...twenty-four little months. The message is getting out there, and it is changing minds.
A dominant meme in American culture is that if you have fallen on hard times, then somehow it is ultimately your fault. Not long ago, when the scamblogs were nascent and major print media articles concerning the law school scam were rare as unicorns, a deluge of criticism was the meat and drink of struggling law grads. You should have done your research. Stop being lazy and entitled. If you stopped complaining, maybe you could get a job. You deserve what you got, because you tried to get-rich-quick. Pay back your loans and get out of your mom's basement, slacker.
The cheap shots and sucker punches were abundant. Some, in their tear-downs of others, placed themselves on a pedestal and held themselves out as paragons of virtue. Actual economic data, actual law school data, and actual anecdotes of people in the trenches were all dismissed out of hand. When people were trying to identify the problem and warn others, or tried to point-out that other actors were complicit in the bad results that so many were laboring under, the resounding response was "shut up, loser more-ons!"
Even those who agreed there was a problem overall still scorned those who fell on hard times and the scam, as evidenced by this not-so-early post from Jack Marshall over at Ethics Alarms:
[October 26, 2011]
It is true that many law schools have been exposed lately for inflating their employment statistics. The American Bar Association announced last month that it was drafting a rule including sanctions for law schools that intentionally falsify jobs data, possibly including monetary fines or the loss of accreditation. That is as it should be.
Nonetheless, I am dubious about the sign’s 99.9% claim, especially in the absence of a named institution. Promising 100% employment to any group seems excessive, and a person of normal intelligence would, or certainly should be skeptical. Thus, after only the first line, I am dubious about the candor and/or judgment of the sign-holder...[b]ut I am especially dubious about anyone with a law degree who isn’t a drooling idiot and yet says he has "no job prospects." Impossible. A law degree is the most versatile and useful degree there is. It is just as useful for getting management jobs in business and politics as it is in law. It is considered a credential for consulting, negotiation, public speaking, and lobbying. I once was hired to run a health care organization that required a medical degree: they couldn’t find a doctor they liked, so the Chairman of the Board said, "Eh, a law degree’s just as good," and hired me. No prospects? None? What’s wrong with this guy?
The take-home message: I'm going to take this student's hyperbole and make it even more hyperbolic so as to strawman the argument. It's the student's fault for being (1) stupid and (2) lazy, even in spite of false information from the Cartel, because JDs are versatile. I got a job once with my JD, so there.
[July 8, 2012]
First, there are many more JD’s, and many more JD’s who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, not to be excessively unkind. A lot of mediocre to poor students manage to become lawyers; PhD programs are more discriminating...Second, the scientists entered their fields for the right reasons: they were interested in science, and good at it. Many of today’s out-of-work lawyers prepared for a profession, a calling, for purely financial motivations: they wanted to be rich...[f]inally, lawyers are trained to be advocates, and to argue for positions most beneficial to their clients’ interests. Disillusioned, indebted, worried lawyers without clients have been trained in the art of deflecting accountability and blaming others for misfortune, so it should be no surprise that their training and mindset lead them down the dark alleys of conspiracy theories, class action lawsuits and confirmation bias. They are their own clients now, and are seeking miscreants and tortfeasors who made their dreams of big houses, fancy cars and law firm partnerships go up in smoke: the law schools, the TV hype, the loan programs, the degree itself...
The take-home message: Many law graduates are stupid (as detailed before), and they additionally deserve their fate for being dishonest and trying to get-rich-quick. STEM graduates, in contrast, (1) aren't and (2) didn't. Although STEM grads complain about very similar circumstances as do JD grads concerning debt and employment, let's ignore that and focus on the stupid law grads who think they deserve better.
[October 15, 2012]
Nobody ever told me that a law degree guaranteed a high-paying job as an attorney, and if we understood that decades ago when law was booming, I don’t see where the confusion set in. I worked in the administration of Georgetown Law Center, and that school never made such a representation. In addition, Third Tier Reality goes further, as its brethren blogs do, to insist that a law degree from less than a "First Tier" school is actually an impediment in the job market. I hate to kick this particular hornets nest again, but this is a self-serving rationalization for failure.
A good law school education improves your writing, speaking, analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as giving you a versatile knowledge base that is useful in not just many other fields, but every other field. "Third tier" law schools are certainly capable of providing this; it doesn’t have to be a "top 8″ school. (If you want a scam, try the law school rating system. As with colleges, there just is not that big a difference between the top ten and the top 50.) If you go to law school and can’t get a legal job or a professional job in another field where a knowledge of law or the skills or a lawyer are useful (which is to say, most of them), then the problem isn’t the law school, or the "scam" or that a legal degree isn’t respected by employers.
It literally drives "Nando," the author of this website, and his fellow Toys-R-Us clerk/law grads crazy when I say this, which I have said before. On "Nando’s" site, I am accorded full villain status for the post I wrote last October, chiding an Occupy demonstrator for hanging out in the park with a sad, hand-lettered complaining that his law degree didn’t get him the job he thought it guaranteed. Maybe that was Nando. You see, we don’t need conspiracy theories or the sudden, mythical unpopularity of law degrees in the workplace or even the recession to explain why he can’t find a job. All we need is his website.
Again, the brutal cost to obtain this "versatile" degree is an important, side-stepped issue, along with the well-known signaling value of a top-tier degree. The take-home message: Although I worked in Law School administration for a while, that has no influence on my current views regarding the lazy, entitled scambloggers. Nando, and other bloggers/graduates, need to stop being so angry all the time. JDs are versatile, even if no one is finding that to be true currently. Nobody like a complainer. Suck it up.
But wait, there's more!
[December 28, 2013]
"I don’t feel entitled to anything. Is it just a knee jerk reaction to throw that word into anything that has to do with younger generations and employment? I never said anywhere in my blog that I thought the world owed me a better job. I worked my ass off to go to law school, to do well, and to try to get a job. I failed. Part of that is my fault and I readily admit it. Am I not allowed to say that it fucking sucks? Sorry boomers that I’m not on my hands and knees thanking God that I have two poor paying jobs that barely pay enough to live on. I don’t feel like I’m entitled to anything, but I’m not going to pretend that this situation isn’t shitty."
And that is fine. [emphasis added, and, by the way, given the earlier posts, WTF? ed.] He is not claiming that his top 50 law school scammed him by promising him riches and automatic entry into a mega-law firm. He is not arguing that his law degree is some kind of anchor around his neck. Ludo continues,
"…This blog is not about self-pity. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I want people to get some joy out of my pain, to get some catharsis out of reading what I’m going through. It’s supposed to be funny. If you don’t think it’s funny, that’s fine, but it’s not supposed to be a documentary about the plight of law grads. 3. This blog is not about complaining that I can’t get a legal job. Where in the fuck did I ever say that? I haven’t taken the bar so I’m not even trying to get a legal job."
During the last of several stretches when I was unemployed for an extended period, part of my "severance package’ from my previous employer included a so-called "out-placement firm." This involved alleged expert counseling and job-hunt coaching, which was, in my experience, depressing, uninspired, annoying and useless. After several months of frustration, I wrote, designed and published a satirical 4-page newsletter called "The Jack Marshall Job Search Journal," with tongue-in-cheek editorials, news reports about disastrous interviews, and an advice column, "Ask Jack!", for discouraged job-hunters. I mailed it to everyone I new, professionally and personally. (This was, of course, before Al Gore invented the internet.) To say my coach at the outplacement firm didn’t get the joke would be an understatement. She berated me in her office for a half hour. She said my newsletter came across as angry and cynical (it came across as honest and realistic, as anyone who has ever looked for work knows exactly how stressful, unsettling and arbitrary that process is), and relentlessly negative (because everyone knows what a life-affirming, exciting, uplifting and enjoyable process seeking employment is), and that I had just torpedoed my chances of being employed in anything close to the kind of position I sought. There was only one process proven to get results, she said, and I had just shattered the mold.
I left her office and the firm that day, for good.
Six days later, in direct response to the newsletter, I was called up for an interview for a duel position as Marketing Director and General Counsel for a small but thriving litigation support firm, and yes, part of my responsibilities would be writing newsletters. I got the job.
The take-home message: When I do satire, it's OK. When scambloggers do satire, it's not OK. However, Ludo gets a bye because he resonates with me, but the other people I complained about doing the exact same things don't resonate with me and I don't like them because they are, well, complainers. Also, I took my own hand at informal "scamblogging" when it came to my job search, and I got negative feedback, too! But it worked for me, and I got a job at a Doc Review shop because of it, so...don't scamblog...? The other non-Ludo scambloggers doing the same thing, however, are totally different and consequently deserve their fate.
The point here is that no one is as objective and data-driven as they claim they are. The scambloggers certainly have their bias, and that bias is stated fairly clearly: the debt loads are excessive; there is too much competition due to wanton JD overproduction; connections and social capital matter. The scamblogs would agree with the Marshallites in saying doctored placement statistics are bad and that too many (underqualified) students were admitted to law school which contributed to overproduction and bad results.
Furthermore, in my own reading of the scamblogs over the years, I don't see Nando or other bloggers saying they don't want to work or work hard. In fact, many of them are actually employed, thanks, yet still feel the need to speak truth to power in spite of their "remunerative" careers and significant debt loads. No one claimed they were "promised" or "guaranteed" a job (a favorite strawman), but they did reasonably expect a reasonable correlation between salaries and debt load. But they do their best and go to work, regardless.
The scamblog thesis is that instead of blaming thousands and thousands of individuals with imperfect information, the reality is that law school itself is a sucker's bet so it's best not to get involved in many, many cases. I personally consider it "ethical" to warn others away from a similar fate. Perhaps that conclusion, though, is my own personal bias at work.
At the same time, the critics and detractors are not free from their own biases, either. From what I gather, anti-scambloggers of the Marshall variety seem to not like complainers. I can understand that; however, there has to be a place for complaint or free speech is threatened - was the "Declaration of Independence" supposed to be the "Declaration of Nice, Sanitized, Ideas for Potential Consideration" so as to not ruffle feathers? Furthermore, they also seem to be saying "an entrepreneurial, can-do spirit is de facto ethical - and if your are ethical, then you will therefore be successful". I'm not sure that stands alone as a logical proposition, but it is clearly the bias of the anti-scam crowd. Go "network," as the say.
In years prior, disenchanted law graduates like Ludo were "lazy", "unintelligent", and "angry." Fast forward to today, and folks like Ludo are now "proactive", "clever", and "hopeful", to utilize my own word choice. Notice that the situation in between 2011 and 2013 did not change - law schools continued to pump out graduates at twice the rate required, tuition continued to skyrocket, the Cartel still vacuously touted the value of a law degree, the legal market has been stagnant, Marshall was not trying to make a living as a lawyer in private practice, etc. Furthermore, Ludo is working a series of, ah, non-remunerative jobs, just like the scambloggers that Marshall chides above. Somehow, JD grads working not-so-great jobs deserved their fate until Ludo came along, but now Ludo is an example of "what to do." Ludo, in my opinion, is also defiantly "telling it how it is" as much as a typical scamblogger, in that he's not happy (dare I say "angry," given some of the language choice) about Boomers, the job market, and everything else.
Nando's story came before all the data came out, and Ludo's story came after. Ludo, however, is showing pluck, at least according to Marshall, and Nando hasn't, again according to Marshall. Therefore Ludo deserves praise and Nando deserves condemnation, while both have similar messages, both work, and both continue to deal with for the same trying circumstances. I would say more power to Nando and Ludo, both.
It's all a point of view. In years past, I personally think Ludo would have been wrongfully lumped in with Nando, the other scambloggers, JD graduates, and the aforementioned "Toys-R-Us clerks" for being lazy, angry, entitled, and trying to get-rich-quick. In many ways, I suspect Ludo already has been lumped in with that crowd. As we all know, blaming the victim has always been the historical response to the scamblog movement.
However, that point of view is clearly changing, to which we as scambloggers say "amen". Friends and supporters, keep up the message, because as applicants drop, LSATs dry up, and more and more people are speaking out, we are enjoying the fruits of data pushing back on the anti-scam biases.