Monday, January 7, 2019

Sacred Cows Die Hard



What began as a "simple" post expressing concern over increased law school applicant rates, and the misguided rationales that could explain why such an increase is occurring, instead resulted in a lively debate in the comment section over the value and utility of law school and of a legal career in and of itself.  As some have openly questioned the purpose of the scamblogs now that it is 2019, it is all the more interesting that the debate still continues to roil, rather than being a matter that is instead fully "settled," if the use of the scamblogs has indeed run its full course.

Lawyers deal in nuance.  If a dispute was a simple matter of facts, or something that proved to be not much of a dispute after all, then lawyers would not even be needed.  It is preciscely becuase that large expanses of grey can exist between extremes of black and white that individuals skilled in weighing various factors, and advocating for a position that is supported by the same factors, becomes necessary from time to time.

The anti-scamblog arguments, as evidenced by the last comment section, still seem to fall into a handful of broad categories:

*  The scamblogs are just plain ignorant;
*  The scamblogs oversimplify the true state of affairs;
*  The scamblogs are insolent;
*  The scamblogs are a bunch of losers whose message should be discarded, Because Reasons.

What is interesting about all this is that these broad arguments were the exact same arguments leveled at the scamblogs almost ten years ago, if not earlier.  While it is unfortunately difficult now to link to  sites such as Third Tier Reality, one thing I distinctly remember from Nando's inaugural post was the debate that raged in that comments section.  The long and the short of it is this:  nothing much has changed between late 2018 and late 2008, at least as regards the anti-scamblog comments.  In 2013-2014 or so they died down, I would argue because the truth of the movement had been made manifest, but now that a new crop of students are applying who perhaps are not as acquainted with the message, the cycle begins anew.  This excellent post on the history of the scamblog movement is still informative.

--more below the fold--


As to the charges?  One could spend a lot of time reading the last few years of posts on OTLSS alone, but to sum up:  

Ignorant?  Well, the scambloggers are themselves licensed attorneys or law school graduates, so they do have first-hand experience.  Oversimplification?  Given the existence of Law School Transparency as well as the press generated by the New York Times and others who also criticized the state of the legal industry, that would also seem to be an unwarranted.  Insolent?  Perhaps guilty as charged, but it is all to easy to level that charge against a message one does not find agreeable.  Losers?  Again, the scambloggers are mostly employed (in my own personal case, for the last 13 years since law school, thank God) either in bona fide legal careers or "JD-Advantage" (ha,ha) careers, so I guess it depends on what sort of loser you are talking about.  "Slackers" you will generally not find among the supporters of the scamblog movement.

It all comes down to this: the scamblogs have never said "the world does not need lawyers," or "there should be no law schools," or other easily-dismissed dreck.  We have said "law school is financially damaging," or "there are too many graduates for too few real positions," or "law school is not for everyone, but a select few who have necessary and important financial and societal backing in place can make a go of it," or "really, go do something else instead," or "the top 14 law schools are not a sure thing, if they ever were," or "law schools sell pipe dreams more often than not."  And I believe we have attempted to support our positions over the years with not only our own experiences, but with the data that can be had.

Friends, law school is not for everyone.  Not only has the Cartel been called out for poor accounting standards, scholarship games and half-truths (see Inflilaw for some of the most egregious examples, but it is not limited to the for-profit sector), but the simple, real truth is that all the moxie and boot-strapping in the world does not replace solid backing.  It is not about intelligence, or determination, but the state of the industry, of which many players pay a part.  While a select few do enjoy notable success, many, many do not.

One prior comment asked the question: "Why would a bunch of lawyer bloggers advocate for free for not attending law school?  What do they stand to gain?"  After several years of being on-message, I would say to ask the question is to answer it, but to be more plain - the cynical, old joke is that maybe the purpose of one's life is to serve as a warning to others.  While it may not always be quite that bad (but your mileage may vary), the scamblogs do sternly warn for the real sake of others, which is much more than we received when we ourselves took the plunge among rosy employment statistics and JD-Advantage fairy tales.  That, in honesty, is all.    Make your decisions accordingly.   

    





35 comments:

  1. Even if some of us are losers or are insolent or whatever, our message is true. Personal attacks, being irrelevant, cannot refute our arguments.

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    1. Old Guy, you almost never make any real arguments. You prefer to hide behind your "elite law school" nonsense. That's understandable given your present trauma, but hardly informative.

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  2. I still think it depends on how you define Scam....I doubt anybody goes into any Profession believing they are guaranteed success....if they have been convinced they have a great chance of success and the facts are that their chances are really much less than represented, is that a "scam"? Old guy, you are a smart guy...you had to know that given your age, things would be much more difficult for you. We all know that its not even necessarily where you went to school, but who you know. Going to an elite school gives you an edge of course, but it does not give you a guarantee of anything. It certainly wasn't a scam in the eighties as lots of law graduates got jobs and made reasonable livings. Is it a scam now because 50% can not get a job, or is it simply survival of the fittest? Does anybody really believe what the law schools say about their prospects? And if they did, will they not find out very quickly when there are passed up for an interview after their first year due to not being in the top 10%...that their prospects may not have been as good as they thought? If a person is going to take out debt in the amount of hundreds of thousands, will they not think about it before they do it? Are they just going to sign on the dotted line without making a financial analysis of cost vs. benefit? People are not automatons. If they are going to law school today, they are going knowing that their success is not assured...so they are taking their best shot and hoping for the best. Is that really so bad? You can't win the game unless you play the game.

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    1. You're assuming too much. Will people always think before taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt? Evidently not, for we've seen plenty of people march off to law school despite our warnings. I haven't yet seen a lemming's cost–benefit analysis; I doubt whether many lemmings even know what one is.

      "You can't win the game unless you play the game" could have come from the lips of a scamster. It's true but misleading. You also can't win at roulette unless you play, but the house takes more than 5% of each bet on average, and your expected—indeed, certain—result from continued play is a total loss. It is foolish to play a game just because it holds out a chance of success: if that chance is remote or illusory and the risk of a terrible outcome looms large, the game is not worth while.

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    2. Lots of people signed on the dotted line and bought mortgages they couldn't afford prior to 2008, without doing an honest cost/benefit analysis, yet they took the plunge because "housing prices always go up." We know how that turned out.

      No honest person now says that the bundled CDOs of mortgage-backed securities were anything but a scam, and the effect of the crash is still felt. Was the concept of a CDO inherently a scam on paper? No, it didn't have to be, but the way they were created and utilized certainly was.

      The Law School Cartel (and Higher-Ed in general) likes to think it is above the pedestrian pursuit of filthy Wall Street lucre, but it isn't. And it has no qualms whatsoever about trying to sell people pipe dreams based on the low odds. Otherwise, the "market" might actually work if reliable information was out there.

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    3. The post by 12:45 not only embraces a bizzare sort of social Darwinism, with his embrace of "survival of the fittest".
      First, it is a scam when lies are used to entice people to invest money in any endeavor. That's exactly what happened here. And after the ABA was forced by bad publicity to force the law schools to be at least a little more transparent(and stop telling the 100% employment lies), the law schools in response continued to game the rules, and are now as I write this trying to still game the rules.
      Second, if you are a financially ruined law student, you are most likely ruined for life. No car, no house, no credit ever as the loans can't be discharged. You'll have a mortgage, but it will be those student loans you probably can't afford to pay.
      Third, this line of thinking totally ignores the other victims: the taxpayers. The students don't pay, so they are ruined, the money is guaranteed by the feds, so it's the taxpayers who aren't getting paid back. The scam deans and their minions have already gotten paid, thank you. And as another poster highlights, this scam, which protects the deans/profs, etc, is protected by the democrats and the republicans.
      Finally, in a partial defense of even the most empty headed new law student, it's important to remember that law school is a professional school, as in it trains you for the legal profession-in other words a job as a lawyer. It's clear that many college counselors/parents/others giving advice are a generation behind in realistic jobs prospects, but there is a valid argument that a substantial portion of those attending law school get a lot of terrible advice telling them to attend. This advice is given either by the clueless, or by the scamsters itself.

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    4. Good comments from 7:44 and 10:55. Note too that the scamsters use ideas resembling "you can't win unless you play" to play to insecure but impressionable and unrealistically optimistic lemmings. Don't turn down an "opportunity"! You'll regret saying no (actually, you'll regret saying yes)!

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  3. Don't give up. Nando and Campos saved me, or otherwise I'd be TrulyDupedReallyNonTraditionalExtremelyOldGuy -- and broke. Or Dead.

    Remember, every life you save, every falsehood you refute, every truth you advance (and Old Guy, every vocabulary you enrich) is truly righteous.

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    1. I'm certainly glad that you are neither broke nor dead. But there is a limit to the righteous deeds that I can do. For months I have had neither a job nor even an interview. At some point I am going to have to stop helping others and try to find some way to support myself.

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  4. This is the only scamblog I know of. Even on the sidebar to the right, most don't lead to scamblogs, or blogs that are active even if they do.

    The movement just appears dead to me. Nando is long gone now. Even JD Junkyard shut down a long while back. Small Law Big Debt disappeared even before that. TomtheTemp was one of the first I read and it hasn't been updated in nearly 8 years now.

    There were upwards of a dozen scamblogs a decade ago with new ones popping up, all active. Then after a few years they would all stop, and usually be taken offline. Nando was the longest hold out, but even he did the same eventually. These blogs do not get replaced by new ones, which is what should be happening if the issue persists.

    Whenever I've asked for a list of active scambloggers or more anti-law school material, nobody has directed me to any new and actively updated material. I assume because like me, this is the only one they know of. This and maybe Campos.

    When questioned, the responses I've seen are usually that the person is employed, and usually that they make at least $80-90k but somehow that amount is too low for them and it isn't worth it. Well, I make around that too, and I don't see how that is cause for complaint. Either I've done well comparatively or law school is not the lifelong negative that people claim it is. I find it absurd that anybody would insist they just have to be guaranteed a $125k+ or so income their entire life, and if they weren't making in that range somehow they can't pay off any debt or live life at all. To me law school would only be a horrible lifelong failure if a person is unable to get employment at all or can't clear the $60k or so barrier.

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    1. It's true that nearly all of the scamblogs appear to be "dead" at this point. To the extent that is due to the fact that people are surviving, that is good news.

      The financial damage that many still content with, however, doesn't go away for a long time yet to come, blogs or no blogs, and cuts against the "well, they are making $90k or $125k, so it's fine" argument. One could very well make those numbers with much less debt obligation in another field. Again, some lawyers do very well, but many do not.

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  5. We are not all losers. Law School actually worked out for me, and I did not go to a top law school, nor graduate anywhere near the top of the class. But. . .I started Law School in 1992. . .when tuition was reasonable and, believe it or not, most law school grads got jobs. In those days, the Public Defender's Office was not too hard to get into, for example, and there were also small and mid-sized firms that were hiring, and government positions that weren't absolutely flooded with desperate applicants. But. . .my work becomes more difficult year by year. I am a solo with a busy practice doing criminal and traffic defense. Don't sneer, if you have volume, you can make good money doing this kind of work. But. . .far too many desperate new lawyers can't get hired anywhere and decide to "hang their own shingle" and take on DUI cases for joke fees. Like $300. And that is devastating to lawyers like me. So yes, I went to law school, and yes, I think today's college graduates should not. The decision to go to law school in 1992 made a lot of sense. . .the decision to go in 2019 is near-suicidal.

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    1. This hits the nail on the head - in the early 90s, law school debt was not debilitating, and you could get a reasonably good job from pounding the pavement, and maybe even better depending. The debt was uncomfortable, but manageable.

      Now, some twenty years or more later, inflation and skyrocketing tuition have done their work. The equation is so far out of whack that people are desperate for work, and undercut each other for the scraps to where you can't earn a living. A true race to the bottom, because the debt is obscene and non-dischargable.

      No one is served by this, clients or lawyers, but don't expect the Cartel to do anything about it other than expect people to work for free.

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    2. I graduated around that time, but didn't see the opportunities that you described, but I went to a USNR Tier 4 perhaps you went to a Tier 2.

      As far as the competition problems you are facing, with over 25 years of experience and a good track record, hasn't your reputation alone helped get clients? If not, could you do more to market your practice?

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  6. It has to be said, this completely reprehensible policy of giving unlimited student loan dollars to grad/prof students is the primary driver of the scam. Unfortunately, there is this perverse nexus where liberals say that "all education is good" and conservatives defend the financial institutions that profit from this fallacy, to basically ensnare many tens of thousands in a high debt/low wage death trap.

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    1. I'm not the biggest fan of both sides arguments, but this one is at least essentially correct; all of the leftist profs and grad students (i.e., would-be profs) I know are super-down on capitalism and financial exploitation, except when it comes to the educational system, in which case they're very happy to make their bones off the questionably-useful skills and knowledge they impart. They will generally call you an anti-intellectual or worse when challenged.

      Paul Campos is one of the vanishing few professors (let alone law professors) willing to challenge his or her own institutional self-interest (even if, for various reasons, my impression is that he's generally content to limit his critique of higher ed to law school specifically). Ironically, he's one of the few standout examples of the contemporary usefulness of tenure, too.

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  7. I agree. I think there are two big things that keep dummies enrolling law school: 1) nearly unlimited student loans for college and law school, most of which will never be paid back and 2) endless TV shows and movies and novels about lawyers being wealthy, sexy, and happy in a fantastic profession. While some of the shows (The Practice is a personal favorite of mine) are entertaining, and they even occasionally get something right about the law, they in no way, shape, or form reflect reality. I honestly believe that the law students applying today have substantially lower college GPA's and LSAT scores and are simply a lot less intelligent than law school applicants were, on average, say 25 years ago. Today you have kids who honestly apply to law school because they like watching Law & Order and think they can be a lawyer like the guy on their TV set. . .

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  8. Regarding the demise of so many of the scamblogs: it's important to note that these are private endeavors, not funded or sponsored by anybody. The time and money are coming from those who prepare the blogs, period. At some point, generally, something has to give so the blogs cease. Using Nando as an example, it appeared he had a family/job, etc so there are obligations there, both of time and money, which would supersede writing a blog.
    And it's important to keep in mind that the bloggers themselves must get discouraged-for example, by the uptick in applications. Is anybody listening? Job prospects now are still terrible for new JDs, but folks still apply and attend. While it is always better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness(ok, the scamblogs give light and curse at the same time), at some point it just gets discouraging.

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    1. These are excellent points. Unlike vastly overpaid scam-professors who fill the law reviews with scholarshit, we get no time, money, or other resources for our efforts here. We have other responsibilities and other goals. And, as 11:01 correctly observed, it is disheartening to keep fighting the scam when lemmings are applying and enrolling in ever greater numbers. If we're being ignored, we may give up the struggle.

      Complaining about the decline of the anti-scam movement really isn't helpful. If you support us, please join us; otherwise, please at least refrain from stirring up trouble.

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  9. I comment on this site because the information about the legal job market not being good for graduates of elite law schools is not out there.

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  10. Scamblogging takes a lot of courage--the legal academy and other critics make it personal. Rather than proffering valid, legitimate responses to the grievances of scambloggers, critics will make it about the individual scamblogger and his/her academic and professional performance (i.e. "sour grapes"). It's offensive and patronizing.

    The legal academy wants scamblogging to die out and thought that it would have done so by now. Unfortunately for them, crippling student loans and poor employment prospects can last a lifetime. No law graduate should be voiceless in light of the injustices perpetrated by the exploitative practices of law schools throughout the country.

    Thank you and forever grateful to the Scambloggers!

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    1. "Thank you and forever grateful to the Scambloggers." Amen to that!

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  11. Scamblogging has saved untold thousands of persons from heading down the over-trodden path to law school. For that fact alone, countless thanks and praise.

    But equally important, it has also served as vindication --an affirmation-- for thousands of persons who have suffered for years under the misleading and widely misunderstood world of law practice, with short shelf-life jobs, up-and-out hiring practices, bimodal salary distribution, age discrimination, and near mandatory “low bono” (now “no bono”) for thousands of solos. Yeah, you can get through law school only to find there’s no there, there. Yeah, hard work, persistence and networking are fine strategies, but they cannot alter market realities. You’ll probably never know how many people have benefitted from finally hearing someone courageously speak the truth about the bleak situation which now spirals downward. And this helps other avoid the trap.

    Our system of justice is not served by the never-ending overproduction of lawyers. It is significantly harmed by it.

    Henry David Thoreau said that under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. Today, the true place for one who sincerely and courageously cares about the administration of justice through our system, and for young people in general, is in Scamblogging. I know it doesn’t pay, but you’re probably doing some of the most important and consequential work that needs to be done right now in law. Unlike the schools, you’re not in it for the money.

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  12. Whether people will be grateful to the scam blog movement in avoiding law school will likely depend on what they end up doing as an alternative career. Undoubtedly there will be those who ultimately will be sorry they did not give it their best shot and others who will be glad they missed the bulled by the skin of their teeth. There is a lot to say for trying and failing rather than not trying at all...but also a lot to say for avoiding large debt and frustration in not being successful as a lawyer.

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    1. This is, in its entirety, nonsense. 1:56-you can't have it both ways. And this fatuous opining-"there will be those who are sorry they did not give it their best shot" is suitable for trying out for the 9th grade basketball team, not making an adult decision about whether to take on $200K in debt in a saturated job field.

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    2. To 9:09 - There is nothing wrong with giving it a shot, but law students should be prepared to bail after the first year or even first semester, if there are any hints of uncertainty about legal employment post graduation.

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    3. There certainly is something wrong with giving it a shot.

      When law students bail out, they are still stuck with the costs of that first year. Even many ├╝ber-toilets charge more than $50k per year, not counting the costs of textbooks, moving, and the like. Discounts may reduce tuition, but many students—especially those who can least afford to give law a shot—will not receive significant discounts.

      On top of that, they will have wasted a year. How are they going to explain that to employers?

      How many people quit after the first year? Not many, other than those who fail out. Students fall for the sunk-costs fallacy: they tell themselves that they'll be stuck with high debt whether they continue or not and that they may as well continue, even though they have good reason to expect a bad outcome. Dropping out is the right thing to do, but they will stay in law school instead.

      This business of "give it your best shot" is merely an inducement to the scam. I agree with 9:09.

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  13. One of the big problems is people like the gentleman whose two children are attending law school opining with confidence that the baby boomers will retire.

    Guess what? Many baby boomers have already retired. Lawyers are going out of the workforce in their early 50s due to job losses.

    Guess what else? Many of these lawyers are still in the job market.

    The legal job market is a lousy job market. It is not improving any time soon.

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    1. That guy was a jackass, maybe they are going to Tier 1 schools, but if they will be just fine with that, why isn't their undergrad education enough to be just fine?

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  14. I make a lot less than 80 thousand a year but I'm surviving. Revisiting all of this is upsetting. If you stop reading about it for a while and then come back to it you may see what I mean. You have to read the want ads and try to find a job with all benefits and the job may not be in the legal field at all. For the debt there is ICR and the debt is carried for life and one has to just accept that. I rarely mention my JD and besides, people would probably not believe I have one anyway. In fact I rarely meet any lawyers now and maybe that is a positive in some ways.

    If ever there is a correction regarding the debt bubble or some sort of settlement/forgiveness/return of bankruptcy protections then everyone will know it.

    Otherwise there is retirement and old age to think about and heading into all of that with a massive, six figure impossible debt is a psychological burden for sure, but I am not the only one.

    But after the damage is all done to a financial life who really cares? If there ever was a "scam" it seems too big to fail. But every story is different. There are the tiers mentioned and the notion of having "backing" might have some merit. Heck, I bet some of the Professors carry six figure student debt themselves.

    But again I would advise reading the want ads for jobs outside of law and sometimes there is luck, but the luck won't happen unless you search. Whether or not you want the JD on your resume is up to you. I just felt it was not relevant any more.

    I sometimes wonder if I took away anything of use or beneficial from my 4th tier experience. I don't know. I certainly expended a lot of time and energy that could have been applied in learning another profession.

    Still, we count our blessings.

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    1. Your story is part of the message, so thank you for this - even folks for whom this law school experience is in the rear-view mirror still contend with the consequences of the decision. People need to understand this.

      If revisiting the subject is upsetting, then that is proof that the damage is real. Many detractors act like that once law school is over the damage is done, get over it, no big deal, but the reality is that the effects are long-lasting. A lot of people just don't understand this, and we as human beings often rebel against things we don't actually understandm, though we pretend to understand.

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    2. Note too that 4:20 expects the debt to plague her/him into old age. Student loans in the absence of a well-paying job can create an intractable, life-destroying problem.

      Anyone thinking of attending a law school should see Old Guy's well-informed opinion of it here:

      http://outsidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-seven-tiers-of-law-schools.html

      Tier 0: By all means—but this tier is empty
      Tier 1: Be careful
      Tier 2: Not without a large discount
      Tier 3: Maybe at half price or less
      Tier 4: Just maybe if free
      Tier 5: No
      Tier 6: Hell, NO!

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    3. My situation is similar to 4:20. 4th tier US News ranking not Old Guy's, and working in a non-legal position. I had a job change due to a layoff and in my new job, while I revealed my JD in the application process and interview, I have never told my coworkers about it. This makes me feel a lot more secure. However, it does still tend to come up at family functions, where it is revealed to any new in-laws or friends that I am a 'lawyer'. So what kind of law do you practice, oh you don't, why aren't you putting it to use and then siblings will say they never could figure that one out either. The holidays are so much joy.

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    4. Hmmmmm.

      I am in the same boat as you. I just tell them my relatives to pound sand when drunk....when sober I tell them about the scambloggers. In the end, do you care what your family thinks?

      Those who know you, have a brain and listen, will understand. Don't let that BS ruin your holidays, plus after the Segal article, the truth is out. Nearly everyone I know, even nonlawyers, know the realities of the legal market...

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  15. I was admitted and enticed with a relocation stipend and full ride. I never received my relocation stipend because “you’d receive less financial aid to live on”. After my first year I lost my scholarship because my gpa was just short of the requirement. After my second year I was discharged because my gpa was too low. They raised the minimum the semester before apparently. It’s not so much a scam as an outright fraud and done “in the name of the law”. I guess they just wanted their money back to pass on to the next sucker.

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