Saturday, August 29, 2009

Joint Degrees/J.D. Programs

Does having a joint degree make one more marketable? I highly doubt it. Maybe if you are an economics and accounting double major, potential employers will be impressed. Perhaps if you are able to double major in Physics and Biology, you will be seen as an asset to a company or government agency. And it should help you get into medical school.

I am looking at Drake Law School’s joint J.D. programs. And I have a few questions:

· Does having a Master of Public Administration and a Juris Doctorate make one more marketable in the legal industry? It might if your goal is to become a lobbyist, a Senate committee lawyer or an aide to the governor. But let’s be honest – positions like the latter two go to guys who went to Ivy League schools or who have inside, personal connections. So you might get a legislative (unpaid) internship, but you will not get the paid job if it is between you and some Princeton graduate.
· What about the MBA/JD program? Drake apparently has a pretty solid business program. The local divisions of major American insurance and banking corporations love to hire Drake grads. But will this help you land a legal job with the government or private law firm? I cannot picture the following decision being made, “We decided to go with someone else. You may have finished in the top ten percent of your law class, done law review and speak three languages fluently, but this other guy did a joint degree. Sorry, but we wish you the best in all your future endeavors.”
· Master of Arts in Political Science/JD. Do I even need to waste my time on this? Poli Sci is a joke. This may actually scare off potential employers. Some employers actually like people with real skills.
· What about the Master of Science in Agricultural Economics/JD scheme? Iowa is a big agricultural state. Plus the catalog description sounds nice, but HOW MANY positions are there for someone with such a combined program?
· Doctor of Jurisprudence/Master of Social Work – this one takes the cake. You will have earned a B.S., a J.D. and a M.S.W. and when you finally enter the job force, you will be making $30-33K a year. I am sure your parents will be so proud of you.
· J.D./Master of Public Health – the program description states, “[this] is a wonderful option for students interested in public health law.” Yeah, sounds pretty lucrative. Furthermore, if you want to go into public policy and advocate for health care reform, you will be up against the wall, i.e. gutless politicians beholden to special interests, Big Money, Big Pharma, and an ignorant public. If you go this route, make sure you take your meds as prescribed.
· Master of Health Admin and J.D. – this may help you get a job in hospital management/administration. But, there is a better chance that the hospital’s board of trustees (or government agency) will go with their cronies/political hacks – and not with some fresh-faced kid out of law school. Not even one with the prestigious J.D. and M.H.S. behind his name.

Drake also has a combined Pharmacy/law program. Does this really help anyone get a job in pharmaceuticals? There is a ray of hope – you might be able to sell yourself as a lobbyist to the industry (as long as you have no scruples about selling your soul to the Dark Side).

Call me a cynic. If you prefer, you can call Drake at 800-44-DRAKE x2782 and listen to some salesperson/admissions officer give you all the glossy details of these excellent educational programs. I am sure the school will provide you with unfettered info.

Overpriced Legal Education

Tuition for full-time students at Drake University’s third tier law school for the 2009-10 school year is now $30,750. When I was a first-year law student in 2006, tuition was a little over $26,000 at Drake. At the end of three years, you can be certain to spend in the neighborhood of $94K for the “privilege” of earning a JD. What do you get for this amount?

Well, according to Drake, 97.4% of law graduates were employed or in graduate school within nine months of graduation. This info is also dated – these stats are from the class of 2007.

Of course, the crooks made sure to add the all important qualifier: Based on Drake Law graduates who passed the bar on the first attempt and were seeking work.

What about those who did not take the bar? What about the poor fools who took the bar exam and did not gain admission to the bar? What about those who have looked for months and cannot find work - are these discounted as "not seeking work"? Well, I guess those guys don’t count. (Plus, the CDO only seems to contact those at the top of the class, or those who had employment as an attorney lined up with lawyer parents or siblings.) See how easy it is to create favorable statistics? Well, if I wanted to list ONLY the best qualities of my current or former sex partners, you might get the impression that I have dated all perfect tens.

Looking at Drake Law’s self-reporting employment stats above, what don’t you see? Hmmm, it appears that average starting salary info is not listed. Why would this be the case? Could it be that the school does not want to list an average starting salary of a law school grad, because that figure is in the $35,000-$41,000 range? Well, then the school would not be able to economically justify its huge tuition, i.e. $30,750/year.

Negative information is hidden from prospective students. Prospective law students are typically among the best students in their undergrad programs and areas of study. They think the world is theirs for the taking. So, even if the schools listed accurate employment/starting salary info, it might not make a difference to those who apply. But the schools don’t chance this – presumably these students can do the math and might discern that going $90K in debt for a job that pays $40K a year is not worth the investment.

Furthermore, seeing that the student must borrow this money, the figure is a lot more than $90K. If the student takes 20-30 years to pay back the loans, this figure might end up being closer to $190K (depending on the interest rate, extended deferment, default status, financial hardship and other circumstances). What about the student who had to pay full tuition plus take out private loans for living expenses. I shudder at the thought.

Peruse Drake Law’s website. You get the idea of the value of legal education just by seeing the focus on public service work and internships. The outside legal world does not perceive this to be a high caliber law school. And perception is pretty much everything in the law (and in the larger U.S. society where success is based primarily on $$$). “Yes, I want to go to law school so I can be a starving lawyer!”

If you are a current applicant to law school, or considering this boneheaded move, please take this info into account. I am not trying to crush your hopes and dreams for fun or personal amusement. I am trying to add some insight. I went through law school – the sleepless nights, the bullying by law professors, the stress, the debt – and I know from experience that this is not a path to financial or spiritual success. Do not go to law school unless you crush the LSAT and have a realistic shot of getting into a top 15 school. (Even then it is a crapshoot – you might get into Cornell or Northwestern and finish in the bottom half of the class). OTHER THAN THIS YOU ARE SIMPLY WASTING THREE YEARS OF YOUR LIFE, THREE YEARS OF INCOME, AND YOU WILL BE A SLAVE TO SALLIE MAE OR THE OTHER PREDATORY STUDENT LOAN LENDERS.

Alumni Solicitation from My Third Tier Law School

Today, I received a letter from Drake University’s alumni association. I finished law school in May. After $38,000 in student loan debt, and after landing a non-lawyer job paying roughly $37,000 a year, the alumni association wants my information, i.e. address, employer’s address, job title, spouse’s employer info, and for some reason, children’s names and birthdates. Yes, exactly what I need: more junk mail from the law school to go to my home and employer. (I did not give them my new address, but the letter was forwarded by USPS.)

Here is what the solicitation says in its entirety:

CONGRATULATIONS on your recent graduation and welcome to the Drake University National Alumni Association. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors and encourage you to keep in touch with Drake.

- The Drake National Alumni Association Board (with facsimile signatures below)

Read: Congratulations on completing your studies at our over-priced educational institution. We hope you land a good-paying job (so you can contribute to the school’s endowment). Keep in touch with Drake and make sure to donate whenever you can!

It has been more than three months after graduation, and I know SEVERAL people who are still unemployed. I would be shocked if 25% of the graduating class has secured a job as an ATTORNEY, with the government, (any size) law firm or private industry. A Drake law degree may help you if you intend to stay in the Midwest or Iowa. It does help you if you already have a job lined up with friends or family; this is especially the case, if your parent or relative runs his own firm.

The lawyer saturation problem is not endemic to Drake or other third-tier law schools. My wife has a friend who graduated from law school at the University of Texas-Austin. She does not work in a firm – she teaches voice lessons and piano. She does have a beautiful singing voice, but this does not require a J.D. My brother-in-law’s cousin just graduated from UCLA’s law school. Guess what? No damn job lined up. Apparently, no offers either. The moral of the story: DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL UNLESS YOU ARE FULLY AWARE BEFOREHAND THAT YOU MAY END UP WITH A CRAP JOB AT CRAP PAY. (That is if you are lucky enough to find a job at all – remember, you will be considered “overqualified” for many non-legal jobs.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Orientation at Drake

Check out this killer schedule of events for Drake first year students.

First year students must take Crim Law, Civ Pro I, Contracts I, Legal Writing, Legal Research, and Torts during their first semester. So, I am sure that an hour and a half discussion on Bar Admission is crucial to someone’s first semester success (which largely determines one’s future in the law). At least, the students can catch a nap during this snooze-fest. Five days of torture and boredom – just a taste of what awaits you the rest of your law school experience. Welcome to the "profession" of law.

“Responding to the Call of Public Service” appears to be another great, exciting lecture! And one hour and twenty-five minutes of it! Yay!! This school also requires you to purchase a book on legal ethics written by one of its writing instructors. (At least it did when I was a first-year student.) How ethical is that? I recall that we used the book about three times the first year, the book was only about 130 pages long, and the damn thing cost $32.95 from the SBA bookstore. I am sure those Ethics and Professionalism small group discussions went over real well.

Look what this current cohort did today: they visited the Iowa Supreme Court building. I am sure it was a life-altering experience, just like it was for me and my classmates. Wait a minute – it was not a life-changing event. It was a total bore and a complete waste of time and gas money.

Tomorrow (Saturday) promises to be even better! There is a student luncheon for Focus on Diversity. Sure, classes start on Monday but go ahead, attend the diversity luncheon instead. Your Torts professor will not expect you to have read Katko v. Briney before coming to class.

I remember my first day of orientation. I basically dreaded law school from that moment on. After going $38,000 in debt, I now have an 11 x 14 inch law degree gathering dust on a desk somewhere.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Third Tier Reality

I am a recent graduate of Drake University’s law school, which is a third-tier law school, according to the all-important US News & World Report graduate school rankings. The school is solidly third-tier. The Career Development Office is dedicated to finding jobs for the top ten percent of each law school class. If you are among the remaining 90 percent, you better start looking for your own job (which should include looking at positions in document review, teaching K-12, retail sales, insurance/banking, waiting tables, etc.) Not exactly what you pictured yourself doing once you received your Acceptance Letters, is it? This surely is not what you expected once you completed law school. No, I am not unemployed – although I am not working in a law firm or as a government attorney. I actually like my job and the people I work with – I do not work with any attorneys. I am not living with my parents, but I am currently living in my sister-in-law’s basement. (Not what I envisioned either.) I am writing this blog because I get tired of BigLaw, the ABA, law professors and their apologists in the media (and blog message boards) who argue that those who complain about the law school industry’s lies are just a bunch of malcontents. Surely, some are. However, a very large number who decided to attend law school DID NOT ANTICIPATE OR EXPECT to make six figures right out of law school. Most had REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS, i.e. to be able to pay back their student loan debt; to be able to find work as a lawyer or in a law-related field; to be able to pay a reasonable rent or mortgage payment; to be able to afford a middle class lifestyle. Seeing that many law students end up with law school debt in excess of $70,000 (many are well above this amount), is it too much to expect to come out of law school making $60,000 or $80,000 at least within a few years of graduating and passing the bar? Tons of people make these figures without the rigid requirements, ethical obligations, and immense student loan debt that lawyers must face as a part of their job. The law school industry (by this, I am refering to the law schools and the larger universities, LSAC, casebook publishers, admissions counseling providers like Princeton Review, state bars, the ABA, media coverage, apologists, and those who further feed off the system by charging law students exorbitant fees for their services, such as flash cards, primers on how to write law essays, etc.) has created a nice niche for itself by providing a false picture of the legal job market. This fraudulent conduct should be exposed to the larger world! There are already several wonderful blogs written by disillusioned lawyers out there. I do not intend to compete against them; I simply would like to add another voice of reason and help expose this scam. If I can help prevent one person from making a HUGE financial mistake by attending law school, then this blog will have been worth it. To those who say, “How dare you destroy someone’s dream, by providing them with negativity,” I respond with this: “If someone has an implausible dream (or is suffering from delusions), then I have a responsibility to provide them with a dose of reality.” If some average-looking guy who makes $25,000 a year has a dream of marrying Julia Roberts, should I encourage him to pursue his goal? Wouldn’t that be a bigger sin?
Web Analytics