Monday, November 18, 2013

The Demise of Horatio Alger

Charles Cooper laid out the motivations of the scambloggers in his recent post:

So why do we do this? Why do writers here spend hours each week penning articles for you to read? Why did I spend a few years of my life writing a book on this subject? Because it’s important. It’s because we care about not handing a broken system to our kids. It’s because we have a conscience and don’t agree with turning our fine higher education system into a business model for syphoning money from college students to wealthy professors or, worse still, investors. It’s because we care about making sure future generations of students go out into the world with degrees that are effective in terms of cost and opportunities. We worry about the young people today saddled with mortgage-sized debt for degrees, and how this will affect their ability to do the normal things in life, like take a low-paid entry level job, buy a house, raise kids, or even afford to eat in some cases. We worry that the JD is being turned into a worthless piece of paper.  We are bothered that the legal profession continues to eat itself alive.  These are real issues. We want to be part of the solution. It seems that many others are content to be part of the problem, take their cut of the ill-gotten gains, and not particularly care what hollow shell of an education system (or profession) they leave behind. They’ve got theirs, and everyone else doesn’t matter.


Really?  Is that it?  Is it possible that people could be motivated out of a sincere desire to see things be different, now and in the future?

Some would cynically say "never, without an economic incentive to do so."  The "rational economic actor" would never do anything without some form of remunerative incentive.  Clearly, the scambloggers make a huge windfall off of this somehow, though it is not apparent how, yet.

Plus, those who have the temerity to critique the law school cartel are whiny, bitter, losers.  Yes, we've heard it all before.  All you have to do is want it bad enough, and then you will make bank. 

Yeah, about that "bank":


It would appear that the Horatio Alger myth - that hard work and pluck will lift a person from dire circumstances to enviable success - is not living up to expectations for Americans. As WSJ's Lauren Weber notes, 40% of Americans think it’s fairly common for someone to start off poor, work hard and eventually rise to the top of the economic heap but a new Pew study shows that in reality, only 4% of Americans travel the rags-to-riches path. Unfortunately, they discovered considerable “stickiness” at both ends of the income spectrum and that Americans attached to the rags-to-riches myth might be disappointed to know that other countries show greater mobility among have-nots - "this is what we call the 'parental penalty,' and it's really high in the U.S. - If you’re born in the bottom here, your likelihood of sticking in the bottom is much higher." 


Oh, but law school, says the law school cartel and it's affiliated industries.  Are you going to listen to the protestations of millions of people throwing a national pity party, or are you going to go out there and be a lawyer, dammit?

Well, things aren't looking good on that score, either:


Competition should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. As in the past, some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. This service allows companies to hire lawyers “as-needed” and permits beginning lawyers to develop practical skills.
Job opportunities are typically affected by cyclical swings in the economy. During recessions, demand declines for some discretionary legal services, such as planning estates, drafting wills, and handling real estate transactions. Also, corporations are less likely to litigate cases when declining sales and profits restrict their budgets. Some corporations and law firms may even cut staff to contain costs until business improves. 
Because of the strong competition, a law graduate’s willingness to relocate and work experience are becoming more important. However, to be licensed in another state, a lawyer may have to take an additional state bar examination.


Did you catch that?  More students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available.  This is not scamblog-whiner central, this is the Bureau of Labor Statistics who has no dog in the fight.  I count two instances of "strong competition."  I see that "students unable to find permanent jobs" are going to that "growing number" of holy of holies, "short-term, as-needed" jobs (i.e. doc review) to develop "practical skills".  Hah.  I thought law schools were turning out "practice ready" students, anyway.

Going back to Cooper's post, tdennis239 makes a telling observation:


Yesterday, I was in court, waiting with four other lawyers, for my turn to see the judge. Two in our group were insurance defense lawyers, the rest of us plaintiff lawyers, but all of us came from the "small shop" part of law practice; which is to say the typical American law practice. All of us were in our late fifties and sixties (yes, cursed baby boomers) and our collective legal experience totaled about 180 years. We are the lucky ones; the ones that what passes for "making it" in this profession. In short, when we talk criticize legal education and the practice of law, we are not crafting our slings and arrows "in the darkness and ignorance". Quite the contrary.

As we caught up on each other's lives, soon the conversation turned to practicing law: how hard it is for us, much less young, inexperienced lawyers, the obvious oversupply problems and its effect upon the market place and how, to a person, we forbid, not discouraged, forbid our children from following in our footsteps---not because we are losers---but because we can read the writing on the wall: there is no future in law for the vast majority of young lawyers. That topic flowed into the recognition, fired by hindsight and lengthy experience, of the laughable ignorance and sheer ineptitude of our law professors in teaching us anything about the practice of law. We all agreed, however, that as bad as the bombastic musings that passed for legal teaching was when we attended law school, at least we didn't have to pay $150,000 for the dubious privilege of having to listen to it as our young people now must do.

I suppose if Dean Alexander or Prof. Leiter or Mr. Lee or Prof. Leong had heard us, they would have detected some bitterness---I admit to that. But, it is bitterness born of righteous indignation because all of us agree that the ABA, our trade organization, has allowed professors, deans and big-law managing partners, most of whom cannot find the court house, much less draft a complaint and try a jury case, to trash our profession. One would have to be a stone not to be bitter at the utter disrespect these gangsters have shown for, what is to us, a once noble profession.

Finally, as for Keith Lee's "step by step plan", it is nonsense. Each and everyone of us old, wizened lawyers affirmed that starting a law business in the 1970s and 1980s was hard. Keeping it a profitable concern for thirty or forty years is even harder and with each passing years, only getting harder. Starting a law practice now, in the present market, simply makes us shake our head in wonderment that anyone would recommend such a scheme to a young, vulnerable person.


In addition, tuition is sky-high.  Go see Third Tier Reality or Law School Transparency if you don't believe it.  Or here at Volokh.  Or even more recently, an excellent piece by Elie Mystal over at ATL (awesome charts as well):

You’re familiar with these arguments: a widening gap between haves and have nots, Cooley grads rising up to stick Harvard grads with pitchforks, dogs and cats living together. It’s pretty sad that law degrees — long thought of as a path for upward mobility for hardworking people — now serve as a way of locking in massive inequalities between elites and everybody else. If you are not starting from a position of strength that allows you to get into the very best law schools, going to law school at all is probably an extremely bad call. 
Just 20 years ago, the “bimodal” distribution [of lawyer salaries]… did not exist. The value of a law degree was more or less standardized. Getting into a law school, any law school, conferred a certain range of expected benefits. Now, getting into law school is like playing a slot machine: some will win, most will lose, others will win just enough to keep playing[.]
Note that the spike around $30,000 in the 90s is pretty much the same as the spike around $50,000 today, adjusted for inflation. At the low end, law school is almost exactly as valuable as it was 20 years ago… except that law school tuition has skyrocketed to the point where it is often more than double what it cost 20 years ago. Do you think law schools know they are charging everybody a lot more for the same slop? I do.
The next law professor type who wants to defend law school based on how things were when he went to law school can jump in a lake of statistical reality. The experience of a person who graduated in 1996 is irrelevant to the experience of a person who graduates today[.]  The next law professor type who wants to talk to you about the value of a law degree over the lifetime of your career is LYING TO YOU[.]

What does that mean for you, current law student or recent graduate who does not have access to a DeLorean? I think it means that you must do what all people must do who find themselves on the short end of market forces beyond their control: it means you need new skills. Your law degree was a bad investment, sorry. But instead of clutching your buggy whip and waiting for people to come back to the rustic simplicity of horse-powered transportation, you need to develop skills for which there is an actual market...Whatever you do, you probably shouldn’t keep banging your head against the bimodal salary distribution curve in a desperate attempt to jump from one end to the other. History is against you.



Friends, this in not about "working hard," or being a "loser" because you can't handle the heat so you better stay out of the kitchen, or whatever the lame motivational-speaker platitude of the month happens to be.  The scamblogs have always said that if you have the passion to be an attorney, the funds to do it, and the social capital and connections to pull it off, then go do it!  Please!  Really!

This message is for the majority who don't have the money, who don't have the connections or social capital, and who don't know what law school or the business of law is really about.  This message is for those who have no business going to law school, no offense intended.  And I say this as one who had no business doing so, myself.

This is about the death of the Horatio Alger myth overall, and in the practice of law in particular.  The law school cartel peddles poor advice, dubious preftige and false hope in order to lure the marks in and profit.  The practice of law is one that has considerable "stickiness," and all the Dudley-Do-Right-Horatio-Algerism in the world doesn't affect the fact that the market, starting capital, pedigree and connections matter.  Thousands of graduates face this reality every year.

0Ls, don't fall for the line that "all this can be yours," when those who profit from your decision are counting on you to take the bait.  It takes much more than determination to be successful, but they want you to think that is the core ingredient.  If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it.  Instead, go invest your efforts in something else that has a better chance of return, and be a part of the solution instead of the problem in the process.

37 comments:

  1. Right on, Brother!

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  2. "The scamblogs have always said that if you have the passion to be an attorney, the funds to do it, and the social capital and connections to pull it off, then go do it! Please! Really!

    This message is for the majority who don't have the money, who don't have the connections or social capital, and who don't know what law school or the business of law is really about. This message is for those who have no business going to law school, no offense intended. And I say this as one who had no business doing so, myself."

    YES YES YES YES YES.

    The scamblogs have always said that law school is good for those who will succeed and that it is bad for those who will not. All the scamblogs are doing is trying to make applicants realize that they are not in the successful category unless they have connections and money.

    You can't make connections and money from law school. If you don't have them going in, you sure as hell won't have them coming out. In fact, you'll have far less of the money too.

    Get a grip on reality, applicants. If you're going to law school to be successful, you've already failed. You need to come from success before setting foot in law school in order to succeed afterwards.

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    1. There is something that potential law school students should understand about employment connections - and I don’t know that this has been talked about much on these blogs. Connections have always been an important factor in trying to land a job - and not just in the legal field either. However, because the legal job market is so tight, the quality of your connection has to be much stronger today than it did in years past. To use a generic illustration: 20 years ago, your uncle’s friendship with a State Senator might well be enough to land you a state government job. To land the same job today, your uncle has to be the State Senator. See the difference.

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    2. Yes - another way to keep a person in his class of birth - making connections as important as any "merit-based" achievement.

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    3. It's all true. Law is for people with connections and money. I went in stupidly thinking that top grades at one of the most highly regarded law schools would open doors. Well, I got the top grades, but I can rarely get so much as an interview, never mind a job. Meanwhile, the dumb kids who skip half of the semester in order to go yachting easily get jobs even at the biggest firms.

      Law firms don't want hayseeds, however capable; they want people with connections to big money. Competence as a lawyer is at best a tertiary issue.

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    4. Connections trump "merit-based" achievement in a breeze.

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    5. The last sentence from 6:34 am sums it up the best. There's no pot of gold unless you started with one...there could be one without but it is very highly unlikely. The question is whether to go into such debt to find out so Buyer Beware.

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    6. Look more closely at this Horatio Alger business. This is from Wikipedia's entry on him:

      "Horatio Alger, Jr. .... was a prolific 19th-century American author, best known for his many juvenile novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort ..... His writings were characterized by the "rags-to-riches" narrative, which had a formative effect on America .... Alger's name is often invoked incorrectly as though he himself rose from rags to riches, but that arc applied to his characters, not to the author.

      Essentially, all of Alger's novels share the same theme: a young boy struggles through hard work to escape poverty. Critics, however, are quick to point out that it is not the hard work itself that rescues the boy from his fate, but rather some extraordinary act of bravery or honesty, which brings him into contact with a wealthy elder gentleman, who takes the boy in as a ward."

      Sounds like it was fiction about youngsters making respectable on chance connections.

      You're spending three years of your life and $100K+ on a 19th-century morality play. Oh shit.

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    7. 5:26AM, right on. Alger's books were basically the 19th century version of Joan King - "network."

      Couldn't we all use a wealthy benefactor, frankly? But to admit to that disrupts the 'Murican narrative of "I'm the CEO of a Fortune 500 purely on my own merit with no help whatsoever, and so can you!!!11!!11!", so, back to the bubble of mythology...

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  3. I have said this before and will again. The big issue facing students is debt. Debt can be avoided by going to night school or can be minimized by going to a public school. A huge disservice of the scam blogs is the advice to go to law school only if. A very top school. A relative of mine took that advice and borrowed 75 k for her first year, and will do the same for additional years. She now will have no choice but to work in the cess pool of big law, dealing with narcisists and sociopaths. I think het course would have been much easier had she chosen her local public law sxhool, incurring much less debt.

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    1. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111

      At least attending a top law school, she has the chance to make her choice pay off! (Although she seems to have ignored the rest of our clear advice that law is a shitty profession that most people hate, so I'm not sure what she was expecting.)

      Attending a local public school would have incurred less debt (perhaps...they are not all cheaper options), but would have left her with little chance to ever work as an attorney. Have you seen the employment stats from local public law schools? They are awful. And then couple that with a night program that everyone already sees as a shittier degree? She might as well just flush her money straight down the toilet.

      Listen. Our advice is not just "don't go to law school unless it's a top school". Our advice is ALSO "and don't go to law school unless you want to be an asshole lawyer working with assholes!"

      Surely she can't have been so willfully blind to the complete message?

      What part of "math" didn't she understand? Was she expecting to work in smalllaw after graduating with that much debt? Was the fact that she has to work in biglaw some kind of surprise? How did she not know that biglaw was her only way to make the numbers work?

      She can't blame us. She should be blaming the lying law schools for sucking her in DESPITE what we were saying.

      And do you think that narcissists and sociopaths are unique to biglaw? Wrong there buddy. They inhabit law at every level, from solo practices to small firms to government jobs to biglaw. Almost everyone involved in this dirty profession is a true piece of shit.

      Sorry. She's just another victim. Not our fault though.

      Perhaps she should follow our other advice: "QUIT LAW SCHOOL WHEN YOU KNOW YOU DON'T LIKE THE OUTCOME." She has no obligation to get further into debt. She can quit at any time and cut her losses. Don't let her fall into the trap of keeping on with something she hates.

      Maybe the best thing you could do is send her over here for some real advice, because she sounds like she's not understanding the message properly.

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    2. Debt can be avoided by not going to school in the first place.

      The Simpsons episode last night had a take on this issue, when Homer had to tell a lie, any lie - "College is expensive, but it's worth the cost."

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    3. Interesting dispute between 747 and 920. I side with 920 (though I agree with 747 that the lawyers in big law are more likely to be or become pathological).

      If you want a public sector law job, it is a reasonable strategy to mitigate expenses by attending a well-regarded public law school with a nice scholarship. The problem is that there are a diminishing number of entry-level public sector law jobs out there. Public sector austerity is practically nationwide, and has taken on a cast of permanence.

      Some well-regarded first tier public sector law schools posted shockingly low (full-time law, long-term, nonsolo) nine month out placement rates for 2012. These include IU-Bloomington (53.4%), Univ. of Maryland (52.4%), Univ. of Florida (55.6%), Univ. of Illinois. (58.2%). Second-tier University of Oregon posted a Cooleyesque score of 37.9%. And I expect those numbers to go down for the Class of 2013.

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  4. Folks things are even worse than you think. I know a legal executive at a fortune 500 who is talking his/her child out of going to LS. This person was telling me that his/her nephew can't get a job, and he/she can't help!!!

    This profession is really toast. The oversupply isn't just having a negative impact on what the areas referred to as "shit law" or "small law"; to the contrary, it is having a negative impact, and it will continue to have a negative impact, on higher end areas of the law.

    I predict that within a few years, with the exception of a few positions at a handful of V-100 firms, a few companies and government agencies, all of which will involve doing extremely niche work, everyone is going to be fucked. I believe of the 40000 law school graduates every year, only about 1000 will have a positive, long-term, outcome by attending LS.

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  5. Agree that debt is the major issue however going to "night school" and the "local public law school" will in no way enhance employment prospects. You've dated yourself with that advice.

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  6. Great article. Connections and family wealth trump "hard work" and excellent grades when it comes to securing good jobs. The law school pigs are aware FULLY AWARE of this reality. However, the swine prey on the idealism of young Humanities majors who want to do some good in the world. They also feed off of college graduates' ambition, which has been ingrained in them from the moment they exited the womb.

    In the final analysis, the "professors" and administrators DO NOT GIVE ONE DAMN about the students or taxpayers. To them, these people are a mere means to an end. When the academic thieves refer to themselves as "public servants," those with a conscience want to puke.

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  7. I should have commented on this on Charles' post, but I take issue with the quote "business model for syphoning money from college students to wealthy professors or, worse still, investors."

    Why is it worse for a for-profit enterprise to syphon money than it is for a "not-for-profit"? It's kind of like saying that the use of chemical weapons to kill people is worse than the use of bullets, bombs, fire, etc. As far as I'm concerned, burning to death is just as bad as dying by mustard gas.

    I think that there's a pervasive social programming with Charles's statement, similar to the Horatio Algers' myth. People continue to be told that capitalism and the free markets are evil and that profit is bad because it encourages greed. On the other hand, not-for-profits are virtuous and wholesome because professors mean well and want to teach kids to be better citizens (never mind that they are making a salary, which kind of renders the term "not-for-profit" meaningless).

    I think there may be some hope with for-profit schools becuase as costs spiral out of control and people stop attending univerisities, these schools at least have the flexibility to adapt and possibly change their business models accordingly. I don't see that happening with not-for-profits and government-run entities, because there is no incentive to do so. In fact, there's incentive for those running those organizations to keep things the same.

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    1. I think the idea here is that the free market, operating efficiently (if there is such a thing), is great when dealing with movable goods or real estate. If you've been "had" and buy a crappy TV or refrigerator, that sucks but it's not the end of the world. Plus, there are consumer protections available, warranties, lots of information on price and brand out in the marketplace prior to pruchase, etc.

      As the cost goes up, the risk goes up. Buying a terrible car or getting underwater on a mortgage is worse than the junker TV or refrigerator, but even then there are some consumer protections and pricing information, although your recourse is more limited.

      "Education" is something that is continuing to move into the high-risk category, but as a non-movable good the protections and accurate market data are minimal to non-existant. You can't foreclose on the degree, nor discharge it in bankruptcy. That is what moves this phenomena from the realm of the market to the realm of monopoly/cartel, with seller protections that would make a loan shark blush. The buyer, in contrast, is told to greatful for their expenseive piece of paper, now f**k off.

      So, the dichotomy is not so much for-profit v. not-for-profit as it is legitmate-business v. scam. In this case, the scammers currently hold the upper hand, profit or not, and the best move currently, at least vis-a-vis law school, is to run away screaming.

      This is not to say that there are no legitimate law schools, its just that many of them should not exist under current market conditions.

      IMO.

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    2. The points about the enormous cost of law school and the non dischargeability of student loans cannot be repeated often enough. Even with an underwater house, one can walk away and the worst that can happen is one may have to declare bankruptcy. In almost all cases that is not an option with student loan debt.

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    3. I don't want to respond in too much depth and derail the discussion about today's fine post, but I do want to clarify the point raised by 10:16am.

      There is, in my mind, a difference between the role professors play in the scam and the role that for-profit colleges play.

      Maybe this is not the best example, but I see professors as passive partners in the higher education scam, while for-profit colleges are active. Professors are perhaps driven by passive greed (i.e. they might genuinely want to teach students and conduct research, but they see working in a college environment as a far easier way of doing so than working in a private sector research lab or in a corporate position). Professors enjoy the perks of the job, and over time they become complacent and learn how to work the system (tenure, long vacations, paid sabbaticals, low teaching loads, etc.) Don't get me wrong - they are part of the problem, but they at least have some role in bettering their students (even if, in the case of many law professors, they actually don't).

      Now compare that to the highly-distilled for-profit colleges, which are systems >>specifically designed<< to take advantage of government student loan availability, and they offer extremely poor educational opportunities for an extremely high cost. Education comes second to making money, whereas for most traditional universities, there's still some semblance of wanting to provide good degrees for the kids. This is such a refined, active business model that would not exist were it not for the student loan system, whereas traditional colleges would exist whether student loans were available or not (to some extent, at least). Those involved in the for-profit education industry would move to the next scam though, wherever it may be, education or otherwise.

      Don't get me wrong - law schools are often treated as cash cows by universities, and they are on the upper end of the scam spectrum. But it is a spectrum; it's not black and white, scam or no-scam, and we can't fall into the trap of lumping most law schools in the same category as for-profit colleges.

      In my mind, there's a scale - 0 being no scam, and 10 being a crazy scam. I see most colleges at about 5 these days, trending towards higher numbers each year. I see somewhere like MIT, Oxford, Harvard, and Caltech closer to 1 or 2, because they do genuinely provide opportunities for their grads, while some private liberal arts colleges at about 6 or 7, as they are expensive and offer few real life job opportunities. Law schools in the top 10 would be at about 8, other law schools would be at about 9, and I reserve 10 for the for-profit education sector.

      So in short, I see most law schools at scam level 9, and for-profit schools at scam level 10. Both are immense rip-offs, but for-profit schools just take the gold medal simply because they really have no interest in education whatsoever. I just think that at this stage in the game, we do need to make slightly more nuanced arguments.

      But sure, I'll gladly admit that I have a political and social viewpoint that strongly dislikes a group of individual making money from things that are, from a societal perspective, beneficial or essential. Healthcare, for instance - I have a strong distaste for anyone making extraordinary amounts of money from the sickness of others. Education too - there should be no profit in it. I'm all for paying a skilled professor a healthy income, one which rewards her hard work, but once salaries for professors start to drift above $100K per year, there's a huge problem. If a professor wants more money and they are worth more money, the private sector will take care of them. I would suggest that few professors would leave were their salaries cut in half.

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    4. Thanks for your thoughts, Charles.

      For-profit schools exist only because of student loan availability, and student loans exist only because of the pervasive thinking that money is evil and should not be a hindrance to students who want to have an education, regardless of the cost.

      Professors working at not-for-profit universities shouldn't be given leeway just because they're "well-intentioned". At some point, you have to look at results, and not intent. A student graduating from a not-for-profit law school will likely have the same result as a student graduating from a for-profit law school - no job and high debt thats not dischargable .

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    5. Also, if you consider a law school to be an 8 or whatever on the scam scale, and you agree that law schools are cash cows for the flagship university, then it doesn't make sense, in my opinion, to consider a place like Harvard to be only a 1 or a 2 on the scam scale, since it benefits from the revenue its law school brings in.

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    6. 6:33 and 9:25, point taken. I think reasonable minds can disagree on the specifics, provided we're all on the same page - that page being entitled "higher education is a scam (with limited exceptions)".

      I could be persuaded to push Harvard up the scale to 4 out if 10, as the financing games behind an Ivy or other "prestigious" degree are complex. And I'll also happily agree that it should be results - not intentions - that matter. If a school or professor is not delivering results, they should be held accountable.

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    7. The "non-profits" have managed to raise their costs very effectively to capture as much of the federal loan money as they can get away with. Unlike non-profits, this was unplanned and inadvertent, the result of numerous individual decisions by department heads, but almost as effective. People say higher education is inefficient? At maximizing their costs to capture all available funds, they are supremely efficient.

      But of course the problem is its very easy to ratchet up spending, very hard to dial it back...

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  8. Still though, Society cannot exist without lawyers and needs lawyers just as it needs Doctors or Policemen etc.

    So who is now filling the need for lawyers and who will fill that need in the future?

    The OP implies that the need is now being filled only by wealthy elites and the rest are clearly redundant and out in the cold?

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    1. (I'll swear, every 'Anonymous' on the scamblogs should be parted out for organs)

      The point is *not* that there is not need for lawyers, the points *are* (1) law schools are turning out twice as many grads as jobs and (2) they are charging insanely high prices.

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    2. This is yet another part of the shame of the law school debacle, and one which IMO is not discussed enough on the scam blogs. For all the oversupply of lawyers, it is not at all easy for individuals to find qualified legal help when the need arises.

      As a small-time client who has had to litigate several substantial (and, as it turned out, legitimate) claims against much bigger opponents, I can say that by far the hardest part of these ordeals has been finding a good attorney for a reasonable cost.

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    3. Cut the number of law grads in half and there would still be more than enough to fill this need.

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    4. Yes society needs lawyers but not nearly as many as the law schools are churning out. Half of all law schools could shut down immediately and there would still be more than enough lawyers in our lifetimes.

      Paul Campos had a very good post on ITLSS about how the need for graduates to work for free after getting a JD --to get experience so that they can get, you know, a job that actually pays money--is another symptom of classism in this "profession," since not everyone has a family who can continue paying their way for so long.

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    5. No. Try again.

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    6. Well, 3:05, it's all part of the same problem. In the days when lawyers had clients lined up in their waiting rooms like physicians they could afford to cut a little slack to folks like you. Now every client has to pay his, her or its own way. That is a function of oversupply. The lawyer who never worried about whether enough work would come through the door next week could afford to go easy on some bills.

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  9. 3:05 pm: "... I can say that by far the hardest part of these ordeals has been finding a good attorney for a reasonable cost."

    This is a testament to the fact that half the lawyers out there shouldn't be lawyers. Unfortunately, that half saturates the market and gives less incentive for the good ones to become/remain lawyers.

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  10. Child of a Third Tier GodNovember 18, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    Horatio Alger now shines The Valvoline Dean's AMG for spare change.

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    1. And right before he drives away, he pats him on the head and says "thank you boy."

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  11. So still not clear. Is all of this impacting the larger society or just the lawyers that are part of the oversupply and lost the game of musical chairs?

    If it is hard to find a good lawyer for a reasonable price, one would think supply and demand can only bring the cost of legal services down and not make it go up as Nov. 18th @3:05PM says.

    If not, then what is driving the cost up? The student debt?

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    1. Debt is part of it, but even more so (I think) is the cost of running a practice. Office rent is more expensive, just like everything else. Having employees is more complicated than it used to be (e.g. Obamacare). Now in the information age there are a lot of expenses (computer, backup software, Lexis subscription, fax, cell phone) that previously did not exist. And I think state bars are making more money by charging more for CLE's than previously.

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    2. This is primarily about the legal profession, but I think law school is the canary in the coal mine for higher ed in general. There will be more losers in the musical chairs game across many fields, and in fact, it is already happening.

      As for cost, I would argue the overproduction of JDs has created a perverse supply and demand outcome. There are so many lawyers out there with no skills and no experience who are constantly undercutting each other for business, and, in turn, delivering poor, costly results for clients because they have had no real-world training or mentoring.

      As such, the lawyers who actually know what they are doing and have experience are at a premium, albiet at slightly reduced cost due to competition. For a niche area, the lack of competition causes prices to go up. Clients don't want a n00b to handle their important bet-the-farm matter.

      The problem is that law schools have turned out thousands of JDs for years with no eye towards the consequences of overprodution nor the the actual practice of law. The answer to that has always been "let God sort 'em out." Law schools, then, are complicit IMO in creating a giant market failure, not solving it, thus in turn creating a price spike in legal services.

      The student debt just is just a giant weight on both individuals and the economy overall. Yes, some people will leave law in order to pursue a career that will actually allow them to service the debt, if possible, but then again that reduces the JD pool, drives up the price of billable hour rates, and is just a giant irony in any event.

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