Charles Cooper laid out the motivations of the scambloggers in his recent post:
So why do we do this? Why do writers here spend hours each week penning articles for you to read? Why did I spend a few years of my life writing a book on this subject? Because it’s important. It’s because we care about not handing a broken system to our kids. It’s because we have a conscience and don’t agree with turning our fine higher education system into a business model for syphoning money from college students to wealthy professors or, worse still, investors. It’s because we care about making sure future generations of students go out into the world with degrees that are effective in terms of cost and opportunities. We worry about the young people today saddled with mortgage-sized debt for degrees, and how this will affect their ability to do the normal things in life, like take a low-paid entry level job, buy a house, raise kids, or even afford to eat in some cases. We worry that the JD is being turned into a worthless piece of paper. We are bothered that the legal profession continues to eat itself alive. These are real issues. We want to be part of the solution. It seems that many others are content to be part of the problem, take their cut of the ill-gotten gains, and not particularly care what hollow shell of an education system (or profession) they leave behind. They’ve got theirs, and everyone else doesn’t matter.
Really? Is that it? Is it possible that people could be motivated out of a sincere desire to see things be different, now and in the future?
Some would cynically say "never, without an economic incentive to do so." The "rational economic actor" would never do anything without some form of remunerative incentive. Clearly, the scambloggers make a huge windfall off of this somehow, though it is not apparent how, yet.
Plus, those who have the temerity to critique the law school cartel are whiny, bitter, losers. Yes, we've heard it all before. All you have to do is want it bad enough, and then you will make bank.
Yeah, about that "bank":
It would appear that the Horatio Alger myth - that hard work and pluck will lift a person from dire circumstances to enviable success - is not living up to expectations for Americans. As WSJ's Lauren Weber notes, 40% of Americans think it’s fairly common for someone to start off poor, work hard and eventually rise to the top of the economic heap but a new Pew study shows that in reality, only 4% of Americans travel the rags-to-riches path. Unfortunately, they discovered considerable “stickiness” at both ends of the income spectrum and that Americans attached to the rags-to-riches myth might be disappointed to know that other countries show greater mobility among have-nots - "this is what we call the 'parental penalty,' and it's really high in the U.S. - If you’re born in the bottom here, your likelihood of sticking in the bottom is much higher."
Oh, but law school, says the law school cartel and it's affiliated industries. Are you going to listen to the protestations of millions of people throwing a national pity party, or are you going to go out there and be a lawyer, dammit?
Well, things aren't looking good on that score, either:
Competition should continue to be strong because more students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. As in the past, some recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions are turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs. This service allows companies to hire lawyers “as-needed” and permits beginning lawyers to develop practical skills.
Job opportunities are typically affected by cyclical swings in the economy. During recessions, demand declines for some discretionary legal services, such as planning estates, drafting wills, and handling real estate transactions. Also, corporations are less likely to litigate cases when declining sales and profits restrict their budgets. Some corporations and law firms may even cut staff to contain costs until business improves.
Because of the strong competition, a law graduate’s willingness to relocate and work experience are becoming more important. However, to be licensed in another state, a lawyer may have to take an additional state bar examination.
Did you catch that? More students are graduating from law school each year than there are jobs available. This is not scamblog-whiner central, this is the Bureau of Labor Statistics who has no dog in the fight. I count two instances of "strong competition." I see that "students unable to find permanent jobs" are going to that "growing number" of holy of holies, "short-term, as-needed" jobs (i.e. doc review) to develop "practical skills". Hah. I thought law schools were turning out "practice ready" students, anyway.
Going back to Cooper's post, tdennis239 makes a telling observation:
Going back to Cooper's post, tdennis239 makes a telling observation:
In addition, tuition is sky-high. Go see Third Tier Reality or Law School Transparency if you don't believe it. Or here at Volokh. Or even more recently, an excellent piece by Elie Mystal over at ATL (awesome charts as well):
You’re familiar with these arguments: a widening gap between haves and have nots, Cooley grads rising up to stick Harvard grads with pitchforks, dogs and cats living together. It’s pretty sad that law degrees — long thought of as a path for upward mobility for hardworking people — now serve as a way of locking in massive inequalities between elites and everybody else. If you are not starting from a position of strength that allows you to get into the very best law schools, going to law school at all is probably an extremely bad call.
Just 20 years ago, the “bimodal” distribution [of lawyer salaries]… did not exist. The value of a law degree was more or less standardized. Getting into a law school, any law school, conferred a certain range of expected benefits. Now, getting into law school is like playing a slot machine: some will win, most will lose, others will win just enough to keep playing[.]
Note that the spike around $30,000 in the 90s is pretty much the same as the spike around $50,000 today, adjusted for inflation. At the low end, law school is almost exactly as valuable as it was 20 years ago… except that law school tuition has skyrocketed to the point where it is often more than double what it cost 20 years ago. Do you think law schools know they are charging everybody a lot more for the same slop? I do.
The next law professor type who wants to defend law school based on how things were when he went to law school can jump in a lake of statistical reality. The experience of a person who graduated in 1996 is irrelevant to the experience of a person who graduates today[.] The next law professor type who wants to talk to you about the value of a law degree over the lifetime of your career is LYING TO YOU[.]
What does that mean for you, current law student or recent graduate who does not have access to a DeLorean? I think it means that you must do what all people must do who find themselves on the short end of market forces beyond their control: it means you need new skills. Your law degree was a bad investment, sorry. But instead of clutching your buggy whip and waiting for people to come back to the rustic simplicity of horse-powered transportation, you need to develop skills for which there is an actual market...Whatever you do, you probably shouldn’t keep banging your head against the bimodal salary distribution curve in a desperate attempt to jump from one end to the other. History is against you.
Friends, this in not about "working hard," or being a "loser" because you can't handle the heat so you better stay out of the kitchen, or whatever the lame motivational-speaker platitude of the month happens to be. The scamblogs have always said that if you have the passion to be an attorney, the funds to do it, and the social capital and connections to pull it off, then go do it! Please! Really!
This message is for the majority who don't have the money, who don't have the connections or social capital, and who don't know what law school or the business of law is really about. This message is for those who have no business going to law school, no offense intended. And I say this as one who had no business doing so, myself.
This is about the death of the Horatio Alger myth overall, and in the practice of law in particular. The law school cartel peddles poor advice, dubious preftige and false hope in order to lure the marks in and profit. The practice of law is one that has considerable "stickiness," and all the Dudley-Do-Right-Horatio-Algerism in the world doesn't affect the fact that the market, starting capital, pedigree and connections matter. Thousands of graduates face this reality every year.
0Ls, don't fall for the line that "all this can be yours," when those who profit from your decision are counting on you to take the bait. It takes much more than determination to be successful, but they want you to think that is the core ingredient. If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it. Instead, go invest your efforts in something else that has a better chance of return, and be a part of the solution instead of the problem in the process.