Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Post: We Get Mail - Struggling Solo Edition

A recent correspondent to OTLSS asked that we re-post something that the same correspondent had submitted (and had posted) to ITLSS several months ago.  While we have a tendency here to focus on the whole economic package of obtaining a law degree, a point that is often overlooked is the significant psychological and emotional cost that goes along with obtaining said degree, or even trying to hack it once the bar is passed and the need to make a living sets in.  Without further ado:


Dear Professor Campos:

First I want to commend you on your excellent blog.  I have begun to read through your articles.  The positive thing that I'm getting from the blog is that I don't feel so lonely anymore thinking that I got
scammed when I went to law school.  I started law school in 2002 and graduated in 2005.  Prior to going to law school I had heard rumblings about how being an attorney was not as profitable as the schools made it out to be.  I was also warned by other attorneys that it was very stressful.  Unfortunately that information did not sink in and I bought the hype that my 2ndT/3rdT regional school offered.  So I spent three good years of my life working on a degree that I believe should have only taken two. 
 
Then reality really hit when I entered the job market.  It was not good.  You could find jobs but for $40,000 to $50,000.  At first I thought that it was me, that I had not done the right things, ie kiss up to the right people, done unpaid internships, etc.  So I decided to hang up my own shingle.  I opened my own office, and tried to make a go of it.  It has been an incredibly difficult five (now 7) years.  For many of those years I would blame myself for not doing better; I began to believe that there was huge mistake that I was making or I had made that had alienated clients, or that I wasn't advertising properly, or any number of things that could be attributed to an office that produced income, but not that much.  I worked long hours by myself trying to satisfy clients that could not be satisfied.  I panicked at little mistakes, and thought the worst case scenarios for every misstep.  It was a miserable existence and it put me in a depressive state with bouts of anxiety that were difficult to control.
 
So I went to therapy to get my head back on straight and that helped a little.  I also found blogs (like yours) and additional information that has allowed me to put my career in perspective.  The conclusion that I came to was that, after I beat myself over the business not going as well as I would like; the reality is that the current situation was stacked against me.  It is very difficult to succeed in today's environment, and I don't feel like my school has addressed that at all. 
 
Which leads me to my point in to this rambling email.  Perhaps you have written about this, but I cannot stress this enough; there is a mental toll taken on attorneys.  Depression and anxiety have taken the wind out of my life.  I'm getting help, a lot of help.  I am aware of the dangers of allowing some things to go untreated.  People need to know how destructive this profession can be to some people; it has been for me.  I suspect it is for most attorneys because we all share the same stories.  Perhaps you might also research where JDs go after giving up on law.  Everyone tells me what a great degree it is to have, but the reality is that a JD does not really open doors.  So I'm left in limbo trying to set a new course because I won't allow this profession to destroy me.
 
 
Another correspondent said something similar:
 
Dear OTLSS team;
 
I stumbled across your Sept 2013 article on Andrew Post, and I felt that you all are the only ones with a realistic view on employment after law school.  Thanks for your honestly.
 
I hung a shingle several years ago and barely make minimum after my expenses and loans (but, because you can only claim so much $ toward debt, a good chunk of my net goes to taxes).  Needless to say, I'm struggling, especially when I hate practicing law, never wanted to practice, and have failed time after time to obtain something, anything, else for a job[...]
 
Thanks again for your website.


I am admittedly hijacking this comment from Third Tier Reality, as it fits in with what has been said already:

I graduated law school 15 years ago. At that time, law school was a scam--we just didn't figure it out until the last year of law school. Career services only catered to those in the top 10% of the class. If you were not in the top 10% of the class, career services treated you like a leper.

I was fortunate in that I spent 2 years working in the legal profession before embarking on the scam trip known as law school. During those 2 years, I cultivated solid relationships. In fact, I became good friends with a partner at a V20 firm who promised me employment after graduation. Unfortunately, that partner got sacked during my 2L year and I never heard from him again. I was able to land a trial level clerkship a month before I graduated law school. I was lucky. After the clerkship was over, my judge placed me with a mid size law firm (60 attorney firm) which worked me 80 hours a week for a miserable salary of $65K a year. This was around 2000. The partners at this firm were the worst human beings I ever encountered. For example, one day while I was driving to court, I was hit by a truck. I was taken to the hospital and my car was totaled. This happened on a Friday. On Saturday morning, a partner called my cell phone and asked me where the hell I was. I told him "Hey John, I am doing well thank you for your concern. I was released from the hospital at 8AM and have no car because it was totaled in yesterday's accident." He replied by telling me to rent a car and get to work. When I asked if the firm would reimburse me for the car rental, he told me to go fuck myself. I quit the following Monday.

Eventually I set up a practice with another attorney. It took a couple of years to get in the black but we made it. In 2012, my law partner died of a heart attack. He was 39 years old. He had developed a bad case of obesity and ate crap food all the time. The stress of the job was the bullet that killed him (he practiced matrimonial law).

After a nasty dispute with his widow (she sued me for 80% of the partnership's equity), I went on my own. The practice of law today has changed for the worse. Lawyers are always undercutting each other on fees and committing ethical violations by guaranteeing results to clients just to put food on the table. I blame the law school industry for the profession's current ills. If law schools hadn't gone to mass production mode in the mid 2000s all the way through the present, lawyers wouldn't be killing each other over business. Can you believe that today, I saw a young lawyer quote $50 to a client in traffic court to represent him in a moving violation? I remember when I used to charge $750 for these types of matters. Now I have to compete with the clueless noob who doesn't know what the fuck to charge because law school doesn't teach you shit.

I am currently exploring exit options. I want out of this miserable profession. I am fortunate that I graduated with no student loans (I had a full ride to undergrad and law school); however, I feel this profession has destroyed my soul and will wind up killing me. Anyone considering attending law school should have a heart to heart talk with a practicing lawyer. I am positive that if an 0L shadowed a lawyer for a week, he/she would quickly abandon the idea of entering this filthy profession which only seems to benefit law professors, deans and Biglaw partners.

 
While the anti-scam crowd often accuses the scamblogs for being too "gloom-and-doom" about the legal market, e-mails like those above help demonstrate that there is real peril in the legal marketplace today, both from an economic and psychological point of view.  Many are struggling and blaming themselves for their struggles, or are having to scramble to do things they never wanted or intended in order to make it on a day to day basis. 
 
What "shocks the conscience" here is that the Law School Cartel DOES NOTHING to moderate the situation or to disabuse people of their notions either before or after law school.  In fact, they actively encourage people to go get that "million dollar law degree" and then let shame do its dirty work for them afterwards.  Who cares about people being economically and psychologically damaged by law school, when there is plenty of fresh meat to load into the abattoir?  Let the lemmings keep dreaming about saving dolphins or being high-powered attorneys like those fictitious lawyers on "Suits," as those law review articles don't write themselves, you know.  Lower the LSAT standards and herd them all in; we've got tenured salaries and pensions to pay for. 
 
Yeah, we see what you did there with your "ethics" and "professionalism."  It's easy to be "liberal" with other people's money. 
 
Readers, please think twice about going to law school unless (1) money is no object, and (2) you have crystal-clear entre into the profession locked up before you step foot in the door.  In fact, think three or four times before committing.  Your economic and mental well being will likely depend on it.

43 comments:

  1. What a vibrant, thriving "profession, huh?!?!

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    1. Yes, people will always need lawyers!

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  2. “I want out of this miserable profession.” This kind of complainer can be found in literally any profession in existence. Welding, teaching, medicine, management, you name it.

    He's a 1999 grad. Off the top of my head I can name for you graduates from that era who are highly successful partners at big firms, inhouse counsel, judges, political leaders, capital murder prosecutors, and the list goes on. Do “most” grads get to those points? I have no idea. But many do. Those who don't never seemed to have figured out how to make it out there. Maybe they were social awkward, which is okay if you're brilliant. But if you're socially awkward and also not a very good legal thinker or strategizer, is it really the profession that's to blame?

    Here's a telling story for you. I'm close to being a 15 year lawyer myself. A few years ago I got assigned to a new case and discovered that my opposing counsel was a classmate from our alma mater. What a nice surprise! I called and chatted him up in a friendly tone, and told him I looked forward to working on this case with him. Subsequently, this guy proceeded to send me the nastiest, rudest, and unhinged emails I've seen about the case as we worked through one needless disagreement after another. He was a complete buffoon who didn't seem to comprehend the most fundamental aspects of his own case. I eventually filed a motion to dismiss, after he refused to accept my suggestions that he should voluntarily dismissed because his analysis was wrong. On the very morning of oral argument, just an hour before, he called my cellphone to ask if I'd still accept a voluntary dismissal. I begrudgingly did. I would have won.

    The point of the story is this: I hate that guy, and how many other attorneys out there also hate him? He squandered an opportunity to network with me and convert an almost stranger into a friend or admirer. If anyone asks me about his reputation because they might want to hire him or send him a case, what do you think I'll say? He's a moron and a jerk. People like that have considerable obstacles in their way when trying to succeed in life. And then, I guess, they write letters to scambloggers complaining about "this miserable profession."

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    1. 7:20 AM, thanks for the comment. Some people certainly do sink their own ships and there is no stopping them; but we are also concerned about the decades of lawyer overproduction by law schools and the effect that has had on the big picture.

      Perhaps if law schools had not been pumping out twice as many graduates as the market required for decades, then that would have indirectly helped prevent situations like the above. Crazy behavior like that is often borne out of desperation, although some people are just jerks no matter what.

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    2. 7:20 am -

      One of the reasons that the scam works is that some small percentage of graduates will be successful.

      One defense the scammers use is that not everyone who goes to law school has what it takes to be a successful lawyer - see your example.

      But what the scammers ignore is the debt, the NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt that a huge percentage of law school students incur. If it weren't for that, plus the hyper-saturated job market, law school wouldn't be a life-destroying scam - just a possible waste of time for a non-trivial percentage of students, who nonetheless would be able to move on from the experience without the inescapable ball and chain of non-dischargable debt.

      Trust me - if tuition loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy, there'd be no scam blog movement. And tuition would be much lower, and the number of people admitted would be much smaller - because who would make dischargeable loans for a law degree when the market is already hyper-saturated. But deans and professors would also make much less, and the number of law schools, professors and administrators would plummet.

      The scam continues because of effectively unlimited funding and the self-interest and greed of law schools and that is why scam blogs exist.

      The profession would continue to be miserable (it always has been) but no one's life would be destroyed if loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. To say that those who complain are arrogant impossible incompetents like your example is both untrue and unfair in the great majority of cases.

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    3. I smell the "Amway" argument cooking in the kitchen here. Whenever you go to an Amway convention, many times, the topic of success rates comes up. Usually, numbers are never mentioned, but almost without exception, the successful speaker will say something along the lines of this:

      " Sure alot of people fail doing Amway. However, those people lacked [fill in the blank with your standard blame game attribute, I.e. lack of hard work, socially awkward, stupid etc.] However, let's not forget that 'alot' [probably less than 1 in 1000] succeed."

      This is the same structural argument that the beneficiaries of the Law School Industrial Complex use. Literally, it's exactly the same.

      But here is why it's worse:

      1) LS sells itself as a safe bet even if you are not in the top. Amway makes it pretty clear that you have to be in the top for it to work out.

      2) If you lose in the LS game, at a minimum, you wasted an enormous amount of time, and probably money. Also, there is a really good chance you destroyed your life permanently. If you fail at Amway, none of the preceding is likely true. You probably just lost a little time and money. And if it's alot of money, bankruptcy is on the table.

      3) Even if you win the LS game and are at the top of the game, compared to how top Amway performers are living, you failed. The stress, risk, and work hours will be much higher than an Amway double diamond (and in many instances you will make less).

      In summary, in both ventures the chances of success are miniscule, but rewards in one are greater and the consequence of failure is less.

      On a side note: what irks the fucking shit out of me by this pseudo meritocracy BS is that I know for a fact that some phenomenally and grossly incompetent attorneys are making a fortune. It's usually because they have family connections, money, and a sales personality. This is not the basis of a profession. And if this is the route we want to take, we should get rid of any and all requirements to become a lawyer and just let the market take care of it.

      I have seen seriously injured people get squat, people convicted of minor crimes deported, and professional license losses due to the gross incompetence of the shyster sharks littering this "profession." At the same time, I am seeing unbelievablely intelligent and hard working people fail miserably because they lack the salesmen persona.

      And before some asshole tells me everything is sales, look at the medical profession.

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    4. Okay, 7:20, let's try this again. This is a great big game of musical chairs because there are not enough files for the lawyers being churned out. No one is saying that you cannot succeed, but it is an undeniable truth that it is impossible for everyone to succeed. Were the failure rate 10% I'd say it is just like welders and teachers, but it is 50%. Hardwired at 50% because there is not enough work. And no vocational school that teaches welding hires their own graduates to gin up the employment stats of their alumni.

      What you say is true, but you are employing survivor bias and thus not telling the whole story. In particular you leave out the factors of luck and timing. 20+ years ago I bailed out of a firm where I was the senior-most associate because the place was teetering on the brink. I was a newlywed with a small mortgage, a working spouse who had benefits and no kids. I could afford to go solo. One junior partner was a divorced woman. Another was a man with three young boys and a wife who had been out of the labor force for years. They'd have jumped, too, but could not afford to. When the firm broke up the junior partners and senior associates were screwed. Nobody wanted them because they could not bring solid books of business. Junior associates all did very well because they were not expected, at that point in their careers, to have books of business. All were equally good lawyers but some were just lucky to be at the right point in their careers when it hit the fan.

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    5. @ 8:22 BINGO. The logic of Congress / various and sundry Presidents on student loans to date: "Ah ha! If we make casts (bankruptcy) unavailable, there will be no broken arms (defaults)!"

      Yeah, right. No one was ever sincere in their arguments about "protecting the market" or the ability of the fed to lend and not suffer losses. It was always about isolating the rot of fraud, and the consequences of credit-fueled inflation, to one disfavored segment of society: students. It's tyranny of the majority. Kids nowadays have no meaningful choices, but it's clear that of their few, bad options, avoiding higher education altogether (not the same thing is being uneducated or knowing nothing) is the winning gambit.

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    6. 7:20

      If you have been in this profession as long as you claim (and I have no reason to doubt you), if ever you look outside yourself at all, you know bright, personable colleagues who struggle for no other reason than their timing was wrong, they are the wrong gender or color, they lack connections, or they lack a marketing budget or skills. If you truly say you don't know such people then I have to question whether you are really down here in the trenches with the rest of us solos and small firm practitioners. Try opening your eyes. I too, after years of struggle, am what passes for success in this profession. But I had a husband with a good income to support me and my little firm when I first started, parents who could lend me money in a pinch, and some connections and it still was a struggle getting my practice up and running. Try on some compassion, for goodness sake. These people are not losers and do not deserve your contempt.

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    7. Anan at 7:20... Fuck you. You have no idea. Ask your colleagues if they would encourage their kids into this profession. That is my life and you have no idea how much networking and ass busting I have to do to make a living. You have no idea how this affects my family, my life, my kids, my general disposition.
      I'm not a whiner, I've put my nose to the grindstone for 7 years of my life. It sucks.
      You actually proved my point in a way, the opposing attorney was a nut bag. That's more often the rule than the exception.

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    8. The fact of the matter is, despite all of the arguments about going out on your own, that is the ONLY way to have a relatively secure career in the law. We are all expendable except when we work for ourselves. And if you are good, you will get clients, so long as you can sell yourself.

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    9. "The fact of the matter is, despite all of the arguments about going out on your own, that is the ONLY way to have a relatively secure career in the law. "

      Going on your own is not secure, and you offer no evidence in favor of it being more secure.

      "We are all expendable except when we work for ourselves."

      You wouldn't be working for yourself; you would be working for clients, many of who will find you quite expendable.

      " And if you are good, you will get clients, so long as you can sell yourself."
      Assumes facts not in evidence. And the 'so long as you can sell yourself' assumes the conclusion, for practical purposes.

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    10. @12:07,

      Bullshit, especially in shitlaw. Some of the guys running the pi mills are some of the most incompetent attorneys I have ever met in my life. Truly incompetent. They don't know the law, they don't know how to write, and I doubt they know much of anything.

      Frequently, they are from wealthy and/or connected backgrounds and they leverage that to make money.

      The point about "sell yourself" is true, but then if that is your skill, do Amway: more money and less hours.

      Also, a profession isn't measured by the ability of sellling, but by the ability of mastering the craft associated with that profession. Since we have reduced the legal profession to a sales business, it's time to just get rid of all formal requirements and let everyone practice law who wants to. The market will be more efficient that way as people won't have any illusions on what they are dealing with

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    11. Well, 12:07, that is technically the truth and nothing but the truth but not whole truth. In my neck of the woods the going rate for representing the buyers of a house twenty years ago was $600.00. That's $950.00 in 2014 dollars but now the going rate is $650.00. Sell yourself all you want but you're selling yourself for less and less because there is always a bubble out there of recent J.D.s in the process of failing as solos who are driving the rates down in their desperation for quick cash. The real estate lawyers are making up the lost income peddling discount felony defense and the criminal defense guys are taking divorce work to cover what they are losing, to the extreme prejudice of the divorce folks. This vortex will keep spinning until the flood of new lawyers is cut off, and that won't happen until the student loan spigot is shut off.

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    12. " Hardwired at 50% because there is not enough work. And no vocational school that teaches welding hires their own graduates to gin up the employment stats of their alumni."

      Actually, it's worse, since a ratio of 2 grads for every job means that most of the 'winners' will be paid sh*t for long hours, abuse and insecurity.

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    13. Imagining The Open ToadMarch 20, 2014 at 1:44 PM

      "a new case and discovered that my opposing counsel was a classmate from our alma mater"

      A classmate, you say? And from your alma mater, as well?

      Who'dat thunkit!

      Well, I guess it seems reasonable on it's face. I'm trying to recall if I've ever run into classmates from schools other than those I've attended...

      ...Lemme see.... Nope! I guess you're right. My classmates did indeed attend my alma mater.

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  3. These are sad stories. In my own case, I spent two years after law school trying to get a job. I was on anti-depressants, had trouble with insomnia and even debated ending it all at times. I knew going into law school that the goal was to get a job, so I tried to get a job from the beginning of 1L.

    No one at the school told me that employers simply won't hire people over 35, so most of the time my resumes and cover letters were unreplied. After a while I learned to hide my age on my resume and started getting a reasonable number of in-person interviews. The problem is, it only takes one interviewer to say "Well, he looks like a good candidate, but he's kind of old..." It's like that scene at the end of Casino, where all the mob bosses are trying to decide who they should whack. Of course, having a law degree from a Toilet and only being in the top 30% didn't help either.

    Unemployment and student loan debt carry a terrible psychic burden. But you know what, Lemmings don't want to hear it. They all think they'll somehow be immune to an economy that will only provide a lawyer job to half of them, that they will be among the 3-4% that get a biglaw job (because that's the only type of job that makes the debt worth it) , that they'll really love that Biglaw job, that they won't get pushed out on the street after 3 year, etc.

    I've come to the conclusion that you can't reason with Lemmings. If I'm being honest, a lot of the reason I visit this site is because it provides me with a sort of therapy. I look around and see how many other lives were derailed by the scam and it honestly helps. It makes me feel like less of a fool. I wasted three years of my life and $90,000 for a useless degree and will never gain employment as a lawyer, no matter how much I try. I've passed my shelf life.

    I also want the law school establishment to know how much I hate them, and how much I want to kick them to the curb. That probably isn't going to happen due to the efforts of this blog, but at least I know they see and read this stuff. If I ever ran into one of my professors, I would give them an earful. That would be fun.

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    1. 7:22 AM, thanks for sharing your experience. The more people speak up, the more everyone benefits from realizing that they are not alone. Further, all we can do is try to warn the lemmings so they go in with eyes wide open, as we all had lemming-itis at one time or another. Some lemmings do steer away, as evidenced by the year-over-year of declining applications.

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    2. Please tell me how you hid your age. I tried, but what gave me away were the dates—going back to the 1980s—on my undergraduate transcript, which so many firms wanted to see. I seriously considered forging my transcript by moving all dates forward fifteen years or so.

      One white-shoe firm did not request the undergraduate transcript, so I did not provide mine. I took pains to conceal my age in that application. That was one of the very few firms that called me for an interview. But the three interviewers discovered that I had had more than a few years of professional experience prior to law school. One of them interrupted me and said "Wait a minute: how many years have gone by since you finished university? Ten?" The question was obviously directed at revealing my age. When I gave the correct answer—"Twenty years"—they gasped in unison and laughed nervously. Of course, that was the end of that.

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    3. There is age discrimination everywhere. I can't believe that is not something you considered before going to law school and expecting to be hired by a firm. If you go to law school at an advanced age, you go only because you want the education or because you plan on going out on your own. For example, I knew an IRS criminal investigator getting close to retirement. He went to lawschool at night and after he retired, set up shop representing those charged with tax evasion.

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    4. Unfortunately you will dissuade relatively few people from law school. The ones who can be dissuaded have largely stopped going. Only the lemmings are left. These are the people who have psychologically committed themselves to law school for many years. How do you convince them to give up their "dream"? The only effective way would be to get the government to put serious caps on loans. Which they aren't doing any time soon.

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    5. Lemmings cannot be reasoned with, but they can be threatened: You will not have a career as a lawyer; you will not own a large house; you will not earn enough to pay off your student debts and you will not get to bang the hot girl because you're wearing a power tie. You will be poor and severely underemployed.

      How defiant do you feel, Lemming?

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    6. anon @ 1:06,

      Agree there is age discrimination everywhere, but I do not think it was foolish of me to think that I could graduate law school at the age of 34. 34 is not old. Obviously, someone in their late 40s who is embarking on a new career as an employee is not going to be considered for hiring by anyone.

      Unfortunately, I now know that if you're over 30, the red flags go up for legal employers. It's just one more way for them to winnow down a list of candidates.

      Here's why legal employment is different than companies:

      Partners at law firms want associates who don't have families or any connections, who can be molded from clay, who don't have the confidence to fight back when they are screamed at. They want warm bodies generating billable hours for 100 hours a week, not an individual with a life. That's it. They don't want nuanced opinions, they don't want someone with experience and a good sense of judgment. They want billable hours to increase their own profits.

      Partners at law firms are also often threatened by the life experience of older people. A lot of them are straight-up K-JD, and have little experience in the corporate world.
      I work in house and I can sense the unease a lot of partners have when I start discussing technical things and business strategy. And no, it's not because I'm a sociopath, communicate badly or have bad breath. They simply have no practical experience, and when a person comes in with a deep command of history and facts, they are scared.

      anon @9:57 AM,
      I hid my age by limiting the number of years of technical experience on my resume, putting my education on the second page of my resume and omitting my undergrad graduation date. I also considered forging my transcript. I also considered submitting two sets of applications, one with my real data and one which showed me 7 years younger. I wanted to see if there was a discrepancy between interview percentages. I never did this. In the end I have just had to give up on the idea of working for a law firm.
      That ship has sailed.

      Maybe you should consider an entirely different line of work? Given that you appear to be even older than me, what are your options?

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    7. Well I have been practicing since the mid 80's. I graduated from a regional school, had no trouble getting a job first as a prosecutor, than in Mid-Law, where I stayed for four years before I went out on my own . . . and have been on my own ever since. Despite taking a huge hit in the market with the Tech Crash, I still have a few million saved up in retirement accounts. . . and because my tolerance for this profession and the incivility, lack of ethics and unprofessionalism that is so prevalent in the "profession" right now, I am actually considering retiring, although still in my fifties, or at least doing something totally different where I don't have to deal with ass**** insurance defense trial lawyers anymore.

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    8. Yes, I considered the issue of age-based discrimination. I asked about it and was told that my experience and skills would serve me well.

      I also didn't consider 40 "an advanced age".

      You say "There is age discrimination everywhere". Well, then, what exactly am I supposed to do: lie down under a bridge and freeze to death?

      I too took the dates off my résumé and dropped a lot of my experience. Still, I got very few interviews, and not a single offer (other than a federal clerkship). I decided against lying on my résumé (such as by claiming to have graduated only two years before law school) because the ruse might have been held against me as a character-and-fitness issue.

      I really don't know what my options are anymore. Certainly I don't have the wherewithal, or even the will, to pursue training for some other line of work. And I haven't even been able to find an unskilled job.

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    9. 10:12 AM, I call myself "dupednontraditional" for a reason, and part of that reason is exactly what you described. Law Schools are more than happy to tell you how valuable your life experience is until you graduate, whereupon you find out it isn't.

      "JD Advantage" (ha) is the "best" path now, most likely, so good luck to you. I and many others have been there.

      No one should go to law school if it puts them over 30 at graduation, unless you have great connections or enough capital to hang a shingle with minimal loans. That's it.

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    10. 7:22 AM, you're not a fool. This forum has served as a form of group therapy for me too.

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  4. I was a success story . . . but I graduated almost thirty years ago. I think if somebody once to make it in Law today in their own practice, they have to set themselves apart from the masses. You can't just be a lawyer, but you need to be a Lawyer with an expertise in a specific area of the law that not many other lawyers touch. You then market yourself as an expert in that particular area of the law . . whether it be Erisa, employment law, retirement planning, medicare reductions, etc. Even being an accountant will help in something as mundane as family law in figuring out where the spouse is hiding the assets. There are all sorts of ways to set oneself apart. If you graduated from college with the typical humanities degree . . . you probably know very little about anything, but hopefully you have the ability to learn and to read to gain expertise in a subject that will help set you apart. That being said, not a small number of lawyers are sociopaths, narcissists, just plan ass*oles. Self interest trumps truth, decency and ethics much of the time. This occupation, at least at the litigation level is not for the timid or the thin skinned and certainly not the sensitive. You are in the wrong profession if you have these attributes.

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    1. This occupation may not be for the timid, thin-skinned or sensitive type individuals but there is only so much you can take. Constant daily barrages leads to a myriad of problems, one being substance abuse, a long-time friend of this profession and many others. Punishing the client is also a good way of attacking his or her counsel. As far as setting yourself apart, it better be profitable to venture into an undiscovered niche market with monumental debt.

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    2. I agree with you on the debt. I am thinking in terms of being debt free. That's not something I had to worry about when I graduated in the mid 80's. I paid for my tuition out of pocket back then. Going in the whole for hundreds of K is absurd . . . but of course the entire higher educational system is a scam now. Its not just Law Schools who charge too much. How about 45K tuition a year for a degree in the Humanities? That's what kids or their parents now often pay at elite or not so elite institutions. My own daughter wants to go to the University of Miami which now charges over $1700 per credit hour. I told her that the University of Florida, where her cost (prepaid) will be about $50 per credit hour is where she is going. But these kids get killed with the glossy photos, the marketing . . . how happy they will be at these outrageously expensive undergrads. And I know parents who are taking out loans to send their kids to these schools. Its all a scam and a complete disgrace.

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  5. In the larger perspective, the question that really needs to get louder and louder is why in the US people end up with crippling debt from getting an education or getting sick. This doesn't happen in any other country.

    Someone wants us broke.

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    1. The U.S. is the nucleus of a larger conspiracy to make everyone debt slaves.

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    2. It's not a coincidence that the two things you mention (higher education and healthcare) are prohibitively expensive and subject to massive government interference at the same time.

      Everything else is actually getting cheaper and better. Look at what you pay for an iPhone now compared to an Apple 2e thirty years ago.

      Because education and health care have been deemed to be public goods, which justify the government getting involved, people are worse off. Kind of ironic.

      BTW, it's been pointed out by others that certain medical procedures that haven't been deemed as necessary by the government and therefore isn't covered by insurance have actually gotten cheaper over the years - namely, plastic surgery and lasik eye surgery.

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    3. I'm 8:04. To 9:59, I don't buy it. In countries where the government actually runs health care and all but a handful of universities are public, very little debt is incurred for the use of these public goods. The higher costs in the US seem to be what happens when financial institutions and insurance companies get heavily involved.

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    4. Which countries are you talking about that have very little debt? Sounds like we all should move to these utopian places.

      My guess is that you're referencing European countries, like Spain and Greece. If you want to believe that those countries are wonderful because they provide "free" health care and higher education, then oh well.

      By "little debt", presumably you mean little debt to the individual. Those governments that give out these "free" social services, though, are pretty much bankrupt. And, even if individuals have no student loan debt or medical debt, that may not matter if they have no jobs either. The unemployment rate in some of those countries makes you wonder whether all of their citizens went to law school.

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  6. Appalachian Law School is teetering on the edge:

    http://jdunderground.com/all/thread.php?threadId=66749

    If the school is publically predicting 40 1L's for next year, they are probably looking at 30 or fewer in reality. Now is the time for a concerted push of blog posts targeting this school. If we can discourage one or two dozen of their incoming 1L's from attending, we could push them over that ledge and shut them down.

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    1. I like this idea. I think a breaking point in lemming psychology might be seeing a school actually fail. The first thing someone who was / might have considered going to the school will think is: OMG what if they failed while I was there? Who is going to want to hire me when the school no longer even exists? It may turn the attention of would-be students to the apparent stability of the school they are considering, and offer a fresh motive for scrutiny. Getting lemmings to "do some damn research" is essential to changing minds and saving lives.

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    2. I wrote about this toilet over at Inside the Law School Scam. One of my messages (reproduced from http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.ca/2012/09/versus-how-many-graduates.html):

      More on the Appalachian School of Law. My analysis follows the double line.

      http://www.asl.edu/The-Program/Outcomes-and-Careers.html

      Outcomes

      ASL graduates are prepared to pursue advanced law degrees at graduate and professional schools. Some of our alumni have continued their studies at institutions such as:

      Tulane University School of Law
      The University of Missouri
      The John Marshall Law School, Chicago

      We have a growing network of alumni who are making a difference in communities across the country through their law practice. They include:

      Amy Lawrence '08 and Justin Lovely '09, founders of The Lovely Law Firm, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; concentrates in criminal, personal injury, and civil litigation law
      Andrew Call '07, practices law in Chicago, continuing a 176-year family legacy; submitted numerous articles for publication in law journals
      Michael Orlando '06, Associate Attorney, Gilroy Law Firm, Tigard, Ore.; primarily focused on defending workers' compensation claims for self-insured employers
      Yasmeen Gumbs '04, Associate Attorney, mid-size law firm, Manhattan, N.Y.; concentrates in Automobile & Transportation and Insurance, defending no-fault insurance and property damage cases
      M. Suzanne Kerney-Quillen '03, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney, Wise County, Va.; prosecutes cases in all courts with a primary emphasis on Narcotics Task Force cases; supervises cases handled in General District Court
      Kimothy Sparks '04, Director of Risk Management, Patient Safety, and Customer Service, Lovelace Health System, Albuquerque, N.M.

      =====

      No graduate is reported as doing advanced study at any university of note. The ones being showcased for their professional achievements are:

      1) A couple of people who started a little two-person firm.

      2) Someone who has ended his family's 176-year history in the legal profession by ceasing to practice while "seeking employment with federal courts as a term judicial clerk" (http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/53703-wi-andrew-call-4088548.html). This worthy has "submitted numerous articles for publication in law journals" but appears (I did a quick search) not to have been published anywhere.

      3) Two people in smallish law firms.

      4) One deputy state attorney.

      5) One administrator whose job seems to have little to do with the law and may well not have required a JD.

      Keep in mind that a law school won't showcase its least successful graduates. This contemptible toilet of a law school is presumably highlighting its best outcomes. And one of them requires birth to a line of lawyers extending back to the Jackson administration.

      Why the HELL should anyone even consider this godawful dump? Why is it even accredited?

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    3. Appalachain is typical of the law schools that opened in the last 25 years. They are scraping 40 1L's out of the bottom of the barrel - look at its 509 report! There was never a need for this place. It never should have been opened or accredited. Thanks ABA - you fuckheads!

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    4. Perhaps because of my posting two years ago (reproduced above), Appalachian School of Law has altered its description of distinguished alumnus Andrew Call to this: "Currently enrolled in a Master of Public Policy and Administration degree program at Northwestern University; completed LLM degrees in International Business and Trade Law and Information Technology and Privacy Law with honors at John Marshall Law School of Chicago".

      Gone is the reference to his 176-year juridical pedigree. (Did they finally figure out that flashing aristocracy was no way to appeal to prospective students?) Gone are the articles submitted to (but rejected by) law journals. Instead, we get two or three LLMs and a pending degree in a field other than law.

      It would appear that this person was unable to make a go of law even after getting multiple LLMs and that he finally decided to pursue a different line of work. Hardly a glorious outcome.

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    5. http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/appalling-fourth-tier-trash-pit.html

      From Nando's site, a review from a couple years back. A school like this should be probably be charging no more than $10k tuition per year. Before any "scholarships". Instead it charged, 2 years ago, $32k per year.

      Over the past 20 years, at least, it seems all ABA accredited schools raised their tuition very high, almost in lockstep.

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  7. Note to the older law grads who can't get their feet in the door of law firms or corporations as lawyers:

    I understand your frustration, for you probably would offer the clientele of such places better lawyering than your juniors based on your greater life experience.

    Given that such logic won't produce a law job, have you explored getting a job with a compliance department at a highly regulated corporation? Many JDs have them and enjoy them. The pay isn't as good as for their in house lawyer counterparts but it can be quite good - and the chances of promotion can be better.

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion. Most of the openings of this sort that I have seen call for experience in compliance or additional qualifications in some technical area (often accounting or finance). I'd eagerly take a job in compliance, if only I could get one.

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