To: Judge Lippman
As the leader of the state judiciary, you control the development of ethics rules. Therefore, this letter must be written to you.
This letter is not about the recent mandate, requiring new lawyers with six-figure debt to perform free labor while exempting established lawyers with paychecks from making similar sacrifices. Of course, this indifference toward the reality faced by new lawyers provides an appropriate place to start. As the chief judge in Albany, I know that you do not see what many of us in major cities see every day: kids in their 20’s handing out makeshift business cards in court hallways and arraignment parts because no one will hire a person with a new J.D. unless you graduated at the top of the top.
At alarming rates, new lawyers from wealthier backgrounds move into their parents’ homes and work 50-hour-a-week—for free—hoping to network their way into a paying gig sometime in the next decade. Many young lawyers have worked non-paying jobs for many years already. The government and the legal profession take advantage of this slave labor with loopholes in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The federal judges interpreting the FLSA, some of whom started a new trend of taking on free fulltime clerks, represent the greed that has devastated our young lawyers during the worst crisis ever faced by the profession. At least the young lawyers from wealthy backgrounds can afford to eat and practice law at the same time.
The new lawyers without family money work at minimum wage jobs, ironically protected under the FLSA, and receive Medicaid and food stamps. Outside of the retail and fast food industry, where it is easy to leave law school off of one’s resume, no employer wants to touch a person with a law degree and no experience. After these new lawyers fall into this trap, most never work as attorneys and never pay back their student debt. Yet, law schools continue to proliferate and to publish false employment rates of 90% or more and to charge insane tuition ($150,000-$250,000)!
The consensus of data exposes reality. Even the ABA has started to fess up and recognize that only about 1/3 of law graduates, mostly from the rich private schools, end up employed at $50,000/year or higher. For the rest of the law schools, the scam is collapsing, but the 25% drop-off in law school applications from students with the top LSAT scores shows that information helps to dissuade people from the law school trap. Unfortunately, it means the law schools are loading their classes up with less qualified students with a low likelihood of passing the bar exam. Anything to keep the dollars rolling in—right? The new law school transparency movement, started by indigent young lawyers, continues to dissuade young people from ruining their lives. However, this does not help to repair the damage done to an already devastated generation.
So far, the New York judiciary stands alone by unanimously sweeping under the rug the mess created by bar organizations and law schools. I did not attend a Tier 4 scam-law-school like New York Law School (NYLS), but let’s be real: any lawsuit brought against a trade school for intentionally falsifying employment data and gouging students and taxpayers for incredible tuition during a recession to maintain the administration’s $300,000-$800,000 salaries would have progressed to the discovery phase—at least! Similarly, in a lawsuit against a non-law school, we would not have seen the situation of the Albany Law School lawsuit, where a past valedictorian of the defendant school dismissed the case. Currently, a past graduate of Brooklyn Law School is deciding the fate of that case as well! In the normal course, these judges would have recused themselves. That the judges of the NYLS and Albany lawsuits are friends and past coworkers in the Court of Claims only furthers the image of impropriety, self-protectiveness, and corruption.
In New York, some judges have recognized the embarrassing situation caused by unscrupulous law school factories, which pump out huge numbers of graduates by using fake “employment data” to advertise themselves. Predictably, instead of these judges doing the right thing, their embarrassment has motivated a total abdication of holding dishonest lawyers and institutions accountable.
As all of these judges must know, the discovery process underway in other states with identical lawsuits have revealed the fraudulent practices of greedy law schools. In New York, the discovery process would have aired out all sorts of dirty laundry, which would have helped to purge the secrecy and corruption, allowing young lawyers to trust their profession again. Yet, it seems as if judges find it more important to avoid prolonged embarrassment caused by the corruption inside their “noble profession,” regardless of the devastation to an entire un-hirable generation buried under six-figure debt. This would explain the First Department’s terse affirmation of the dismissal of the NYLS lawsuit, which plainly contradicted longstanding precedent without explanation.
No one knows if these lawsuits would have survived summary judgment or trial, but to suffocate them before discovery smells of self-protective corruption. It perpetuates the cartel image of law schools, judges, and bar associations. Also, it strains credulity to excuse law schools for using “employment data” to coax students into taking on mortgage-sized debt and to place the entire burden of this scam on young people by telling them: “too bad—you should have known better!” If these young people were buying chips and placing bets at a casino, this logic might pass the smell test. However, taxpayer subsidized law schools should be held accountable for performing a ratcheted-up version of the Pigeon Drop on thousands of students. At the very least, the discovery phase of a lawsuit would have provided a fair method for revealing the depth of the dishonest methods employed by the law schools in their quest for ever-larger class sizes and higher tuition. The revelation of this information during discovery would have exposed corruption and inspired reform.