Posts Tagged ‘what’s next’

In the News: Smart People Halt Going to Law School

 

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The Smarties Aren’t Rushing to Law School – The Careerist (full article) July 15, 2010

It’s madness. It’s loopy. How else to explain the spike in law school applications — a 7 percent surge, according to

The National Law Journal? Hello — didn’t anyone hear about those 22,000 legal jobs that got wiped out last year? Why is everyone and their mother trying to get into law school — any law school? So far we’ve heard the terms, irrationale, fool-heartedly, unaware and now madness and loopy. These characterizations refer to the mindset of those who continue to ping their false hopes on attending law school. At this point those who are already members of the legal industry are diagnosing you with a being deranged or a mental illness, I’ll refer to it as psychosis. This is when a person does not deal with the reality of situations or circumstances and continue to operate and behave as though the reality they’re comfortable with is the reality that’s actually there.

So who’s not rushing to law school? Ironically, some of the nation’s most sought-after college graduates are spurning law school, even highly coveted ones–at least for now. [emphasis mine]. The author asserts that those applying to law school in this economy and particular shift in the legal industry are not doing so with diligence and research. You are considered to be haphazard in making a very important decision. Now 0Ls and first year law students are being referred to as unintelligent.

A few days ago, I queried what’s harder: getting a job in a big-name law firm or a seat at a prestigious kindergarten in Manhattan? Though I’d put my money in the kiddie pool, it turns out there’s another prize that might even beat out admission to a swanky private school — and that’s a junior position at Teach for America.  

The New York Times reports that the nonprofit education group received over 46,000 applications for 4,500 spots to teach at some of the nation’s most troubled schools. (Hat tip to ABA Blog.) The article is full of anecdotes of students at highly selective colleges who got dinged by Teach for America. But what was really interesting is that many of the students in the article said that they’d rather teach than go directly to law school, including some who had gotten into places like Harvard Law School.  Earlier this year it was the U.S. Census that witnessed a unprecedented spike in temporary employment applications, with lawyers and Ph.D graduates at the helm. Teach for America is the runner-up for sought after position? This is interesting as far as law graduates who are now directing their attention to more meaningful, less paying work; though by the general public are perceived as money-grubbing-fast talkers. Let’s face it, not everyone who went to law school had greed in their hearts, though they did think that law school was the easier method for financial stability, many creative people are in business and law. These persons have sometimes found a way to escape the legal industry and focus on their creative outlet while sustaining a living. Some posts about these people may give some hope about leading your own path out of law.

But before you get all misty-eyed about the altruism of America’s youth, consider this: A stint with Teach for America is an instant resume enhancer. That it’s now become so competitive to get into the program can only add to the glow of those who have made the cut. Of course, when the market contracts, different careers either become extinct or more competitive as a shift in applicants increase. I’ve also heard that Peace Corps is now competitive. You even have to prove that you are able to pay your student loans, credit cards or other loans (either off in their entirety or meet monthly payments) while you’re in some remote area with none of the comfortable Western amenities you’ve grown accustomed to.

Corporate America can’t seem to get enough of these elite do-gooders. I can’t tell you how many times partners at major firms tell me that their favorite interviewees are Teach for America alumni. Partners talk about them in glowing terms, citing their leadership skills, work ethic, and all-around wonderfulness. From the personalities I witnessed in law in general, I disagree that this is the majority of firms or higher-ups within firms and businesses.

If you think about it, the profile of a Teach for America alum is what every big firm would want — someone who went to the right school, worked for a couple of years in a challenging environment, and then had the good sense to get back on the corporate track. They are what big-firm lawyers like to fancy themselves to be: smart and thoughtful, but practical enough to keep their billables up. So if you’re interested in doing some good in the world, make sure to the best of your ability for altruistic reasons; should you do this type of program to get your foot in the door of big business, you STILL won’t be considered because you attended a TTT/TTTT. It’s really saying, that Teach for America would be an ADDITIONAL criteria along with graduating at the top of your class at an IVY League. Ha, the door is still shut for the majority in the legal industry.

It might be too cynical to suggest that Teach for America has become a magnet for those with legal or corporate ambitions, but big law firms certainly seem smitten with the credential.  Umm, references to the legal industry should be cynical, afterall that’s what law schools trains its students to be resulting in depressed, hyper-competitive, backstabbing patrons of the legal industry, all the while having the student loan monkey on your back.

More on Law School Grade Inflation: A New York Times Article

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 Law Schools Visit Lake Wobegon – Economix Blog – NYTimes.com, June 22, 2010

I’m seeing more articles about the legal industry with some refreshingly honest one-liners: “To paraphrase the late, great  Henny Youngman: Take our graduates — please!”

That is the message blasting from the nation’s law schools, those cash cows of higher education that could once promise lucrative employment to the nation’s risk-averse young adults. Now the legal job market has turned chilly, though, and schools are trying everything from literally paying employers to hire their students to retroactively inflating their alumni’s grades. [emphasis mine]. I appreciate the raw characterization of these institutions of higher learning. But where was this integrity 15 years ago; it only surfaces when those who were in line for the next round of promised BigLaw employment are affected that more media outlets bring attention to it…or that the lid was on top of the boiling legal industry ready to spill over, but adding ingredients of false imagery, justification, cajoling and misrepresented statistics finally spilled over, a likely combination of both.

The schools making the changes range from all over the spectrum, from the tippy-top-ranked schools like Harvard and Stanford (which no longer use traditional grades) to other top-20 schools like New York University, Duke, Georgetown and Washington University in St. Louis as well as schools further down in the rankings like Tulane, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. In a sense, the economy became a great leveler of talent that was disbursed throughout the different law schools, but these recent changes in grading policies across the spectrum has led to a new characterization of IVY League and top fourteen law schools: ‘First Tier Toilets.’ Ouch.

I talked with a lot of law school deans and others involved in the “grade reform” process, and pretty much everyone argued that their school wasn’t trying to “leapfrog” anyone, just to keep an “equal playing field” with their “peer schools,” which already had higher grades. And likewise students whose schools have not yet inflated their grading systems are complaining that they are currently at a disadvantage in the job market.  Do people really think this will make a difference?

Higher grades (or no grades at all) are probably good for stressed-out students’ morale. But it is hard to say whether a stricter or a more lenient grading curve makes much difference to students’ job prospects, especially since many law firms try to keep up with what the schools are doing. (Above the Law, a legal news and gossip blog, has been publicizing such changes to schools’ grading systems, for example.)

I will now start my ramblings: Maybe in the schools’ rankings, the schools’ qualification for federal funding, the schools’ justification to continue tuition increases. However, for the law graduate it’s an odd benefit. Since a certain number of grades each semester had to be disbursed throughout the class, those who were intelligent may have been given the luck of the draw lower grade. So those who are above the curve, whether more talented or not continued to gain advantages over the former. Now, we can also theorize that the change in the grading process could give those who should’ve been above the curve the grade they deserved in the first place. With all of this convolution, it appears that the law school grading system was flawed in the first place and the likely privileged are now complaining because they were accustomed to the golden path to BigLaw. Yet, this argument against grade inflation will always exist: The flattened grading curve can make it harder for standout students to continue to, well, stand out. Grade inflation may particularly hurt top students at mediocre law schools, who want to show they can compete with job applicants from more elite institutions.

The bottom line is that the legal industry is unable to create new jobs in this failing economy. Increasing grades will not truly increase competition. The real issue is the number of new law schools that continue to become accredited and the increased number of law graduates that are continuously pumped into the market.

Wow, Grade Inflation: Article in the New York Times

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Today the New York Times posted: In Law Schools, Grades Go Up, Just Like That – NYTimes.com .Most of us already concluded that oversaturation of the legal market and lack of practical skills caused most lawyers to talk the plank into the sea of unemployment.

“In the last two years, at least 10 law schools have deliberately changed their grading systems to make them more lenient. These include law schools like New York University and Georgetown, as well as Golden Gate University and Tulane University, which just announced the change this month. Some recruiters at law firms keep track of these changes and consider them when interviewing, and some do not.”

This article focuses on grade inflation, with the implication that such practices will increase the chance for attorneys to get jobs. What the author fails to realize is that there aren’t any legal jobs to get moreso nowadays.

“Law schools seem to view higher grades as one way to rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings. Once able to practically guarantee gainful employment to thousands of students every year, the schools are now fielding complaints from more and more unemployed graduates, frequently drowning in student debt.”

One could easily argue that students are getting grades they do not deserve, yet students who are forced into the bottom portion of the curve because of mandatory grading may benefit.

“Unlike undergraduate grading, which has drifted northward over the years because most undergraduate campuses do not strictly regulate the schoolwide distribution of As and Bs, law schools have long employed clean, crisp, bell-shaped grading curves. Many law schools even use computers to mathematically determine cutoffs between a B+ and a B, based on exam points.” I doubt somewhat the characterization the author makes of most undergraduate schools, like during this entire time the law school’s manner of operating has a clear history of legitimacy.

I do remember reading a year ago a high school or elementary schoolteacher who left primary education altogether because he was distraught that by school policy he HAD TO distribute a certain number of grades ranging from A’s to D’s for each school year. He stated there were some were good in certain areas like testing and others who were good in other areas, solving problems but not under pressure (I guess like schoolwork or homework) but I’m sure you can assume who received what grades. This teacher had a soul. Based on what I witnessed in law school, especially your first year, where you’re assigned tenured professors who have lost their minds, that many of them enjoy taking their life’s disappointments on unsuspecting students (pretty much all 1Ls). I’ve even met a Ph.D. professor who stated she enjoyed final exam and final grading because she could give whoever she didn’t like in her class whatever grade she wanted.

“All of the moves can create a vicious cycle like that seen in chief executive pay: if every school in the bottom half of the distribution raises its marks to enter the top half of the distribution, or even just to become average, the average creeps up. This puts pressure on schools to keep raising their grades further.” Wonder if it does any thing for their rankings too…”Employers say they also press law schools for rankings, or some indication of G.P.A.’s for the top echelon of the class. And if the school will not release that information — many do not — other accolades like honors and law journal participation provide clues to a student’s relative rank.” Interesting…

Anyone remember the scene from the Titanic when the ship was actually sinking and the violins kept playing either to comfort those on board or for those who wanted to enjoy themselves until the vary end? These schools are doing everything BUT closing down to keep the cycle going. These factors contribute greatly to the future generations, standard of living, mental and social health, but grading systems themselves do not appear to be regulated at all.

Next, the article reads: “Others, like Duke and the University of Texas at Austin, offer stipends for students to take unpaid public interest internships. Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law even recently began paying profit-making law firms to hire its students.” Just as many 0Ls are desparately seeking ways to attend law schools, these law schools are getting so desparate to have their prior students get some work. This is such a bad cycle. It’s like no one is dealing with reality. Cycle of law school addiction?

“But the tactic getting the most attention — and the most controversy — is the sudden, deliberate and dubiously effective grade inflation, which had begun even before the legal job market softened.”

“If somebody’s paying $150,000 for a law school degree, you don’t want to call them a loser at the end,” says Stuart Rojstaczer, a former geophysics professor at Duke who now studies grade inflation. “So you artificially call every student a success.”

But wait, IVY League law schools are doing it too:Harvard and Stanford, two of the top-ranked law schools, recently eliminated traditional grading altogether. Like Yale and the University of California, Berkeley, they now use a modified pass/fail system, reducing the pressure that law schools are notorious for. This new grading system also makes it harder for employers to distinguish the wheat from the chaff, which means more students can get a shot at a competitive interview.”

This is unfortunate because as more of the lower tier law schools opened, more students will attend for some strange reason. Older generations (I mean people who grew up in the 80’s) did not have access to law school rankings and U.S. News and the internet. Career centers or counselors steered them towards state institutions regardless of rankings. Those that could’ve made it into Top Tier then would’ve had better chances of carving a real career in the legal industry before this devastating shift of “it will never be the same” occurred. Now, those who were intelligent enough and those who weren’t but attended the same TTT law school will be forever lumped in the mediocrity with rice paper thin prestige. Those who knew some of the game and went to top tier but not that much better will be given the written stamp of approval, you may pass “Go” but still on the other side of the door are the blank faces whose stares read “Yeah, they got me too.” So welcome one and all, at this point it does not make a difference which law school you attended, only in the heads of those promoting this practice and the all too eager law graduate who continues to delude him or herself into thinking that attending law school was a wise decision.

Legal Outsourcing Company: Someone’s thriving from Lawyers’ Misery PART II

 

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Wow, in the last post I discussed the vendor company iBridge, now we have actual LAW FIRMS that just focus on document reviewe and e-discovery. Wait, you mean that it is not lucrative to practice law? Apparently not. Introducing:  Ryley Carlock, a law firm which thrives on actual document review by its now knew facility. Wow, there’s that word again facility (factory).  Here’s the article stint:

Ryley Carlock opening Michigan center – Phoenix Business Journal, June 17, 2010.  

The Phoenix-based law offices of Ryley Carlock & Applewhite PC will open a new document review center in Grand Rapids, Mich., next month.

Ryley’s document review practice group helps clients manage electronic and physical documents related to lawsuits, evidence discovery and regulatory compliance . The new center will expand on the firms abilities in those areas. This firm is also implementing the business model whereby the contract attorneys will be working for these types of businesses eliminating the need for major law firms to hire through placement agencies. Temporary agencies are next on the chopping block in the big legal-business shift of the legal industry. For some reason, I shed no tear. For all the times decent attorneys were placed in surreal, mental hospital-like conditions with poor sanitary conditions, recruiters and managers who overlook or mishandle violations, improper (we’re talking extreme) near violent-like work conditions with the expection to produce a certain amount of work per day, I say let the games begin. Oh and yes, I forgot to mention the horrendous skimming off contractual attorneys hourly rate whereby they make the same or less than plumbers, mechanics, construction workers, etc. I respect those that do manual labor more, they see what their hands have wrought, they actually constructed something…o.k…I’m back.

Ryley attorney Matt Clarke said the Michigan legal documentation center will start out at 4,000 square feet and accommodate 30 to 40 attorneys. He said it could grow to 16,000 square feet.

Clarke and Ryley Managing Partner Rudy Parga said the Michigan location will help the firm service clients in the Northeast and Midwest. [emphasis mine]. So, out of the major legal markets in the United States: Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West (California), this firm is providing services for two of the three markets. For people who continue to tell lawyers that the East Coast is the economic hub and you can always get a job there, I hope this has enlightened you.

“It give us more touches of our clients,” Parga said.

Parga said as much as half of Ryley’s legal document review work comes from other law firms representing clients in complex, paperwork-heavy cases and lawsuits. No need for new attorneys, “facilities” have it covered.

p.s.: MarketWatch recently featured Epiq Systems, another vendor who provides “innovative” solutions for e-discovery: June 15, 2010: Epiq Systems Retires $50 Million Convertible Debt and Expands Senior Revolving Credit Facility – MarketWatch; and take a look at their brief business model: The Epiq Difference, you’ll see on p.2 where the company provides contract attorneys. And you guys used to laugh at the weird IT guys, looks like they’re having the last laugh.

Another Unemployed Attorney Confessional: Another Blog

Although the author’s blog is not dedicated to the legal industry, she is an unemployed attorney who appears to chronicle her current life situation. Anyway, I saw the blog’s most recent post:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I want to be when I grow up.

Remember when you were little and you used to tell people what you wanted to be when you grew up?  When I was really young I would tell people that I wanted to be a teacher (like most super young kids do).  When I reached an age where I realized you could do things other than be a teacher…but since I knew nothing else, I was at a loss of what to really do.

Many things intrigued me about being a lawyer.  One of the main things is that lawyers do just that – they practice law.  It is certain, it is ascertainable, it is controlled.  Naturally, my type-A self would be attracted to the profession.  So off I went.  I loved the law, I loved the environment and I loved that I knew what I was going to be when I grew up.

I was laid off nearly one year ago.  On June 26, 2009, both of my bosses walked into my office (which is never a good sign) and told me they could no longer afford to keep me.  I knew prior to this news that something had to happen, I just hoped I would not be the first to go.  That hope was incredibly unrealistic considering I was the most junior associate.  For the first time in my life I was unwillingly out of work.  I was 32 weeks pregnant.

At first I thought I would get a job right after I had Nikolai.  Then I thought by Christmas for sure.  By January I started to panic.  By February I started to give up.  Now I realize that there are thousands of unemployed attorneys in the twin cities and I am just another drop in the bucket.  Employers can chose whomever they would like – and for whatever reason I am not what they like.

With the end of my unemployment compensation looming and the prospects of my legal employment dimming, I am once again facing the question: what do I want to be when I grow up… I really have no idea what I am really looking for when I search for jobs.  I don’t have a specific career path in mind.  I wish things were different and I will never shake the feeling that I have simply given up on my dream, but life doesn’t always take you down the road you planned.

So, wherever this new path takes me, I hope I end up being what I want to be when I grow up.

Posted by Anne at 7:28 AM

At least she had one child at least to start a family. I’m not sure about why she is surprised about the amoung of unemployed attorneys in her area, must be a newer law graduate. Well, JD Underdog, looks like you’re not the only attorney deciding to leave the legal field altogether. What’s interesting is that her parents had some form of higher education, oft-times we hear about first generational or first sibling to make it to college or graduate school. You think you have arrived, yes you have at the nearest unemployment line on the other side of the tracks.