Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When the scam affects Baby Boomers

Many Baby Boomers look at people who blog about the law school scam as "whiners" and "not hard working enough". Plus, if the job market doesn't pan out, then the option to hang out a shingle is always there. But what happens when the scam comes to the Boomers?

Tom Nutter is a 67 year old attorney. He graduated law school in 1980 and worked his way up the chain until he was a partner at a firm in 2008. The financial crisis hit, and Tom was let go. In the next five years, Tom has been unable to find a legal job. Can we say that Tom was lazy? The article only states that he engaged in a "frantic" job search, after which he tried to go solo. Perhaps he didn't network enough or was overly choosy, but the fact of the matter is that he was unable to find a job, even with over twenty eight years of experience.

Boomers' callous attitude is indicative of how out of touch they are with today's legal job market. With law schools pumping out twice as many graduates as there are jobs available, there simply isn't enough work out there. Just look at Tom. If he was unable to find even an entry level job with his wealth of experience, then what chance does a new grad who has not been taught anything have? It is not a coincidence that the majority of the judges (Gordon Quist, Mary Mikva, Melvin Schweitzer, Jr.) who dismiss the suits brought against law schools are Boomers. What if there were many more people like Tom Nutter; unable to find work even though they are working hard to try and get a job? Would these judges toss aside these lawsuits with such flippancy?

Again, the way to effect change is not to keep preaching to law grads (the choir) or the legal education establishment (the enemy). Instead, we need to continue showing what a cesspool the legal profession has become. Ordinary people need to be disabused of the idea that a law degree automatically confers an upper middle class life upon its recipient. The day that a mother cries uncontrollably when her son tells her he's decided to become the first person in the family to go to law school is the day we can claim victory against the scam.


  1. Actually, there have been more and more stories in the media about Boomers losing thier jobs, going back to school to retrain, and hopping from job to job. Some of them are struggling to pay back student loans, too. It's a sad story; I don't care who your are.

    One long-running frustration I have had with the Bootstrapper-Boomers is that the terrible circumstances for Gen-X and Gen-Y affect Boomers too, albeit in a delayed fashion. Sadly, it is starting to catch up to them, too. The "damn kids get off my lawn and get a job" mentality was, in reality, completely unhelpful, a waste of time and energy, and whistling past the graveyard in any event.

    I've always said that Boomers are welcome in the scamblog movement, as honest assessment of the situation by all generations actually strengthens the message. But as long as we are locked in "I'm better than you lazy whiners" arguments from the Bootstrappers, then valuable energy gets wasted on spin and more and more people get sucked into the (higher ed) scam. Maybe as more Bootstrappers suffer, they too will want things to change for themselves and others.

    Or not. I'll never understand the "all or nothing" thinking that seems to permeate the Bootstrapper-Boomers.

    1. I like the term, "Bootstrapper-Boomers", because I've heard older people use that cliche of picking yourself up by the bootstraps as if most boots today have straps anyway, that is, for the few that do wear boots. The reality of it is like trying to find water in the middle of the desert...it's not there. But, I guess we should all pick ourselves by the bootstraps and find it.

  2. This guy is lucky. He's eligible to suck off the government teat for the rest of his life. Medicare and Social Security. It's a pity he had to declare BK, but at least he's probably not physically disabled and can rely on the government to help him through to the end of his days.

    We should be so lucky when it's our turn to retire.

    Oh. Wait. No. We won't get to retire. Old people and boomers are currently sucking this country dry for every present and future drop of money and services. Social Security and Medicare will run out of money and we'll be pretty much f#*($ed when we're in our 60s and 70s.

    Example: My mother in law, who is in her late 70's, has several chronic medical conditions. Congestive heart failure and Parkinsons are the big ones. She pretty much goes to a doctor twice a week, and has been to the ER 4 times in the last 6 months, with one month in the hospital. Do you have any idea how much money Medicare gets billed for this? She is costing the country hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, all money that could be spent instead on Pell Grants or Head Start or money for infant nutrition.

    The cold dead hand of the elderly is, for it's own selfish reasons, sucking the life from the young.

    Boomers don't care about law suits and the scam because they are generally not personally affected by it. I mean, the post above is an exception. I've never read another hard-luck story about a boomer attorney being out of work. And honestly, if he was IP counsel at Purina, he SHOULD have been raking it in and saving for the future. I am just speculating, but maybe, just maybe, he lived like the grasshopper and spent all his money one toys. It's just indicative of the moral corruption of the boomer generation. The Boomers I know just blow their money on toys for their own amusement, and definetly do NOT give back to society. Cars and motorcycles are the toys of choice around here, with lakefront vacation homes coming in a strong second.

    Their attitude is "I'll take mine, Bitch!"

    In the past, old people just died but now they have all the money and use it to focus on themselves. We need to take back our economy from these leeches.

    1. I can understand your resentment of my generation, the Boomers. My other friends and I have oft acknowledged that our country went from the Greatest Generation to the Worst Generation. That said, not all Boomers are the clueless, selfish jerks you portray us to be. Well, maybe clueless---I might have to give you that one.

      At a gathering of other lawyers last week, I heard of a well-respected, sixtyish criminal/personal injury lawyer that had to move his office into his home because after nearly forty years of practicing, he no longer had enough business to pay the rent. I pointed out to the group that this is the natural outcome of decades of lawyer overproduction and light bulbs went on over their heads. So, slowly, this fact is creeping into the Boomer consciousness. Maybe too slowly, but it is occurring. I'm just sorry it had to happen after we destroyed the lives of so many of our children.

    2. "The Boomers I know just blow their money on toys for their own amusement, and definetly do NOT give back to society. "

      the nerve of him to spend his money to increase commerce which benefits those who produce goods and services which he desires. the government should just confiscate his money because the government knows how to spend it better. after all, why should only people who work get to benefit from his years of hard labor?

    3. TDennis239, your story about the veteran practitioner moving "in-house" so to speak is consistent with what I am seeing. The truly insidious part of all this is that at any given moment there is a bubble of people trying to make it as solos. Most of them fail, but while they are out there they are bidding down the prices on everyone else and when they throw in the towel there will be a new group to take their place. In my area the going rate for a lot of basic legal work hasn't budged much in two decades.

    4. Head Start doesn't work and is a waste of money, btw. It's been empirically proven. But it sounds nice, so the politicians don't touch it or similar failed programs.

    5. 9:43, you are right, but it has another value to the political left. They lie and say it's wonderful and that all children should have access to public school pre-K, which will flood the teacher unions with more dues paying members.

    6. Social identity politics are a boomer corruption of the left. The motor of the left is class conflict, not social identity...which plays into the hands of the bosses.

      Also, for the guy getting red that his mother in law is getting health care for a few more years before she expires by heart failure: get a life. When we get old, we can't have the benefit of medical science? Why--so the wealthy pay less taxes to plough it into speculative financial instruments, which further erode the productive economy?
      If your argument was why thousands (it's definitely not hundreds of thousands for those diseases) is being spent by the government--when all other country's state-systems pay a fraction of that cost--you may have an argument. Otherwise, you're just a right-wing dupe crying that his market dreams failed with the world failure (or should I say success) of the market.

  3. I am a boomer in my mid-50's. Yes, I have all of the "do the right thing" credentials - top 10 undergrad, law school, law review editor, summa cum laude, all of it. I have done reasonably well financially, too. And yes, I had no debt out of law school (athletic scholarship undergrad, investment dollars for law school (a futures trader)).

    I am however a strong supporter of the scam-blog movement. Yes, I have empathy for people in this market. But what I really dislike is the completely dysfunctional marketplace, kept in place by a combination of government "education is always good" policy and the strength of the academic industrial complex (most of whom politically are on one mind, and vote to keep policies in place which enrich them to the detriment of middle class people).

    The subprime mortgage scammers pulled off their schemes while proclaiming the great joys of home ownership, as if they were performing a public service. Of course, the non-subprime guys got into the act, acting much like the subprime scammers in terms of ignoring credit quality and common sense, again, all in the guise of helping people. Yeah, right. It should have never have been about home ownership, but rather about equity.

    Similarly, the academic industrial complex and the Big Government types extol the virtue of academic credentials, never mind if they have any significant value or what it costs to obtain them. The important metric is the ability to add value (and to obtain that ability with limited debt). Mention this to any dug in apparatchik at a major university or a Department of Education bureaucrat and they will look at you oddly, as this concept is so far from their often repeated narratives they will not comprehend it.

    Bad business models, well, they don't work. No matter what the political leaning, we shouldn't support bad, if not worse than bad business models.

  4. Unlike the old Boomer dogs who are laid off, we don't need to worry about being turned down for non-law jobs because we are too damn old. I am starting to see older professionals - such as bank executives, senior managers and HR heads - being forced out.

    Due to their insistence that younger people are whiners who expect the world to be handed to them - a blatant falsehood and vile straw man argument - I don't see how the younger generations are going to suddenly sympathize with the old pigs - especially since these "early retirements" will presumably open up slots for younger employees.

    1. You are a wonderful example of your generation nando. Gee i wonder why so many "pigs" have no respect for you guys. What with the caliber of your leaders?

    2. I have been practicing for almost 20 years and have been a supporter for the movement as if negatively effects those of us who have been practicing for many years though not to the same extend. I have forwarded some article to other seasoned attorneys, but I am always cautious of nando's comments. he might be seen as a leader in the eyes of the younger generation, but to those in the more seasoned generation, he is an embarrassment like jdpainter. people who are in a position to fix things are not going to pay any attention to his foul mouthed rants.

    3. Nando understands.

      And 5:52 AM (10-8) has it right: The opportunities for us won't be there are aren't there now. And I speak as an X'er who got out about 20 years ago. The opportunities weren't there then either.

      We won't be able to retire. That's a pipe dream for fools at this point.

      The old are robbing the young because they can but, true, they have to in some cases as well.

      The elderly reach out clawing for every last drop of economic mobility and benefit and expect their Gold-Plated Bene's, while we will not have any such thing. Yet, they expect them and won't fight for their children to have the same chances.

      Everyone just plays "Kick the Can Down the Road" in life.

      The condescending attitude is all I ever got from older lawyers so screw 'em. And he's also right in that if this dude was at Purina, he was making bank and, like they tell us but is now impossible, he should've saved something, at least.

      No one cares about anyone until they're affected personally. So yeah, go to the meetings and talk and maybe a light bulb goes on over senior heads. But that's the extent of it. At the end of the day, it's "I got mine!" - until it happens to them, like this guy.

      Kick the Can Down the Road.

      Problem is, we're at the point where there's no more road left.

      As far as Nando and bearing in mind the qualities of the cohort in question, Boomers, you aren't his audience. Believe it or not, he's not speaking to you. Life, sometimes, is not all about you.

      The only way to save people with the insane levels of tuition, at this point, is to show and convice them that the only Winning Move right now is Not to Play. Avoid the Trap totally. The risk of failure and consequences are simply too great at this point.

  5. I'm going to respectfully disagree (full disclosure-- I'm solidly in the middle of Gen X, born in 1972, the lowest birth number ever in the U.S.). I've had multiple conversations with attorneys 15-20 older than me, all discussing the terrible job situation for recent grads. At least 5 times I've heard "I will not let my kids go to law school." Most of it is based on the completely out of whack cost for law school right now.

    The problem is that Boomers are so busy getting their kids through college and getting ready for retirement. They don't come up for air often, and that ones that are currently involved in the issues have vested interests (i.e., law professors and managing partners).

    Many Boomers in the trenches know the score-- if they don't work like dogs, a younger, hungrier attorney without kids or family obligations will take their place.

    This was reflected recently in the ISBA's (Illinois Bar Association) recently published white paper on law school debt-- it concluded that the current situation will damage the profession. I encourage everyone to read it, as opposed to the ABA's most recent dithering. It it available at http://www.isba.org/sites/default/files/committees/Law%20School%20Debt%20Report%20-%203-8-13.pdf

    1. Thanks for sharing the ISBA report. This is worthy of its own post - it's encouraging that at least someone gets it, even though the ABA/NALP/LSAC/Law Schools themselves can't seem to grasp the picture.

      But, living in the bubble will do that to you.

  6. Everyone has to worry about the situation described in the article as affecting a single boomer. In fact, if all of the lawyers who got first year jobs as lawyers wanted to continue working, there would only be enough lawyer jobs to take them to age 52 or so. That is problem for all lawyers. People cannot make a sustainable living if there is no job for them starting at age 52.

    The comment above by Nando completely misses the point. There is an age pyramid for legal jobs, and it will hurt new lawyers who actually get jobs just as much as it has hurt boomers. The age pyramid is built into the structure of the legal profession. It is why top law schools are perpetrating the scam - their older classes of lawyers (age 52 plus) are not employed either in real legal jobs that count for first years, except in very small numbers..

    The first year legal job statistics give the misleading impression that for grads of top schools and top grads of middling schools, law is a limited entry guild. That may be true for first year lawyer jobs.

    Problem is that law is a tournament guild as to career jobs. That means most people who get first year lawyer jobs will not be able to have a full career as a lawyer. It gets harder and harder to stay employed for each year of additional experience as a lawyer. That is not good for anyone going to law school, but that is the way the legal profession is structured.

    Nando does not understand. As someone who is practicing among grads of top law schools and top grads of other law schools, I can see it. Either you stay afloat as a partner or get promoted to management in house, or you are dead in the water. Most lawyers who start in that successful tier are going to find themselves dead in the water by age 52, if not sooner or maybe a little later.

    1. 1:16 hits the nail squarely on the head.

      The tournament nature of the profession means the vast majority of the now very few attorneys that actually land 'good' associate jobs out of law school will have anything approaching even a 10-year career in them.

      The short shelf-life of a firm attorney has always been the real scam. The notion that the marketplace is able to absorb an unlimited number of solos/microfirms is yet another scam.

      The disposable, replaceable lawyer has been with us for decades. It's what allowed the law schools to continue churning out grads. I graduated LS in the mid-1980s, and discovered within a year of graduation that the the profession was "saturated" and law firms were essentially "revolving doors." There were no Blogs, few dared to call things what they were, and thus the band played on. People suffered in silence and put a good face on it-- you desparately tried to avoid the impression you didn't cut the mustard. The scam loves silence and everyone considering law school overwhelmingly cares about School rank/prestige and That First Job.

      More importantly, Biglaw firms hired based on this plan. More law schools were created. Admissions rose.

      Then came the Great Recession. The front-end of the scam hit the wall. The revolving door jammed.

      Thank God now we have Blogs, and they've done a yeoman's job of spreading the news to those looking to ENTER the revolving door.

      But never forget that the profession and the educational system that feeds it has long, long been based on a revolving-door model. The very, very few lawyers who land That First Job are going to find themselves dead in the water by their early forties, if not sooner. And the marketplace will only hold so many burger joints, barbershops, hardware stores, and small law firms.

      Hey, law deans! You guys keep rambling on about 'improving' legal education: Two years, not three; making grads practice ready; cutting costs; internships.

      That ain't the problem, and you know it. You should have reduced your emissions years ago.

      Today, the crisis demands zero emissions.

  7. I too feel somewhat sorry for these older attorneys that cannot find jobs. The problem is that the delusional, condescending pricks are the ones shouting the loudest in the blogosphere (usually because traffic at their pathetic sites are down and they need to troll people). I won't mention names and websites but we all know who those fucks are.

    Someone like Nutter should set up shop with one or two younger attorneys, steal the clients and and split the profits.

  8. BTW, an interesting blog just opened up. It is written exclusively by law school deans.


    Maybe we should say hello.

  9. Here's the real Law School Scam:

    1. Law school's content is largely the study of items that are unrelated to commercial practice, have little/no bearing on the actual practice of law, and don't prepare a person to actually practice law. Law school assumes you're off to a firm-- in a sense, it's the academy for Biglaw .

    2. Law school's output of students is based on the model of Big- and Midlaw firm associate mills, which run on a stream of replacable, renewable resources.

    3. Law school's reward is the vaunted Big Firm associateship and reported $160k/yr salary. The size of that number supposedly justfies the high tuition.

    4. A law school career is 3 years. Most all firm careers these days are 3-4 years, followed by another stint at a lesser-ranked firm if your first firm was high enough.

    Law school and firm associateship ain't lifetime careers, folks. This was all true well before the Great Recession.

    More stories about the longterm outcomes, please!

  10. My story: graduate 1985. 6 months prosecutor...4 years mid law (40 lawyer litigation firm). 2 years with small litigation firm (5 lawyers) solo ever since. Have made an upper middle class income most of the time