Thursday, April 1, 2010

ABA Pigs at the Trough: Law School is a Bad Investment for Students – But the Law Schools Need More Money!

In this four-page document, the ABA squeals:

In reality, however, attending law school can become a financial burden for law students who fail to consider carefully the financial implications of their decision.

Yes, and this has NOTHING to do with law school marketing materials that claim 96.4% placement rates within 9 months of graduation, does it?! The law schools are also NOT to blame for putting out (self-reported) starting salary statistics that purportedly show median salaries of $85K, isn’t that correct?! And of course, the ABA, as the accrediting body, is blameless for NOT requiring its member schools to submit their figures to an independent, outside audit - as part of the schools’ accreditation.

Furthermore, the NALP plays NO role in raising law students’ expectations; they simply publish and disseminate the law schools’ self-reported (incomplete and misleading) figures as if they were gospel. These actions are NOT designed to entice more students to take the leap. Oh, heavens no! (Just like pay-day, predatory lenders are actually helping people get back on their feet, right?!)

Later on, in the same document, the ABA snorts:

The combination of the rising cost of a legal education and the realities of the legal job market mean that going to law school may not pay off for a large number of law students. Dean David Van Zandt of Northwestern Law School estimates that to make a positive return on the investment of going to law school, given the current costs, the average law student must earn an average annual salary of at least $65,315. As the data above show, however, over 40% of law school graduates have starting salaries below this threshold. Thus, many students start out in a position from which it may be difficult to recoup their investment in legal education. Even students who do ultimately prosper over the course of a career face difficulties from high debt loads during the beginning of their career. High debt can limit career choices, prevent employment in the public service sector, or delay home ownership or marriage. In short, going to law school can bring more financial difficulty than many law students expect. [Emphasis added]

How many third tier commodes list the average or median starting salaries of their recent graduates at a figure higher than $65,315? Plus, Van Zandt’s figure is not the number you need to look at. Online student loan calculators tell you that your total student loan debt SHOULD be less than your expected starting salary.

If you are making $65K but owe $130K, you will have a very difficult time paying back your student loans – as your debt is twice as high as your salary. But law schools don’t tell you these things. In fact, these pigs think MORE student loan debt is the answer.

For proof of this, let’s look at this letter-writing campaign on the part of the ABA:

Here is how the template starts:

Senator Full Name
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Last Name:

I am a first/second... year law student attending Your Law School. As your constituent and a member of the American Bar Association Law Student Division, I request your support for law students and recent graduates struggling to meet their student loan obligations during this economic downturn.

Specifically, I request your support of two important issues: (1) raising the Stafford Loan limits to at least $30,000 per year, and (2) incorporating bar exam study loans under the definition of an education loan.

Eighty percent of students finance higher education with student loans. On average, law students graduate with $85,000 in law school debt in addition to $20,000 in undergraduate school debt. Many law students must supplement their federal loans with more expensive and less flexible private loans. Recent graduates in the legal profession are having difficulty finding jobs in the current economy and consequently struggling to meet their debt obligations.

Yes, because we need more federal loan money in order to feed our destitute “law professors.” [Third Tier Reality Check: increasing the amount of student loans will not make law school more “affordable” – it will simply put the student in more (non-dischargeable) debt. Law schools will simply continue to significantly increase their tuition, and the bar prep vendors will raise their rates.] In the final analysis, the ABA does not give a damn about recent JDs, current students or prospective law students – other than finding ways to squeeze more money out of them.

If you think otherwise, ask yourself the following questions: (1) if the job market for lawyers is over-saturated, why does the ABA want to make sure more people can “afford” a legal education?; and (2) if students are graduating with more non-dischargeable educational debt, the solution is to RAISE the Stafford Loan limits?! (Remember, both private student loans and those backed/subsidized by the federal government, are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy proceedings.)


  1. eh, the problem is that the politicians do not go against the banks that make student loan profits. We have only so much energy to spend in this fight. I cannot spend mine on something that has such a small chance of having any effect at all.

    I know that your blogging and mine and etc does have some effect, at least. Over the past week my blog has had about 2000 visitors, and I am sure yours is also quite high. So, we know those efforts are paying off at least in some way.

  2. Well,I think you wnet too easy on these greedy pigs. Even the pic is too soft on these animals. Next time, find a picture of pigs rolling in shit and garbage. That would be a better and more accurate representation of these putrid criminals. Other than that glaring error on your part, not bad.

  3. oops. I just re-read your blog post. I thought you were recommending that we adapt the ABA letter into a anti-student loan letter. My bad.

    As for the student loans, it may not be all that bad a situation. There is this Income Based Repayment thing that seems pretty good. Of course, they can come after your estate after you are dead. But then, there are ways of getting around that....

  4. The ABA is lame. They need to redirect their energy into forcing schools to lower tution and limit admission. But like you say, it's all a money keg and they are trying to keep the tap running as hard and as long as possible. I'm constantly talking about the ABA and its poor practices on my blog. I stopped paying dues to them a while ago.

  5. Increasing the limit on Stafford Loans is NOT a good idea for the following reasons: (a) law students will be inclined to take out more federal loans; (b) students do not truly understand the implications of holding $150K in student debt; (c) law schools will simply jack up the price of their garbage product; (d) BARBRI and Kaplan will increase the cost of their bar review courses – since the taxpayer is picking up the tab; and (e) this proposal does NOTHING to alleviate the oversaturated lawyer market. In fact, it may add to the glut of attorneys – as more people will be able to pay for these courses.

    Look up the 2005 amendment that encompasses all student loans, making private student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy. Specifically, look at 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8)(B):

    Private student loans are nefarious. They often feature higher interest rates, and the companies are less likely to work with you – even if you are having trouble finding a job. That said, at least this provides a significant, financial disincentive for one to attend a high-priced toilet law school. If we increase the yearly Stafford limits to $30K, then this deterrent is removed.

    The ABA is FULLY AWARE of the dwindling job market for U.S. lawyers. These pigs have directly contributed to this situation by approving and accrediting too many law schools. The ABA also does not require an audit of member schools’ self-reported numbers. Plus, the cockroaches on the ABA Standing Committee on “Ethics” and “Professional Responsibility” also helped to undermine the wage structure for U.S. contract attorneys, by issuing ABA “Ethics” Opinion 08-451. (Because allowing foreign attorneys and non-attorneys to engage in American legal discovery is the ethical and moral thing to do, right?!)

    In sum, increasing these limits will only fatten up the law schools and the bar review vendors. I also despise how the industry seeks to blame the customer/student for being greedy – for relying on the law schools’ misleading and fraudulent employment and starting salary statistics. Look at how the ABA and the law schools are now touting “public service” and pro bono work to their students. Furthermore, the ABA is now admitting that the job market is tough for JDs. They make these concessions, so that they can tell their future unemployed graduates, “We told you, in advance, what you were getting into.”

  6. This article really inflames me. What on earth is useless printed drivel going to accomplish? What I'd like to know from the ABA is what ACTIONS are being taken to address the problem? That's what I want to know. But we all know the answer to that already. It is infuriating that the ABA would make these statements, yet continue to do nothing and even take actions worsening the problem (accrediting more schools).

  7. Third Tier Reality Check = my favorite new phrase.

  8. Nando: Just so I'm clear - where did you take and pass the bar exam?

  9. "(1) if the job market for lawyers is over-saturated, why does the ABA want to make sure more people can “afford” a legal education?"

    Excellent question. The answer is that the ABA and the law school industry are butt buddies and their policy goals are not in line with the interests of law students. Their policy goals are to reap more benefits for their industry, regardless of whether it screws the students or not. That's why it's called the Education Industrial Complex.

  10. do seton hall next!April 2, 2010 at 12:11 AM

    could you please highlight Seton hall next? It looks like others have requested this. The law school is a blight on humanity. And that's the truth.

  11. I second the prior commenter's request. Settton Hall Law is an atrocious cesspool. I see these SH Law students on the PATH train everyday trying to impress the other commuters with their boring and mindless hypothetical law drivel. I really feel sorry for these hapless brutes. The real world, pernicious and unforgiving, awaits these sorry pathetic trolls. Make no mistake, a law degree these days, especially from Settton Hall, is tantamount to a modern day pratfall. However, it will be the law school administrators that will be doing all the laughing (to the bank).

  12. My next entry will focus on Mercer Law School, an overpriced dump based out of Macon, GA. However, next week I will profile Seton Hall and give it the TTR treatment is deserves. This toilet has already taken a beating on other blogs and forums - perhaps SHU Law should offer a Plumbing certificate.

  13. Can't wait for the Mercer profile! And, as a resident of NJ, I second the nomination of Seton Hall.

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. Talk about perfect timing! The swine are now resorting to spam. I guess they have nothing better to do - they certainly cannot defend the corrupt practices of this industry. To the tool at 10:05, send me an email and I will be happy to give you that info.

  16. I hear the Dean of Seton Hall Law School is also the athletic director of the university. Any chance he will hire a recent graduate for a $1M salary to coach the dismal Seton Hall basketball program just to inflate the salary range for the law school? Wasn't this the same garbage can school that boasted a top salary of $500K for the class of 2007?

  17. Please feature the SETON HALL LAW TOILET and the lies and hypocrisy of the VALVOLINE DEAN.

  18. Perhaps the VALVOLINE DEAN will explain how he plans to keep his rotting TTTOILET from falling further down into the USN&WR sewer while simultaneously acting as the school's 'athletic director'. Maybe he should try to clean up his own mess first

  19. Everyone should back off from criticizing Seton Hall Law School. This school has one of the best legal ethics programs in the nation. Just ask Michael Cammarano, the deposed former Mayor of Hobroken (Class of '02) who was indicted on corruption. I believe hizzoner Cammarano aced his ethics final at Seton Hall law school.

  20. It takes the $6kk a year, just to break even?So, at the end of your 30 year extended loan repayment period, you will have saved nothing. That means we are going to have an entire generation of attorneys just breaking even when they are around 60. They will have just a few short years to save some money before retirement, if they can retire. Does it make sense from a public policy standpoint to have an entire generation of lawyers who will be broke when it comes time to retire? Is it good public policy to have another 45,000 lawyers a year going on the dole when they get old and have nothing to show for it? It will be a sad day when a bunch of septuagenarians storm washington Bonus Army style looking for their loans to be forgiven.

    And how about the fact that legal earnings are being deflated by the minute. The dead end doc reviews, the only legal job I can find, are paying 30% less than they were a year ago. Those are never going up again. Studies show that when people lose earnings in a recession they never earn it back over the long haul. So, all the ground lost for attorneys this time is not coming back, so there is little chance people are going to make the $65k a year needed to break even.

    Now, just one point about the student loans. I think we'd be better off with a higher stafford loan limit. As it stands now, you get 15k a year in staffords and everything else has to be "fuck me in the ass" private loans. The way the recent student loan "reforms" work is you can cap your payments on your federal loans to 10% of your income, but the private loans are not capped. Well, if 60% of your loans are private, they are not counted in the federal loan cap, and you don't end up reducing your overall payments. Sure, giving out federal loans will probably bring in more law students, but damn it, I want my frickin loans capped. My $1200 a month is killing me, and I still have another 27 years of payments. When I started law school student loans were dischargeable, then after my second year they made them non-dischargeable, and now the relief they offer is for students going forward, but offer no relief for the recent grads you are screwed. I want some damn relief.

  21. This is a very informative site and I thank the blogger who created it. At first he appears bitter but I know he speaks the truth and is only trying to help people avoid falling into the law school trap. I attended law school in the late 90s. I was enrolled at a T6 school and withdrew after my first semester. I decided to drop out when I realized this profession is miserable and riddled with hypocrisy. Although my first semester law school grades were 3 A's and 1 A-, I don't regret my decision, which was probably the smartest thing I ever did.

    So many young men and women are being lured into law school during this economic downturn as a "safety net." The deans say "law school is the best place to ride the recession, build valueable skills that will reap into a high paying job once the recession is over." What these misinformed or lying (take your pick) law school deans ignore is the fact that most jobs lost in a recession don't come back. Too many basic legal skills are being outsourced to India and Asia. Do I blame the partners at Biglaw? No, they are just in it for the bottom line and have no duty to the legions of unemployed graduates and impending graduates that will be out of work. And if you were "fortunate" enough to land at Biglaw, don't buy into the "we are a family at the firm and we will take care of you" bs. If you fall for this drivel, you might as well believe in the tooth fairy.

    I think it is criminal what these law schools do, particularly those in the second, third and fourth tiers (is there a fifth tier yet?). Take a school such as Seton Hall Law for example. Sure they place one clerk with Alito (probably as a political favor as Alito was a well known fixture in Newark) and now it boasts itself as a SCOTUS clerk feeder. They place a handful of top students in Biglaw each year and these are the examples that are crammed down the throats of every prospective student.

    Five years ago, my brother-in-law asked if he should attend law school. I told him NO. I explained my reasons. After the conversation, the ingrate turned around and said I was jealous and trying to hold him back. In sum, my own sister didn't speak to me for a year and her miserable husband went to an expensive third tier law school. What does my brother in law do today? Well, after finishing in the top third in his class and passing two bar exams, he presently sells insurance for Primerica. I am sure the useless JD helped him get the job. I love my sister and have been helping her financially. She has apologized several times over our fall out and regrets that her husband didn't take my advice. If you are a prospective law student or college graduate, heed my advice: don't enroll in law school. This is not about envy, pride or jealousy. This is about preventing the perpetuation of the law school scam and the victimization of 43,000 law graduates each year that will likely carry a very heavy debt to their graves. You have been warned.

  22. Nando:

    I've asked you twice where you passed the bar exam. You didn't respond the first time, and you deleted my comment the second time. It's as if you don't want to tell me whether you've passed a bar exam. Surely you're licensed to practice law somewhere.

    If you don't want to answer because you've never passed a bar exam in any state, please add that fact as a disclaimer to all your whining about the legal jobs market. It's not very honest to complain about how hard it is to get a job as an attorney if you've never taken the necessary steps to be licensed to practice law - Law firms tend not to hire attorneys that can't practice law.

  23. Nowhere on this blog do I state I am a licensed attorney. You assumed that. You also posted the exact same thing twice on this post. There are at least 3250 reasons for me not to take the exam.

    $2200 is the cost of tuition for the Barbri bar review course (this figure includes the materials lease fee of $950 – which is subject to taxes). visitor/UT&pubarea=breeze_barbri_library/ visitor/UT&escrightbararea=null

    It will also cost me $850 to apply for the bar exam. And don’t forget the additional $150 for a laptop computer fee. There is also a $25 administrative handling fee, and a $25 application copying fee.

    So, I am looking at paying at least $3250 just to register and sit for the exam. This does not take into account the hundreds of hours I would need to devote to memorizing boring, useless tripe. And for what?! So I can continue to work in a non-legal position?

    I would rather take that money and pay bills, buy my wife something nice, put some of that into our savings account, and spend my time on enjoyable pursuits, i.e. reading, having sex with my wife, playing chess, and exposing the law school cartel. If I were to devote another minute to memorizing BLL for an exam that will NOT get me a job in the field, I would simply be wasting my time, energy, and money. (I already pissed away three years of my life and $37K on this venture.)

    For instance, there are 66 pages of advertisements for attorneys in the local Yellow Pages (not counting the full-page lawyer ads on the front and back cover). Established solo practitioners and law firms have the advertising budget to get clients. I can accept reality.

  24. Lastly, my self-esteem is not based on what others think, and my life is not ruined if I am not an “attorney-at-law.” I am making more than I could as a new attorney, in this grossly oversaturated market. I sure as hell will not put more money into the hooves of the pigs on the state bar association. I made a calculated risk and it didn’t pay off. Thousands of other JDs – each year – can say the same thing. There is no sense in throwing more money away on this endeavor. Why throw good money after bad?

    Even Professor Herwig Schlunk of Vanderbilt Law School notes that those who hang out their own shingle will work longer hours. So I am supposed to hire a secretary or phone-answering service; put up the overhead costs of the office; pay for advertising (which will hurt me financially and yet be nothing, in comparison to the budgets of the established shops out there); and take out 15% for FICA, rather than the 7.5% I am currently contributing? Oh, and I am expected to shop around for decent health insurance – when my current employer has a much more comprehensive (and affordable) plan? Are you out of your mind? Would you also recommend someone dump their wife for a crack whore?

    "I assume that the typical non-legal job requires 2,000 hours per year of service. I also assume that any law firm job comes with an expectation that the lawyer will put in a greater number of hours. Legends abound as to the billable hours required to be successful at Biglaw; but even law school graduates who “hang up a shingle” will tend to work long hours, pounding the pavement to try to drum up business. Logically, any compensation connected with these incremental hours is not solely compensation attributable to the law degree, but at least in part compensation attributable to the fact that the fledgling lawyer is giving up ever-more valuable hours from his ever-shrinking pool of free time."

    My wife and I have less than $10K in savings at this point. Am I supposed to spend this amount and make LESS money than I currently earn, because some anonymous poster goads me into taking this exam?! Are we supposed to further postpone having kids (my wife is older than me - she is 31) because someone thinks I need to be flat broke to prove that the industry is over-saturated?!

    Remember, this blog is not about me; it is about the corrupt industry. It is about warning others not to take the plunge. If that is your criticism of this blog, fine. But be consistent and go after "law professors" who practiced law for 12 minutes. Criticize the editor of National Jurist, a JD who never practiced law but who STRONGLY encourages legions of desperate young people to go to law school.

  25. I'm a different "Anonymous" that the one who keeps asking about the bar exam....

    Nando raises some good points about the bar exam.. Also, what if you fail the thing? Wouldn't seem like a good investment then would it?

    I passed State A's bar exam 10 years ago, then spent an awful lot of time and effort and failed state B's bar exam. I guess 10 years of solving real legal problems ruined my exam-taking skills.

  26. I wouldn't discourage anyone from going to Law School. If you can get in and you're willing to work hard, go for it. It always works out for those who are really passionate about it. I've never seen anyone that said going to Law School was the worst thing they ever did.

  27. I sure hope this is a joke, 12:59 pm. If not, then I feel obligated to point this info out to the readers - from your website:

    "Our family has a long history of great lawyers. In fact, the first Lawyer in Utah, Phinehas Young, was Allen's great great grandfather. Allen's grandfather and uncle, both named Dallas, practiced in Utah County for many years. Allen has been practicing in Utah County since he started his practice in 1971.

    Allen has litigated cases over his career which have resulted in over 100 million in settlements or judgments. He has had more than 10 trials which have resulted in judgments in excess of one million dollars.

    Tyler and Allen tried two cases in 2009 which resulted in judgments of approximately 4,500,000 and 2,000,000."

    If you guys are descendents of Phinehas Young, then you would fall under the category of being of the right bloodlines in Utah – if this man is a relative of Brigham Young. You even point out that Phinehas Young was the first lawyer in Utah.

    Furthermore, you mention that several earlier family members practiced law in Utah County for many years. So has Allen Young. And presumably, Tyler is Allen's son.

    Taking all these things into account, I do not see how such connected lawyers can call on others to "go for it" if they are "willing to work hard." How many people share your family's extensive legal background in this area?

    I recently talked to a colleague who informed me that more than half of the May 2010 graduating class at the University of Utah's law school are STILL unemployed.

    If you want more people to go to law school - including those of moderate means - how many will your firm be willing to take on as associates?! The advice you offer is totally irresponsible, in light of the shrinking legal market. I also find it very odd that you have “never seen anyone that said going to Law School was the worst thing they ever did.”

    If this is the case, perhaps you gentlemen need to get out of the office a little more. There are TONS of JDs and attorneys who are graduating with life-altering, crushing student loan debt – with no viable options of paying off that debt. Have either of you ever taken out student loans to finance your education?


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