Friday, March 28, 2014

Guest Post: Brave Soul Avoids the Sunk-Cost Fallacy

A recent correspondent asked that we share their story with the scamblog community.  The author made an "easy" yet difficult choice - to drop out of law school.  While many often talk about the rational choices to be made as an economic actor, it is another thing entirely to pull the trigger and walk away, especially after significant time and emotional investment, and the fear of being called a "quitter".  Without further ado:
I’m a 1L who dropped out after the first semester.  I attended a top 50 institution in a major metropolitan area on a decent scholarship and I would like to share my experience to better inform prospective students or help some 1Ls who are on the fence about getting out.

Owning Up

First, I would like to take full responsibility for the mistakes and errors I made during my brief time in law school.  This post is not to cast blame on my institution or the professors for what were ultimately my failings.  Maybe I could have studied harder, asked for more help, or done things differently but alas, what’s done is done.  I can’t get back the thousands of dollars I spent on tuition but hopefully my mistakes and observations can help someone else avoid a similar fate.  

0Ls, read scamblogs

Scamblogs are not the voice of a disgruntled minority who didn’t work hard enough and were now screwed.  They are here to warn others from making the same mistake. 

If you are buying a car, you wouldn’t make your decision only on the manufacturer’s brochure and website would you?  Then why pick law schools by just glancing at the school’s site and LST?  You need more than just facts and figures, you need to see what things are really like when you enter the profession. 

Law School Is a Different Animal

As I was applying, I didn’t really understand when people said “law school is hard.” I had enough confidence in my abilities and had faced several difficult professors in the past so how would this be different? 

1.      You Teach Yourself

Halfway through the first semester, I honestly didn’t understand why I was paying so much money in tuition.  I had to buy the casebooks and the study guides that deciphered the casebooks, and then hope that by reading it for long enough it made sense.  In only two of my classes did the professor help clarify the material.  Of the other three, one was indecipherable, another was an egotistical jackass who just yelled the entire time, and the last one just talked about whatever the hell he wanted and then tested on something else entirely.  

2.      You Get Very Little Feedback

This was honestly one of the main reasons for why I quit.  My entire educational career, I could use the first exam to see how the professor tested material or I at least had quizzes to serve as benchmarks to see whether I was actually understanding the material.  But based on my experience, professors just said that if you could answer the Socratic Method questions yourself then you were getting the material. That’s it. It was up to you to buy Q&A books, scour the internet for practice exams, draft answers, and compare them with model responses to see if you were really getting it the way that they intended. 

And the worst part is that you only get one shot at proving your understanding of the material.  If you had a bad showing during the exam, that’s it.  

3.      The Socratic Method Is Fucking Stupid

For our entire educational careers we’re taught in one way but then it changes once you enter law school (fortunately, professors end this nonsense starting 2L).  The most annoying part about the SM is not being put up in front of your colleagues and feeling stupid (only you remember your mistakes, everyone else forgets, and if someone points out where you screwed up then they’re a jackass), but the fact that professors waste so much class time on minutiae when the exam is entirely application based.  How fucking stupid is that?

4.      You’re Not a Special Snowflake
For the longest time, I didn’t understand what this phrase meant but I do now.  If you look at a bell curve, you’ll notice that there are a few people on the top and a few people on the bottom and everyone else is in the middle.  That’s good! That means you are normal.  The problem is that a lot of prospective law students who may have been in the top quartile of their graduating class in undergrad, assume that they can recreate that performance in law school.  Do you remember what the students in the first two or three rows of your lecture hall class were like?  Smart, dedicated, and hard-working?  Everyone is like that in law school.  They don’t let idiots into Harvard.  When you are up against stiffer competition and there are only a limited number of As to go around, you are going the get pushed down by someone who is either smarter, more hard working, or maybe just more lucky than you.  The problem is that with the precarious state of legal employment, try as you might, if you’re not in that top third then you’re most likely screwed. 

5.      Everyone is studying and nobody is happy

I looked at current employment statistics and even read accounts from those searching for jobs or those in jobs that they hate then the only question that sprung to my mind was “Why are people doing this?” Honestly, where is the win? Because I didn’t see it.  And that’s the crazy part about law school.  Everyone was grinding away and some even joked about how dismal their job prospects were.  THEN WHY DO IT?!  If we’re all on the fucking Titanic, then jump! 

Why I Quit: Avoiding the Sunk Cost Fallacy

I didn’t have a very good experience my fall semester and with each passing day I grew more and more depressed.  I couldn’t go on like this for another five semesters and knew that I had to make a decision soon or otherwise risk digging myself into a deeper hole.   

Turned out my grades were shit.  I passed all my classes but that was meaningless.  I had closed a lot of doors before I even started.  Moreover, I didn’t want to spend a fortune the next 2.5 years grinding away only to have a slim chance at getting a job that probably wouldn’t even pay all that much. 

If you have a losing hand, then you walk away.  You don’t bet the house.  I was fortunate enough to have a clear sign that this wasn’t right for me.  For others, maybe they are somewhere in the middle of the curve and too scared to walk away even though their heart tells them they should. 

Life is short and you only get one crack at it.  There’s nothing shameful about starting over or admitting that you made a mistake, that you failed, or you went down the wrong path.  Rather, it’s foolish to soldier on when you know you shouldn’t. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Student Loans Drag Down the Housing "Recovery"

The Law School Scam is but part of a larger transformation in higher education that has been going on for decades - namely, that the cost incurred to obtain the degree is increasingly inversely proportional to the value return it provides.  We of the scamblog community feel that law school has become one of the canaries in the coal mine concerning this phenomenon, in that it has spiraled out of control to the point of absurdity.  Despite all that has been said, across multiple platforms,  about the cost of the degree and the damage the indebtedness can cause, many still do not seem to grasp the impact.  As such, I offer the following:
Remember when housing was the primary aspirational asset for a still existent US middle class, to be purchased with some equity down by your average 30 year-old hoping to start a family in his or her brand new home, and, as the name implies, aspire to reach the American dream? Those days are long gone. Back in those days the interest rate on the 10 Year bond mattered as it determined the prevailing marginal affordability of leveraged real estate. That is no longer the case, at least not for about 90% of Americans, because as Goldman shows, while before the great crisis only 20% of home purchases were "all cash", since then the number has soared threefold, and currently the estimated percentage of cash transactions (by count and amount) has hit a record 60%. In other words, less than half of all home purchases are debt-funded, and thus less than half of all home purchases are actually representative of what middle-class America is doing.
So who cares, I hear some ScamDeans and LawProfs say.  That is the fault of the larger economy, not the valuable well-roundedness a law degree provides.  One should be more than pleased to shell out $250k for the experience, as a law degree is instant preftige and entre into the upper class.  Yet:
NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors in Dayton, Ohio, said student debt appears to be a factor in the weak level of first-time buyers. "The biggest problems for first-time buyers are tight credit and limited inventory in the lower price ranges," he said. "However, 20 percent of buyers under the age of 33, the prime group of first-time buyers, delayed their purchase because of outstanding debt. In our recent consumer survey, 56 percent of younger buyers who took longer to save for a downpayment identified student debt as the biggest obstacle." Brown notes the survey results are for recent homebuyers. "It’s clear there are other people who would like to buy a home that are not in the market because of debt issues, so we can expect a lingering impact of delayed home buying," Brown added.
Of course, this is across all university-educated people in and around Dayton, Ohio, not just law grads.  However, many talk about how $30k+ in student loans slows people down; how much more bogged down are unconnected people with an additional $100k+ in debt, i.e. the average law grad?
The incredible cost of law school does not just delay home purchases, it delays life itself.  More than that, it puts life in shackles.  If the ROI on law school approached some measure of reasonableness, then that would be one thing.  But that is not the case currently.  Lemmings, go do something else with your life.  Please. 
One thing is for certain:  I doubt this crowd had difficulty buying nice homes in and around Dayton.  Remember that the next time you think about law school, as one cannot, of course, write law review articles "defending liberty" and "pursuing justice" on the cheap. 
That's where you come in. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Law School Administrator Wants Tweak To US News Formula So California Law Schools Don't Look As Bad

What Is Wrong With California Law Schools?
Money Quote: “In essence, he wants the U.S. News formula tweaked so that schools whose students are looking for work in California won’t pay a price for the state’s relatively poor employment prospects.”

Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation
 Money Quote: “The pain for law schools could last longer. “The decline in applicants will devastate the financial position of many law schools, and it remains to be seen how they will manage,” Tamanaha wrote. “The number of entering students in 2014 will go down to a level not seen in three decades, when there were 50 fewer law schools.”

Appalachian School of Law to scale back class sizes, staff
Money Quote: “Next year’s incoming class may have about 40 students as opposed to about 70, she said. The current enrollment is 222.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

ABA Once Again Proves What It Really Cares About

We spoke a couple of weeks ago about the proposals to overhaul the tenure requirement at law schools.

As of March 17, any proposal to change the tenure requirement is officially off the table. This decision proves that, once again, law schools and professors only care about their bottom line. Any attempts to change a dying system will be vigorously opposed and squelched. But fear not, this decision to preserve tenure doesn't matter when there is so little money coming in that the law schools may have to shut their doors. Then the law professors' fight for tenure will become totally moot.

I leave you with a quote that I hope can be looked back upon as the height of cluelessness on the parts of law professors and their supporters:
 “Tenure is not a perk for law faculty. It’s a protection for people who think it’s important to innovate in law schools. You need to feel comfortable in order to be able to try new things.”- Judith Areen, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Canadian Woes

One of the constant criticisms of the scamblog movement is that we are disgruntled JD grads who couldn't hack it, therefore we make s*!t up and impugn the good name of U.S. legal education so as to make ourselves feel better.  If that were indeed the case, then one would expect a different country with a somewhat different system to perhaps have different results.  Well, it appears that Canada is also struggling with the current state of legal education as well:
Law students are walking, talking dollar signs for Ontario universities. They bring with them hefty provincial government subsidies and that priceless higher-ed asset: “pre[f]tige.” [Fixed it for you.  Ed.]  Law students don’t require expensive laboratories or the latest and greatest equipment — the major cost to the university, by and large, is for the professors hired to instruct them. That cost generally doesn’t increase if a few extra bums are squeezed into seats in the lecture hall, which is why universities seem to welcome as many law students as possible.
The recent news from the law school at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, therefore, should come as no surprise. According to a memo recently sent to students, the school is currently weighing the idea of increasing its enrolment by nearly one-third in order to meet greater revenue demands. That means the school’s target admission number, which was set at approximately 165 in 2013, may rise by another 35 or 50 students.
This is great news, right? If there’s anything Ontario needs more of (besides expert panels on transit infrastructure), it’s lawyers.
Or maybe not. Ontario is experiencing anything but a drought of law school grads. According to the Law Society of Upper Canada, of the 1,750 students graduated from Ontario law schools in 2013, one in seven was expected not to find an articling position. That’s up from 12% of unplaced grads two years ago, and 6% five years ago. Obviously, the problem of too few positions for too many grads is only getting worse. So why on earth would law schools consider pumping out even more articling candidates?
The answer lies in those walking, talking dollar signs. The issue is not unique to Queen’s. Indeed, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, just opened a new law school this year, which will add an additional 60 candidates to the graduate pool each year. Other law schools in the province have also increased their admission numbers, including the University of Ottawa — with its first-year registrants jumping from 271 in 2007 to 381 in 2010 — and the University of Windsor, which has added about 60 spots since 1997...
Perhaps the plight of unplaced law school grads hasn’t reached the “crisis point” of their teacher counterparts, which is why Queen’s might get away with opening its admission doors. But to do so would be to ignore the weakening job prospects for its current students, as well as law students across the province. Queen’s could opt to raise its law tuition as a means of garnering additional revenue, but obviously, that would not bring in the same type of change as some 50 new government-subsidized students. So, the prevailing question remains: How many dollar signs can you squeeze into a lecture hall?
But wait, there's more:
As many in the University of Toronto law class of 2014 prepare to graduate with staggering debt loads, some students say the choice of convocation speaker is adding insult to injury.  The speaker will be Ron Daniels, the former dean to blame for massive tuition hikes.
“The man largely responsible for our high tuition is coming back to pick up a free degree. Oh, the irony,” wrote student Daanish Samadmoten in an opinion piece for the law school’s independent newspaper Ultra Vires.
“I find it insulting that the man who spearheaded an initiative that has significantly contributed to the unnecessary stress in my life and the lives of many of my classmates (now and for years to come) is being honoured and rewarded at my convocation. It’s an insensitive choice at best.”
Daniels, now president of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was dean of the U of T law school from 1995 to 2005. In that time he launched an ambitious and controversial plan to put U of T in competition with big-name American law schools...
The skyrocketing fees, which increase by the maximum allowable amount every year, and resulting student debt loads that can reach $150,000 have been a particularly hot topic on campus for the past year, he says. Students say they feel pressured to pursue higher-paying Bay Street jobs over public interest jobs.  They are also concerned about the impact on student diversity and mental health, and argue that the current financial assistance doesn’t go far enough...
Associate Dean Ben Alarie says the administration is aware of the student concerns and is careful to ensure the law school is accessible and that career choices can remain flexible...The university offers need-based financial assistance and a post-graduation debt relief program for those who will earn less than $75,000, Alarie said. Both programs were introduced by Daniels.  “So far, students are selecting us over cheaper law schools because they see the value (in a U of T law degree), too,” Alarie adds. “It’s a success story.”
A success story for ScamDeans and LawProfs, no doubt.  Those salaries and sabbaticals have to come from somewhere.  Students and graduates, on the other hand...?  "Network."
It appears that people are getting the message, though, when looking at the declining Canadian figures.  Hmmm....looks a lot like what is happening in the good 'ol USA.
Prospective 0Ls, non-trads, and anyone else listening - please pay attention.  If you don't believe us, believe the data, the stories, and the outcomes.  Outside of a very few exceptions, law school is currently a sucker's bet.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Guest Post: We Get Mail - Struggling Solo Edition

A recent correspondent to OTLSS asked that we re-post something that the same correspondent had submitted (and had posted) to ITLSS several months ago.  While we have a tendency here to focus on the whole economic package of obtaining a law degree, a point that is often overlooked is the significant psychological and emotional cost that goes along with obtaining said degree, or even trying to hack it once the bar is passed and the need to make a living sets in.  Without further ado:

Dear Professor Campos:

First I want to commend you on your excellent blog.  I have begun to read through your articles.  The positive thing that I'm getting from the blog is that I don't feel so lonely anymore thinking that I got
scammed when I went to law school.  I started law school in 2002 and graduated in 2005.  Prior to going to law school I had heard rumblings about how being an attorney was not as profitable as the schools made it out to be.  I was also warned by other attorneys that it was very stressful.  Unfortunately that information did not sink in and I bought the hype that my 2ndT/3rdT regional school offered.  So I spent three good years of my life working on a degree that I believe should have only taken two. 
Then reality really hit when I entered the job market.  It was not good.  You could find jobs but for $40,000 to $50,000.  At first I thought that it was me, that I had not done the right things, ie kiss up to the right people, done unpaid internships, etc.  So I decided to hang up my own shingle.  I opened my own office, and tried to make a go of it.  It has been an incredibly difficult five (now 7) years.  For many of those years I would blame myself for not doing better; I began to believe that there was huge mistake that I was making or I had made that had alienated clients, or that I wasn't advertising properly, or any number of things that could be attributed to an office that produced income, but not that much.  I worked long hours by myself trying to satisfy clients that could not be satisfied.  I panicked at little mistakes, and thought the worst case scenarios for every misstep.  It was a miserable existence and it put me in a depressive state with bouts of anxiety that were difficult to control.
So I went to therapy to get my head back on straight and that helped a little.  I also found blogs (like yours) and additional information that has allowed me to put my career in perspective.  The conclusion that I came to was that, after I beat myself over the business not going as well as I would like; the reality is that the current situation was stacked against me.  It is very difficult to succeed in today's environment, and I don't feel like my school has addressed that at all. 
Which leads me to my point in to this rambling email.  Perhaps you have written about this, but I cannot stress this enough; there is a mental toll taken on attorneys.  Depression and anxiety have taken the wind out of my life.  I'm getting help, a lot of help.  I am aware of the dangers of allowing some things to go untreated.  People need to know how destructive this profession can be to some people; it has been for me.  I suspect it is for most attorneys because we all share the same stories.  Perhaps you might also research where JDs go after giving up on law.  Everyone tells me what a great degree it is to have, but the reality is that a JD does not really open doors.  So I'm left in limbo trying to set a new course because I won't allow this profession to destroy me.
Another correspondent said something similar:
Dear OTLSS team;
I stumbled across your Sept 2013 article on Andrew Post, and I felt that you all are the only ones with a realistic view on employment after law school.  Thanks for your honestly.
I hung a shingle several years ago and barely make minimum after my expenses and loans (but, because you can only claim so much $ toward debt, a good chunk of my net goes to taxes).  Needless to say, I'm struggling, especially when I hate practicing law, never wanted to practice, and have failed time after time to obtain something, anything, else for a job[...]
Thanks again for your website.

I am admittedly hijacking this comment from Third Tier Reality, as it fits in with what has been said already:

I graduated law school 15 years ago. At that time, law school was a scam--we just didn't figure it out until the last year of law school. Career services only catered to those in the top 10% of the class. If you were not in the top 10% of the class, career services treated you like a leper.

I was fortunate in that I spent 2 years working in the legal profession before embarking on the scam trip known as law school. During those 2 years, I cultivated solid relationships. In fact, I became good friends with a partner at a V20 firm who promised me employment after graduation. Unfortunately, that partner got sacked during my 2L year and I never heard from him again. I was able to land a trial level clerkship a month before I graduated law school. I was lucky. After the clerkship was over, my judge placed me with a mid size law firm (60 attorney firm) which worked me 80 hours a week for a miserable salary of $65K a year. This was around 2000. The partners at this firm were the worst human beings I ever encountered. For example, one day while I was driving to court, I was hit by a truck. I was taken to the hospital and my car was totaled. This happened on a Friday. On Saturday morning, a partner called my cell phone and asked me where the hell I was. I told him "Hey John, I am doing well thank you for your concern. I was released from the hospital at 8AM and have no car because it was totaled in yesterday's accident." He replied by telling me to rent a car and get to work. When I asked if the firm would reimburse me for the car rental, he told me to go fuck myself. I quit the following Monday.

Eventually I set up a practice with another attorney. It took a couple of years to get in the black but we made it. In 2012, my law partner died of a heart attack. He was 39 years old. He had developed a bad case of obesity and ate crap food all the time. The stress of the job was the bullet that killed him (he practiced matrimonial law).

After a nasty dispute with his widow (she sued me for 80% of the partnership's equity), I went on my own. The practice of law today has changed for the worse. Lawyers are always undercutting each other on fees and committing ethical violations by guaranteeing results to clients just to put food on the table. I blame the law school industry for the profession's current ills. If law schools hadn't gone to mass production mode in the mid 2000s all the way through the present, lawyers wouldn't be killing each other over business. Can you believe that today, I saw a young lawyer quote $50 to a client in traffic court to represent him in a moving violation? I remember when I used to charge $750 for these types of matters. Now I have to compete with the clueless noob who doesn't know what the fuck to charge because law school doesn't teach you shit.

I am currently exploring exit options. I want out of this miserable profession. I am fortunate that I graduated with no student loans (I had a full ride to undergrad and law school); however, I feel this profession has destroyed my soul and will wind up killing me. Anyone considering attending law school should have a heart to heart talk with a practicing lawyer. I am positive that if an 0L shadowed a lawyer for a week, he/she would quickly abandon the idea of entering this filthy profession which only seems to benefit law professors, deans and Biglaw partners.

While the anti-scam crowd often accuses the scamblogs for being too "gloom-and-doom" about the legal market, e-mails like those above help demonstrate that there is real peril in the legal marketplace today, both from an economic and psychological point of view.  Many are struggling and blaming themselves for their struggles, or are having to scramble to do things they never wanted or intended in order to make it on a day to day basis. 
What "shocks the conscience" here is that the Law School Cartel DOES NOTHING to moderate the situation or to disabuse people of their notions either before or after law school.  In fact, they actively encourage people to go get that "million dollar law degree" and then let shame do its dirty work for them afterwards.  Who cares about people being economically and psychologically damaged by law school, when there is plenty of fresh meat to load into the abattoir?  Let the lemmings keep dreaming about saving dolphins or being high-powered attorneys like those fictitious lawyers on "Suits," as those law review articles don't write themselves, you know.  Lower the LSAT standards and herd them all in; we've got tenured salaries and pensions to pay for. 
Yeah, we see what you did there with your "ethics" and "professionalism."  It's easy to be "liberal" with other people's money. 
Readers, please think twice about going to law school unless (1) money is no object, and (2) you have crystal-clear entre into the profession locked up before you step foot in the door.  In fact, think three or four times before committing.  Your economic and mental well being will likely depend on it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

U.S. News' Dessiccated Husk's Rankings Still Putting Law Schools In A Panic

Shrinking Law Schools Face Financial Devastation
Money Quote: “The pain for law schools could last longer. “The decline in applicants will devastate the financial position of many law schools, and it remains to be seen how they will manage,” Tamanaha wrote. “The number of entering students in 2014 will go down to a level not seen in three decades, when there were 50 fewer law schools.”

And the U.S. News law school ranking fallout begins...
Money Quote: “The rankings do dramatically impact behavior.”
Law school becomes less selective
Money Quote: “Forty-two percent of applicants secured admission to the GW Law School last year – eroding selectivity by 13 percentage points in a single year as the school tried to amass tuition dollars despite declining application numbers.”

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Belated Birthday and Site Status

Two or three weeks ago, OTLSS turned one year old.  A little over a year ago, Inside the Law School Scam signed off from regular posts and OTLSS was born as a group effort to continue providing a centralized location for those concerned about legal education and wanting to spread news and share information about the issues.

Thousands upon thousands of page views later, this blog is still going strong.  The metrics seem to be increasing, although there's always more to be done, and unlike most media ventures, we hope that some day there is no longer a need to continue this effort.  But that day is not yet here.

This is especially true in light of the drop of LSAT takers halting in year-over-year analysis.  Of course, this could mean that more people are taking a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th LSAT in an attempt to gain a higher score and move into a more prestigious admission pool.  And the silver lining is that, regardless of any stopping to the decline, February LSAT administrations are down and still below 2000-2001 administrations.  And year-round admissions are down almost 70k from their 09-10 peak.

The evidence that blogs such as this make a difference in increasing knowledge and helping the market get to where it should be is indisputable.  Month-over-month page views at this site appear to be keeping steady, and four of our most visited five posts have been posted since Christmas time.  Comments have increased since the blog's founding, and I personally feel the quality has greatly improved since last summer. I'd also like to give a special shout-out to our young relative, Law School Lemmings, who is doing God's work in multiple places (and of course we should acknowledge the forerunners like Nando and Campos).

So wish OTLSS a happy birthday.  Or don't.  Just know that with truth on our side and minimal operating costs, we'll be going as long as contributors write for the site.  It's as good of a time as any to remind everyone that contributing to this site is easy and almost everyone has something valuable to say, and somehow - like magic - there are always shills saying things worth criticism.

Regardless, whether a writer/mod or a valued commentator or just a lurking routine reader, you've helped to make this a great first year of spreading information and helping the misinformed.  In lieu of cake, candles, or gifts, please slap up a poster at your local law school, or - better yet - go to a law school recruitment fair and have a few heart-to-heart talks with would-be-law students.

Here's to an even-more productive second year.  With law schools starting to see real financial ramifications of their shenanigans of the last 30 years, the news promises to at least be interesting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What a Difference Two Years Makes...

...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’s you.

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]

Do not lump Ludo with "Nando" and the other bitter, unemployed or under-employed recent law grads who have had their ire aroused by my observations about them on Ethics Alarms (also here). He is doing exactly what he should be doing, using his unique talents to open up new opportunities while presenting himself to the world of law and elsewhere as a likely asset. As he writes in a recent post rebutting criticism of his blog…
"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.


Friday, March 7, 2014


Listening to Pandora in the car during my commute, I couldn't help but notice the recent promos for the new season of Suits, possibly second only to Legally Blonde in terms of making law seem like an awesome, prestigious, fast-paced PowerProfession.

Suits Promo

If only law was a fraction as interesting as that.  I'm sure you've all seen this, but have a look at the little "What Kind of Lawyer Would You Be?" thing on the site - here.

Of course, in reality, most will end up as 'unemployed', 'suicidal', or 'hopelessly in debt'.

Back soon with something more substantial.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Pressing Towards the GOAL : The "Prize" of Legal Process Outsourcing

As further proof that ScamDeans and LawProfs are highly insulated from the workings of the actual marketplace (so far) and truly have no idea what legal practitioners and law graduates are actually facing, I submit yet another Exhibit: GOAL - the Global Outsourcing Association of Lawyers.
GOAL’s mission is to promote the welfare, interests, education, and professional development of all parties involved in today’s legal process outsourcing (LPO) industry. We aim to advance awareness for LPO solutions in the global legal community, and to help the market recognize the myriad benefits that LPO models offer. As a trade association, GOAL seeks to provide the most influential knowledge sourcing and networking platforms in the field of legal outsourcing.
The "speakers" and "mentors" list is long and varied, but one theme continues to shine through - the board is made up of senior in-house counsels at large corporations, law firm partners, directors, vice-presidents, government, etc. They all seem really excited about the prospect of finding low-cost legal solutions to business problems.
Hey, look at these stats! That 2016 recovery in the legal sector for law graduates must be just around the corner! Or not.
The Legal Business survey also revealed that LPOs have a large role to play in helping companies tackle large data and help companies mitigate risk. Highlights of the survey include:
80% of respondents say they expect to see the LPO industry expand and improve its services over the next five years.
58% of respondents say that LPOs and law firms need to work together on compliance and risk matters.
37% of in-house lawyers say that LPOs are better equipped than law firms to use advanced technology and to use data and risk analytics.  In-house counsel are using LPOs primarily for investigations and due diligence exercises; general litigation support and eDiscovery are close seconds.
The UK LPO market is less developed than the US: 38% of UK-based respondents say they have used LPOs for legal work, compared to 50% in the US.
An increase in the level of civil litigation is seen as the biggest driver behind rising legal costs. Greater scrutiny from regulators is close behind.
Check out a "success story":
Dell - ‘Why should I pay £200 an hour for a three-year qualified UK lawyer if the quality is not significantly better than a seven-year qualified lawyer in India who I am paying at £40 an hour?’ says Bruce Macmillan, Dell EMEA in an interview to the International Bar Association. Dell, along with Eversheds and MIndcrest, in order to demonstrate optimal cost benefits started tepidly focusing on large scale, standard form contracts involving reviewing changes proposed by other parties. Having tasted success in this delivery model, Dell is also examining other areas where LPO could be used, such as reviews of routine advertising material – to ensure compliance with different countries’ regulations – and the administration of some of its internal legal databases. However, Macmillan at Dell is still sceptical about using LPO for anything that requires a high level of briefing per activity. “The more non-transactional it is, the higher the investment cost in getting it briefed up in the first place and the more checking and validation you need to do to make sure you have got comfort that it’s being done properly’, he argues.
Some detractors may say, "well, this is all about IP, M&A, and corporate business deals. This won't affect me as I want to be a prosecutor/public defender/family law practitioner/wills, trusts, and estates practitioner." Possibly, although I wouldn't count on it. BigLaw is consolidating due to market pressure, and many of the smiling faces on GOAL's website are BigLaw partners. BigLaw is in actuality rushing to partner with corporations and government so as to maintain some piece of a shrinking pie. Of late, the only jobs worth the enormous sticker cost of law school have been BigLaw jobs, at least in terms of ROI, and if GOAL is any indication those jobs continue to disappear fast. With no place to go, those let-go lawyers will be appearing in a smaller-town shop or government office near you, and/or working longer instead of retiring, despite the protestations of the Law School Cartel to the contrary. And because of market forces and other pressures, those government jobs aren't easy to come by in and of themselves, even as a seasoned practitioner.
The overall point is that the legal market has drastically changed from decades ago and will continue to do so, but you won't hear that from the academy. Just as technology has advanced the scamblog movement and torn away the veil on dismal law graduate outcomes, that same technology is contributing to the globalization of legal services. In the face of these headwinds, instead of expressing genuine concern and actually counseling their students, ScamDeans and LawProfs will say whatever they need to say to get prospective 0Ls with their sub-145 LSATs to buy into the "million dollar law degree" at ever-skyrocketing tuition costs.
But, as we all know, cushy, academic jobs with high salaries have always been the primary GOAL of the Law School Cartel. Let the scammed graduates deal with global outsourcing, those icky market forces, and the consequences of decisions that were based on Cartel half-truths.