150,000 and three lost years. Nor does a law degree remove the need to be a born (or motivated) entrepreneur to succeed.

      If you can't succeed running your own small electrical contracting company, I doubt you'd have an easier time starting your own law firm that brought in the same net income each year. The raw skills of marketing, sales, management and administration are common to most small businesses, law included.

      I'm not suggesting that everyone run out and take the blue collar route, but law is hardly a better choice of small business if that's the reason for studying it.

      There are good reasons to study law. Or "a" good reason to study law - you want to be a lawyer. Wanting to run your own business or be independent is not a good reason to go to law school.

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    2. If you are a humanities major and don't want to go into a blue collar job like plumbing or you don't want to own and run an insurance agency, law is not a bad way to go . . especially if you can get some decent contingency fee cases under your belt. Its not that law is a degree that allows you to do anything . . as stated in your book . . but it is a degree that allows you to practice law. And there are lots of different things lawyers do. They can have real estate practices, personal injury practices, mediation / alternative resolution practices, family law practices. Given all of this stuff I am reading about predatory lending and collection practices by Sallie Mae, I am actually thinking about learning about the Fair Credit Act and maybe bringing some cases against these miscreants, or against credit reporting agencies for failing to correct errors. I mean there really is a lot a lawyer can do. I knew a guy who years ago was a real estate lawyer who branched off into building and selling his own office buildings. Retired long ago after ten years of practice. I don't know what its like starting out today with lots of debt, but I can't believe it is impossible to make it as a lawyer if you find an area of the law you really like and attack it with a passion. I'm not insensitive to how overcrowded the field. It is competitive. But not impossible by any means. So its one thing to NOT go to law school. Its another to think your life over if you are already a young lawyer. There is still room to make it out there.

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    3. Your odds at finanical success in law are the same as finiancial sucess in professional sports. Its not impossible! So try out for the Chicago Bears, it will save you three years and over $100k of debt. Better yet, skip law school and apply for every credit card you can, max out cash advances, and put in on Red at your nearest casino. If you win, pay back the debt. If you lose, declare bankruptcy. These ideas sound insane, but they are more practical than going to law school.

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    4. 10:36, I beg to differ. I am the 1985 grad who posted above. Read what I wrote. Three years out of law school I borrowed $103,500.00 ($198,000.00 in 2012 dollars) to buy a house. Think I could have gotten a 198K mortgage with 140k in student loan debt? And I was working at a firm, not as a solo. There may be room to make it if making it excludes owning a house, maybe even excludes having even one child.

      Real estate? Here in Connecticut real estate lawyers are all moaning that people who never did real estate before are snapping up residential deals and bidding down the fees. Refi closings are gone - they send a notary out to get documents signed and do a title bringdown from the last mortgage. No more title insurance on those (a staple of solo/small firm income in CT), they just build the risk into loan underwriting. I am seeing people who swore they'd never do divorces doing them now, stealing business from the old hands. The Chief Justice of our Supreme Court has made assisting pro se divorce litigants a high priority - they have how to videos on line - and now over 50% of divorces have at least one pro se party. Criminal? A friend of mine is chief clerk of the criminal courts in another county. He says the top defense lawyers there are scrambling because people who never did criminal are doing it now because they can't get anything else. I just saw a Legal Zoom quitclaim deed and it was perfect.

      Passion is great, but it will not create business where none exists. Japan attacked the U.S. in 1941 because they believed their passionate adherence to the Samurai Code could offset the oil wells of Texas, the coal fields of West Virginia, the iron mines of Minnesota, the steel mills of Pittsburgh, Gary and Chicago, the production lines of Detroit, and the endless farms, ranches and forests that linked them together. Passion lost that war, too.

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    5. Your chances of making it as a lawyer far exceed that of professional sports, unless of course you have a unique athletic talent . .so that is a ridiculous comparison. Even if we assume 50% of the lawyers are not getting jobs in the law these days, 50% of them are. That means at least 50% of the new lawyers out there are learning something about the law, which means they can eventually go into business for themselves. As competitive as certain fields are, the fact is that there will always be the necessity for lawyers for ALL fields. I'm a TTT graduate from long ago (also before rankings existed) graduating about the same time as did you. This year is my first year ever breaching the seven figure mark for a net income. I simply saw the potential in a contingency case that other lawyers did not see and it panned out for me. Again, I can not relate with the way it is out there right now because I don't have the sky high debt and it was relatively easy to find jobs in the mid eighties when I graduated So I recognize things are different. But saying things are tougher and equating them to be nearly impossible are simply different animals. Young lawyers out there are making it as far as I can see. They are still getting jobs in firms. They are still eventually being promoted to non-equity partner status, which at least means a decent icome. AND if they want to go it alone or with other guys, that opporuntity will always be available to them. If I were young, in my mid twenties again, graduating from law school, I would be excited about the prospect and possibilities of building my own practice. That's the biggest problem I have with the scam sites . . they are so negative that some people who have graduated out there and are struggling may be giving up without a fight, thinking it is impossible. IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. It may be difficult. But you know, when you have nothing you have nothing to lose. That in and of itself gives a person a certain sense of freedom.

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    6. It's gonna get worse. Rock bottom worse. Some of us are working on software that will beat the pants off of legal research, doc review personnel, and human-in-loop interactions. NLP (triplets, noun-verb-noun, subject-object-predicate, SVO, Stanford Parser, etc) and entity management science is coming a long way. Where years ago, you needed 20 doc reviewers in a warehouse for five months, you'll now two person teams a month to feed docs through scanners... Big data is here.

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    7. How much debt did you graduate with again? Your experience is completely irrelevant to that of a current grad, so kindly cease with the sermonizing.

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    8. 10:36/12:25, you continue to avoid talking about that which does not fit into your version of reality. Would it surprise you to learn that there is more to life than practicing law? People in their late twenties and early thirties also need to think about getting married, having children, buying houses and in general getting a life. Even if 50% of new admitees get some kind of bar-required job the vast majority will not make enough to cover their student loan payments. Hell, mine were like $145.00 a month and so I pre-paid them like mad. People with the kind of debt you see nowadays cannot take 10-15 years to build up a practice from nothing. Even in the rare cases where someone makes it they will have no ability to plan a retirement or provide for their children's education until they get there.

      People of our generation did not have the crippling debts that today's graduates have. For you to say "IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE" is like someone who arrived in Virginia in 1607 and staked out a 15,000 acre plantation for free telling an indentured servant who arrived there thirty years later "IT IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE".

      And to address an earlier point of yours, I too knew a real estate lawyer who became a developer and got out of law in ten years. Know why? Rich family who could back up his loan applications. Want to hear REAL laughter? Go to the bank, tell them you are a lawyer who wants to develop real estate with no collateral except the land and that they need to give you a loan.

      I am happy for you that you got a big verdict, but even among those older than us such windfalls are rare

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    9. I am not suggesting anybody incur the kind of debt people incur to go to law school. That is absolutely nuts even to go to a top school as far as I am concerned. And I am not suggesting anybody go to law school given the demographics. What I am suggesting is that if you are already a lawyer, it is not all doom and gloom. If you already have the debt in the present, your choice is to either work and attempt to pay under IBR, to work in the underground economy (very large. None of my clients who work for cash report more than a small amount of their income), or to leave the country. Heck, consider establishing a new identity if worse comes to worse so Sallie Mae can't find you. At any rate, if you practice law, one good case could set you up for life. As for those still considering law school, I have maintained in the past and still do that you should avoid debt, go to school at night if necessary without giving up your day job or go to a state school for 1/2 to 1/3 the price of many private schools. Screw the top schools because that gets you into the cesspool of big law. If you go to law school, plan on an apprenticeship for a few years, and then go out on your own . . if it is your goal to be a lawyer.

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    10. 10:36, I see where you’re coming from, but I think you’re drawing too many generalizations from some very specific pieces of information. Law would be wonderful for everyone if we could all have got some decent contingency fee cases under our belts. The problem is there aren’t enough decent contingency fee cases to go around! It’s the root cause of the “there’s not enough lawyer jobs” – what we really mean by that statement is not that there aren’t enough jobs, but there isn’t enough paying work to support this many new lawyers. The reality is that there aren’t enough clients to go around, which makes the fact that one can have a real estate practice, or a personal injury practice, or any other kind of practice, rather irrelevant. Without clients, there is no practice.

      For every success story about a lawyer who made it big on his own and branched out into real estate development, or won a huge settlement and retired, or now has ten lawyers working for him, I’ll show you ten ex-lawyers who didn’t make it big, or who never got a foot in the door, or whose practice areas became obsolete, or who just was not a good businessperson, or perhaps who was just unlucky. The point being, lawyer success stories are the exception to the rule, not the rule.

      I completely agree with your advice though: if becoming a lawyer is your goal, the only way to go about it (after picking the right law school and attending for the right cost) is to find an area of law that you enjoy, and go after it with a passion. There is still room to make it, but when there’s fewer clients than needed to go around, your own success comes at the price of someone else’s failure, and you can bet that they will be searching for those elusive clients just as hard as the new lawyer is, and fighting even harder to take them away from the new lawyer. Add into that some huge student debt that must be paid each month, the costs of setting up an office, the learning curve (in law and business), and it’s easy to see why so many new lawyers are being set up to fail.

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    11. Infinity, you have just made the most important point I think I've ever heard. I would be much happier without my spouse, without my house, without my child. Like so much happier. Society has rammed this bullshit idea of happiness being a family down our throats and it's not true. Since I got on the marriage and family and house train, it's been a non-stop train ride to "what the fuck is going wrong" ville.

      And no matter how hard I try, the problems come back to spouse, child and house.

      It is fucking miserable.

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    12. @5:31, you're right. If you're not a man. If you're an adolescent as most of our generation are, then party on.

      @9:42, do your wife and kids a favor and let them go. Maybe they'll find someone worth being around.

      You two are miserable. Not how you feel, but as people. Did law school make you this way, or did it just make you worse?

      Yes, children are a requirement for happiness and meaning. You guys are pathetic.

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    13. All these people who agitate for student loan forgiveness love to say that "our economy is BUILT on home purchases. We simply MUST get people to purchase homes, guiz!"

      Except they aren't "purchasing" anything. They're taking on yet another big-ass debt. (I think there was a nation-wide vote a few days ago - mortgages have now officially replaced student loans as "good debt.")

      Even at a 3 percent APR, the bank usually ends up getting 150 percent of the closing price on every home "sale." Small wonder then that they've been trying to convince everyone that mortgage borrowing is the foundation of prosperity.

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  7. i found this a bit hard to read, but thanks for sharing. where did the gov gig come in? i couldnt figure that out.

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    1. Not to be rude or anything, but what part was hard to read? Seemed a pretty simple first-person story and commentary by someone who's lived it. Glad there's someone else sharing.

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    2. I think (hope?) he means "hard" in terms of "thought-provoking or emotionally-taxing" rather than "too many big words".

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  8. My biggest gripe about kaw school. In college i dated a warm and wonderful woman. We planned on getting married. I fully supported her going to law school. It changed her dramatically. It changed her into a status oriented bitch and ruined our relationship. A true casualty of law school.

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    1. I hate to tell you bro, but the seeds of her bitchdom were probably sown long before law school. You should count yourself lucky that you found out before walking down the aisle.

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  9. No mention of having passed 200K views?

    As for the books of Tamanaha and Campos, I don't think they are profitable at all for the authors.

    As for this Cooper and Messinger book, I am trying to promote it.

    As for the Adjunct Law Professor, I sincerely apologize for the past since I thought you were a man!!

    I hope we can be friends anyway.

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  10. The core problem is that technology is reducing the need for lawyers to do (and bill for) the grunt work. Small firms are now hiring paralegals, contract attorneys and unpaid interns to do some of the work that associates used to.

    This is not going to be fixed for a long time, if ever.

    Admin: I sent you an email.













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  11. "dybbuk has written a post in which he acknowledges that the T13 schools all boast over 75% employment, and that the chances of getting a well-paid lawyer job from those schools is very high."

    From the comments in this and other sites I get the impression that only the top 3 or 4 schools could now be considered "sure bets" and even the other 10 top tier school are now risky. And a 75% employment (I assume you mean Big Law or government) for what are the very best schools is not that good, especially with tuition being what it is.

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    1. Uh yeah dude 75% employment in biglaw or government is fucking good!

      Compare that to any other program in the US. Even medicine, where only grads from the top schools are getting good jobs and the rest are ending up in toilet pediatrician offices telling stay-at-home moms that their kids' sniffles are not cancer, a job that a fucking nurse could do.

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