Friday, October 16, 2009

Attending an Upcoming Law School Fair



This afternoon, I was on the campus of my undergrad school. I was returning some library books, but the school is on semester break this week. As I was leaving, I came across a large banner notifying the unsuspecting world of an upcoming event of epic proportions - a law school fair. Oh joy! Well, I stood there in the plaza for a moment. As my knuckles turned white, I decided, at that instant, to crash this party. I will be at the Union Ballroom at the University of Utah on October 20th.


First, I will casually go from table to table and ask the admissions officers to show me how they came up with their employment and starting salary figures. I will ask them in front of interested students. I am sure this will upset the school representatives. But then again aren’t lawyers trained to use critical thinking and not simply take people or organizations at their word? I will also ask for a breakdown of employment, i.e. “Who is working tables, tending bar, teaching high school, or selling insurance nine months after graduation?” I will also ask for their response rate to the surveys, and what percentage of their graduates are working as paid attorneys. I will arm myself with bar passage rates from as many of the schools as I can.

Then, I will take this opportunity to distribute leaflets to pre-law students. I will also include links to websites such as JDU, Unemployed Lawyer, Skadden Farts, and several others. I will also have handouts showing the true state of the lawyer market. I will also provide news articles on the sad, shrinking legal market. Those interested in law need to be made aware of the fact that law school is a pitfall for most. It is truly an expensive proposition and a bad bet.

Next, I will talk to students and see what they expect from law school. I will then explain to them the harsh reality of law school – how the sleepless nights, constant stress, debt load, and time constraints do not, in any way, guarantee one even a fair chance at a successful career. The market is oversaturated and has been for decades. The market will not magically improve after this “economic recession” passes.

I understand that many cannot be dissuaded at this point. Many of the attendees have already bought into the lie, i.e. “I will go to law school, study my ass off, learn to think like a lawyer, make law review, do moot court, rub shoulders with the real movers and shakers of the legal community, get a summer clerkship after first year, make lots of money, easily pay off my student loans, maybe clerk for the Circuit Court of Appeals before joining a big corporate firm, etc.” Many are past the point of no return – many will have already registered with LSAC, submitted their transcripts and letters of recommendation. But I must try something.

Direct action is needed. I figure this is at least worth a shot; who knows? – maybe the school paper will be there. The worst case scenario is that I am asked to leave the fair. I am not concerned with getting arrested or fired. I will make sure that I break no laws. The event is free and open to the public. And I simply want to ask some questions of law school officers and inform the students of the scam.


If I can get even one or two people to reconsider their decision, then the effort will have been worth it.

19 comments:

  1. I am definitely supporting you in this! This is the best idea ever! Someone needs to tell these kids the truth. Also, if you can, please have them explain the average salary they claim their grads make. It shouldn't be "average". It should be "median" income--which is much lower. After all, it's a bunch of people who earn under 50K and a few people that earn $145+ that skew the average severely.

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  2. It's about time somebody did something like this. I bet the reps won't even know what an independent auditor is.

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  3. I need a larger audience, so go ahead and promote me if you want.

    This is the message:

    C's get degrees. D's get degrees. A TTT will accept you as long as you want in. Your legal career is pretty much set after your first semester grades are submitted. Just look at the numbers and ask yourself if you're really cut out for it. Law is really the right career for 10 percent of the people who enroll.

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  4. Talking points:

    "Attorney needed, $8 an hour to start, no benefits."

    "C's get degrees."

    "$100,000 and three years of your life."

    "Continuing legal education requirements incumbent upon you for the rest of your career just to retain your license. It's not over after the bar, friend. Classes can be a couple hundred for two hours. Money will likely come out of your pocket."

    "Student loan payments for 30 years, equivalent to a condominium's mortgage. Only there's no foreclosure. You cannot get rid of these in bankruptcy."

    "Most attorneys never see a courtroom."

    "Even the lowest end legal jobs are being outsourced to India."

    "A law degree hardly prepares you for the practice of law, yet it's necessary in most jurisdictions if you want to be called esquire. A law degree is also not versatile in and of itself. It will not impress a non-law employer. You need experience related to the job."

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  5. Lawyers and doctors are often mentioned in the same sentence as respected professions, but it shouldn't be the case.

    "Doctors get jobs. Lawyers don't."

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  6. This is a good idea, not only to expose bullshit, but because these are the kinds of questions pre-law students should be asking. Unfortunately many are naive and base their interest in law on the media's interpretation of a legal career. These future students are wearing blinders and these blinders need to be removed in order to make an informed decision.
    I recently received an invitation to apply to a Tier 3 school via email. The entire email focused on the starting salary of 2008 graduates with little to no data to back it up. I was rather offended by this schools attempt to sell me on a legal education based on a starting salary alone, especially in our current economic environment. I felt as if they were playing to a weakness for someone like me who is out of work and seeking a stable, well paying career. So I did what every potential law student should do: asked for more information. I started an email conversation with the admissions office and after several emails I got the raw data I was looking for. I did my own calculations and figured out how they fudged the numbers.
    As "angel" said, their median salary was about 10-15k lower than their average salary. In dug deeper and did the math up to 2005. One year they actually didn't include numbers for students working in public interest, claiming a "small sample size." You know what I figured out by doing the math? 1. They never omitted students in the highest salary range, no matter how few they had (2 one year, and they still factored them in) 2. The year they didn't include the public interest students, they were teetering on the brink of dropping below 60k average... hmm, I wonder if they really did have too few public interest students, or if they were afraid of hurting their average salary? Interesting because they graduate on average 5 students into public interest each year... I would go on about the other things I learned, but it would take too long.

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  7. You should try to sell this story to a major news outlet, say the New York Times.

    Too many people will be enrolling for law school in 2010, thousands of more lives ruined by debt.

    Good luck.

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  8. Pick one of the many recent articles about law students stuck with loads of debt unable to declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start. The link below is one that should give any future legal eagle pause.

    http://www.startribune.com/local/west/50806777.html?page=1&c=y

    Best of luck on your mission.

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  9. Ha! Awesome plan. Too bad there probably won't be free booze. That would definitely make things more interesting. I generally go to every bar association meeting I can for the free booze.

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  10. While I agree with your assessment of Drake as a TTT, your complaints about student loan debt and lack of employment are fairly comical. You do realize that with relatively little achievement, you could have gotten a 50% scholarship, correct? You also realize that no rule prohibited you from working while you are in school after your first year, correct? All of these solutions would have prevented you from taking out 100k+ in student loans. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON that you should have to take out loans in excess of full tuition, had you put forth some effort to improve your financial situation.

    I agree, the market is saturated, but it is saturated with those that are not able to achieve at even those schools you affectionately refer to as "TTT's". I find it interesting that you were unable to achieve at such a terrible institution, and it seems to point to the obvious reasons for your lack of legal employment.

    That being said, Drake is a pretty ridiculous law school, with a sub par faculty at best. If the CDO makes more than 7 dollars per year, she is drastically overpaid. This is not a defense of Drake by any means, it is more to point out that your complaints are disingenuous at best.

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  11. 10:31 I went to school on a 50% scholarship and I worked several jobs my second and third years. I owe very little and I still think it's too much. Shove off. You don't know what you're talking about. If I bought what I thought was a jaguar for $2K and it was a lemon... cannot I regret the loss of the $2K?

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  12. Angel, I will post an update on this event. Overall, the salespeople were not very happy with my questions.

    To the deceitful, anonymous poster who submitted a comment at 3:25 today: have you read this blog before or do you just prefer to make knee-jerk reactions after skimming an entry? BTW, lawyers should avoid relying on knee-jerk reactions; they should certainly eschew passing such reactions off as "analysis." (Although I doubt you are an attorney, as your writing style indicates a pre-law student who is married/emotionally invested to the idea of going to law school.)

    Have you even been to Drake's campus? Have you even been to Des Moines before? You are upset that I call Drake a TTT, but yet you feel free to call it a "terrible institution" and a "pretty ridiculous law school." TALK ABOUT DISINGENUOUS.

    I have stated several times on this blog, as well as on JDU, that I received and maintained throughout my three years of law school a full-tuition scholarship. I took out loans for LIVING EXPENSES, because my wife (with a Master's degree) could not find a job making more than $31K.

    I walked away from law school with $37K in debt. Can you, or will you be able, to say this? I actually am doing better than MANY of my classmates who had better grades than me - I actually have a paying job in a law-related field.

    This blog is not just about me - an assumption you make with nothing to back up your claim. I write this blog to INFORM pre-law students to the perils of law school. I can handle my poor decision, but that does not mean I must idly sit by while others make the same poor decision. I do not make one dime off this site, but I do invest time and energy.

    Also, I did work part-time during my second and third year. I also took advantage of programs offered by the law school, i.e. internships and a hands-on clinic. I also did well in my trial and pre-trial courses.

    In closing, your comments are ignorant, at best. Hopefully, you can read and parse cases better than your reading comprehension skills indicate.

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  13. Ahhhh, the good old "you write like (insert law grad insult here)" game, thats always fun to play on message boards, good job pulling that as your first arrow out of your quiver.

    I will walk away with <20k in debt, with a partial scholarship. WTF did you do to rack up 37k in debt while you were here, buy a house? As for the TTT, that doesn't upset me, in fact, if you read my comments, I agreed with your assessment. Talk about lack of comprehension skills...

    I also agree with your assessment of saturation in the field, it is insane how many attorneys will graduate each year. Additionally, I do believe the ABA should implement reporting standards for their "employment record," as every law school inflates this.

    Overall, I agree with your entire premise, with the exception that you insinuate to individuals that they need to take out mountains of debt to get to law school, when that is clearly not the case for those willing to put the time in at a job in addition to school. Drake sucks, they won't get a dime from me in the future so long as they keep a few of their faculty around, but, overall, the decision to go to school here was still the best decision I have made.

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  14. If we agree on a lot of things with regard to the law school industry, I don’t see the point in focusing only on our areas of disagreement. If you look at the header on my blog, it clearly states that one exception (to my general rule of not going to law school) is if one receives a Full Tuition scholarship to attend. I have NEVER said that it is necessary to take out six-figure student loans to attend a TTT. I see a lot of students who do go to these depths, however. Law school is still a bad bet for most, but you can take certain steps to mitigate the financial damage. If you are going to get a law degree, at least minimize the debt burden.

    I clearly did not buy a house using $37K in loans. That would be a stupid move. (Although, I personally knew plenty of medical students at DMU and a few law students who did buy houses, cars, and new furniture while they were going to school.) My wife and I have no kids. We both own used cars that have been paid off for years. We lived in an apartment that cost about $700 a month. We took few trips, and we hardly ate out. Hell, we went to Drake basketball games because I could get Student tickets. We are frugal people, but try paying all your bills, rent, food, insurance, utilities, auto coverage, clothes, car repairs, etc. on $31K per year. I did not even have cable or Internet at my house.

    Oh yes, my father died in December and I had to pay for the funeral and burial costs. He already had his space paid for, but I still had to fork over $4000. You act like $37,000 is a lot of money – this is simply not the case. This amount was also spread over three years. Even the law school estimates living expenses at $15,600.

    http://www.law.drake.edu/admissions/?pageID=costsFinAid

    I actually hope you do walk away with under $20K in debt from there. If you can pull this off on a partial scholarship, then I will be very impressed. I don’t see how it can be done, but do what you can to make it happen. Seeing that tuition at Drake for the 2009-2010 school year is $30,750, I need to ask: Are you still living at home? Do you have a spouse who makes a lot of money? Had my wife earned a decent income, my student debt would be a lot less.

    “Drake sucks…but the decision to go to law school here was still the best decision I have made.” I don’t see how a poor decision can be the best decision that a person has ever made. It does not follow logically, unless you typically make poor decisions.

    Please refrain from posting about how your law professors “suck.” YOU ARE STILL A LAW STUDENT. Also, very few of your teachers went to TTTs. Many of them are Harvard, Virginia, and Duke law grads. Many of them made law review at their schools. They are like professors from many other U.S. law schools – they excelled in school, got burned out by Biglaw, and then returned to the safety of academia. Lastly, if they suck, what does that say about you? You are paying money to people who “suck” so that you can get a law degree from a school that “sucks.”

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  15. I was at Drake due to logistics, i have a wife and child who I wasn't going to move. The decision was a good one, not because of the school I chose, but because of the options it gave me. I don't believe the faculty is solid, but there are a few bright spots.

    As for debt, I live in my own home with a mortgage, not my parents. I send my kid to day care. My wife makes a nominal salary, but I worked full time for two years while I went to school, and paid as I went.

    Good luck to you, I hope you can come to grips with your horrible decision making sometime in the future, and wish you all the best professionally.

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  16. I do find the sign with 120 law schools visiting to be hilarious though, the market is extremely saturated.

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  17. "I agree, the market is saturated, but it is saturated with those that are not able to achieve at even those schools you affectionately refer to as "TTT's"."

    Nando you are far more diplomatic toward this troll than I could ever be. I have my doubts about his "story." It doesn't stack up.

    Assuming arguendo that his claim quoted above is true, this would mean approximately 80% of law graduates (those who are unemployed or underemployed) should be classed as "unable to achieve." Give me a break.

    Congrats on your scholarship BTW. I got one too and I am proud of the achievement -- I had colleagues who owed over 80K from college/law school loans and this was the early 90s, but everything you say on this blog about the law school scam is true. How do the kids today even have a chance?

    If they knew what they were getting into there would be no need for blogs like this. They are like sheep to the slaughter.

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  18. Anonymous is a troll. He is lying about something. How can he determine that Drake was the best decision he could have made if he hasn't graduated yet. I welcome him to come back and post after he lands that great job after law school. I went to a T1 and I'm struggling. Drake grads don't have a chance in hell. Except you, Nando.. you're doing OK. But you would have been doing okay without law school, I suspect.

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