Sunday, October 30, 2011

D.C. is no haven for recent law grads

When I was getting ready to graduate, several well-meaning people told me that Washington, D.C. was the place to look for jobs.  The federal government isn't getting any smaller, after all.  And I am told that there is a slightly higher percentage of people with law degrees working in non-attorney positions by choice in D.C.

My friends on the ground in D.C. told a different story. The market, they explained, is completely saturated.  There are a ton of law schools in the local area, not to mention graduates from top tier schools coming to D.C.  

This article in the Washington Examiner tends to validate their position.

Quick quote:
 "Here in the District, the situation is not as dire, but many are settling for jobs that fall short of the glamorous gigs they envisioned while piling up thousands of dollars in student loans."
 That's a bit of an understatement.  I can't help but speculate that the reason the situation in D.C. does not seem as dire is that people probably consider unpaid work "employment."    Unpaid internships are rampant in D.C., and I know more than one graduate of a D.C. area law school (not Georgetown) currently working for free.

The moral of the story:  a) Avoid law school like the plague.  b) Don't expect to do any better in D.C.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

If you're not the 99%, what are you?

I have not said anything about the Occupy Wall Street movement yet.  Part of the reason for that is that in a movement so expansive, it is hard to make generalizations about the participants or their motives.  We don't know what path the protests will end up taking, and so I can't really take a stance yet.  But I encountered this picture online and it made me really sad.

I applaud this young woman (I'm going to guess it's a woman based on the handwriting) for her wise financial decisions.  But what I can't applaud is the lack of any kind of sympathy for the situation that many of her classmates are about to find themselves in.  Not everyone has parents who are able to give them sound financial advice.  It's very easy for a 17 or 18 year old to sign the dotted line and go to their "dream school" without understanding the consequences.  Then, once they get to said dream school, they are inundated with credit card offers driving them further into debt.  How hard is it to see that that is predatory?

Another flaw is that this person equates working their "@$$" off with results.  Those of us who bought into the law school scam know that that is not necessarily the case.  Education and hard work are not the surefire recipe for success anymore, if they ever were.

I agree that people should not go into debt for higher education.  But that was not quite so clear cut when many of us were going to school, and it is vitally important that the word get out there about the pitfalls of student loan debt, so young people graduating from high school now do not become victims of the same mistake.  If Occupy Wall Street manages to convey that message, it will have accomplished something.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm overdue for an update!

Well I know I promised to continue posting, and let me assure you that my week and a half long absence is not indicative of what is to come.  I will continue posting but it has taken me some time to get into the swing of things.

Let me first say that I really, really like my job so far.  It is a cool place to work and I even find the work challenging.  (In a good way!)  I hesitate to say this, because I don't want to undermine my fundamental message, but I think that my legal education is coming in handy in this position.  Here's the thing:  They tell you that law school teaches you a new way of thinking, and a new way of problem solving, that is useful even in a non-legal position.  This might come as a shock, but I think that is absolutely correct.  The problem is that there is almost no way you will be able to convince non-legal employers that you are not a flight risk.  So even if you gain some useful skills in law school (which, despite my anecdotal evidence, his highly debatable), you will be hindered in your job search by the JD.  You know where else you gain useful skills?  In the workforce.  If you are fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, stay there.  I would trade the marginally useful critical thinking skills I gained in law school in a heartbeat, if it meant I could have those years of my life back.

I know I'm a broken record.  But it truly can't be said enough:  Don't go to law school if you don't want to be a lawyer, and make sure that you know what the practice of law entails before you decide you want to be one.  That's as close to a golden rule as I can get.

Things are looking up, guys.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Day!

Well, I am heading out soon for my first day on the job.  Thank you for all of the kind comments and emails I have received.  I'm anxious, but also excited.  If possible, I think my husband is even more excited.

I will be checking in later tonight for a "real" post.  Sorry for the slow week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Reflections on my Job Search

Since I just received my job offer early this Monday and will not be starting my new position until Wednesday, it may seem a bit soon to reach any grand, sweeping conclusions about my job search.  That said, I think that my search taught me some things that could be of use to those of you who are looking for jobs, specifically people with law degrees.

1) Networking: I can only speak for myself when I say that networking is beyond crap.  The conventional wisdom says that networking is the golden rule of job-hunting.  Making connections, meeting their connections, getting your business card/resume out there, etc. For me, connections did absolutely nothing.  The only connection that produced any result was my husband's former coworker.  And all that ended up getting me was an offer for an unpaid internship.  Think of it this way:  in a difficult job market like this one, basically no one has any job security.  Why are they going to stick their neck out for a friend of a friend, someone they might not know very well personally and whose work product they probably don't know at all?  I can't even blame them for it.  Maybe networking was more valuable when the economy was better.  Or maybe if you are looking for an unpaid internship someone will go out on a limb for you.  But that's not the climate right now, and I can't say that shocks me.

2) Law degrees for non-legal jobs:  I was able to get this job, a non-legal job doing research, writing and social media for an organization, despite the fact that I have a law degree.  I don't know exactly what the interviewers thought about the law degree, but they did ask about it.  Every single person who interviewed me asked me about the law degree, why I have it, why I am not seeking an attorney position, and how the skills might translate.  My point is that even if some of the stigma of the J.D. is starting to dissipate (and I don't necessarily think that it is), it is still a liability you will have to address.  So come up with a good explanation for why you went, what made you change your mind about the legal field, and how you plan on using the skill set.  Keep the tone as positive as you can.  For me, it is difficult to sound positive when discussing the law and the legal profession.  But I did the best I could and I think it helped.

3) Interviews:  I can honestly say that the best thing that happened for me in terms of getting this job was the fact that I interviewed for a virtually identical job earlier this summer.  Some of you might recall that I went all the way through the interview process at another organization this summer.  I did multiple rounds and submitted a writing exercise.  While I did not get the position, I learned from the questions exactly what employers in this field look for in a candidate.  I even learned something from the tone of their questions about the law degree.  Interviewing makes you a better interviewer, so if you get an offer for an interview you should take it, even if it is not a position you think you would want to accept.

But the most important thing...

4) Don't Give Up:  We all went to college and law school or graduate school because we ARE intelligent, hard-working people with something to offer an employer and society in general.  Trolls, shills and apologists come on these blogs and try to make us feel bad about ourselves.  As if it is our fault that we were taken in at a young age by a huge scam.  As if we caused the economic collapse that left us with few job prospects and crippling debt.  I'm all for personal accountability.  But the people who come here and scream about personal accountability in the comments section are here because they thrive on making other people feel insecure and bad about themselves.  I'm no psychologist, but I can tell you this:  DON'T internalize this portrayal of the young, indebted and unemployed.  Our only crimes were not being born with independent wealth and believing that education was the key to success. Keep applying for jobs, keep going on interviews, keep looking for openings.  You will find something eventually.  You will, of course, have good days and bad days during the process.  I certainly did.  Have someone to vent to: a friend, a significant other, a family member.  And, if you are sick of venting to those people, send me an email.  I'm always like to commiserate.

Best of luck everyone!  And as I said in my prior post, I will still be blogging.  Exposing the higher education scam is just as important as ever, and I will be here doing my part as long as I can.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My baby takes the morning train...

...and as of next Wednesday, so will I.

Yes, you read that right.  Last night I found out that I got a full-time job.  It is a non-legal job, but it pays well enough.  I don't know if the law degree had any impact on the hiring process, but I think the writing skills I learned will be somewhat useful for the position.   I can't swear to that, obviously, but they might.

I will admit it:  I am really excited about this job.  It has been a difficult few months and my self esteem took a bit of a hit.  Will I be giving up the fight?  Not a chance.  This good news has energized me and I am more committed than ever to fighting the law school/higher education scam.

Thanks for all of the emails and comments of support I received during the process.  I have some great readers.

Monday, September 12, 2011

More Fraudulent Numbers... Is Anyone Surprised?

Apparently, the University of Illinois is currently investigating allegations that someone at the law school provided false admissions data about the incoming class of 2014.  The data in question was posted to the law school's website and included in at least some of its promotional materials.  An Associate Dean has been placed on probation pending the outcome of the investigation.

Read about the scandal here.

I'm glad that the University seems to be pursuing the matter.  You would think these schools would learn from the mistakes of their fellow money traps.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What a cheerful news day!

Warning:  If you are having a happy Friday, you might not want to read these articles.

The ABA Journal email that arrived in my inbox is just chock full of cheerful articles today.  The first and most relevant one for our purposes is entitled "Legal Field Is Nation's Most Difficult Field For Job Placement, Employment Website Says."  Read it and weep.  The site,, claims that there is apparently one job opening for every 100 working lawyers.  Does that figure include the unemployed attorneys?  Probably not, which means the outlook is even worse than they know.

Second, there is an article which discuss women in the workforce.  It is called  "Survey Reveals Profile of Unhappy Worker: She's Unmarried, 42, and a Lawyer or Doctor."

There are always tons of stories about how unhappy attorneys are in the legal field. That's not to say that ALL attorneys are unhappy.  But a field that many people enter by default because they do not know what else to do lends itself to that sort of career dissatisfaction, if they are able to find a legal job at all these days.  But I am always suspect when surveys claim that professional women are particularly unhappy.  It seems easy to manipulate that data for a political agenda that encourages women to work part time or stay at home all together, as if very many women or men have that luxury nowadays.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Job Search Update

I thought I would take a break from depressing law school related posts to pop in and discuss my job search.

Some of you might recall that shortly after I graduated I had a phone interview for a position I really liked with a company I thought was a really good fit for me.  Sadly, they were looking for someone with experience I technically did not have.  I thought I had some skills that would translate well, but they did not seem to want to take the leap.  Which, I suppose, in an economic environment where the employer pretty much has the pick of the litter, is not irrational.

At the time, I decided not to burn the bridge.  I really like this company and the people I spoke to, and I thought it would be a good fit.  So I told them to keep me in mind for the future.  Lo and behold, a new position has opened up and the woman I spoke with at the time called me today and asked if I wanted to come in to discuss this position.  No guarantees, obviously, but I am cautiously optimistic that this might be something good.  She has spoken with me before, so she pretty much knows what she is getting.

I will keep you all updated as I hear things, but keep your fingers crossed for me!  I would say that this is the most promising lead yet!  I still have another interview pending, but I think this is one has more promise.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nando's Takedown of the Education Scam for AskMen

Nando, author of Third Tier Reality and one of the most notorious (and most effective) scambloggers, has a great piece for, which I highly recommend you check out.  It's a fantastic article that exposes a problem, backs it up with cold, hard facts, and proposes legitimate ways to fix it.  It is well worth your time. Read it here.

Happy Belated Labor Day, everyone!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jobs disappear, lemmings fill out law school applications

It's the circle of life, folks.

The title of the article is promising:  "Law schools lure fewer students as jobs dry up."  And yet the article is full of anecdotes, mostly centered on prospective law students in Missouri, that make me want to smash my face into my keyboard.  Here is the opening act:

Tenia Phillips has heard the horror stories about life after law school, circa 2011, from crushing student loan debt to recent graduates serving coffee at Starbucks.
The reality check didn't deter the 27-year-old Waco, Texas, resident from pursuing her childhood dream, though it took four years of working as an apartment leasing agent before she could start fall classes last week at the University of Missouri law school.
"I had gotten to the point in my life where it was either now or never," she said. "Nothing in life is guaranteed. The job market can go back up again or back down."

That's not true, Tenia.  One thing is guaranteed, and that is the non-dischargeable nature of your future debt load.


James Leopold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, said such criticism "adds to that culture of doubt surrounding legal education."
"The whole economy of delivering legal services, and the structure of these services, is changing," he said, describing changes that include a move to "offshore" legal jobs as well as a growing reliance by corporations on contract attorneys rather than in-house counsel.
"Are we producing too many lawyers? It's a question I can't answer," Leopold said.
 Really, Mr. Leopold?  You can't answer that question?

There are some bright spots in the article, which mentions that schools such as the University of Delaware and SUNY-Stony Brook have shelved their plans for a money trap law school.  As I said in a prior post, all press is good press.  But it saddens me, once again, that these students saw the writing on the wall and took the plunge anyway.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unpaid Internships

If you have followed the comments in any of my previous threads, then you know exactly how I feel about working for no pay.  This article from The Guardian gets it right.  Here's a quick excerpt:

"Perhaps most disappointing, given that the code was drawn up as a response to recommendations of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, is its failure to even cursorily explore the negative impact of unpaid internships on social mobility.
Skipping over the disadvantages faced by those without the resources to fund themselves while working for free, the code simply states blandly that recruitment should 'be conducted in an open and rigorous way so as to enable fair and equal access to available internships'."
As I have said before, I reject the idea that people should have to work for no pay. When an employer hires someone for a position, they are necessarily taking a risk.  Some candidates might be bigger risks than others, but it is the employer's responsibility to assess those risks in the application and interview process and make the best decision they can.  But they should not be reaping the benefits of free labor while they make that determination.  What incentive does a company have to hire someone for a full-time, or even part-time position in this economy when they are getting good work for free?  I realize the premise is that an intern is there to learn and gain experience.  But the reality is that many interns and post-graduates are doing the exact same work as regular employees but for no pay or a token stipend.

I'm glad to see someone in the U.K. is getting it right.  Now what about the U.S.?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Read it and Weep

The legal blog "Concurring Opinions" posed an open ended and extremely valid question to law students and law graduates:  "Why did you decide to go to law school given the current economic conditions?"

You can check out the comments.  There are 9 right now.  Here's a particularly painful one:

"I’m a 1L as of today. Honestly the decision to incur the debt was not easy. I did the research on those purporting the law school scam, read the materials on the inacuracies of U.S. News and World report data, and have spoken with a few lawyers about the bare job market. I do believe (possibly in error) that there are some jobs for those who work hard enough. I also recognize that there are very few jobs availible to those who only hold a bachelors degree. Compared to the legal job market ten years ago things are dire but sadly that is also true in most other job markets. Given the “rock and a hard place” employment options I chose to pursue law because interests me and I’m certain will challenge me."
Sigh.  He read the scam blogs and saw the data.  He even spoke to lawyers.  You know what they say about leading a horse to water... But Steve is right about one thing.  Law will challenge him.  Finding a job somewhere other than behind a cash register, paying off staggering debt and eating something other than ramen noodles will all be a challenge.  If you have to choose between a "rock and a hard place", why choose the one that leaves you with non-dischargeable debt?  The mind reels.

On another note, here is a particularly sane and sad comment:

"I went to a T20 school and graduated in 2009. I did well (honors) but am still under-employed. Many of classmates are in the same boat of under- and unemployment.
I went to law school because I believed the US News stats for my law school, which were apparently completely ginned up. (They base the numbers off the self-selecting group of alums who reply to Career Services’ inquiries). I’m in the Paul Campos/ATL boat of law schools being engaged in a giant Ponzi scheme.
When I talk to people who are going to law school, they’re shocked when I point them to blogs that highlight how bleak the situation is. Most law students go straight from undergrad. They’re busy partying, studying, doing what undergrads do. A NYT series, some blog posts in farflung outposts of the blogosphere, are not enough to break through the noise.
I think the general answer is: they are ignorant and they will get swindled as a result."

I've already gone over my poor reasoning for attending and staying in law school many times, but if you have missed those posts I think the name of this blog speaks for itself!  I feel bad for the people starting 1L this month, but the information is out there now to an extent that it was not when many of us matriculated.  And if all of those things named by the gentleman in the first comment I posted were not enough to dissuade him, it pains me to say that I do not know what can be done.

Monday, August 15, 2011

All Press is Good Press

Fox News reports on the situation for recent law graduates in Nevada.

Here's a quote from a Nevada attorney:
"'I will tell you there are lawyers in this town that are driving cabs. There are lawyers in this town that are doing part time work for Starbucks. They're young kids, they don't have families and they love Las Vegas. But many of them are moving,' Massi said."
And from a recent law grad:
"Martinez is one of the “kids” trying to tough it out and stick around. 'I've applied for anything from human resources positions at the casinos to clerk positions, secretary positions, anything,' she said. 'And I'm still struggling.'"
I can sympathize with Ms. Martinez.  It is very disheartening to apply for entry level positions that you probably could have been hired for out of high school and not even get interviews.  If I have any readers in Nevada who want to comment on the job market there, feel free.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

News from the City of Brotherly Love

Here is an interesting piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer, reporting on Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his request that the ABA do more to clarify their standards for insuring accurate employment and admissions data from law schools.

One thing I found interesting was a comment from Joanne A. Epps, the dean of Temple University Law School.  From the article:

"Temple Law School dean JoAnne A. Epps said she welcomed the additional scrutiny but added that much of the criticism was a result of inadvertent imprecision. She said law schools had been criticized for including graduates with nonlegal jobs in their employment data.
Four or five years ago, when every graduate could find a job as a lawyer, that wasn't a problem, she said, so no one thought to make the distinction. But now, with a smaller legal job market, more graduates are working outside law.
'I think it is perfectly appropriate for people to ask law schools to make sense of the statistics they report. That is a completely fair question,' Epps said."

I never thought I would agree with a law school dean on this blog, but I think Epps has a point.  In the past, the distinction between legal and non-legal employment within each category (private sector, public sector, academia) probably mattered much less than it does now.  But things changed and it is incumbent upon the law schools to change with the times and report data that gives an accurate picture of the job prospects of their graduates.   Hopefully Temple will change with the times and set a better example than its similarly ranked cross-town "rival."

While we are on the subject of Philadelphia and its ridiculously saturated legal market, here is an article (also from the Inquirer) which I missed a few days back.  The article claims that, based on a study, Philly area law schools outperform their competitors in terms of number of Big Law partners.  Choice quote:

"Philadelphia's strong legal market likely helps the region's schools usher alumni into law firms, Lennon said."

Is there anyone from the Philly area reading this blog willing to comment on the legal market in Philadelphia?  My impression is that to call it a strong legal market is a bit of an exaggeration.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The fighter still remains...

Being unemployed has put me on the most bizarre sleep schedule.  With no real incentive to wake up at a normal hour, I end up sleeping until 11 AM, but staying up until 3 or 4 AM.  I would not quite call it insomnia, because I don't exactly have trouble falling or staying asleep.  I'm just on a really strange rhythm.  Hopefully that will change if and when I find a real job, but truthfully I have always been a bit of a night owl.  Anyone else on a vampiric sleep schedule?

Anyway, this has been a big week for those of us working to expose the law school/higher education scam.  First, we have the arrival of a new blogger, a professor sharing his or her insights on the scope of the scam from the inside, and at a first tier school no less.  Then, there was the announcement about the lawsuits against NYLS and Cooley.  (Check out some coverage of that here.)  I won't belabor these stories, as the other scam-bloggers have done an excellent job of covering the details.  (See the links on my blog roll.)  Suffice to say, I believe that momentum is on our side and, more importantly, I strongly believe that the truth is on our side.

Big news:  I have a legitimate job interview scheduled for Monday morning.  We will see how that goes.  I am slightly more optimistic about this position than about the prior ones, as this company actually sought me out rather than the reverse.  They found my information in a resume bank I signed up for shortly after I graduated.  Wish me luck!  Going on these interviews and getting rejected can be draining.  But for those of you who just finished the bar exam and are now going to be beginning the process of interviewing/getting rejected, there is a silver lining.  After the first ten or so rejections they stop stinging as much, mostly because they cease to be a surprise!  This is surprisingly liberating, and allows me to go about the process of applying for jobs with companies or organizations I know I will likely either not hear back from or not be selected for with an odd detachment.  (Although I will admit, there is something vaguely irritating about those form auto-replies that state that due to a high volume of applications they will only contact those people they wish to interview!)

On that note, I will leave you with my "unable-to-sleep" song of choice, which I find strangely appropriate in spirit if not in actual lyrical content.  :) I hope you are getting more sleep than I am tonight!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What if you want to be a lawyer?

I was in the process of writing the second post in my "Bad Reasons For Starting Law School" series, but I was sidetracked by some of the comments in the first post.  I want to highlight a couple of them here because I think they are important.  One anonymous poster sent in the following comment:

"Law school is for people who WANT to be lawyers! Period! If you do not want to be a lawyer, then don't go to law school! It's just that simple!!! If you actually WANT to be a lawyer, and PRACTICE law, then you should go to law school! Not because your parents want you to; Not because you think you will make a lot of money; Not because you think people/friends will look up to you; Not because you think you will have more standing in the community; You should go to law school because whether you make $20,000.00 annually or $100,000.00 annually, advocating for others is what you want to do for a living and you are willing to do it no matter how much money is on the table."

I have wrestled with this concept before.  What about the people who "want" to be lawyers?  (Overlooking, for the time being, the fact that most prospective law students have an extremely warped idea about what the practice of law really entails.)  It seems odd to tell someone who really wants to be a lawyer that they should not apply.  But it's really not that simple.  Even if you want to be a lawyer and some law school in the country accepts you, there is no guarantee in this economic climate that you actually will be able to get any kind of legal job.  That's a really big risk to take unless you get into one of the best schools.

Another anonymous commenter summed it up well;

"I agree with the sentiment that you should go to law school if your heart is in it and you actually plan to "practice" law. That being said though, the risk/reward ratio is very different from what it was even 10 years ago. Today, you will be going in hock to get that degree and there may not be any pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, only a lot of debt and no reasonable way of paying it off. Truth be told, I doubt I would attend law school at this time. It's just too expensive to justify. In the early 2000's, my law school charged $20,000 per year. Not even a decade later, they are charging $40,000 per year. Yet salaries have stagnated decreased provided you can even get a job. I took another bar exam last week and met a recent student who told me she was $300,000 in debt. She graduated from a 4th tier crap hole, which is not going to open many doors. Despite my own misery at my current debt level, it has become easier to manage over time. But when you're talking about $300,000 of debt, you're in a whole different ball game. That's insane debt, which will have severe repercussions on one's life, i.e., the ability to afford a house, have children, find a suitable spouse, etc. You're basically a debt slave when you're carrying that level of debt. Game over. So the bottom line is, the analysis of whether to attend law school in today's current climate goes well beyond doing what you "want" to do or what you perceive will make you happy. There is a definite cost component that, whether you want to admit it or not, will crush your soul in the long run."

Emphasis mine.  Read that sentence over and over again.  There is more to consider when making long term life decisions than some abstract whim.  Okay, in theory you might think you like practicing law.  The question you have to ask yourself is whether this notion that practicing law is what you want to do or what will make you happy is worth a very heavy financial investment that has a decent chance of not paying off.  People will say you shouldn't worry about how much money you make if practicing law is what you love.  But there's a huge difference between working for a $25,000 salary with no student loan debt, or doing something you love for $25,000 with upwards of $100K in debt.  With no debt, if you change your mind about your career path you can do so.  You might struggle, but you have at least a little flexibility.  If you have $100K or more in student loan debt, that debt is not going anywhere.  You are stuck with it.  It will own you.  The reason I try to discourage people from going into such debt if at all possible is that you can't really fathom what carrying that debt load is like until you have it.  Until it has a major impact on all of the other decisions and milestones you face down the road, including your career, home ownership, marriage and family.  Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones who gets a great job and pays off their student loan debt without a problem.  I would be lying if I said there are no success stories.  Of course there are.  But you have to look at the odds.

I am an anonymous blogger.  There is no reason for someone to take my advice as the last word on any given issue.  Educate yourself.  Look beyond my blog.  But make sure you look beyond the numbers and employment statistics put out by the law schools themselves.  Talk to recent law graduates of the schools you are considering, and similarly ranked schools.  Read other blogs and publications.  Crunch the numbers on how much debt you will incur and how much you will need to earn to make the payments manageable.  You might decide to take the plunge anyway, but please don't be afraid to arrive at the conclusion that law school, or any graduate school, could be a bad investment.  If you have been thinking about going to law school for the past decade, or if you are far along in the application or enrollment process, this might be a scary decision to make.  There is no shame in it. but whatever decision you make, it should be an informed one.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bad Reasons For Starting Law School, Part 1: Parents

First year orientation is, for most members of the future class of 2014, about a month away.  I think that now is a good time for me to do a small series on bad reasons to go to law school.  If you are reading this blog and thinking about law school, my blanket advice to you is not to go.  There may be exceptions, but for the vast majority of people the best decision is not to go, to the point where I am willing to offer that as my one-size-fits-all take on the matter.  But if any of the reasons I will be profiling in this series apply to you, you REALLY should not be going. 

The first factor I am going to focus on is one of the worst reasons to go, but it is also one of the most tragic.  And probably, although many might hesitate to admit it, one of the most common:

1)      Parents:  
                 Back in the day, a college degree was a guarantee of success.  A graduate degree of any  kind was a winning lottery ticket.  As a result, many Baby Boomers with children who are now in their twenties really think they are doing the right thing by encouraging their children, many of whom have worthless liberal arts degrees, to go to law school.
In January, when the New York Times published a widely circulated article about the pitfalls of going to law school, my blog was one of the ones linked to in the online version.  I saw a huge increase in traffic as a result.  I also received an enormous number of emails, mostly from prospective or current law students sharing their stories or asking for advice.  But what surprised me most was the volume of emails I received from parents of current law students or recent law school graduates expressing remorse for encouraging their children to go to law school in the first place.  One poor woman felt that the situation had done irreparable harm to her relationship with her son.  He had expressed some reservations about attending, but with her encouragement he took the plunge and enrolled in a Tier 2 law school.  Now he has a ton of debt and few job prospects.  (Or at least few job prospects as of January, and it is hard for me to imagine things are looking up.)  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I literally had tears in my eyes as I read her email, both for the sadness of the circumstances and for the fact that she was troubled enough by the situation to reveal it to a complete stranger via email.  I feel for both the mother who thought she was offering sound advice, and the son who followed the natural instincts of many people.  After all, their parents have probably never led them astray before, and they certainly would not do it intentionally.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I was definitely influenced by my parents.  It was my decision to begin the application process, and ultimately it was my decision to enroll.  I do not blame my parents in the slightest bit for my decision or the repercussions that followed.  But they certainly influenced me.  They thought it was a great idea, and the best thing I could do with an English degree.  Unfortunately, they were wrong.  We both were.  But I know their hearts were in the right place.  They just did not have all of the information.  But that is starting to change.
One of the best things about the exposure that the law school scam is receiving from the mainstream media is that the message is finally beginning to reach parents.  Parents read the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.  They do not necessarily read blogs.  As parents come around to the reality of the situation, they will stop offering their children such unfortunate advice.
The point I am ultimately trying to make is that if you are scheduled to begin law school this August, and pleasing your parents or following their advice was one of the pivotal factors leading you to enroll – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE rethink your decision.  The only exception is if your parents are extremely successful attorneys themselves and have either (a) some very serious, guaranteed connections, or (b) a thriving practice that you will be able to join when you graduate.
Your parents are suggesting this because they think it is best for you.  If you do not take their advice, they may be hurt, confused or even angry at first.  They will get over it.  And trust me, you will be proven right.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

And the money keeps rolling in...

I'm glad to see that the New York Times has published another article critical of the law school scam.

“'I once joked with my dean that there is a certain amount of money that we could drag into the middle of the school’s quadrangle and burn,' said John F. Duffy, a George Washington School of Law professor, 'and when the flames died down, we’d be a Top 10 school. As long as the point of the bonfire was to teach our students. Perhaps what we could teach them is the idiocy in the US News rankings.'”

Funny he should say that, because that is essentially what students will be doing with their money if they decide to enroll in law school next month.

But George Washington University is not at the center of David Segal's article.  That would be New York Law School.  Check out this charming excerpt, courtesy of the Dean of NYLS:

“'What I’ve said to people in giving talks like this in the past is, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Mr. Matasar said at a 2009 meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. He ended with a challenge: If a law school can’t help its students achieve their goals, 'we should shut the damn place down.'
Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School to conform with his reformist agenda. But he hasn’t. Instead, the school seems to be benefitting from many of legal education’s assorted perversities. 
N.Y.L.S. is ranked in the bottom third of all law schools in the country, but with tuition and fees now set at $47,800 a year, it charges more than Harvard. It increased the size of the class that arrived in the fall of 2009 by an astounding 30 percent, even as hiring in the legal profession imploded. It reported in the most recent US News & World Report rankings that the median starting salary of its graduates was the same as for those of the best schools in the nation — even though most of its graduates, in fact, find work at less than half that amount."

How does he justify this disconnect between his actions and his words?  Here's the moral of the story:

"Asked if there was a contradiction between his stand against expanding class sizes and the growth of the student population at N.Y.L.S., Mr. Matasar wrote: 'The answer is that we exist in a market. When there is demand for education, we, like other law schools, respond.'"

The whole article is well worth a read if you want to see some shocking figures about the economics of law school.  I only wish that these articles would focus on the travesty that is the second tier.  By focusing on the lowest ranked schools, the media implies that the way the second tier schools operate is acceptable.  (Although, thankfully, Mr. Segal does admit in his article that there is no drastic difference between the way NYLS runs and the way other law schools run.)  That said, Mr. Segal has done a great job in making his ultimate point, which is that there is no way change is going to come from within the schools themselves.   If someone like Mr. Matasar, whose earlier words and philosophy showed so much promise, cannot be relied upon to at least attempt to instigate change from within, there is little chance of it happening.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another day, another misleading study from industry apologists

With everything that has been going on in my life over the past few weeks, I missed this trash when it came out a couple of weeks ago.

If you have been keeping up with the blogs recently, you have seen that we have been inundated with articles and studies pointing out that salaries are falling for new attorneys, and that the legal industry is losing jobs.  You might be surprised to find anyone ballsy enough to pretend that there is good news for recent law graduates.

Enter NaTTTional Juri$t.  This sickening publication should be familiar to all current law students or recent grads.  At my school, there were bins of it all over the place for people to read between classes.  Sandwiched between advertisements for foreign study programs and LLM programs ($$$) you will find the occasional article.  Since I graduated I have not had the misfortune of encountering one of these, but someone passed along this article from the website.  Here's the intro, and it is quite a hook:

"Recent law school graduates on average have more disposable income than they did ten years ago, this despite higher student loan debt and a worsened job market, according to an exclusive study by National Jurist magazine."

Really??  Despite higher student loan debt and a worsened job market, I should have more disposable income than law grads ten years ago???  THERE  IS HOPE!  Tell me more, tell me more... like, can I buy a car?

Not so fast:
"But that is not true for graduates who get jobs at the smallest law firms, or for those underemployed or unemployed. Students entering private practice with a law firm between two and ten attorneys saw an 8 percent decline in standard of living from 1998 — largely because salaries dropped from the Class of 2008 to 2009. But, if the students take advantage of the income-based loan repayment plan that took effect in 2009, their standard of living actually increases by 26 percent." 
So basically their point is this:  if you land a job at a big firm, your standard of living will be significantly higher than similarly placed law graduates ten years ago.  True or not, this issue is moot for the vast majority of recent graduates.  Their second point is that if you work in public interest or government, your standard of living will be a modest 6% better than similarly situated graduates a decade ago.  I am almost willing to believe that. Many schools now have loan repayment options for recent graduates in public service (if you can qualify for them), so it is a possibility.

But the misleading conclusion that the study draws is that recent law graduates in general have more disposable income.  When so many recent law graduates are either unemployed or flipping burgers, how can that possibly be the case?

I do not doubt that the new loan repayment options have helped some people.  But what about the unemployed?  Don't they count?  You can't publish a study that almost completely ignores an entire, substantial demographic and expect to draw anything meaningful from it.  As the NY Times pointed out, the unemployed have become invisible.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Can't make this stuff up...

This woman, a Wellesley graduate with an M.A. from George Washington University, is so overqualified for the positions that interest her that she has taken a job as a nanny in the Washington, D.C. area because she cannot even get interviews anywhere else.  In fact, the title of the article profiling her is "In a Down Economy, Overqualification is a Killer."

Her solution?  Law school.

I'm not trying to mock this young woman, or belittle her.  She has an impressive background and I am sure she is intelligent.  But is the solution for being overqualified for positions that interest you to get another degree?

Luckily there is still time for her to change her mind.  I sincerely hope that she either a) gets into Yale or b) realizes that more school is not always the answer, no matter how much she likes being a student.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Lookout For Falling Salaries

The Wall Street Journal has a short piece today on attorney salaries and the NALP Employment Report and Salary Survey on the Class of 2010.  This is the key part:

"Even so, the national median salary for newbie lawyers – at least for those with full-time work – still stands at $63,000, according to the report. That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that only about 64% of law school graduates found full-time employment in a job requiring bar passage. The rest found non-legal or part-time work, and more than a quarter reported biding their time in temporary jobs."
Let that sink in:  according to NALP, only 64% of law school graduates whose employment status is known are working in a full-time job requiring bar passage.  For what it's worth, NALP says that in the graduating class of 2010, they know the employment status of 87.6% of graduates.

From the NALP press release itself:

"We have been watching this market deteriorate for several years now," Leipold offered when asked about the significance of some of these changes, "but even I was surprised to see that the percentage of graduates employed in a full-time job requiring bar passage had dropped to 64%. In this market far more graduates are stringing together several part-time or temporary jobs to approximate a full-time equivalency for themselves. Leaving clerkships aside, one in five jobs obtained were temporary. That represents a dramatic change in the entry-level market."

Run, don't walk, from law school.  It is just not worth it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some sound advice

Here is some sound advice from TIME Moneyland.  There is really only one thing I would add.  At the end, Mr. Bissonnette suggests that people only pursue law school "if the career you are passionate about involves being a lawyer."  It's not that this is incorrect per se, but I would add that prospective students should also educate themselves about what being a lawyer actually entails before deciding law is their passion.  Most people have little or no idea going into the law school application process what their career will actually look like if they are fortunate enough to actually get a legal position upon graduation.

But that minor point aside, it is always nice to see mainstream publications picking up on and spreading this message to their readers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Employment Update

When I resurrected this blog, I promised I would keep readers updated about my search for non-legal employment.  Since graduation, I would estimate that I have sent out approximately 50 resumes, possibly more.

My first lead was for a position that seemed like a perfect match on paper.  A non-legal position, in one of my areas of interest.  I'm not going to lie and say that I was extraordinarily enthusiastic about the organization itself, but a paycheck is a paycheck.  Alas, despite a great conversation with the employer, and being told by him that I am "perfect for the job" (a direct quote from both the agency and the employer) they were not interested.  Believe it or not, I was not too surprised.  I am somewhat familiar with this organization and I have an idea of the type of person they would like to hire for that kind of position.  (For starters, not a woman.)  Don't get me wrong: this is not a card I like to play.  I know the reality of the job market right now, but I have always had a suspicion about some of the higher-ups here.

My second lead:  Another employer received a resume I sent out, asked to schedule a phone interview, and then called for what seemed like the sole purpose of telling me that they really were looking for someone with a skill set I do not have.  Um, thanks?  Must have been some kind of quota they were looking to fill, for interview calls.  At least I appreciate that the conversation was short.  About two minutes, start to finish.  Might as well cut to the case and not go through a whole interview charade if it is hopeless.

My third lead:  A phone interview for a position with an organization that seemed cool.  The person I spoke to on the phone was nice and friendly, told me my qualifications were excellent, and spoke to me for about half an hour.  I hung up with a pretty good feeling.  Then, radio silence for two weeks.  I saw the writing on the wall, but figured I would follow up with a quick and professional email.  His response was basically, "Your editorial work is great, but we are looking for someone with specific experience in a certain area."  It was frustrating to hear that, but so it goes.

I know I'm not alone here.  It can be really disheartening to have what you feel are good interviews, and have them go nowhere.  It is also frustrating when people call to ask you to interview and then point out that you do not have the experience they are looking for when your resume and cover letter could not make that any plainer.  I guess I don't blame the employers per se; they have a position to fill, and right now they basically have their pick with the job market the way it is.  If anything, I blame myself for being in this position when I had a perfectly good job before starting law school.  Now I have to explain away that time, and explain away the poor judgment that led me here.

I have two interviews lined up for next week - real life, in-person interviews.  Both of them are on Wednesday.  I am keeping my fingers crossed, as both positions seem good.  I have read both listings at least four times since scheduling the interviews and there are no qualifications listed that I clearly do not meet.  Let's hope that, based on the calls, the toxic J.D. on my resume has not completely scared them off.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Loan Deferral Drama

While I try to keep this blog law school focused, or at least legal-field focused, I have been experiencing such a headache with my undergraduate student loans for the past few weeks that I could not resist writing about it here.

Because I graduated in May and do not have a job yet, I called the company that handles my undergraduate student loans and requested an unemployment deferral.  Charmingly, the loans go into repayment on your last day of classes, as if that's the day that you will magically have the money to start making payments again.  They sent me some forms to fill out, which were simple enough.  I faxed them back and it all seemed painless as one could expect.

A few days later, the phone calls began.  First, they claimed not to receive my fax.  Then, they claimed they only got the cover sheet.  Then magically, another page appeared.  But still, more than half of my loans were not in deferral-mode.  Calmly, I went back to the UPS store and had them faxed again.  These are people who essentially send faxes all day, for a living.  I think they know how to do it.  I informed the company that I faxed the sheets once again, and that should have been that.

And a few days later, the phone calls began again.  Apparently no fax was received.  This is not rocket science; I used the number on the site, which was the same as the number the service rep gave me.  I calmly explained that I have no job, and every time I have to fax something to them it costs money.  But, I faxed it again.

Now, the harassing letters have started arriving, threatening to report me to collections for the half of my loans  for which the form was apparently faxed into the ether.  Collections, after how many days?  Really?  Just for the cherry on top of the whole situation, I received an email telling me that they received mail back from my address marked as undeliverable.  Which is pretty astonishing as I have received mail from them before, at this address.  Beautiful.

I'm sending it again today with a tracking number, snail mail.  I know that there is nothing remarkable about this story, but here's the thing:  My student loans and the knowledge that they are looming over my head is a constant source of anxiety and stress for me.  To be bombarded with calls, letters and emails as if I am some sort of criminal deadbeat is very upsetting, especially when I tried to do everything right from the outset and get the loans deferred.  It is also a painful, constant reminder that I cannot put this stuff off forever.  (A reminder which, believe me, I don't need.)  I find it hard to believe that the company has the documents and is lying about it - if I had to guess someone profoundly inept has been receiving them and misplacing them.  But these are people who have been hired to handle things that are absolutely critical to people's lives.  A little organization is not too much to ask for.  But why should I be surprised?  This is all par for the course.  Prospective students, take note:  you could very well be in for this type of humiliation down the road.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Single Life

When I discuss the state of the legal job market with people outside of the field, one of the most common reactions I get from the over-forty crowd is:  “Why don’t you just put out a shingle?  In my day you could just put up a shingle and make (fill in the blank) dollars a day/week/month, just by dealing with things like wills or real estate closings, or DUIs.”
Apparently, that mentality is making some inroads with the new generation of law grads. This article from MSNBC claims that 5.7 % of graduates of the class of 2010 who are employed in the private sector work in a solo practice.  That number does not seem especially high to me, but it is an increase.

Here are a few interesting parts of the article:

'Chetson doesn’t blame his school’s career services for focusing more on maintaining long-standing relationships with bigger, more established companies. But he does blame law schools for being as expensive as they are, causing students to rack up a large amount of debt only to be faced with meager job prospects.
“Law schools recognize that to get people to keep coming, you’re going to have to hold out the hope that you’ll be able to make $150,000 at the end of the year,” he said.'
Sounds mostly right, except for the part about not blaming career services for focusing more on maintaining relationship with big firms, when the reality is that the lion's share of law graduates stand little to no chance of ever getting a job at a big firm.  The fact that they do that is a large part of the second problem he mentions, which is that schools have to hold out hope that you will get a $150K job, knowing that it is nonsense.

'Aaron Street, co-founder and publisher of legal resource blog, said a majority of law schools continue to focus on how to interview for jobs or submit resumes for job postings, rather than honing the skills needed to be a successful business person.
“Current or prospective law students need to understand that you can’t just sit back and have classes spoon fed to you and think it’s going to be done,” he said. “You’re going to have to figure out things on your own and if you’re not prepared for that don’t go to law school.”'
 Well, yes.  I agree that if you don't want to figure things out on your own (or if you don't want mountains of debt and poor job prospects), you should not go to law school.  But I still think that is a failing on the part of the schools.  I have said in numerous posts that no one deserves to get anything handed to them.  But we are not asking for things to be handed to us.  Rather, we are PAYING schools for a SERVICE.  That service is not just to hear some egotistical professor blather on about substantive due process.  The goal is to become employed, and it is the school's job to prepare you for that position through training and to assist in placement because that is what they advertise.  Mr. Street is correct that as a law student you will have to figure all of these things out on your own, but there is no reason that should be the case given the sticker price.  Which is the point Mr. Chetson makes earlier in the article.

Do any of my readers have experience with solo practice?  Is it really a viable alternative for people who are struggling to find a job?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

It's life's illusions I recall...

I'm wondering if anyone else with crippling student loan debt and few or no job prospects finds themselves incredibly nostalgic for times in their life that were distinctly mediocre while they were happening.

For example, I hated high school while I was in it.  Not for any special reason, but for the reasons most people give for not liking high school.  I felt out of place, and I was more focused on getting into college than most of the other students which alienated me somewhat from the "cool" groups.  Between that and the fact that I had to spend almost all of my free time caring for my younger siblings, those did not feel like the best four years of my life.  Nothing unique to complain about, for sure, just the usual growing pains that many college-bound high school students feel.

Well, I remember my high school years as BEYOND PARADISE right now for two simple reasons:  I had a part time job working at the mall that paid almost $10/hour (which would be impossible to get right now), and I had NO DEBT.  Real happiness truly boils down to the divide in the eras in my life:  After debt, and before debt. (B.D.) I don't really count my undergraduate debt.  Although it is not exactly trivial, it was manageable even when I was working as a paralegal.  (God, why did I leave that job?)

I wish I could go back in time and tell my sixteen year old self to avoid graduate school at all costs, no matter what pressures come in the form of college career advisers or parents.  Failing that, I wish I could at least tell myself to lighten up and enjoy high school more, because it is the last time I would enjoy true freedom from the ball and chain of crippling, non-dischargeable debt.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This op-ed makes a lot of sense...

I think this is my favorite part:

"We’ve learned that during prosperous economic periods the number of law positions increases substantially; the reverse is also true. Even so, the largest group of people ever to take the law school admissions test did so in 2009-10. More than 1,600 first-time test-takers who indicated Indiana as their permanent residence took the LSAT last year."
So, let me get this straight... we are not in a prosperous economic period, which means that the number of law positions has decreased substantially, according to his rationale.  The president of the university is admitting that there are fewer law jobs, but justifying opening up a new law school on the basis that more people are taking the law school admissions test.  Where does he expect these people to work?  Does he plan on hiring them?  I wonder if their "feasibility study" considered that question.

"We have four law schools in Indiana, and each serves law students quite well. Yet we know that many well-qualified prospective law students who apply to our law schools are not accepted."
And why exactly is this a problem?

You see, this doesn't surprise me anymore.  We know why universities do this - they want to cash in on naive applicants.  But it does not make it any less sickening.  I do not know much about Indiana.  But notice that while he talks about the fact that there are only four law schools in Indiana, and that law students are leaving the state to attend school and end up practicing in other states, he does not once imply that there is a need for lawyers in Indiana that is not being met by the current schools.  He only states that students are choosing to go elsewhere.

Hopefully prospective students will use their own critical-thinking skills, see the gaping hole in the logic here and avoid this trap.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Here's an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, commenting on Villanova's response in the face of the data inflation scandal that broke four months ago today. Or rather, their lack of a response. It seems that Villanova's strategy could be summed up as: "Least said, soonest mended."

Is that a smart move? I think it probably is. Unless they plan on taking extremely proactive, positive steps to deal with the larger problem, they have nothing to gain and everything to lose from the story getting any media attention at all.

I think the most interesting part of the article is buried at the bottom.

"Two American Bar Association committees are working on revamping the reporting requirements in an effort to better inform prospective students. One of the participants, David N. Yellen, dean of Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, says he doubts there's much that can be done to prevent the kind of out-and-out academic fraud that occurred with the Villanova numbers.

He says the upside is that it probably is very rare - there are only so many Bernie Madoffs in the world. The employment information is another matter. That is reported every year and used by U.S. News & World Report. Yellen says it is often misleading because it makes no distinction between full- and part-time employment. Moreover, salary data often are reported from a misleadingly small sample of graduates."

Is it really rare? Or is it just rare to get caught?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

School's Out Forever

Hi everyone,

I know it has been a really, really, inexcusably long time since I have blogged. And I am sure that I have lost most of my links or readers. But I want to check in with a little update in case anyone still looks because the scam-busting movement is just as important to me as ever, if only from the sidelines.

Graduation came and went with little fanfare on my part. I told my family not to bother making the trek because I don't feel there is really anything to celebrate about graduating with a ton of debt, no job and a group of friends in the exact same situation. None of my close friends from law school have jobs yet, and only a few of my acquaintances do. I will say that if I feel good about anything, it's the fact that I will never be in a classroom again and no one will ever get another tuition dollar from me. That said, graduation also marked my official transition from depressed law student to completely unemployed law graduate. Yes, I am unemployed for the first time in my life since I was fourteen, which is pretty demoralizing even if it has only been a few weeks.

A few things going on in my personal life convinced me to put off taking the bar until February. I have been looking for non-legal jobs and if I find one I like I might not take the bar at all. Or even if I find one I don't like. Who knows? At this point what I really need is a paycheck; I don't want to mooch off of my fiance forever.

I literally have nothing but time right now, so maybe I will take this opportunity to post more often. So many of the really important scambloggers have done a great job advocating for various types of reform, and I think they will be better advocates for such things than I will. They are more eloquent and, frankly, more creative. But perhaps I can turn this into a job-search journal. I have been applying for non-legal jobs for three weeks now. In that time I have had two interviews. (Two and a half if you count a phone interview that lasted about a minute.) Perhaps I will post more about those later, but the real take-away from all three is what I (along with many others) have been saying all along. A law degree is NOT an asset in any field but law. The law degree scares people away. A position that you are fully qualified for and could perform well in will be out of reach because the employer will be scared that you will leave for a "$100,000 law job."

Plenty of people go to law school not knowing what the practice of law entails, and therefore not knowing that they might not like it. That is bad enough, but what really pains me is to hear about people who plan on getting a law degree *knowing* that they have no desire to practice, thinking that they can "do anything" with a law degree. The employers I spoke with beg to differ.

I will be checking in with some job market updates as I get them. Once again, I am sorry for the months with no updates, but I can tell from reading the scam blogs that the movement has not suffered! The truth has a way of getting out eventually, and it feels good to know that I have played even a tiny part.