Progress continues, unabated, since 2008.
Well, it has been a long time between postings. Some of it is in part due to slow-news days on the legal education front. Another part of the downtime, for me at least, has been due to the transition to a new position, and that has cut into my time recently for delivering on the “JD-Advantage” perspective.
“Wait, a new job?” I hear the critics say. “That is proof positive that all your whining and belly-aching about how JDs are not worth the time and money is a complete and utter fabrication. Why don’t you just buckle down and work hard for once in your Gen-Xer life, and see what actually comes of it.”
We’ve all heard this before, multiple times. Never mind the fact that the Boomer cohort as a whole, from whom this particular criticism often comes, has suffered from significant ageism in the workplace, under-funded investments vehicles for retirement, and the need to continue working because they will be destitute if they don’t. Some of this is “their fault,” some of it isn’t. Given the vagaries of life, however, you would think there would be some solidarity between generations on these difficult issues (sort of a “welcome to how the other-half live, now let’s actually stop with the slings and arrows and try to do something productive together” approach), but generally, not really. Lazy Millennials, et. al. still need to get off the lawn, etc., so here we all are.
(In fact, one notable Boomer in particular has concluded that the federal student loan program is a colossal train-wreck and debt needs to be forgiven. And no, not Bernie Sanders nor Elizabeth Warren nor similar individuals who have to, in-part, pander to the masses, but a long-serving chief officer at the DOE who ostensibly should know something about the issue. Though, he is getting into politics also, so...)
Some may recall an older post of mine where I ran the numbers, and concluded that the good old JD, outside the law, is not that remunerative. The numbers didn’t work for several years, they barely “worked” for a few more, and even now, with some improvement, still are not great – some 15 years after my glorious non-traditional graduation. Considering the fact that I have 20 years to go before I am eligible for any federal benefits, it still seems tenuous and one-disaster-away from ruin. Overall, the cost-benefit analysis says “no.”
Why? Because I would argue that the rent for a JD is just too damn high. I think after the last several years of scamblogging, it can probably all be distilled down to this one fact. We can debate the utility (or uselessness) of traditional legal education, the bar’zam hazing ritual, the lack of true clinical and/or apprenticeship models in the profession, the brutal economics for solos, or even newly minted lawyers with no connections having to compete for jobs with legacy lawyers coming from T14 institutions. All these things matter and contribute to the picture, but they would all be a bit more survivable without six-figures-plus of crushing debt at 7%, give or take.
“A bit more survivable,” though, is the key phrase. My own “successes,” should they be termed that, came very, very slowly, and did not adjust for inflation well at all. Note again that I do not actively practice law (though I maintain the license as a credibility marker), and had to flee from the idea very early on due to my non-traditional status and the inability to break in. “JD-Advantage” was, and still is, a face-saving measure to try to spin the narrative on a bad decision. I won’t say it has zero utility, but the utility it does present is very watered-down, and could have been achieved through alternate, less-costly means.
Maybe the K-JDs, in contrast, are rocking their Maseratis and their models-and-bottles, and I don’t doubt that a few are. However, my sources say “no” for the majority, even though self-interested parties will say "yes," and it is not clear how it will strongly improve any time soon.
0Ls, make sure you are considering alternate career paths, and not just choosing law as a default. Sadly, many do, and some (like me) thought they were making a good decision back in 2002 or so, before the “word got out” on the now-ubiquitous internet. I’m not saying the world doesn’t need lawyers, but clearly the world does not need that many of them now or in the future.