Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"The Threat From JD Advantage"


It's nice to come across a little honesty from time to time. I certainly would have appreciated more honesty from the Law School Cartel, say, twelve years ago or so, but I digress.

 
Ray Campbell posted a nice piece at the Faculty Lounge that bears repeating, on the concept of "JD Advantage," with an eye towards how this concept impacts and will continue to impact the Cartel to its detriment. While I don't fully agree with all the allegations of what's happening and where it is all going, it is an interesting topic and certainly a sign of the times. There are also some nice links to another largely-unsung hero of the Campos/Tamanaha camp, Professor Deborah Merrit. 
 
To begin:
 
 
There’s a trope in the kind of low brow movies I tend to watch – a character looks at a friend that he thinks has arrived just in the nick of time to save him, and then realizes that his ‘friend’ brings destruction, not salvation.

I think of that kind of scene when law schools or organizations like NALP talk up JD Advantage jobs as a reason to go to law school, with the apparent hope that filling seats with students headed to JD Advantage jobs will help schools survive. They seem to think that JD Advantage jobs are a friend to traditional law programs.
 
 
LSAC (a fellow member of the Cartel along with NALP) and its pernicious lies are a favorite target of this blog, as discussed previously. We are certainly happy to disabuse potential students not only of the notions of the Law Schools, but of LSAC and NALP as well.
 
 
I tend to think that attending law school to get a JD Advantage job is a poor idea, for reasons others have expressed well. My point here is different – if JD Advantage jobs really are on the rise as the legal services field broadens beyond just law practice, they create an opportunity for disruption of legal education that could create huge new problems for law schools.
 
 
Hey, we are all for "huge new problems" for law schools, as this falls into the "you reap what you sow" category. It can't come fast enough, especially for the new crop of lemmings headed to the gristmill.


JD Advantage jobs can be very good jobs and lead to very good careers. Some legal training helps in these jobs...Here’s the problem: law school provides poor training for these jobs. JD Advantage jobs involve skills and methodologies beyond law – say, statistical tracking of compliance activities or knowledge of how to motivate corporate employees to follow policies – none of which are taught in law school.
 
Even with regard to the law part of these jobs, the traditional JD training is a mismatch. Law school involves too much common law, at far too great cost, while normally providing far too little education in the complex regulatory fields – say, health care law or employment law – often at the core of these fields.
 

Amen to that! I was one of the self-admitted fools who went to law school precisely for "JD-Advantage" training, only to find out that after the "basics," that second and third year was, shall we say, underwhelming, for the very reasons described.
 
Although, I'm not certain of the "very good jobs" and "very good careers" part of the assertion. According to many sources (NALP chart), prior articles here, and blogs such as the JD Disadvantaged blog, people don't seem to be wanting these candidates all too much.
 

Assume two things happen, both of which are, I think, very likely. First, assume most law schools (trapped by the "think like a lawyer" ideology) offer only JD programs or "use empty seats" subsets of the JD program to people interested in JD Advantage careers, allowing schools with bespoke programs with the full range of methodologies to seize the field. Second, assume that some easing of the accreditation rules for JD programs takes place, allowing schools to offer more diverse offerings than are presently available.

 

The ABA is certainly open to "easing accreditation", no doubt about it - just look at the previous proliferation of law schools. Plus, they seem open to making legal training easily available to non-JDs altogether, to the detriment of current members of the Bar.
 

In that setting, the table is set for disruptive innovation. Holding some of the assets necessary to JD programs and with a worldview not beholden to Langdell, and with a regulatory environment open for freshly designed programs, the JD Advantage programs are poised to move up market into JD offerings...We know that for decades there has been a steady drumbeat that law schools don’t actually prepare lawyers all that well for practice. We hear that from students, from law firms, and from clients of law firms. We also know that there’s been an equally steady drumbeat that despite that, most law schools have not fundamentally changed. They continue to offer to students a program unfitted to the task.


Wait, I thought the scambloggers were disaffected, entitled party-poopers with no work ethic. A "steady drumbeat" for "decades?" My, how the narrative of the open road has changed.

 
JD Advantage jobs are, I think, the wedge. They have grown rapidly in number, and they will continue to grow...[a]t that point, just as the movie character eventually realizes that his friend is not really his friend, law schools will see the rise of JD Advantage jobs for the threat it is.


While I don't know that I agree that JD-Advantage jobs have "grown rapidly" and "will continue to grow," I do believe the Cartel has ironically swallowed their own poison-pill by clanging the JD-Advantage cowbell. As fewer and fewer students attended, more and more was said about JD-Advantage jobs to reel them in and get lemming$ to sign on the line-that-is-dotted. This lead to a rise in competition to the Law School model, if for no other reason that a sucker is born every minute - others saw how easy the Law School Cartel sold visions of sugar-plums to naïve students, so why not get a piece of the action?  And the ABA has demonstrated a willingness to support anything, so long as it keeps their regulatory authority and hierarchy intact.
 
The Law School Cartel could certainly use some "competition," that's for sure. As continued poor JD-graduate outcomes press its attack from one flank, and as more and more Infilaw-types attack from the other flank, it will be interesting to watch the Law School Cartel fight their war on two fronts.
 
Grab some popcorn.
 



 

23 comments:

  1. "JD Advantage jobs can be very good jobs and lead to very good careers."

    Oh, yes, indeed. And unicorns can be very good pets.

    Old Guy

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    1. The thing about "can" is that it is very vague. Such positions exist, and that makes him right in some sense.

      I work in the donor relations department at my state flagship alma mater. One of the units within the department (Gift Planning) explicitly prefers to hire JDs. The bread-and-butter Gift Planning Officer position will qualify its holder for PSLF and a number of benefits. The salary starts at $90,000/yr.

      Does it mean that JD Advantage exists in a meaningful sense? No, not really.

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    2. I think you misunderstand the concept being peddled by the scamdeans and scamprofs: they assert that "JD advantage" jobs are available to K-JD liberal artists new grads with no other experience or education.

      the position you describe sounds as if you need to have some T&E experience - I'd be shocked if your alma mater hires a fresh K-JD liberal artist for that plum position.

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    3. You're definitely right, and I did get that point; I just didn't communicate it well. The people I know in that position are all older. Additionally, the limit for what a fresh grad gets hired for here is roughly about half of that salary figure.

      Another point that I think should be emphasized: even if JD Advantage positions existed that would consider a fresh K-JD, the extreme oversupply would make it virtually impossible for a given recent law grad to land one. They would need some other characteristics to stand out...like relevant work experience in law or some other field. Once again, the victims of the law school scam are left out in the lurch.

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  2. Campbell's post makes some good points, but it definitely overstates the extent to which to growth in "JD Advantage" employment is being driven by employers seeking out law grads for quasi-legal positions versus law grads seeking out quasi-legal positions because they can't find jobs in the legal field. There's some of both going on, but I think much more of the second (and much less of the first) than Campbell believes.

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  3. Even if "JD advantage" jobs abounded, the heavy promotion of them would simply be a shameful admission that there weren't many jobs that required a JD.

    Old Guy

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    1. That comment spells "astute" in any man's language, so long as we agree that lawprofs are incapable of feeling shame.

      Delete
    2. You're right. Change shameful to shameless.

      Old Guy

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  4. "JD Advantage" jobs are almost entirely hypothetical, which is why law professors feel safe in talking about them. You never know if the JD was an advantage, or if you would have been hired anyway.

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  5. I've said it again and again (and will continue saying it) - when these guys talk about 'JD Advantage' jobs, they never offer evidence in favor of JD's having an advantage in getting them, and they never discuss salaries.

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    1. Excellent point, Barry.

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  6. Everyone should look at the NALP JD Advantage promo:

    http://www.nalp.org/jdadvantage


    I honestly didn't know whether to laugh or cry. They highlight five people with a "JD Advantage Job." 2 work for nonprofits, 2 work for the government and one works for a member of the US House of Representatives.

    Especially troublesome is one of the government JD Advantagers who is,

    "a presidential management fellow who works as a paralegal specialist for the Food and Drug Administration."

    A paralegal is now considered to be a JD Advantage Job . We are definitely somewhere between tragedy and farce in the law school scam. If the NALP has to showcase a paralegal job as what you can do with a JD, then it's beyond ridiculous. In fact to say to prospective law students that one of the opportunities that $200K can buy you is the opportunity to become a paralegal (even a paralegal specialist) is nothing less than insulting.

    The omission of examples from T14 schools is fairly glaring and just shows that a JD Advantage job is in most cases a Plan B.


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    Replies
    1. Well, maybe they can aspire to become paralawyers, like Deck Shifflet.

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  7. By their very definition, you don't need a JD to get a JD advantage job. Someone who wants a JD advantage job would be much better served working for three years in their chosen field (and earning an income) rather than accruing huge amounts of debt for a degree of dubious value. If you absolutely need some sort of legal credential, you can probably get a Master's in Legal Studies or something similar that is both 1) far cheaper than a JD and 2) more oriented towards practical knowledge. It also wouldn't destroy your job prospects like a JD does, as employers don't like to hire stillborn lawyers.

    This has come up before, but to the extent that they do exist, JD advantage jobs exist for two types of people: non-trad students who have developed career skills before law school, and a lawyer who has 5+ years experience practicing in a specific field (i.e. healthcare, tax, etc.) who wants to transition to compliance, consulting, or something similar.

    "JD Advantage" jobs for traditional new grads are a myth.The lesson is simple: if you don't want to be a lawyer, don't go to law school.

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    1. "Someone who wants a JD advantage job would be much better served working for three years in their chosen field"

      Absolutely correct. It reminds me of A.E. Housman's rebuttal to the argument that students should study Latin because it will help them learn other languages. He said (in effect) wouldn't your time be better spent studying the languages you ultimately want to learn?

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    2. Funny that you should mention the great Housman. He never earned a degree—he failed out of university for refusing to study certain subjects—but did eventually obtain teaching positions and indeed became the greatest English Latinist of his era. How was he appointed professor? Scholarly publications that he produced in his spare time got attention in academic circles, and soon enough he was offered a post at London University.

      Just try doing the same today. Especially in law.

      Old Guy

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  8. How many people were ever hired for a "JD Advantage" position? I know of no one.

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    1. I have a relative that was. The bank he works for as a trust officer only WAnTed to hire attorneys in that role even though a law license or JD is not necessary.

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  9. Until recently, you probably had to be a top third student from college to get into law school. This is just an estimate - that probably 2/3rds of students couldn't probably get into law school (the vast majority, of course, are not interested in law school).

    Now, of this top third of college graduates, you have a hard working cohort who is willing to dedicate an additional 3 years of his or her life to get a graduate degree.

    So this fairly smart hard working cohort are your "JD potentials." Now, let's compare the career paths of these "JD potentials" who are working JD Advantage jobs vs. those that never went to law school Are these jobs better? Are they better paying? Were the jobs primarily the result of havng the JD?

    Where is the research on that?

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  10. The problem with J.D. Advantage is
    (a) Being in hock for $140,000 isn't an advantage.
    (b) Hiring managers thinking you are a failed lawyer isn't an advantage
    (c) Experience with click click doc review isn't an advantage
    (d) Unemployment isn't an advantage

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  11. From the linked article:

    "Imagine that happening in any other industry. What we have here is a market opportunity for someone able to come in and offer a different product."

    That market is probably already filled by MBAs and various other graduate and post-graduate degrees. There probably isn't any need for a different kind of J.D.

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  12. Oh please, most people attending law school actually do want to practice law. That's what makes this whole situation so tragic. Thus, I seriously doubt these JD Advantage degrees will compete with law schools for students.

    The focus should remain on the ABA and its shameful practices that have destroyed the legal profession.

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    1. I would think that the JD degree, which is offered only by law schools, is the only JD advantage degree. But what do I know?

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