Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sounding the alarm to deaf 0Ls, now with tuition hikes

I always get a little excited when a respectable news outlet reports on the law school scam. Even though it’s happening with increasing frequency in recent months, it’s still good to see articles like this piece from Slate. Judging by the continuing log-pile of prospective students taking the LSAT and clamoring to get into law schools, all of the warnings and media attention don't seem to be soaking in.

I talk about my own school a lot, but the facepalm-worthy news continues to roll out of that putrid money pit. Earlier this week, 1Ls were given the happy news that their tuition will be rising 13.5% next year. That seems like a relative bargain compared to the 15% increase that was announced a year ago. This is when tuition, fees, and COL at this fine public institution of legal learning are already $45,244, IN STATE.

As a four-way-tied-for-top-22 law school, Minnesota sadly is able to delude a lot of out-of-state students into thinking they’re paying for a “top 20 law school,” and I can only imagine how horrendously confiscatory their total COA will be. Tuition at the school had already doubled since 2005; factoring in this latest increase, it will have doubled and then some. So much for an affordable, public, land-grant university.

Friday, October 22, 2010

81% of clueless 0Ls would still apply to law school given horrible job outlook

From the NLJ today we have this depressing article wherein a small poll of prospective law students, taken this past summer, shows a whopping 81% of them are still content with going to law school even if there was a significant chance they would never be lawyers.
Veritas, a law school admissions consulting firm, polled 112 prospective law school applicants in June and July, and 81% said they would still apply even if "a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields." Only 4% said they would not apply to law school under that circumstance.

At the same time, more than half the survey respondents — 63% — were concerned about finding a job after law school, and 70% said they were worried about finding a position in the field of their particular interest.

Now before someone starts sounding off about 112 fo0Ls not being a large enough sample, let's not kid ourselves. This rash denial of how bad things really are is one of the most common characteristics of all 0Ls. How else would they still be flooding into law school--in record numbers, no less--during a horrendous recession that has gutted the legal industry and left us with anemic recovery prospects? It takes a certain degree of self-delusion, right off the bat, to be a 0L in 2010. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that the 81% number wasn't higher, given the hubris and head-in-the-sand attitude displayed by many 0Ls. As we all know, unemployment and crippling debt may happen to their classmates, and is even likely to happen, but it still won't happen to THEM.

Even better, 63% of respondents are worried they'll find a about half of even the 81% who said they still would have gone, are they themselves worried about unemployment. What is wrong with these people? The only conclusion I can draw is that they must be so disenchanted and burned out with the even-worse job prospects that an undergraduate degree allows these days, that they're willing to double-down and spin the wheel again for an extremely slim chance at a worthwhile payout. More insanity from the higher education casino.

But there are still more facepalms to be had from the survey data:
The grim employment news for recent law graduates does seem to be making an impression on would-be lawyers, however. In addition to worrying about landing a job, prospective students seem to understand that landing a $160,000 starting job at a major law firm is harder than ever. Only 11% of the survey respondents expected to earn more than $145,000 out of law school. Another 29% expected to earn between $100,000 and $145,000, while the remaining 44% expected to earn between $75,000 to $100,000.

Still, those expectations don't jive with reality: The latest new lawyer salary data from NALP show that 34% of reported salaries fell between $40,000 and $65,000 for the class of 2009.

Twenty-four percent of the survey respondents wanted to work as a public interest attorney, while another 21% wanted to work in for a major firm.

So a full 84% of these kids expect to make AT LEAST $75,000 right out of law school. Are these people high? Especially with only 21% of them wanting to work for a major firm (of which nowhere near 21% could possibly land the number of open positions at such firms). So 79% of these 0Ls, don't want to work at a major firm, but 84% of them think they will make AT LEAST $75,000 as their starting lawyer salary. Just shoot me.

I can't say what can account for the continued, mind-boggling resistance of 0Ls to the avalanche of stories coming out of the legal industry about how bad it is. First there were scambloggers, then mainstream websites, then legal media, and finally mainstream media outlets, have all reported, many times, on the diminishing prospects. Yet the lemmings continue on their insane death migration. There was a scamblog-esque story on the front page of USA Today a couple months ago...did you 0Ls not see that while you were eating your morning's corn flakes? It is next to impossible for any reasonably-well-informed young person not to have heard the bad news about law school.

These 0Ls, and the 45,000 of them who will show up in the Class of 2014, truly have no excuses. They know things are bad, they've heard about the systemic problems in the legal industry that makes recovery to pre-recession heights unlikely. They've seen the writing on the wall, they've seen the emperor standing naked and unclothed in the street. This boils down to pure, irrational self-confidence, helped along by a steady stream of lies from each particular school. Even in my day, before the horrible unemployment jokulhaups had truly struck, schools were quick to corral their new students in the auditorium and tell them that yes, things were bad, but that was everyone ELSE'S problem. You students at this particular Toilet of Law will be absolutely fine. Just look at our employment data! We will weather the storm.

I am running out of sympathy for these poor prospective students. Every day brings a new heap of information that should be setting off screaming red fire alarms in their minds. Yet they continue to march aimlessly forward. As this survey bears out, many if not all are aware that unemployment is three short years and -$100,000 away, but they refuse to believe it will happen to them. To their classmates, sure, but not to them. It's maddening, however, it is no reason to stop fighting the good fight. Some enlightened 0L out there has got to be listening...and if not, well, I welcome him as a reader in three years.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ABA shows up late to the party, over bloodied bodies of thousands of unemployed

So the ABA might want to “do something” about law school fraud. Way to show up tardy to the party (as usual).

Even if some eventual cap on new law schools is eventually worked out, it will come many years and many tens of thousands of students too late. Students who were suckered out of their tuition dollars during the height of the scam, as well as the even higher number of poor saps who are taking refuge in law school during the recession, will not be helped by this. There will be at least a decade’s worth of law grads who were ushered off into the meat grinder while schools were getting rich and the ABA stood idle. Ten years, approximately 40-45 thousand law grads a year...400,000 condemned souls. That's one hell of a lost generation.

As tuition increased by leaps and bounds, often doubling in the course of a five year period during the last decade, these plump leeches kept sucking and seeking out more warm bodies. As the ABA and law schools presided over a steady decline in decent, sustainable, real legal jobs, they made sure the doors to the profession were propped wide open, and then added more and more schools for good measure. When the economy was battered and ALL employment prospects went into a precipitous decline, making it even harder for underemployed JDs to ever find work in ANY field, they responded by encouraging more people to ride out the recession in law school. Then they printed out more school literature and US News magazines filled with their blatant lies about employment and salary statistics, and raised tuition another 10% per annum for good measure.

So I’m glad that someone in that cavernous, non-responsive realm of the “powers that be” is finally going to start a committee to take a look at making a recommendation that might finally be considered to be eventually enacted sometime after 2011. No one ever said they were speedy. At the very least, another 45,000 law school victims will be parted from their tuition dollars during this time and put on the conveyor belt towards eventual unemployment and inability to service their student debt. To top it all off, the ABA only proposes that schools hand out this “honest and transparent” information to students who are already admitted, i.e. those who have already invested time and money on their misguided journey into law school. They'll have thus already swallowed schools’ lies about the employment situation many times over. (“Yes, the economy is bad, but those graduates who work hard and get good grades will always do well.”) You know the drill.

Law students and recently-minted lawyers are truly assaulted on all sides in their struggle to keep their heads above water, service their massive debt, and keep food on the table. We are faced with an ignorant, uncaring, and negligent professional organization that has ceded all responsibility in defending and upholding the integrity of the legal profession. We have to deal with an even more ignorant general public who is still convinced that all lawyers “make the big bucks,” and that society always “looks out” for lawyers. We have to contend with an inept federal government that thinks more education and more students in law school is always the answer, and encourages schools to jack up their tuition in response to unlimited federal student aid. No one is asking for a pity party, but the very best that blathering commentators can ever do is claim that law students should have "done more research" or they should just "look harder" for those nonexistent jobs.

None of these problems are going to be solved overnight. Indeed, the skeptics among us will say that they are too far metastasized to ever be corrected. The fetid, fatal cancer that has been killing the legal profession for years is now moving in for the kill, and the over-saturation and perpetual decline in job prospects is but a symptom. This all may be true, and in my heart of hearts I’d agree that the horrible problems facing most law students and recent graduates are almost insurmountable. A good starting point in doing the right thing would be for the ABA to start taking its mission of promoting an honest, robust, and viable legal profession seriously. “Defending liberty, pursuing justice,” as their motto goes, cannot include sitting idly by while law schools bankrupt the profession of all credibility and debase whatever slim portion of prestige it still has by continuing to accept any student with $150,000 and a pulse. For as much as law schools like to claim that they are the gatekeepers of truth, justice, honesty, and all sorts of other feel-good buzzwords, it’s clear through their duplicity and entirely profit-driven motives that they are anything but. I don’t trust the ABA to solve the problem, as they have sat on their hands for years as the law school scam got woefully out of hand, but any step in the right direction must be better than continuing down the current path.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Career services steps up to the plate

Career Services counselors nationwide finally seem to be waking up to the reality that they have sat idly by while 50% or more of their recent classes graduated jobless. I was initially interested to see that someone in my school's office still has a pulse and is doing some flailing about to broaden the “opportunities” available to law student paupers.

While the bulk of a career services counselor’s time is spent trolling non-exclusive, publicly-available job boards and copying and pasting the postings to the school’s own job board, I was intrigued to note that my school’s office has given up on offering students a position within the law. Just look at a recent smattering of re-posted job listings from the school’s board:

Congressional campaign filed intern:

Field interns will work alongside staff on a fast-paced, high-energy campaign. Interns will be assigned leadership roles in all of the campaign’s field operations. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about field strategy development and implementation, and communicate directly with voters. As a field intern, you’ll gain valuable professional experience by working directly with staff to identify and mobilize voters to ensure victory on Election Day.

Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

• Organizing and managing voter contact events.
• Taking an active role in volunteer recruitment, management, and retention.
• Helping maintain voter database.


Ideal candidates will be hard-working and possess strong communication skills. Candidates should be outgoing, have a positive attitude, and the ability to work effectively in a fast-paced environment. Proficiency with Microsoft Office is highly desired.

Where’s the J.D. requirement? Where’s there even the requirement of ANY degree, period? Where’s the validation for my three years’ worth of invested time and $100,000 tuition? Most importantly, where’s the pay? Oh, wait, not only are law grads still being pushed into unpaid internships, but now the search for some kind of “employment” for students has become so desperate that students are encouraged to do volunteer door-knocking for political campaigns as a way of finding “work.”