Tuesday, June 7, 2016

JD-Disadvantage, Part VII: No, really, this time, "It's Different"

As a non-trad living the JD-Advantage dream, I have taken it upon myself to be the one, lone contrarian and cautionary tale (to hear the Cartel say it) for all those who would be tempted to believe there are back-up options to the JD.  After all, if the partnership at BigLaw seems tedious in the final analysis, you can always be CEO of a Fortune-500, an art collector/dealer, or the director of a non-profit that speaks to you.  See below for examples:

Excluding the three law schools in Puerto Rico, 3,772 fewer people graduated from ABA-accredited law schools in 2015, an 8.7 percent decline from 2014. Somewhat surprisingly, the number of graduates with jobs requiring a law degree fell by nearly 2,000, equivalent to more than half the difference in graduates between the two years...[l]eft unexplained, however, is why more graduates didn't find work in non-law fields. Declines in graduate hiring in JD-advantage jobs, professional jobs, and non-professional jobs equaled 18.8 percent of the 3,772-graduate drop, 13.1 percent of which belong to the JD-advantage category. Shouldn't graduates who don't find work as lawyers or with their law schools have better luck with employers who value them for their legal educations?

Wait, did I just misread Leichter's article?  Almost 20% if the decline in graduates were in the combined JD-Advantage/Other Professional category?  In light of rhetorical questions such as these, it is "strange" that the prognostications of ScamDeans and Career Services Offices would not hold water, then.  What could be going on here...?

One possible explanation is that many unemployed graduates are unwilling to settle for non-law jobs. It may appear admirable for graduates to hold out for work they've been trained to do, but it also indicates a reluctance to treat their legal educations as a sunk cost...[a]lternatively, employers might be unwilling to hire graduates from some law schools no matter what their industry is...[t]hese schools may simply be selling a JD that isn't at all versatile.

Well, sure, some people may just not "get the message," but, but, but, smokin' bucket full of awesome test, right?  Right.

For their part, JD-advantage careers might take a different track from lawyer jobs starting at graduation day. Graduates established in such careers might forgo lawyer work completely. However, "JD-advantage" has always been a dubious term that includes jobs that may not benefit substantially from a law school education. The definitions for the ABA's employment categories even identify a handful of JD-advantage career paths that bear only a slight relationship to law school: FBI agents, accountants, human resources, journalists, and teachers. Many candidates for JD-advantage positions would be better off seeking different training for these careers than law degrees.

Well, there is is again, folks, very succinctly stated.  The amazing career choices touted by the Cartel, if they ever happen at all to JDs, happen (1) after years in the actual white-shoe "law" category, with (2) solid connections from those years in law, and (3) more than likely, a top-tier diploma with significant signaling value greasing the wheels.  Please, please, please, do not go to law school thinking you have "options" Day One, if ever, as that is what the Cartel desperately wants you to believe.  


  1. What a thriving "profession," huh?

  2. "Many candidates for JD-advantage positions would be better off seeking different training for these careers than law degrees."

    True that.

    Further, although I have no data to back it up, I think that, when you factor in the $200,000 stated cost plus the additional opportunity cost of three years' of law school vs. other degrees, (e.g., a one year master's in HRM or teaching vs. a three-year J.D.), the word "Many" should be read as "Almost all."

    1. Further to your point, in HRM or teaching it doesn't make too much difference where you got your degree. Same for accountancy and medicine. But in law it makes a huge difference.

    2. "Almost all"? I'm inclined to say "all".

      Certainly accounting and many forms of teaching require training other than the JD. A fresh graduate who is not qualified in those professions cannot expect to find work in them.

      Furthermore, a JD is an outright liability for most positions that don't require it.

  3. "[a]lternatively, employers might be unwilling to hire graduates from some law schools no matter what their industry is...[t]hese schools may simply be selling a JD that isn't at all versatile."

    I would go a step further. For many non-legal positions, not only is a JD degree worthless, it's a detriment. You spend three years of your life and six figures of debt to obtain a JD degree only to end up applying for a job that you could have had right out of college, and the hiring man is bound to think that there is something wrong with you.

    1. True true. The biggest problem I've had with the JD, besides the lost time and money of course, is the complete LACK of credibility it provides. You look less serious for having it. It's ANTI-credibility. I had to do lots of backslapping and free favors to prove myself to get some of my first post-law-school trades jobs, where the usual "education requirements" were essentially "basic literacy".

      Generic bachelor's degrees, fortunately, are so devalued that even flooring crews and septic pumpers in my area are pretty used to college kids working there. But the J.D.? It screams "OVERQUALIFIED" to employers at first glance, and when you explain how horrible the job market is, either the employer won't believe you or they will consider you an arrogant bourgie dummy for having jumped into that shark tank of a job market.

  4. Many candidates for JD-advantage positions would be better off seeking different training for these careers than law degrees.

    Many candidates would be better off starting in a low-level position and getting their employer to provide or pay for training. If you don't get a JD-required position out of law school then you've blown it.

  5. JD advantage is a scam. Not everyone who graduates from law school becomes a lawyer. However, when JD advantage means someone who could not get a legal job after law school and had to settle for a non-legal job or paralegal job, there is a scam underfoot. JD is a disadvantage for these jobs. A waste of money and education that will hurt rather than help in the job market.

  6. The amount of legitimate jobs where a JD is a significant advantage but it is not an essential job requirement is extremely low. Particular consulting paths, maybe, but that's about it.

    I know they made that category with the Yale alum who goes to Wall Street or K-Street or Big Whatever consulting in mind, but that's just a small minority, and it's so out of reach for the gross majority of law graduates, that the category would be best eradicated. No one's going to mistake the Yale non-law options with the Capital Law School ones, and leaving the category just encourages fraud, er, I mean, "puffery."

  7. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 7, 2016 at 10:38 PM

    Today, I had a discussion with an attorney buddy out many years who had a connection and got on with the gub'mint. I told him that my private practice has slowed even further, lately. No new calls in three weeks. I used to get three per day. He noted that Illinois admitted 500 newbies a few days ago. He then said, "where are there even 100 jobs?"

  8. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 7, 2016 at 10:42 PM

    You fellas are missing the boat. JD advantage is this. You can get a leg up on the competition to get hired at the mini-mart, Caseys or Arbys by telling the franchisee owner that you can represent his kid for FREE when she picks up a dorm pot case or when he picks up a DUI. Instead of being a "friend with benefits," you can be an Employee with benefits....

    1. Not in my experience. A JD seeking that type of work only looks desperate. Besides, maintaining a license at that sort of salary is not easy.

    2. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 8, 2016 at 12:08 PM

      Frankly, a lot of us are desperate....There are attorneys working retail and other side gigs unrelated to the law. 1.8 million and multiplying and 100 too many law schools...One can make a circumstantial case for the desperate JD/Lawyer.

    3. Old Guy, incidentally, has been laid off and does not know where or how he will find work.

    4. Sadly, even that advantage is nonexistent. Besides mere bar fees, you also have to keep up with any client fund/bond, the registration requirements, and the way that being a member of the bar subjects you to discipline by the court system. I terminated my law license recently. It's not worth it. The most expensive license I ever got, and by far the most worthless.

    5. Old Guy - what part of the country are you located? We are hiring (state job in Mountain West)

    6. Thanks for the suggestion, BoCo. I'd better not disclose my location, as scamsters would use it to harm me, just as they have done to poor Dybbuk.

      Network, they say. Yet I can't even find out about a possible job, thanks to the perfidy and malice of the law-skule scam.

    7. Old Guy, if you were just laid off, please start your comprehensive job search immediately. Please do not give up.

      It is awful to have to spend day after day on a job search, but most lawyers today who start in a good job - big law, mid law or a federal clerkship - will end up being laid off before, often long before, they want to retire.

      When I started, and there were fewer lawyers, it took probably 6- 9 months or so to find another good legal job. My second job took 9 months, but I turned down two mid sized firms before I found that second job in big law. That 6 - 9 month time frame was for people in their 30s from big law with mostly T14 degrees, although some law reviews from much lower ranked schools.

      My last job search was a year. I turned down a couple of things, including one firm offer, and one that would land me an offer, and it took a year of very hard looking to get the next offer. The job turned out to be less than wonderful due to overcapacity - too many lawyers, too little work - ill advised restrictions on the type of work their lawyers can do.

      The bottom line is to take what you can get and not to turn things down. Of course, you have to be able to get to the job, so it cannot be so burdensome to commute that you will be too exhausted to do the job once you get there. That may eliminate many good jobs, unfortunately.

      Good luck, Old Guy and keep working very, very hard on the job search. With a federal clerkship and a good law school record, you will definitely get another good legal job, but the wait is very painful.

    8. Thank you, 7:40. I appreciate the encouragement.

      The federal clerkship and the top grades from an élite law school have not yet served me well. I never found a job in law during law school and indeed got only a handful of interviews. I finally found a job at the end of that clerkship but had to move far away for it at my own expense, and now it is over because the firm is bleeding red ink.

      I doubt whether I shall get another job. I've been looking for months but have not had an interview from any employer, public or private.

  9. The bullshit category "JD advantage" serves solely to whitewash the law-school scam.

    Duped Non-Traditional alludes to a typical fallacy used to promote the myth of "JD advantage" jobs:

    Some people have been able to do X after getting a JD.
    Therefore, X is a realistic option for many JDs. Or at least a JD is advantageous for X.

    For example, Maximilian W. Boomer IV became CEO of Amalgamated Buggy Whips, Inc.; therefore, the twenty recent graduates of Indiana Tech's hip-hop-and-anorexia law skule can do the same thing. Never mind that Boomer did it at a different time, using Boomer III's connections at the yacht club and his own childhood mates from Choate, after practicing law for several years at the white-shoe law firm that hired him right after his first year at Harvard. Not many intrepid members of Fort Wayne's juridical pantheon are similarly situated.

    An extreme case of this stupidity appeared on one Web site about The Many Things that You Can Do with a Law Degree. One lavishly discussed item was royalty. Oh, yes, with my law degree I can become emperor of Japan or prince of Liechtenstein.

  10. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingJune 8, 2016 at 3:32 PM

    In today's society and business world, when somebody says they can do "anything," it really means, "nothing."

  11. Just looked at the newest ABA employment statistics. Guess which law school has the highest employment statistics in JD jobs? U of Chicago because it is so small. Harvard is way behind because of their excessive class size.

    It is possible at the top schools like Chicago, Harvard, Columbia and Penn, that people get joint JD/MBAs and take the MBA job to start. They may be called JD advantage. It is not safe to assume that JD Advantage is a second choice for these people.

    There may be other joint degrees with law that operate similarly.

    Nonetheless, it is shocking that even going to Harvard can result in very poor employment outcomes for maybe 10% of the huge class- moving towards 60 people or more. There could not possibly be something so wrong with that many Harvard grads that they are not getting jobs. This is more a problem of excessive enrollment relative to employment opportunities, even at Harvard and Yale, which are well under Chicago's 90% employment mark.

    1. There's no "JD advantage" from getting a job on the strength of an MBA. Of course, that won't stop law skules from claiming credit where none is due.

      I fully agree that Harvard and Yale are questionable propositions these days.

    2. The other gauling problem with the excessive class sizes of law schools is the dumbing down of the JD through transfers. When Harvard takes 50 transfers a year and Columbia takes 80 or 90, you have law degrees that have lost their prestige by admitting people who could not get in through the back door.

      Transfers contribute to the need for JD advantage jobs at good and low-ranked law schools by bolstering the class size way beyond the ability of law schools to place people in full time permanent jobs as lawyers.

      The JD advantage jobs of teacher and accountant may offer a good future if one does not have the debt burden and lost three years of a JD. They may offer a steady income, especially for a teacher, and a very good chance at a career where the person can work until retirement at a reasonable income, with good benefits in the case of a teacher.

      Getting the JD and then landing in a JD advantage job that one does not want throws one's whole life out of whack because of the huge cost and huge opportunity cost of law school.

    3. I attended both the law and business school at my "elite" university. It is common practice for the JD/MBAs who did not end up practicing law to leave their law degrees off their resume. And right out of school most faced the question several times, "Why are you wanting to work for WidgetCo? Why not one of those high paying lawyer jobs?" Some were non-offered because of the JD. A JD can still be a detriment, even with an MBA. Even if both programs are top tier.

    4. 10:56 Not surprised to hear that a JD/ MBA raises questions today.

      Aside from Mitt Romney, a few people I know who are elite MBA-JDs were very successful. One from Harvard never practiced law. One I am not sure of whether he practiced law. Another practiced law, went to in house counsel jobs and then to investment banking. Some of these people started in the elite and some in the upper middle class. Not clear any of them had trouble finding jobs, but then they were early baby boomers.

      Today, the Wall Street Journal is running articles stating that it may be better to skip the MBA. If you are not going to use a law degree, and the MBA may be of less value than a generation ago, you really need to think twice about getting both of these degrees unless money and losing two or three years' income is no object.

      For the baby boomers, there was no question that an elite graduate or professional education was going to better one's life. Today, it is less clear that a JD/MBA is worthwhile, and the cost of attending will bankrupt even the upper middle class.

  12. The law schools must count essentially every white collar job (and some blue collar, like law enforcement or military) as "JD Advantage" despite the fact that a JD doesn't really help a person do those jobs, and may be a very real hindrance in that it makes a person appear overqualified and will raise questions about why the job seeker isn't practicing law. Not to mention the financial ruin of having six figures of student loan debt having to settle for a job you could have gotten with a BA/BS.

    True JD advantage jobs, i.e. jobs in which a law degree legitimately helps, are a tiny fraction of the job market and typically require some sort of work experience in the field, i.e. in risk management or compliance.

  13. I agree with the other commenters that "JD Advantage" is just a B.S. category to pretty up sad employment numbers. A JD by itself (no experience in anything) just tells the non-law employer either that you will flee to the first lawyer job that comes along or, if you disavow interest in the law, that you spend big money foolishly and still don't know what you want to do in this life.

  14. In New York City, a teacher gets extra pay for completing courses towards his or her teaching credentials. It is called steps and differentials and is negotiated under the collective bargaining agreement.

    Sorry, but a JD does not count towards the pay increases for teachers in New York City. A JD is useless for this purpose.

    Similarly, to call a paralegal job "JD advantage" is calling it something it is not. A paralegal job requires a BA. There is no advantage to having a JD. Many paralegal jobs will not take JDs.

    To be licensed as an accountant, you need a BA and a fixed number of accounting classes under applicable state law. A JD does not count towards the accounting course requirement.

    Who are the law schools kidding? You are talking about a wasted JD if you have to take one of these jobs. The law schools should call this category of job holders wasted JDs. The JD is not going to help in any meaningful way to do the jobs that are categorized as JD advantage.

    If you get a JD and end up in human resources or communications, for which a JD is also not required, you may have a very good future if you are promoted again and again. Problem is that unless and until you get up in the management ranks, your compensation will not reflect the JD and will not make you whole for the JD. You will have the compensation of a BA. The other problem is that most people in HR will never make it to the management ranks, and will be stuck at a low salary level that does not justify any graduate degree, let alone a very expensive JD.

    JD advantage is a fiction. It is not true that a JD is an advantage for any of these listed jobs. A JD is a waste of three years and huge amounts of money if you end up in these jobs after the JD.

  15. This three-year-old article on "JD advantage" is still useful: