So, as some of you may or may not know, I’m a survivor of the legal education lie, or The Law School Dupe. That is, I was promised a glorious future of raining money and “making a difference”…. but reality reveals that the legal job market is in the toilet.
Life After Law School
A few cases to illustrate my point:
Attorney friend graduates from Top 50 law school, passes bar, can’t find a job in NYC. Moves back in with parents and job hunts for months. Is finally offered a position in Chicago, i.e. half-across from the country from where he wants to live. He is offered the position because he speaks Chinese. He makes less at the firm than when he was a paralegal.
Attorney friend is so sick of legal job market that she quits the “career” and joins the military.
Attorney friend receives multiple awards at graduation ceremony. Passes bar. Can’t find law job. She ends up working an “office job” that her mom got her.
Attorney friend attends Top 25 law school. Passes bar. He can’t find a job. He finally takes a job as a public defender, making less than he did out of college. The job is depressing and stressful, but he continues to work it because of the student loan forgiveness, and he’s $250,000 in student loan debt. He drinks a lot.
Attorney passes bar and can’t find law job. He ends up taking temporary document review jobs to pay his bills. He sits at an office table all day analyzing stacks of paperwork for litigation, essentially the most boring job known to man. It pays $25/hr. His friend is a plumber and makes $30/hr.
Attorney graduates from Top 20 law school. Passes bar. He can’t find a job. He gives up on the legal job market and works for his family’s magazine business.
These are actual in-my-life anecdotes, not something I read in a book. These are real people in real situations, and it sucks.
Let me add one more:
I am an attorney, and I graduated from a top law school in the top of my class. I passed the Bar on my first try. I could NOT find a decent job in the legal field. I settled for a job making tens of thousands of dollars less than I anticipated, a job I hated, and I saved up my money and began teaching myself programming and web development on my own time. There are about 500x as many listed development jobs than legal jobs. Look at the programming world and you’ll see workers with 3 years of experience making $150,000+ in San Jose… With stock options. It’s like entering a buffet after a famine.
My biggest regret is that I didn’t do this sooner. If only I stumbled upon a blog post like this one!
A Factory of Lies
Looking around the internet, I’m happy to see people are catching on. The Law School Dupe is no longer under the radar. People are beginning to notice the lies. They’re beginning to get angry. Do a quick search, and you’ll find a TON of blogs about law school lies, shitty job placement, student debt, and lousy salary prospects.
Law schools fudge their numbers and do all sorts of black magic wizardry to keep the public ignorant of the reality that THE LEGAL JOB MARKET IS ON LIFE SUPPORT. They continue to churn bright young minds through their student loan debt machine, fueling it with lies and false promises. They need to be stopped.
There are a bunch of blogs hellbent on exposing law schools for what they are: money making machines, and liars.
Third Tier Reality is especially good.
“The ABA has released its employment data for the class of 2013, which is defined as everyone who graduated between September 1, 2012, and August 1, 2013.
Generally, graduates fared little better this year than last year. 57 percent were employed full-time/long-term in bar-passage required jobs. This is up 0.8 percentage points from February 2013.
On the other hand, the graduate unemployment rate grew while the non-response rate declined.
If you are still considering a “legal education,” then you truly are a lost cause. Could you imagine - for one damn second - if AMA/AAMC accredited medical schools featured such pathetic employment placement rates?!?! Students and graduates would grab scalpels, and head to the dean’s office with bad intentions. After all, no one in their right mind would piss away several years of their life - and incur outrageous sums of NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt - for a 57% or 38.3% chance of working in their professional field. In a just world, the ABA pigs would be hung up on meat hooks.”
"It’s just the bad economy! Things will turn around!"
Law schools try to play the terrible legal market off as a temporary symptom of the economic downturn. The reality is this: Biglaw is now deciding to use foreign lawyers and non-lawyers to engage in U.S. legal work. The ABA issued “Ethics” Opinion 08-451 decision on August 25, 2008. Just look at the falling pay rates for U.S. contract attorneys since that time!
Even as the economy improves, large companies and law firms are going to continue to outsource and offshore their work. And those employers will see that they made it through tough financial times with a skeleton crew of U.S. workers. They will NOT suddenly decide to hire a bunch of recent JDs simply because there are so many who are unemployed and available to work. Or if they do, it’ll be with peanuts for pay.
We are in the midst of a fundamental restructuring of the U.S. economy. Law school is a poor decision for ANYONE who is not well-connected or independently wealthy. This is especially the case for those who are paying full sticker and/or attending low-ranked second and third tier schools. It is unfortunate that many law students think it matters if their school is ranked 71st or 87th. They’ll be employed as a waiter in either case!
Rank Matters - Go Best or Go Nothing
Outside the Law School Scam writes:
A few words about the T13— i.e. the 14 schools that have traditionally been regarded as elite, minus Georgetown, whose placement stats establish that it does not belong. These schools, and only these, boast full-time law job placement rates above 75%. These schools, and only five others, placed 25% or more of their 2012 graduating class in NLJ 250 firms. Yet, even here, caution is warranted. Yes, you will probably land a prestigious clerkship, or a big firm job. Thus, your law school investment won’t be a total wipeout. But the investment is often so huge— indebtedness to the tune of a couple hundred thousand interest-accruing dollars— that a well-paying entry-level associateship in a big law firm may not be enough. In order to pay for that T13 law degree, you will have to hang on to that job for a long time, or more likely transition into something almost as lucrative when they give you the boot.
So, if you want a guarantee that you’re 75% likely to get a legal job after law school, you have to attend The Top Schools, i.e. the top 14, and do really well while in them.
"But I have a Full Ride!"
The blogger from Outside the Law School Scam argues that debt even makes attending a top law school not worth it. But what about those with full rides to the second-rate schools? Is it worth it?
Let me say, if you’re attending a second-rate school for FREE, you’re ALSO making a bad decision. Law school, even with a ride, is EXPENSIVE. Unless you go part-time, you won’t be able to work. You’ll have to brief mountains of cases, study thousands of hours, and this is just to land a solid B. And if you want a shot as a legal job come graduation, you better get better than solid B’s. You see, B’s aren’t so great in law school. They mean “average” — you want A’s, and getting A’s means dedicating your every waking moment to your studies, so that you’re better than your peers. You’re graded against your peers! Forget friends, family, and significant others, nevermind a JOB. You’ll also want to get on law review, participate in moot court, work legal internships, and participate in a clinic if you want a real shot at a legal job come graduation.
And even with a full ride, you’re talking about THREE YEARS of opportunity costs. If you’re leaving a job where you make $35,000, you’ll be losing $105,000 plus potential promotions, work experience, and other opportunities. And for what? For the chance to graduate a law school, to spend 2 or 3 months cramming for a Bar Exam where you’ll probably shell out a few grand for a bar prep course. Then you’ll pay all of the Bar Exam fees (around $800), and provided you’re a smart individual, you’ll pass. Then maybe you’ll have a way less than 75% chance of landing a legal job where you’ll make around $50,000.
Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?!
You don’t need a mountain of non-dischargeable debt to work as a bouncer, bartender, cab driver, or latte server.
And even without law school debt, you also do not need a JD to work in auto parts delivery, insurance sales, or burger-flipping.
PLEASE: If you know someone who is considering law school, tell them to become a plumber instead.