Thursday, September 12, 2013

Why new law graduates are not "entitled"

 A common refrain from older generations about mine (I'm a K-JD) is that we are lazy, spoiled, and entitled.  It is the last description that gets me the most upset.  While "entitled" doesn't necessarily have negative connotations, I think in this context it could be best defined as such:

entitled - the feeling that something is owed to you when you did not necessarily earn it
(Dictionary of Antiro, 2013 edition)

Two years ago at a commencement speech, a law professor from Emory by the name of Sara Stadler, who was voted "Most Outstanding Professor by the Class of 2011"told the same class that while many of them wouldn't land the big-paying jobs they wanted, they should "get over it.  The one thing standing in the way of happiness for many people is a sense of entitlement."  She went on to tell them that "they might have to move to Nebraska," and that they should "learn to be a giver, not a taker."  (All quotes are from the ABA Journal article, though the video does include some gems they did not note).
As you can see by Professor Stadler's biography, she has taken her advice and moved to Nebraska.  Between then and now, her tenured Associate Professor position at Emory has been replaced with an adjunct position at Creighton University School of Law.  She has an elite background: she went to University of Virginia law school and was on the law review (as well as being a Cross Dillard scholar), clerked for a federal judge, and worked for several large firms before stopping by at Emory on her way to Creighton.

This isn't meant to be a personal attack on Professor Stadler by any means, but I think it illustrates just how frighteningly out of touch the people in charge are of the profession are.  In this case, it is someone who went to an elite law school for a small amount of money, when the legal market was a lot less glutted, who clerked for a federal judge, then made the big bucks for a few years at big law firms, then became a tenured law professor, making over six figures to teach a couple of classes a semester and to produce legal "scholarship," has the gall to tell us to "get over it" and to "learn to be a giver." 

But worst, she tells us that we are "entitled."  I don't even know the words I could use to begin how that makes me feel, especially being told by someone with Professor Stadler's background.  However, I don't need to respond.  A response in the article from the ABAJournal inspired me to write this, and I reprint the beautiful comment here in full (Comment #86):

2010 law school grad and admitted in IN Oct 2010. 
What this professor and a lot of older attorneys don’t realize is that young lawyers don’t have a sense of entitlement….we just want to be able to survive.  Go to any law school website.  They each have the same claims that “95% of our grads are employed within 9 months” and “the median salary for our grads is $80K”.  Before law school, I looked at the “stats”, the amount of student loans I would need and what payments would be like afterwards.  I knew it would be tough, but with the numbers the law school gave me, it seemed like a worthwhile investment.  Had I known the reality of what I would be facing upon graduation, I probably would not have gone to law school.
The frustration and anger students have is not because we aren’t getting what we think we are entitled to…we feel deceived by what the law school are promoting This is especially true when tuition means most students are looking at $100k plus in student loans when graduating.  I seriously doubt this professor would be teaching law school if it meant she’d be making $35k a year and trying to pay back $125,000 (plus interest).  The reality is the high paying jobs aren’t out there anymore and the salaries for jobs that are available make just trying to live (and pay loans) almost impossible.
I don’t want a Ferrari and I don’t think I deserve one because I went to law school.  I don’t feel entitled to a mansion or a private plane because I have a JD after my name.  But I do feel like I was entitled honesty about an investment of $40k a year for 3 years.  For this professor to stand up there and tell students to get over the fact they are going to struggle to make ends meet, shows how completely out of touch she is with what students are facing.  Maybe she should lead by example of being a “giver” and give part of her six figure salary back to the school so tuition would decrease.


  1. I am not sure what your point is here. Adjunct professors generally do not make much money. So she appears to have given up a high paying job for a low paying one, and one with no job security, and moved to Nebraska. What are you angry about?

    1. I think the point is that "entitlement" is a strawman argument, flung about in an attempt to diffuse and cover-over the very real struggles that graduates are facing. It avoids any real digging into the issue.

      I found Stadler's comments galling at the time, and it set up the Nebraska mini-meme within the scamblog movement. "Sara Stadler get over it" comes up as an auto-complete in Google, so we're not the only ones who talk about it.

      Here is more on the subject:

      Did you know Sara Stadler's daddy was J. Lee Rankin, who was Solicitor General and general counsel on the Warren Comission, among other accomplishments? I'm sure that had nothing to do with Stadler's own career trajectory, so her bootstrappy comments against "entitled" JDs are completely justified. Of course.

    2. Law schools pointing out grads' sense of entitlement is like Bernie Madoff pointing out that his scam victims didn't adequately research his investments.

      Both claims might be true, but a scam is still a scam.

  2. Do law professors feel entitled to high compensation for decades because they did well on a few law school exams in their twenties? Yes.

    Do many law students/grads feel entitled to white collar jobs and decent salaries, even though society doesn't need or want to pay for their services? Yes.

    There is a lot of entitlement attitude going around, and it is the product of our society that encourages everyone to feel like the world owes them something.

    1. I have to agree with Anon 8:51. Antiro's piqué at some law students being called "entitled" is silty off base. Yes, they do feel entitled, but only to the jobs law schools dishonestly promised, paying 80k.

      Yes, law schools were dishonest. Yes, law professors are feel entitled and are greedy. Yes, students are the same.

  3. The facts are that all of higher education is to a greater or lesser degree a scam, not only law school. The entire economic model of our country is one to take as much as you can get away with and to hell with everybody else. That’s why we had Romney, a Narcissist, almost ascend to the Whitehouse, and why we have power brokers like Corzine, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Governor of New Jersey, Senator . . . “misplace” over a billion of his clients money, or why the SEC turned a blind eye to Madoff while he ripped off his clients.

    That being said, you had to be blind and dumb not to recognize that the legal field is a cesspool filled with what could fairly be called some people who are the scum of the earth. What else could you call the owners of a successful law firm who would exploit brand new lawyers, trying to get their labor for minimal wages? You also had to be blind to the reality that there were far too many lawyers.

    So if you got yourself into this mess, taking on hundreds of thousands of debt, in the end you really do only have yourself to blame. With the internet having been around since the early 1990s, there is no excuse for not having known the truth about the profession you were about to enter. And yes, you all do whine way too much. Things are not nearly as bad for you as the people who lost life and limb over the war criminal President we had who started that worthless war in Iraq. Life is tough, but far less tough for most of you as compared to so many others.

    So yea, get over it. Get on with your lives. If you are members of the bar, you can still start your own practices rather than allowing your selves to be exploited by scum lawyers, and in the long run, if you are able, make a very nice, perhaps a great living. Crying in your soup is not going to do you any good.

  4. I'm very disappointed that Professor Stadler made those comments two years ago. I took a class she taught during the early portion of her academic career. She was always a very nice person and an extremely accessible professor. But that comment is just inexcusable, you simply can't in good conscience use ignorance as a defense while turning students into debt slaves.

  5. Yet, for $ome rea$on, it is not entitlement for "law professors" to expect/demand $170K+ per year for "teaching" 4-6 hours per week - while also reading the newspaper, perusing obscure law articles online, and watching Youtube videos in their office. These cockroaches are truly vile.

  6. I think there is a lot more entitlement attitude in ol's and it decreases as reality sets in and they graduate. there are plenty of pro law school boards were people express that they will be making $$$$ and this and that.

    and there are graduates who don't want to work in mid or small law bc its beneath them. I see it a lot.

  7. Does anyone know why Stadler gave up her cushy gig at Emory and moved to Nebraska?

    1. Probably didn't give it up of her own volition.

  8. Entitlement ≠ reasonable expectations based on false information put out by law schools.

    Throw in non-dischargable debt and the mix becomes toxic.

    That's what fuels law school graduates' anger - not some alleged sense of entitlement.

  9. The problem is that people assumed that even if they did not go to an elite law school, they would have a good career trajectory.

    In the early 1970s, when there was no lawyer oversupply, I questioned the risks of moving to LA as a lifestyle choice and going to UCLA Law School after graduating with honors from one of the top 3 ranked US National Universities. Needless to say, I rejected that alternative as too risky and went to a very top ranked law school in the East.

    There is some degree of self deception going on here among those who were at Emory Law School at the time of the Statler speech.

    On the other hand, today some very strong lawyers from top law schools with law review and federal clerkships and V5 law firm experience for several years are outright unemployed. I think someone who went even to an NYU or U of Pennsylvania Law School would not have reasonably expected to be long-term unemployed.

    Yes, the legal job market has gotten much worse. Yes, those who went to a top law school in a good market have been scammed by subsequent events if their careers ended as a result of the extreme lawyer glut.

    This thing cuts both ways. It is hard to believe that Emory was ever a sure thing. On the other hand, Harvard and even Columbia used to give lawyers a pretty good guarantee of a career as opposed to years of unemployment and underemployment. The guarantees are gone today. There is a lot of unemployment - even Harvard Law cum laude annd Harvard Law Review are not necessarily getting post-big law jobs. There is always someone younger, prettier, handsomer or who has the connections, even if it means getting work from their spouse, to bring in a lot of business.

    1. There was a lawyer oversupply (although perhaps not a hyper-glut) in the early 1970s, at least according to the then Dean of Columbia Law School:

      "Dean Michael Sovern of Columbia rejected the scheme (law school to be 2 rather than 3 years) on the ground that it would increase the supply of lawyers at the very moment there was a glut"

    2. The lawyers in my parents' generation had jobs. I never knew or heard of any lawyer in the early 1970s or before then who was looking for work and unemployed. Some lawyers were not very successful, but they were not unemployed.

      I guess I did not know lawyers who went to the lowest ranked law schools. But there were jobs if you went to the local state school and you lost your job at age 55. That is no longer the case.

      The other side of this problem is that the glut is not being quantified by our dear government. It is fine for a U.S. Senator to say "I am not going to tell people what to study' and leave the status quo as long as the government provides data on whether what you are studying is glutted.

      It is so galling. I majored in economics at my T3 Harvard, Yale or Princeton undergrad. No one ever taught me to look at whether my career choice was glutted, and it would have been very hard to find out at that point (early 1970s - no internet) that law was glutted.

      As a serious science and math student and lousy English student, there is no way I would have gone into law had I even suspected the market was glutted.

      I don't think it is any different today in terms of going to a top law school. They teach you everything is well, but it is not.

      The government should give us the data on glutting of each profession for God's sake, before any more lives that could be productive and fruitful are ruined by the law school scam or any other graduate or professional degree scam.

    3. Just to contrast it with a PhD, at that point people knew it was hard to stay employed with a PhD. Not the same with law school.
      I also started law school a ways before the report referred to in the link was issued. Hofstra had not graduated a class. It was the beginning of the increasing law school class sizes from 15,000 a few years before. The glut may have been projected as a result of the opening of new law schools at that time, like Hofstra.

    4. You're completely underrating the marketing pitches used by 2nd and 3rd tier law schools for the last 30 years.

      The "entitlement" is strictly a function of law school marketing, which - for mid-tier schools - was all about improving career chances.

      THAT'S what my generation feels entitled to: honesty. And that's not too much to ask.

    5. It is not credible though to believe these great marketing pitches. You see where people live, you see what they are doing, you see if people get summer jobs and you see if people get jobs after third year.
      When I was in law school, virtually everyone in my class and the class ahead of me had a summer job at a law firm after second year. Everyone had a job at graduation. Some people may have had to wait till the spring to get offered, but they were the minority. Most got jobs in the fall. If many people at the law school were going through two summers jobless, or graduating jobless, it would have been obvious to first years.

      I don't understand how one can go to a law school that is not at the top and not be aware that at least some people are not getting jobs. Is it possible that people who go to law school do not know about summer jobs and the need to get one to bolster one's credentials and chance of getting a post-graduation offer? Do they not know that summer law jobs exist?
      You really have to be gullible to not understand there a high risk from going to a lower tier law school, especially after you get there.
      I feel for those who are at the top of their class at lower tier schools and are unemployed. That is a function of the oversupply and worsening of the job market for lawyers.

    6. Just to be clear, lots of large law firms came to our campus to interview for summer jobs and post-graduation jobs. If you missed the interview, you could send in your resume by mail to the firm and get an interview at their offices if they would have called you back from the on campus interviews. Not having a job by the end of the mid-December hiring season of your second year would have been a red flag that maybe law school is not for you. Nor getting an offer for after third year by the fall of that year - another red flag.

    7. I did a Phd. I never expected for it to be a great way to find employment. I knew it was risky but did it for fun. I don't feel entitled to anything, no one owes me a job, and I'll have to find something else to do if I can't get a tenure track job. I have this attitude even though I did my Phd at Oxbridge. Law students, even from Emory, should think this way from the get-go, IMHO.

      Law schools did lie. But it's obvious there are too many lawyers, its too expensive, and the career prospects are bad. Now that law schools are getting somewhat more honest, enrollment is only falling marginally. Kids hear about the scam and STILL go. C'mon, they must have some blame themselves.

      In our society, people think that "I got this degree, therefore, the world owes me a job in my field. I DESERVE this." It's insane. It's why 50000 kids a year go to law school. The effect is worse because lawyers jobs are glamorized by TV and movies. As much luck as I wish the anti-law school movement, I don't think we can beat the entitlement mentality that drives kids to pay 200k for the piece of paper that they think is going to bring them the riches and fun job they "deserve".

      If the kids had any common sense, NO ONE would ever pay +150,000.00 for a law degree, no matter what promises are made in a glossy brochure. They have too much confidence, self esteem, or whatever you want to call it. When this self esteem crashes into reality, you get severe disappointment.

    8. I don't know if it's a sense of entitlement as much as it is a huge disappointment when you realize that your investment of time and money hasn't paid off and that you're not likely to recover from it.

      7:38, getting a PhD and not expecting a job is great and probably the right attitude. You said you did it for fun, however, and I salute that. However, this is different from going to law school. I strongly suspect you enjoyed the subject of your PhD for its own sake, that you enjoyed delving deeper into studying your chosen topic, and that you probably actually enjoyed the classes and work (somewhat at least). You probably enjoyed a congenial environment during grad school and the professors were collegial. Hide the ball probably wasn't played too much.

      Law school holds none of these things for the vast, vast majority of students. Law school's kind of like taking some very bad-tasting malaria pills that nearly make you vomit in order to avoid getting malaria. You're not taking the pills for any other reason than avoiding the dreaded disease, malaria. But you willingly take the awful-tasting pills because you've been told that by doing so, you're highly unlikely to get malaria.

      Then you discover the pills have little, if any, innoculative properties and that you've probably damaged your liver by taking them. They also set you back several hundred dollars per dose.

      I guess you can call the resulting disappointment a sense of 'entitlement,' but that word carries too many other connotations to use comfortably in that context.

      Law school's like that. You're not studying torts for the love of the topic or to gain a perspective on this area... if you were, you would study a particular jurisdiction's law and learn its context and policy rationales. And don't get me going on real property. Or business organizations. This ain't learning for the sake of learning.

      In law school, you're sort of learning a process (i.e., getting bullied by an authority figure who is more experienced than you and short on patience) which is aimed at producing a ranking which is in turn used as a proxy for intelligence in the hiring game. You're also being indoctrinated into the sink-or-swim process. As far as collegiality.... well, we'll leave that alone.

      If there is any sense of entitlement, it has its roots in the general societal beliefs that lawyers are always needed, that most (not quite all) lawyers are gainfully employed members of the middle or upper-middle class, that a lawyer becomes more valuable with age and experience, and that an unemployed lawyer on skid row is as rare as a unicorn. These myths die hard.

    9. Anon 7:38 here,

      Thanks for your response and illustrating the nature of law school so well. I actually wanted to go to law school after my Phd, but I got rejected thankfully. I heard a little bit of what you're saying, but that sounds even worse than I suspected. I guess the sense of disappointment isn't quite entitlement and I should've been more understanding of law grads' predicament. My apologies.

  10. You are ALL entitled if you think you are entitled to get paid for your work. You should work for free while clinics like this are set up. Don't worry, you get valuable experience!! Just no money. Ever. You are a bunch of brats. Get over yourselves. Professors deserve their salaries.

    A great job opportunity:

  11. This was another great post, and of course Sara's speech was a vicious punch in the gut to those poor graduates.

    However, this story just keeps getting weirder and weirder as I think about it. I think she was just fed up with her career, and projected her own previous greed and arrogance onto her poor students. As if to say, "Not even I, Sara, the spawn of the aristocracy, deserved my career. You buffoons sure don't deserve one. Need I remind you that this is Emory, not Virginia?"

    And she did in fact move to Nebraska. I hope she finds...peace or happiness, or whatever humans need deep inside.

  12. I think that prof is ignorant at best about how things work.

    She was a "taker" for years, but now wants to preen and show her students what a "giver" she is now, and happy to boot. She ignores the fact that many of her students have been serious, serious givers for the past 3 years.

    That's right, many of her students incurred enormous debts to support her decadent, narcissistic consumption and then her desperate search for happiness. Then she dismisses the jobs that might support that debt as just more "taking" on their part, after theygave her everything.

    What a mean, wicked person she is.

  13. Thank you for the great comments everyone, it adds a lot of motivation to write better and better posts for all of you!