Friday, November 27, 2015

Truth In Advertising

In the 1980s and 1990s, RJ Reynolds reaped massive profits with one of the most successful mascots in advertising history, Joe Camel. He was a suave camel shown in a variety of exotic and aspirational situations. People could even acquire "Camel Bucks" from cigarette packs to use to purchase Camel branded items. In 1991, an American Medical Association study showed that almost as many children identified Joe Camel as being associated with cigarettes as those who could identify Mickey Mouse as being associated with Disney. RJ Reynolds eventually agreed to halt the campaign amid public outcry that the anthropomorphic dromedary was encouraging young children to smoke.

During the 1980s and 1990s, public health officials the world over tried to figure out how to stem the popularity of cigarettes. In 1989, the New Zealand Department of Health’s Toxic Substances Board recommended plain packaging for tobacco products. This meant that tobacco products were to be sold solid color packs with a huge warning about the dangers of smoking displayed on the pack. As one can imagine, this proposal met with intense opposition from tobacco manufacturers and their lobbyists. A breakthrough was made when Australia passed the world's first plain packaging regulations in 2011. Researchers suggested that without the visual stimuli on the cigarette packs, cigarettes became less attractive. In an unexpected development, smokers also reported that cigarettes in plain packaging tasted worse. While there are no long term studies about the effects of plain packaging on smoking rates, the anecdotal data suggests that smoking rates are down.



Law school brochures sell a vision of rapturous success and opportunities to do work at the law's bleeding edge. The brochures lead the average student to believe that he or she will be assured of an upper middle class income while doing cutting edge legal work. Programs in esoteric fields like space law or hip-hop legal studies are trotted out in an attempt to show students that a legal education is a great way to break into almost any field. The possibilities are limitless for the law grad. These brochures massage employment numbers to the limit allowed by the ABA's recent  employment data disclosure rules. That $180,000 in tuition for 3 years? A drop in the bucket when students consider the riches awaiting them after that J.D. diploma is in hand.

In recent years, the law school industrial complex has seen some waning in its revenue generating power. Law schools were led kicking and screaming to disclose employment statistics that did not appear to have been created by the Iraqi Ministry of Information. Graduates saddled with no job prospects and six figure debt are scattered across our country, unable to live the American Dream while crushed by their decision to study law. What is the response of the deans, professors and administrators? They point to the fact that unemployed graduates are lazy or not smart enough to get a job. If grads network and work for peanuts, they will eventually be able to create comfortable lives working as solo attorneys. Others say that law schools teach students "how to think". This ability to think should open doors for these grads, if only they would look for "JD advantage jobs". Something needs to be done.

Law schools need to be treated like the cigarette industry. There is no rational incentive for law schools to act in the best interests of their students. Law schools that do not provide positive job outcomes are defrauding not only the students, but the taxpayers as well. The enrollment numbers are dwindling, but there is still an oversupply of lawyers relative to what the market will bear. We need to take a tip from the plain packaging movement and advocate for the inclusion of large warnings on all law school brochures and glossies. The messages should say something like:

WARNING: DEBT ACCUMULATED FROM LAW SCHOOL CANNOT BE PAID OFF IF YOU DON"T WORK FOR A LARGE LAW FIRM

or

WARNING: LAW SCHOOL WILL NOT TEACH YOU HOW TO ACTUALLY PRACTICE LAW

This type of measure won't stop everyone who shouldn't go to law school from enrolling. There are special snowflakes out there blindly convinced of their future success no matter what evidence exists to the contrary. But, it should help students on the fence take pause and think twice. People can't be stopped from making bad decisions. But it is our duty to do all we can to make it as difficult as possible.

37 comments:

  1. It's funny how THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE DAMN RECRUITING PROCESS - and even during OrienTTTaTTTion - applicants and students are "bright," "intelligent," "thoughtful" souls who will do GREAT things for the benefit of clients, the "profession" and society as a whole. Shortly thereafter, the top 10 percent of the class only are worthy of help regarding job placement and resources. The rest of the class is not that bright, after all. When these men and women complete their "legal education" - which consists of having NYC area sized phone books figuratively, repeatedly rammed up their asses - and still cannot find work, then they become "lazy, entitled bastards who expect things to be handed to them."

    If the cohort started out as hardworking, thoughtful, intelligent. brave, courageous world-beaters, and a mere three years later, they are lazy bastards, does that mean that the "educators" are responsible? If a college football coach took in the supposed "best" players and recruits, but consistently had TTT results, his ass would be terminated.

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    1. It's a beautiful world! As one of my law professors once said, "Burger King is always hiring."

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    2. They're also intelligent and responsible young adults for the purposes of bar passage and being denied consumer fraud protections. Their brilliance doesn't end with graduation; it just displays itself more selectively.

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    3. I was thinking about Jack Marshall recently (nothing pleasant of course - nightmares, mostly) and how entrenched those like him are in the "lazy, entitled.." mantra. I wonder how he would respond to your question, Nando. LOL.

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    4. I wonder if there are any long term effects to creating a class of disenfranchised highly educated "losers." The number of law school grads scammed are pretty small overall, maybe 30k a year, so 300k "losers" every decade, in a country with 100M total out of the workforce now (I think 120M or so in the workforce it was?).

      Is it big enough to matter? Does anybody care?

      Of course there are major negative effects to the victims--ruined lives, shame, suffering on a personal level. But I don't know that it actually matters to these scammers, they don't care about their victims, and neither does the government and the bankers that came up with the finance part of the scam. Everybody is happy---except the law grads who strike out.

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    5. Just an anonymous tipsterNovember 30, 2015 at 5:33 PM

      To Anon. @ 10:16 AM:
      Funny you should mention that Jack Marshall character. As I posted on Nando's blog a while back, he got bitchslapped by the Internet for using someone else's artwork without the creator's permission on one of his own blog posts. Apparently, not only did he use it without the artist's permission or knowledge, but he also refused to take it down when the creator requested it, and then the domain admins (or whoever's in charge of this stuff) did it for him. What a hypocrite! And UNETHICAL to boot!

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    6. 4:33 PM: Jack Marshall is a clown, as is his "ethics" alarms website. Do you happen to have any additional info or links re: that artwork fiasco? TYIA!

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    7. Just an anonymous tipsterDecember 2, 2015 at 7:23 AM

      @ 9:22 AM: Okay, since you asked, here's the story...

      I was browsing through Jack Marshall's website (because I first heard about him through the scamblogs like TTR and OTLSS), and I came across this post of his...
      http://ethicsalarms.com/2015/03/30/ethics-quiz-whats-fair-punishment-for-the-chick-fil-a-video-vigilante/
      Notice the illustration there of Orestes and the Furies which he uses to prove his point in this post about being shamed and hounded? Some kind of classical painting of the myth? That wasn't what he used originally! Here was the original illustration, some young artist's class project...
      http://www.deviantart.com/art/Orestes-and-the-Furies-355697797
      So I tipped off the original artist, and the situation was dealt with from there. But I still have the original webpage saved somehow, if anyone wants to see that.

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  2. Another Warning: Being a solo attorney without a feeder network, connections, clients or seasoning (how to extort 5 bills from an INNOCENT 5X DUI mope) immediately after graduation means UNEMPLOYED. A few years back, you graduate became a Prosecutor/PD/Small Firm and cultivated a network for a few years and then you became a Solo. That's what I did. I networked with all my PI buddies and got their criminal stuff. No longer. State Farm no longer pays out so my buddies dabble in criminal. I get nothing now, except desperate phone calls from these same guys panicking on how to handle a Home Invasion when the prosecutor gives them a 18 year offer when they only grabbed a 9 bill retainer. They can't get "rid of it."

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    1. This is the most ridiculous part of the scam. It doesn't make sense to have professional licensing if things get to this point.

      People of all sorts of socioeconomic classes do not want to pay for professional services of any kind. People only want to pay for entertainment and feel good activities, it's human nature. The idea behind professional licensing is that you have to pay the premium because you don't know what's good for you. In other words, sometimes, in certain fields, because the situation requires specialized knowledge, we don't let people gamble with their life.

      Maybe this line of thinking is wrong. Maybe people should be allowed to be stupid, but I don't think that is what is going on here. I think the general public assumes that all lawyers have a base level of competence across all fields, but that isn't true, it just isn't. If we want to go total libertarian, that is fine, but we can't half ass it. If the situation is such that a 2.4 GPA and 142 on the LSAT is enough to practice law, then let's just get rid of the facade of professional licensing.

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  3. I noticed the reference to "hip-hop legal studies," which indicates the ignorance of the writer. It should be called "hop-hop constitutional law," and it represents the pinnacle of modern legal thought. It will transform our world and everything in it. Nothing could be more important.

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  4. We don’t label cartridges of mustard gas with, “Warning! Mustard Gas causes severe burning of the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, and its usage is contrary to International Law.” No. We simply prohibit its sale outright. And under crisis circumstances, even “good” products are kept off the market temporarily to promote the greater good. E.g., raw eggs on Halloween.

    The judicial system is being steadily undermined, yet law schools have shown a flat refusal to stem emissions. Instead, they challenge bar examiners. They are clearly incentivized to produce more and more lawyers, while the free market is an utterly impotent method of control. In order to retard the further unraveling of the legal system, law school emissions must halt for at least a seven-year period. Not reduce class size. Not introduce clinics. Not offer newfangled courses. Close.

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    1. Would that be "admissions?" Unless of course you intended the term "emissions" as in Unranked law graduate outputs as emissions? Something like a nocturnal emission or old smoking Chevrolet emissions?

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    2. Toxic emissions.

      Admissions are not necessarily harmful, provided the public knows that only 30% of the class will graduate. "Look to your right, look to your left. One year from now, all three of you will be under the bus.... and bridge."

      Everyone can't be a lawyer if it's meant to be a paying position.

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    3. I took it to refer to the theme of smoking: noxious emissions.

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  5. For many years, cigarette packages in Canada have had to bear prominent pictures of diseased lungs, rotting teeth, and the like. Australia covers the package with those pictures; the brand name appears only in tiny print in a nondescript typeface. Bhutan goes even further: smoking there is banned outright (as well it should be).

    Perhaps the top half of every application form for law skule should bear photos of down-and-out people and messages such as "I OWE $270,000 BUT CAN'T FIND A JOB".

    But it would be better just to restrict the availability of government-guaranteed student loans. Granting them in arbitrarily large amounts to any moron that some fucking Cooley decides to admit is worse than foolish.

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  6. Good original post MA.

    But have the cigarettte people have any success with this approach? Lemmigs today are complete morons and will not be diasuaded.

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  7. Ironically, they've reduced smoking by jacking the price up like law skool tuition. The difference is the government won't lend you unlimited money to buy cigarettes.

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    1. Cigarette companies just need to create a system of "cigarette purchaser loans" and lobby Congress to make me nondischargeable in bankruptcy. Lobby "reputable" figures to write studies about how smoking confers massive professional benefits that are well worth the lung cancer. Deflect fraud allegations by claiming that cigarette purchasers are sophisticated consumers.

      The law schools are just leading the path in dishonesty.

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  8. One common argument in favor of the current malign scheme of student loans is that they give people of undistinguished means access to a profession that otherwise only aristocrats could enter.

    Yet law is still more or less restricted to aristocrats. Although a few outsiders such as Old Guy manage to become lawyers, the availability of student loans (to anyone that any institution calling itself a law skule chooses to admit, in any amount that the so-called law skule chooses) has done little to change the tony character of the profession. It has, however, saddled hundreds of thousands of people with non-dischargeable debt that they will never be able to pay off.

    Since the profession (such as it is) will be aristocratic no matter what, student loans don't do much good. Why not abolish them and make it clear to everyone that only the children of the well-to-do will get to become lawyers? Honesty beats a false promise.

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    1. I see it this way. The white shoe aristocrats served the Corporations and large businesses. Like a lot of lawyers, I didn't want that work. We did not want to work in a firm by choice. There was always work for us neighborhood lawyers, PI, govt lawyers, etc. We represented the UNDERSERVED and still made a middle class living at it. I didn't compete with the Aristocrats. I always thought of them as "brothers of the bar." We had our niches. As a matter of fact, they even called me when their kids picked up DUIs or Juvy matters. Today, there is no work for us and declining work for them. There are a billion neighborhood Solos....think Walmart like spiral. Every PD opening receives hundreds of applicants even for a 32K gig in a small county. The problem is that the number of law schools jumped from 175 with selective enrollment to 225 with "open" admissions.

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  9. What about mandatory posting of alternative uses of the cost of law school to illustrate the cost of what these "sophisticated consumers" are buying (with pictures, of course, rather than text), e.g.

    One law school diploma = one fully paid off house.

    One law school diploma = One Papa John's Pizza Restaurant

    One law school diploma = 10 years' secure retirement (put smiling old faces here!)

    One law school diploma = 6 Philadelphia judges (whoops, better not put that one in)

    One law school diploma = 10 BMW 320s

    ....

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    1. One law school diploma = 20 acres of undeveloped land

      One law school diploma = neonatal care for 8 pre-me babies

      One law school diploma = one up-armored humvee, saving the lives of 4 soldiers.

      One law school diploma = 5 nurses

      One law school diploma = 50 relaxing cruises with your beloved

      One law school diploma = approximately 10k/yr in potential dividend income from an index fund.

      One law school diploma = one fully equipped ambulance


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    2. This is the fucking credited response.

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  10. Here's a vid from the Hennepin Co Bar Assn (Minneapolis) about the effects of law school debt. At least they get that there's a problem - the Iowa Bar wanted to eliminate the bar exam.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7JksQq42ow

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    1. I saw this video a few weeks ago. It still fails to acknowledge the lack of jobs for lawyers. Lawyers today don't have much choice in the job they get, provided they can actually find one. It's disheartening that the video doesn't address this.

      As for the Iowa Bar, they are just stupid.

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    2. Hear, hear! The video's shyness in addressing the lack of good (or even modest) paying law jobs is disappointing. It suggests high-paying jobs are available, and that people have to 'choose' to stay at them in order to service their debt. This video is an argument for loan forgiveness.

      There's also talk about a lack of lawyers threatening "access to justice" and that anyone who invests the time and the money in a law degree deserves a rewarding legal career. Sadly, the market bears neither concept out.

      The video, however, nicely highlights the complaint that having $100,000+ in debt is a life-crusher, but it fails its audience when it fails to say that in today's legal market, taking on that amount of debt for a JD is absolutely foolhardy.

      This is a situation where candor about the dire lack of jobs, rather than the age-old concern about preserving professional prestige, would better serve young people.

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    3. The Iowa Bar decided to ignore the problem and scream "Damn kids these days" while trying to enable the law school scam even further. At least the Minneapolis lawyers understand that there is now a serious problem about student loan debt and employment. Feeble progress is still progress.

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  11. One law-school diploma = one permanently destroyed life and about $300k billed to the taxpayers.

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  12. What do all of these creative, thoughtful and insightful posts tell us? That we have too much time on our hands because we have no work as lawyers.

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  13. 2:18 here. The other item information that could be required is some highly simplified accounting, e.g.,

    ***
    If you finance a $300,000 house entirely with debt your initial balance sheet will look like:

    $300,000 house = $300,000 liability + $0 equity.

    After paying the mortgage for 30 years, your balance sheet will look like:

    $300,000 house = $0 debt + $300,000 equity.

    If you finance a $300,000 legal education, your balance sheet will look like:

    $0 Asset = $300,000 liability - $300,000 equity.

    After 30 years, you will be back at square one:

    $0 asset = $0 liability + $0 equity.

    The choice is yours."

    ***
    Note: I realize that the cost basis doesn't normally apply to personal financial statements and that the house should be revalued at FMV (which would generally make the example even less favorable for law school), but for the sake of simplicity, historical cost basis is used.

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    1. Part of the problem of trying to sell law as a business opportunity (a new tack by some hucksters) is that in law, your practice carries essentially no capital. Most businesses, you have goods that you can sell off at a loss and recover some investment. In law, there is no way to recover your investment. You just put down a few hundred thousand and get very little, if any, return.

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  14. How about:

    WARNING: YOUR SCHOOL WILL BE RUN BY PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN LAWYERS

    or

    WARNING: TALK TO OTHERS BEFORE GOING

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  15. Colorado claims 93.5% employment at 10 months. Also, reduced debt. Key quotes:

    The average debt among graduates who borrowed some money dropped from $116,000 in 2014 to $107,080 in 2015, according to new numbers.

    Though it's still a "scary" amount of debt, Phil Weiser, the law school dean, said CU's averaged indebtedness is considered "reasonable" when compared to other law schools.

    Around 93.5 percent of CU's graduates last year were employed 10 months after completing their degree, a number the school hopes to increase to 95 percent.

    http://www.dailycamera.com/cu-news/ci_29180820/cu-boulder-law-student-debt-drops-8-percent

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    1. "Employed" in what capacity? At what salary?

      Law School Transparency reports that 11% of Colorado's most recent class worked at jobs for which the law skule itself paid. It's a safe bet that just about all of those people are employed on low-paying temporary assignments calculated to end not long after the data on "employment" are collected (ten months after graduation). Obviously no law school could go on hiring one graduate in nine for well-paying long-term jobs.

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  16. These sorts of deceptive employment stats are coming from Professor Campos's school.

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    1. And Campos has also spoken out against unethical conduct at his own school. Not much of a point to be made here.

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