Archive for January, 2011

Don’t Go to Law School if You Want a Living Wage

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Should have been the title of the following news column, but I guess the current one will have to do:

  January 21, 2011:

Don’t go to law school if you want to make money | Susan Estrich | Columnists | Washington Examiner

At this point, it seems like bloggers, commenters and now even law professors who are exposing the game are becoming redundant. But with millions of futures at stake and an industry that has changed to the point of likely never reverting back to the traditional ways of living wage, true prestige and intellectual competition, we cannot say it enough. Do not go to law school:

In recent years, an increasing number of law students have not gotten jobs like those, because most large firms (who are the ones paying $160,000 to start) have cut back significantly on new hiring. The idea that you can just walk out of law school and into a six-figure job is, for many students at most schools, a painful fantasy.

There’s an enormous amount of Wall Street-style accounting that goes into the reports on employment that law schools submit to the increasingly powerful organizations that rank them. So when you look at the numbers, you might think that almost everyone who goes to a half-decent law school is finding a great job after graduation. Oh my does she dare suggests that big money and corporate finance is used to ‘enhance’ of law school statistics and ability to graduate top notch law students? Perish the thought [o.k. that was some real sarcasm]

My first job out of law school paid $13,909. Granted, it was a long time ago. But even then, it was substantially less than what my classmates were making in private practice and barely enough to cover my rent, food, gas and, of course, those student loans.

But so what? I didn’t go to law school to make money. If that were my goal, I would’ve gone to business school, got a job in investment banking and yearned for one of those eight-figure Goldman partnerships.

I went to law school because I believed in the power of law to change people’s lives for the better. And I have never been happier, professionally speaking, than when I was making almost no money but believed that what I was doing mattered.

If the primary reason you’re applying to law school is because you want one of those $160,000 jobs, don’t . Forget it. Like medicine, law used to be a sure-shot to making a very, very good income.

Not anymore. The students who apply to med school know that there is no pot of gold waiting.

There are many better and easier ways to make money. Kids go to medical school today because they want to be doctors, not because they want to be rich. The same rule should apply to law school.

Law school almost certainly is a losing game if what you care most about is money. In my book, that’s probably a good thing. I understand to mean that if one’s primary goal was to seek justice and help others, one is less likely to be corrupted in their judgment, political leaning and more dedicated as a zealous advocate. The question is for those people who thought like that, why should they not be able to do an excellent job in their field helping others WHILE earning a decent wage. It appears that she has assumed that the current economy is weeding out the shysters and get-rich scheme and big corporate lawyers. I would caution that if anything, desperation for money could just breed more of what she surmises the industry was getting rid of.

Many of my former students started out in those high-paying jobs and now feel trapped and frustrated. Many who didn’t have that option have, through necessity, found careers they enjoy much more.

At a certain point in life, the escalators just stop running. When they do, you have to fend for yourself — decide what you care about, what matters to you, what tradeoffs you are and are not willing to make. The problem is that many students weren’t debriefed about what those tradeoffs were and were given misrepresentations of what the payoff would likely be. I agree that you do have to “decide what you care about’ a decent living wage, quality of life, time for family to make new friends rank high. Going to law school greatly interferes with it though.

That’s what being an adult is about. There are no guarantees.

We all learn that sooner or later. And learning it in law school does not strike me as a losing game at all. Says the woman with a decent paying job. Just say ‘no.’

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A tale of a unemployed lawyer: He’s neither seasoned or a new law graduate

Random conversation with an elderly lady. She stated that her grandson was a law graduate from Villanova University from a few years ago. So I’m assuming between three and four years. His parents (her son and daughter in-law) told her grandson that they were willing to pay for all of his undergraduate studies but if he wanted to attend law school he was on his own.

The 0L at the time probably thought he was ahead of the game. Though he has graduated with thousands of dollars less in debt than his contemporaries or his predecessors who have accumulated interest on their student loans, did he really stay ahead? He’s about four years from law school, no legal experience  and would have been better off taking that Bachelor’s degree and working his way into a company. Though my suggestion is a fading trend as most jobs are being outsourced regardless of the educational requirement. I remember reading a news article saying that the next time you’re at a resort or hotel the waiter serving you poolside might be an accountant, let’s add lawyer to the list.

In the News: More law graduates left to graze in a desert

The Demise of the Legal Profession

On January 6, 2011 an article entitled: “Are Law Schools doing enough to boost students’ overall professional development?” discussed how law schools are producing inadequately equipped law graduates to navigate the real world of the legal industry. Just as this article in the Huffington Post: For Law School Graduates, Debts If Not Job Offers, January 9, 2011 mentions the frustration as law graduates realize the financial trap they were lured into, I do not think that author emphasized enough the long term impact on their lives though it mentions a “holistic” approach towards teaching law graduates:

“The perceived under-emphasis by law schools on preparing their students holistically for a career as a lawyer could tie in with recent allegations that these schools are failing to provide employment to a large section of their grads. Many unemployed law graduates have been venting their frustration and angst in blogosphere and the 2010 case of a blogger who went on self-professed hunger strike demanding reforms and greater transparency in US law schools received widespread attention.

The specter of unemployment is unlikely to vanish soon, for as the American Bar Association pointed out in a memo as early as end-2009, “many members of the class of 2010 and 2011 may graduate without a job, and those who are lucky enough to find employment likely will collectively have lower salaries than their predecessors.” [they cannot help but admit the truth now that the protest against the oversupply of lawyers is becoming louder. This does not even address those graduates who are in between jobs or never found employment in the legal field who graduated years before the 2010 and 2011 classes].

Even if one argues that the challenges over unemployment have more to do with the economy and less with the quality of legal education, at a time when the industry in the US is clearly facing an oversupply of skilled professionals, the LSSSE report could provide useful information to schools about how to devise and encourage student participation in effective educational activities that create differentiation and hence, enhance their professional prospects in the long run.” [or a common sense approach is to regulate the ABA and law schools so that another decade or so there isn’t another oversupply of attorneys as you just admitted].

Well, as we’ve been saying the legal profession has met its demise in the United States. Yet, you are still thinking of attending law school, especially in the downward spiral of abyss we call the U.S. economy. Before you do, you are warned to read these blogs and reflect on your current life situation.

Welcome to the Collapse

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The news article is entitled:

Welcome to the Collapse, January 3, 2011

A bleak summary of different lives of normal people in chaotic and overpriced New York. Of course you can’t have a story about the economy without referring to an unemployed lawyer right?:

The spinmeisters are playing the same record over and over, recovery, recovery, scratch, scratch, recovery’s in da house!….

Weird, such candor from the VOA. Maybe their CIA check bounced? In any case, let’s meet some denizens of Philadelphia’s the Gallery, my local shopping center. Mrs. Fischel runs a meat and cheese shop. Business has steadily declined over several years now. To make matters worse, management has raised her rent, to make up for other merchants who have closed shops or who are behind in their payments. The third level of this mall is completely dead, and the second is barely hanging on. Just this week, Payless Shoes as well as G&G, Unica and Sunshine Blues, all clothing stores, have gone belly up.

Fischel’s son, a recent graduate of law school, has moved back home from Orange County. He has no job, only mushrooming debts from student loans and credit cards. He loved California and never expected to live in Philly again. It used to be that once you moved out, you stayed out. It was an American rite of passage. By 2006, however, two-thirds of American college graduates were already returning to their parents. Now, the number is up to 85 percent[….] skipped section

Meet Mr. Ali, who runs a modest kiosk offering cheap purses, belts and watches made in China. He used to sell Gucci and Coach labels — not the bags, just the labels — which were tacked or sewn onto knockoffs by the customers themselves. Many of our poorest are infatuated with brand names. With a CK, say, slapped onto their person, they feel instantly higher class.

An immigrant from Pakistan, Ali’s first job was at a Seven Eleven, before he saved enough to buy a gas station. With his current business, it was no big deal to sell $1,500 daily. Now, he’s lucky to gross $500. Whenever this mall’s open, Ali’s in there. All he does is work. Even if there were 12 inches of snow on the ground, Ali would be there at 9AM, waiting for his first customer.

When he had savings, Ali made the fatal mistake of investing in Fannie Mae and Citigroup, among other supposedly blue chip stocks. Like millions of others worldwide, he lost his shirt. A hundred-and-forty-six thousand dollars gone. Ali sold his home and his new truck, hired a lawyer to consolidate his credit card debts. He now drives an unheated lemon. “In a couple of years, I’ll buy another house for my wife and children,” he insists even as his earning nosedives. He’s lost money the last two Christmases[….] skipped section

Back to Giuliani: he inherited his house, so Giuliani doesn’t have to worry about a mortgage, but thanks to the housing bubble, his property tax has ballooned. For sentimental reasons, Giuliani doesn’t want to sell his childhood home, but he may have to. With 10 rooms, the heating bill is enormous, and there won’t be too many buyers lining up.

The Gallery is a hub for commuter and subway trains. This design brings in more customers, sure, but the labyrinthine concourses also provide a haven for many homeless people. Dazed, they wander among shoppers, to be shooed away by guys like Giuliani. Dozing in wheelchairs, collapsing in corners or picking through trashcans, these resilient men and women seem oddly unaware that the recovery is in full swing, and that even dogs, according to our cynical media, got expensive toys this holiday.

The collapse will not be televised. Ignored and alone, each of us will experience it singly. As blemish and accusation, you will be photoshopped from the American Dream group portrait. The lower you slip, the more invisible you will become. The disconnect between what’s real and what’s broadcast will become even more obscene by the day.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.

Well here’s the good news; should you not land that dream job after law school, or any law-related job for that matter, especially if you’re a few years out you can always be a poster-child of why you should not go to law school. Just think when you share your heart-wrenching experience of inexplicable debt and mounting sorry you will be paid nothing. Even news writers get paid from your misery