Ah, the unsolicited new-academic-year glossy brochure in the mail. Pages and pages of full-color splats about my alma mater - how great the program is now, and how great it will continue to be in the future.
I wish I could read all this and be excited about it. I really do. The pages are full of smiling LawProfs lecturing and hopeful students beaming. The pages almost drip with that joie de vivre that comes from righting the wrongs of society and all that jazz. I don't know, personally- it certainly looks very different from my vantage point.
According to the text, approximately 50% of the student body in 2012 went to "law firms." 20% went to "business and industry" (woohoo, "JD-Advantage" graduates, represent!). Another 20% went to "government and public interest." No mention of salaries, of course. No mention of debt loads. No additional "real" information beyond that - I guess I'll have to go to Law School Transparency for a more detailed analysis.
There is all kinds of discussion about "experiential learning" and "practice readiness" and major changes in the curriculum. Oh, how I indeed remember all the letters from the Dean a scant two to four years ago that often dismissed the need for crass, vulgar, pedestrian vocational training, and questioned why people were tying long-term gain to the pure intellectual reward of a JD from my alma mater. My, my my, how the tides have changed.
I count approximately ten exposes on current students and alumni. They are certainly doing interesting things and have obtained some amazing opportunities. The featured alumni range quite a bit in graduation dates but seem to be doing quite well for themselves. Then the cynic in me says, "Yes, but what about the other 200 or so 3Ls? How are they doing? What about the thousand or so alumni from the past, say, 5 - 8 years? Are they doing well for themselves?"
And then there are the professors, some recognizable and some new. Various papers have been written, various awards have been won, various conferences have been held. Great. I suspect they are living quite comfortable lives and funding their own children's educations quite well, compared to most. Enjoy that blood money.
Again, I wish I could be more proud. I wish could look back and say, "Yeah, me too!" It's hard for me not to look at the brochure and think about hundreds of students, severely indebted, with no clear place to go. It's hard to think back to recent, random alumni whom I didn't know, contacting me out of the blue, scared, looking for advice and hope, and me being unable to help them in any meaningful way. It's hard for me to not look back at the past ten years and think "Wow, I should have done something completely different with my career rather than having gone to law school. I was scammed, and my student debt will continue to follow me for the next ten to 15 years."
This is why I blog. Instead of supporting my alma mater, I join my voice to the thousands who, every year, across the country, are dumped out on the market with crushing debt and few to no real prospects. The handful that are chronicled will do just fine and don't need any help - being well-connected tends to do that for a person. For everyone else there is MasterCard, and all I can do is salute you and wish you good luck.
My alma mater does not need to be turning out the current level of new graduates. They should cut the numbers in half. Period.
For the vast majority of those considering the plunge, I can only sincerely hope that you have been or will be persuaded to choose some other path. The machine will grind on, perhaps more slowly than in the past; but there is no need to add additional fuel to that fire. Enough damage has been done already.