Sunday, April 28, 2013

Opposition's Fifth Epistle: On Mens Rea, Accepting Your Guilt and Shutting Up

Indebted Law School Graduates
c/o Mom's Basement
Loserville, USA (DC? Chicago? Tulsa?)

Re:  Your Mental State

Dear Bum,

We need to talk about Mens Rea, a/k/a the guilty mind of your 1L criminal law days.  If you're now broke and unemployed, you probably had it before you went to law school.  Law schools didn't.  The sooner you accept this truth, the sooner you'll be able to move on, and learn to stop worrying about debt and love the law.

I.    Reality

I'd like to direct your attention to a few quotes about YOUR mental state back when you applied to law school.  Here's one from Philadelphia attorney Jordan Rushie:
I went to law school to become a lawyer, not for a paycheck. I never paid attention to what career services said.
Twitter @JRushie, April 25, 2013, 9:25 am.  And here's one from legal ethics expert Jack Marshall:
Many of today’s out-of-work lawyers prepared for a profession, a calling, for purely financial motivations: they wanted to be rich.

Neither of these men offer any links or proof that any law graduates now complaining about the law schools went for financial gain instead of wanting to be a chest-thumping lawyer, which is likely because it's self-evident that you bums went to law school to become rich and get that throbbing, meaty paycheck like the capitalist whores you are.  CONFESS!

Most people who went to law school, of course, wrote applications essays about why they wanted to attend, and almost none of them mention money in favor of things like fighting for justice or working as a prosecutor or starting a personally-rewarding career preventing middle-class individuals from getting screwed like they/their relatives did.  Many of those same people would now kill a chinchilla with their bare hands to work for a legal aid pr PD's office making $10/hour.

But those are obviously bogus reasons.  We can safely assume they only went for the money.  Greedy maggots be greedy.

Because people who care about debt and other material concerns clearly didn't go to become LAWYERS.  The logical inference is that if you unemployed grads went for the RIGHT reason - to join the HONORED PROFESSION - you would be practicing LAW at all costs, literally, I suppose.  Because if you only go to law school for the One True Reason - to be a card-carrying justice-loving LAWYER and join the PROFESSION - you should have no care for the return side of your expenditure, and no reason to gripe about anyone bilking you on the financial side of your voyage since you wanted to join a PROFESSION and did not make any "investment."  Or something.  Make it pithy and the simple-minded sycophants love it.

Of course, these assumptions are nonsense, illogical, and ironically selfish. A motivation for attending law school has little to do with the skewed economics of practice or the misleading statements by law schools.

You could go to law school for the purest of reasons with every part of your soul committed to the religion of zealous representation, wanting to do nothing more than stand in court and defend deaf-mute war widows against slumlords making minimum wage.  You could still theoretically have a claim that law school deceived you about the prospects of repaying the debt load you took on to get that ticket to heavenly salvation known as a LAW LICENSE.

Never mind that one who went to law school only for the RIGHT reasons may be driven out of the right honorable profession (i.e., needs a stable job and cannot take scrapling cases and ad-hoc work) entirely by the unreasonable debt load and that may be the source of their particular angst.

And if the same student knew repaying the debt load would be difficult, but said "my CALLING and PURPOSE is to be a LAWYER at ALL COSTS.  YOLO!" and ignored return-on-investment figures (like those pushed by the CSO and allegedly ignored by Mr. Rushie), he'd be acting remarkably selfishly, not just risking his own financial well-being, but also those around him (like spouses, children, parents, etc., not to mention the entity that loaned you money and the state that has to support indigents).

But former prosecutor Marshall and apparent criminal defense attorney Rushie would rather assume that you had the wrong mental state, and they're not alone.  That's a truth you have to deal with.

At the same time, let's talk about law schools' mental states and their motivations five years ago.  Here's what one professor said:
What has troubled me is that so many law schools distribute promotional materials that would probably violate Rule 7.1, if that rule applied in the context of legal education.
Consider some examples.  One law school’s promotional literature cites a report showing that its graduates claim to have among the best job prospects in the country, when in fact the law school’s own employment data doesn’t support the claim.  Many law schools frequently talk about the quality of their clinical programs, not mentioning that their clinical programs are typically not big enough to accommodate all students who express an interest.  Schools also brag about how their graduates take all sorts of interesting public sector jobs, when the reality is that many graduates won’t be able to afford those jobs given the crushing debt that they will have.
[N]o school wants to be the first one to eliminate spin from their promotional literature.  Doing so would put that school at a competitive disadvantage...
Andrew Perlman, Professor of Law, Suffolk University, April 13, 2005.  And here is another one:
I am scandalized by the lack of information, and misleading information, flowing from law schools to applicants and students.  It's not fair and it's sometimes a consumer fraud issue. 
John Steele, Attorney and Adjunct at Santa Clara, June 19, 2008.  Steele is riffing off of an AP article that quoted Bill Henderson at Indiana.

So to recap, there is actual demonstrable proof that law schools were attempting to mislead applicants, while there is no hard evidence that law graduates' complaints are related to their pre-law motivations in any serious way.  And of course if we admit that law graduates now complaining went for the money, we would also have to admit that the law schools were overstating the financial reality of the JD, right?  (If they weren't, why would the complaints be so loud?).

Marshall, again, same link as above:
I see no deception or exploitation by the law schools whatsoever.
So even when agents of an institution ADMIT purposeful deception, Marshall - a former prosecuting attorney and an expert on legal ethics - can't see it.

In other words, there are people in this profession who will ASSUME that you did not go to law school to accept a CALLING to a PROFESSION, but rather that you went to law school for the money, merely because you make an internet comment about a quasi-related issue, the cost and debt repayment.  Meanwhile, there are people in this profession who will NEVER believe that the law schools ever did a wrongful act in order to gain money, even with fairly direct proof.

Got it?  Good.

II.    Practical Advice

So given that if you complain, the chest-puffing, law-as-a-religion crowd will accuse you of going to law school for the wrong reasons, and that no matter what you say, certain people will refuse to see law school culpability, there's only one logical conclusion:


Only reasonable conclusion.  Like a chatty criminal defendant, you're only making matters worse for yourself.  With every word you utter about the futility of a law degree, you prove that you didn't really get your law degree for the RIGHT REASONS.

Because, of course, the RIGHT reason for getting a law degree is to merge yourself with The Borg as soon as possible and spend every single moment of your waking time trying to find clients and represent them, network with attorneys, pester attorneys until they give you work, start a law firm even if you think it's destined to fail, maniacally pursue your CALLING like a modern-day monk with slavish devotion to courtrooms and Westlaw search results.  That's "doing something," and you're obviously not doing it by occasionally complaining about the law schools and the legal profession.

Of course what people like Rushie and Marshall write is irrational.  Of course it's silly.  Duh.  But that's the profession you joined, and if you actually went for the RIGHT reasons, you bought into it the second you sent in your law school application.

The sooner you accept that, the sooner you reform your mental state to be in tune with the RIGHT reasons for being a lawyer, the sooner you'll all have jobs and be off the couch.  It'll be just like the happy ending of 1984 when Winston Smith finally accepts reality.

Just shut up.  All you accomplish is your own damnation and denting law school profit margins.  The former is suicidal and the latter is just plain rude.

So shut up.

Shut the hell up.


Law School Truth Center

P.S.  If any prospective law students are reading this, please rest assured that your law school is correct:  you CAN go to law school and get a JD even if you don't want to practice law or think you have any "calling" to join the "profession."  A JD is a valuable degree in a number of fields, including business, charity work, non-profit management, media, and government positions.  Similarly, even if you want to go to law school solely for the money, there is still very much a place for you, as law provides a long-term return on investment when you consider the profitability of the degree over the next 40 years, more than justifying the meager cost you will pay now.



  2. I agree with your fake LSTC commentary in that law school should not be seen as an investment. But law schools sell it as just that. Investment. Not just "in your future" but like an actual financial investment that will pay off in monetary terms. That needs to stop. Law school for most people is a money losing disaster.

    1. 1. Yes on law schools selling the financial return and yes it needing to stop, see below.

      2. Any use of debt financing is inherently an investment requiring cost-benefit analysis. If a church is looking at taking out a construction mortgage to build a battered woman's shelter, present (construction) and future (mortgage payments, interest, taxes, maintenance)costs must be considered. If that same shelter can MAKE money through fundraising drives or subleasing unused parts of the building (does that make it an "investment?!"), that revenue absolutely should be considered; it isn't removed from the equation simply because it's a "noble" or religious cause.

      The law-school-as-a-calling crowd seems to lump together cost-benefit analysis (necessary action for rational economic actors regardless of motive) and a for-profit motive (traditional investing expecting a return over the time-value of the expense).

      I would agree the latter is (now) a bad reason for getting any educational degree in 2013, and it's wrong for colleges (law, MBA, whatever) to sell products with non-dischargable debt that way. But a cost-benefit analysis? That's basic business (incl. non-profit) management. We need lawyers to do more of that, not less.

  3. Campos and Tamanaha briefly mentioned in this USNWR article here:

  4. Higher education, employment and "business" have become the trial by ordeal of the 21st century. The value of an endeavour and that of the person endeavouring is soley determined by outcome. If you "succeed", you are worthy, had pure motives, and are qualified to sit in judgment of the totality of circumstances of others. If you "fail", you are guilty, beyond contempt, and should get thee to a nunnery ASAP.

    Good thing that "success" and "failure" are bright lines...