Friday, August 29, 2014

Widener Law Prof. Ben Barros sounds the alarm: A shortage of law grads is on the horizon, along with a shortage of sand in the Sahara.

Prof. Ben Barros, who teaches at poorly regarded Widener University School of Law (median LSAT score 150), has published several provocative posts at the Faculty Lounge arguing that the job outlook for recently graduated lawyers is not as bad as people believe or as the nine-month-out survey data indicates. In fact, according to his latest post “The Coming Lawyer Shortage,” the slight contraction in overall law school enrollment means that the good times will shortly roll. In this post, Barros asserts that “in a relatively short time, we will have gone from an environment where employers received hundreds of resumes for every open position to one where employers might not receive any resumes at all.”

Barros dismisses the far more pessimistic projection as to anticipated lawyer job openings over the next decade made by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  The BLS is merely composed of unbiased expert statisticians and economists, and so can hardly match the credibility and reliability of a self-interested law professor whose cushy job rides on the decision of young people to borrow many tens of thousands of dollars to attend his bottom-of-the-barros school. 


Commentators at the Faculty Lounge and elsewhere have raised several objections to Barros's thesis: 
(1) If the market for new law grads were thawing, we would see it first in rising wage pressure, which we have not;  
(2) Most serious analysts believe that legal practice is undergoing structural change due to what Richard Susskind (author of ”Tomorrow’s Lawyers”) deems “disruptive legal technologies,” that create efficiencies and cost reductions for clients to the detriment of employment opportunities for both new grads and experienced lawyers;  
(3) Even assuming arguendo that there will be jobs to be had, the anticipated salaries for law grads do not justify the massive debt loads they routinely undertake to attend law school;  
(4) As noted, Barros’s prediction hinges on the recent decline in law school enrollment. But if the legal sector perks up, would not law schools respond by boosting their class sizes, and thus the supply of new lawyers relative to demand?;  
(5) If the legal job market does thaw, new grads will face fierce competition for those openings from the overhang of tens, or maybe hundreds, of thousands of underemployed JDs who graduated in previous years. Moreover, notwithstanding the negative factor of resume gaps and jobs in nonlaw fields, these candidates will compare favorably in brains and ability to recent grads from schools such as Widener, where the always modest median LSAT score has fallen to the point of absurdity.
Anyway, for those who, like Barros, are panicking over the incipient lack of lawyers, this blog can offer relief in the form of two email dispatches from the trenches indicating that the dreaded lawyer shortage is nowhere on the horizon. The first is from a solo, and is framed as a message to Barros and other lawprofs and law deans. The second is from someone who works for a firm that staffs document reviews.  
Contrary to what you would like everyone to believe, there is no lawyer shortage nor is it coming. How do I know? I have been practicing for almost 10 years, that's how. I have never been in academia nor have I ever worked in biglaw. I'm just an average Joe attorney.  Since I graduated and passed the bar things have become worse, not better in the legal field. I barely make enough to get by. I am still up to my eyeballs in debt, in a huge part the loans I took for law school. I recently started looking for work in the NYC area because I cannot continue as a solo practitioner, it is simply too difficult and stressful to make a living that way. Sadly, that is what at least half of all attorneys do, they practice solo.  I have a lot of experience and I have sent out a lot of resumes. Guess what, I have only heard back from two positions, and both of those were rejections.   
I am not one of those few that got their toe into biglaw. I am one of the grunts in the trenches, I represent the majority of law school graduates. And that is what it is like, it is trench warfare.  Warfare with your adversary, with your client, with your vendors and with yourself not to loose your mind.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I am having a difficult time because it is not a personal failing, I have no ego about my business not making a ton of money, it is simply a sign of the times; too many lawyers walking around looking for jobs for a profession that is vanishing. It is vanishing because many people either do not have the money to hire an attorney, or they simply do things on their own (software/internet).  I don't blame them, I would do exactly the same thing.  If anything the attorney who charges their client for a municipal court appearance on a ticket that would go exactly the same way, with or without an attorney is acting unethically.   
So, the next time you write about how there is opportunity in this crisis to try to entice future students, you need to understand this, you cannot keep fooling people that law school is a great investment, that's some very bad karma. You cannot keep telling people what a great investment it is, you cannot plunge people into monstrous debt and then say that law is not for everyone or claim that they "weren't trying hard enough." I'm not sure if any has actually confronted you as a person as opposed to anonymous tweets and blog posts. Well, I don't give a shit anymore. Lawyers who have recently graduated are not a statistic, we are people who cannot move forward with our lives, stuck in a limbo of being overqualified and yet not qualified for certain jobs. That is on you. Any person who looks at themselves in the mirror and continues to propagate this system has to be a sociopath.  Either that or the lies you tell yourself will one day rip you apart.   
I'm a big believe in Karma, so my advice to you and all the scamdeans is to get a fucking helmet, because the universe will fuck you equally if not more. All I'm saying is get some extra KY, you'll need it.  
 * * * 
"I work staffing document reviews. We posted this [a document review temp project, details omitted] an hour ago.  89 submissions. 5 positions. That should give you a taste of the NY market." 
[Subsequent update from same correspondent]: "We eventually got over 180+ applicants for what turned out to be 8 positions."


36 comments:

  1. I am really like this one by one methodical take downs. They scam, you call their lies. Keeps me coming back every time.

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  2. I don't understand the title of this article - since when has there been a shortage of sand in the Sahara? There's tons of sand there!

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    1. Clifford C. Claven, Jr.August 29, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Au contraire, mon ami. There's an incipient crisis in the sand particles count in the Sahara, and it's getting worse year-by-year.

      Haven't you ever heard the proverb, "Like the sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives"?

      That's proof right there that the number of your days, just like the number of sand grains, are numbered.

      Delete
  3. Karma doesn't exist on the personal level, it's impersonal; yes, there is always retribution for injustice, but it does not always effect the person who committed the injustice. I've seen plenty of evil people skate through life, never getting caught (I'm dealing with one as we speak).

    Further, I showed this blog along with Law Lemmings to a 21 year old college Senior (I came close to sleeping with her), bent on attending law school. She's already in debt seventy grand for her undergrad liberal arts degree at a school with is mediocre, but she doesn't want to hear any of this criticism.

    The problem, as I stated before, lies with UG education, because for most students, UG is a complete joke which does not prepare students for the real world of employment in terms of skills or expectations. These students may have a 3.8 GPA in History or Business, but they are yet unaware that, in the real world, that translates into nothing.

    I can't imagine the horror and embarrassment of having your life ruined by 200k in debt and seven years of useless education, so I try to spread this message to as many potential victims as possible.

    Law deans are the personification of what the West has become and while it will collapse.

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  4. There you go again, OTLSS, with your logic and your reasoning. Everybody should just shut up and agree with Barros already, because HE KNOWS, you see.

    Are the rest of you LawProfs? Yeah, I didn't think so. Those of you actually "living the dream" are not qualified to opine on these matters.

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  5. It just occurred to me that this is getting really, really tedious. Apparently the Widener and Drexel and Seton Hall and Chicago professors have the stomach to keep lying. And the OTLSS team, to their great credit, still have the stomach to pursue these malefactors. (There's a word for you liberal arts buffs!) But I just don't have the stomach for it any more.

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    1. I would feel the same way if the situation was stalemated. However, there have been four consecutive years of enormous application declines, and the scammers are getting nervous. There won't be anything tedious about scores of law schools shutting down, which I believe is where we are headed.

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    2. Well said, Dybbuk. You're the heart and soul of this movement.

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  6. Some things sell themselves. Why? Because they are that good. Law school isn't one of them so here's the sales pitch...blah, blah, blah and pet rocks were sold by the millions. By the way, entry-level legal employment has never been abundant, certainly not in the past 25 years. Look at any of the legal or non-legal job sites seeking attorneys and you will find experience required for positions. Employers are picky; law schools are not.

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    1. "By the way, entry-level legal employment has never been abundant, certainly not in the past 25 years."

      This is absolutely true, contrary to what the law schools would have you believe. The Great Recession didn't cause the percent of law grads in permanent full-time legal positions to go from 100% to 50%; it was only about 75-80% in a good year even before that (and was more like 65-70% in the down job market of the early/mid '90s).

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  7. The first thing that law schools should do is to get rid of the non-lawyers in the higher level positions in the admissions and career services departments. I have noticed that most of these departments resemble socialist bureaucracies at their worst and are staffed with people who have had no personal experience in the legal job market. Given the market for attorneys today, law schools could easily staff these departments with attorneys who have had a decade or so of experience (and a decade or so of making connections). This would be of tremendous benefit to the applying OLs and the law students.

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  8. Thank god for blog comment sections. This allows people to devastate bs arguments so the rest of the world can see. This is a long way from the old print media where I would read this kind of nonsense and start to question my sanity. Long live the scam blogs!!!

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    1. Isn't it great? I didn't even go to law school , but I'm a huge supporter of this "movement".

      If I had time I would write a book called "scammed; how an entire generation of prospective attorneys were financially and professionally raped" ... I would collect hundreds of interviews ...

      Why doesn't someone do that? This movement needs an m.l.k.

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    2. There's a few books sort of like that, especially Tamanaha's. But this is a good idea.

      What's really needed is a TV show or move which shows what law is really like for a lot of graduates. Not exciting, lucrative, glamorous but mundane, underpaid, insecure and stressful.

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    3. Jon, this movement will get an MLK. But it won't be for law schools - they're just the canary in the coal mine, or indicator frogs (http://www.answers.com/Q/Why_are_frogs_good_indicator_species)

      The real rub is the intergenerational transfer of wealth that higher education has become, which is happening at the same time as smart machine automation, and a rapidly globalizing planet. We are in very truly uncharted waters, the likes of which do not appear anywhere in history.

      The guy who leads the Education Reform movement is going to be in a cadre of leaders who make sure that we get the Star Trek future instead of the Teminator one.

      Hopefully, that is.

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    4. Unfortunately, even in the Star Trek universe, things got worse in our near-future before they got "better." It's one of the "lessons learned" in a lot of classic sci-fi.

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  9. And there's many many law graduates not currently working in law but who would like to get into legal employment if possible. These people constitute a huge "reserve army of labour" that employers could tap into if there was ever a genuine shortage of new graduates.

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    1. And a huge number who are sorta working - temp job here, document review there.
      Offer them gruntwork for 60 hrs/week at $25/hr on a long term basis, and they are yours.

      And there are likely also a zillion small firms scrounging for whatever work they can find. Offer them another full-time equivalent of work and they'll divide it up among themselves, and might not need to hire.

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  10. Very good post.

    Up or out policies in law firms and the existence of clerkships and other non-permanent entry level jobs that last a year or a few years and do not necessarily lead to jobs later in one's career are other very negative factors in the legal profession. The oversupply of lawyers who got first year jobs, even big law jobs, and no longer are employed full-time or employed at all, and are looking for work as lawyers, is just massive.

    The business model of law - many more entry level and junior level jobs than there are jobs for lawyers in their 40s, 50s and 60s, let alone 30s - leads to a never ending oversupply of lawyers. In essence, there would need to be many more entry level jobs for lawyers, than persons coming out of law school, for many years to come in order for the supply and demand of lawyers to be balanced. It is not happening any time soon.

    One of the problems of ITLSS is to give the impression that going to HYS is safe. Maybe so for most people very early in their careers. However, long-term, HYS may not be as good an investment as working in areas of education or healthcare, where there is much less of a labor oversupply.

    The lawyer oversupply longitudinally hits almost all lawyers - even big law partners - when they are forced to retire in their prime "to make room for younger blood." That is symptomatic of the immense lawyer oversupply. Don't talk about millions of dollars here. The PPP figures on Am Law are way, way higher than what most partners make. These guys may be comfortable, but the family home gets sold and the family of that big law partner may be living in a modest condo to pay for that involuntary early retirement. In a big city, the life savings from that home go out the window - transfer taxes, brokerage commissions and capital gains taxes. That is early retirement for you - most lawyers in private practice have tiny pensions - which skews their real income much lower than it appears to be. Except for the very few, they money is not there in law.

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    1. Even Harvard and Yale—to say nothing of Indiana Tech and Nova Southeastern—are bad ideas for most people who weren't born into big money.

      Old Guy

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    2. It's not just "up or out" at most firms these days. It's "out-but-when." I just did some contract work for a BigLaw firm on the east coast. The counsel I was working with told me that being a partner there was only a year-to-year prospect. The partner who had his office next to the counsel's had billed 2000 hours a year for 14 years. Then he settled a case and had a slow six months. OUT.

      This is the problem that most law students never see. Few people ever really make it and those that do are constantly having to feed the monster every month. And if you are axed in your 40's and 50's and don't have a book of business (which you won't have or they wouldn't axe you), you are in real trouble.

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  11. Today, I found myself in the unusual position of being in criminal court---not a usual practice site for me. But there I was with a client that had gotten into a bit of trouble. As I waited my turn to speak to the ADA, the judge called the arraignment docket. I looked over at three rows ( at least 25) of attorneys waiting (hoping?) for the judge to appoint them to a case, any case where the public defender was conflicted out. There were so many young faces! But there were many old faces, too. Can you imagine hustling 'round criminal court for a $35 dollar an hour criminal appointment at the age of 50? Many left disappointed, I'm sure. It made me shudder.

    Don't go to law school. Don't be a patsy for these shills. They are more evil than any of the criminals I might have seen this morning.

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    1. Was ist ein Einbruch in eine Bank gegen die Gründung einer Bank? (Robbing a bank is nothing compared to founding a bank.) ——Bertolt Brecht

      Old Guy

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    2. That sums up perfectly my reaction yesterday.

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    3. Funny you say that, tricia. A few days ago I spoke with a friend who is a probate judge and passes out a good deal of appointment work. $35/hour prep time, $50/hour court time and you only get paid for driving to court, not home. Two years ago he told me he was getting letters from young lawyers who were 60 miles away from his court looking for appointments. Now he is getting letters from mid-career lawyers looking for appointments.

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  12. By the way, in contrast to the 35$ an hour attorneys, I met with a plumber today regarding some work on my house. His hourly rate? $90 an hour. I bet he doesn't have 150k in student loans, either.

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    1. A lawyer expressed alarm when the plumber presented his bill. "Why, I'm a lawyer, and I don't charge that much!"

      Said the plumber: "I know. That's why I got out of law."

      Old Guy

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    2. The therapist I see to deal with my unending depression and feeling that I ruined my life by going to law school charges $110 per hour. My clients complained about me charging them $50 per hour, and about thirty percent never paid their bills. The therapist gets paid every time.

      Never thought seeing a therapist for depression would make me more depressed.

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    3. "Never thought seeing a therapist for depression would make me more depressed."

      Spot on, 6:13 AM. After a few sessions of therapy myself several years ago, I just had to move on rather than continue to do the recommended cognative therapy/pills route. First of all, it was too expensive for too little return, and second of all bucking-up and accepting the scam did more for me than trying to "deal" with the aftermath of the scam.

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  13. Despite the posturing about intellect, the law-skule scam is really about dumb bunnies—dumb bunnies who can be flattered into viewing themselves as smart and worthy leaders that stand apart from the generality. Without dumb bunnies, there would be no scam.

    Old Guy

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  14. A bit off topic, but take a look at this from today's LA Times.

    http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-rio-hondo-law-20140831-story.html

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    1. That's not funny, that's sick.

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    2. "She said she wants to attend Harvard Law School..."

      Why would she need Harvard Law if she just wants to be a defense attorney?The "Pathways" program is just a way to turn naïve kids into prestige whores. Then they'll never be satisfied. Santa Clara is not going to benefit much from this.

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  15. > If anything the attorney who charges their client for a municipal court appearance on a ticket that would go exactly the same way, with or without an attorney is acting unethically.

    I take issue with this quote from the solo attorney in the post... There is nothing at all unethical about charging a client for a legitimate representation. Even if the client ends up having to pay the same fine, there is a benefit in representation by skilled counsel. A lawyer can help explain the process to a nervous client. This reassurance is worth the fee paid. More importantly if there is any possibility of criminal conviction, the attorney might be more effective at negotiating a plea, settlement, or discontinuance with the city prosecutor. Pro se parties can end up in deportation proceedings... they can end up facing 3 strikes mandatory minimums... or they end up with adverse conviction histories on minor municipal administrative fines that make it harder to avoid harsher penalties in subsequent actions.

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    1. My 17 year old son got a speeding ticket. I went to court with him and got a nolle. But what impressed him more was the mile-long line of people who did not have counsel waiting their turn to talk to a prosecutor. In my state they take the defendants with counsel right away. For someone who is losing money by having to just be in court a lawyer can provide a benefit by just being there.

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  16. Ben Barros...what a dick. All the lawsuits against law schools for ***FRAUD*** have been swatted on reasonable reliance of students on school-published statistics.

    Ben Barros wants to change all that by holding himself out to be an expert prognosticator, backed by the full faith and credit of his Excel spreadsheet, his title, and academic credentials...HE EXPLICITLY INVITES PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS TO RELY ON HIS CRAPPOLA.

    Yes, folks, Ben has taken scamming to a whole new level of no-used-car-salesman-could-make-such-claims-without-liability-for-them.

    Hey, Ben, what happens when Widener gets sued for fraud?

    Sincerely,
    Everyone Who is Not Ben Barros

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