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You Can't Have Your Money Back
October 25, 2010 2:03 PM   Subscribe

A third year law student at Boston College doesn't like the prospects he has after graduation, so he decided to ask the dean for a refund.
posted by reenum (162 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
You'd think a third-year law student would be familiar with the phrase "caveat emptor".
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [44 favorites]


If you're smart enough to get into law school, you ought to be smart enough to figure out that getting a degree in whatever doesn't mean the world owes you a living.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [30 favorites]


Or smart enought o apply for a hardship deferral on your loan
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:08 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I go to bed every night... resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.

Those coins I bought on Goldline haven't appreciated in value the way Mr. Beck led me to expect.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:09 PM on October 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


It is a debt which, despite being the size of a mortgage, gives us no tangible asset which we could try to sell or turn in to the bank. We are not even able to seek the protection of bankruptcy from this debt.

You knew about that before you applied. Merely recognizing this fact doesn't get you a bye.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:10 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


He'd do more good lobbying to roll back the bankruptcy restrictions on student loan debt. Not that that would happen either.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:11 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


What a silly person.
posted by kafziel at 2:12 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is so stupid that I literally don't know what to say. I initiated and aborted four or five comments here. What is wrong with this guy? If I were the dean, I would take him up on his offer subject to the additional condition that he never mention having been associated with BC. I can't imagine wanting to think of other people knowing my law school admitted someone this dumb.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:12 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


He'd do more good lobbying...

Or forming The Tuition Is Too Damned High Party.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [41 favorites]


It's worth noting that this kid hasn't even graduated yet, so he's been looking for a job for about 4 months, part time, at most.
posted by cyphill at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Previously?
posted by yeolcoatl at 2:13 PM on October 25, 2010


*"wanting other people to know my"
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 2:14 PM on October 25, 2010


Ugh. There are no words for the idiocy of that letter.
posted by King Bee at 2:15 PM on October 25, 2010


This is kind of a silly gamble. He's very unlikely to get any conciliation from the school, and now his name is out there for all prospective employers to laugh at.

Hopefully, this will be a a lesson that will discourage kids who want to go to law school just to make a pile of cash while encouraging those who actually want to be conscionable advocates. Not sure how the latter will be brought about, but it's a nice thought.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah, snark if you like. But it's pretty much an open secret that law schools blatantly hide their employment statistics through things like selective reporting, counting graduates working retail as "employed" and giving those who cannot get a job elsewhere meaningless temporary assignments in the law school itself. So yeah, they've got 95% employment six months out, but the percentage of those people working a job that actually requires a law degree is deliberately obscured.

Considering that law schools demand some $150k, backed by the promise that you can be a lawyer when you finish, it's hard to argue that this doesn't constitute a fairly serious problem, making the student's request not quite as outlandish as it's being made to seem.
posted by valkyryn at 2:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [42 favorites]


If he'd posted it under his actual name perhaps he could have parlayed this letter and the notoriety it brings into a cushy job disapproving of and regretting things!
posted by Mister_A at 2:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


A man, having patronized a Quiznos, doesn't like what his body intends to use the sandwich's caloric energy for, so he decides to ask for a refund.
posted by penduluum at 2:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, open thread via yeolcoatl. Delete this one.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:16 PM on October 25, 2010


I go to bed every night... resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.

Man, I remember in high school, the legal recruiters were out every day. They'd find out who you were, call you 3 times a day, talk to your parents, friends, promising they'd give you a better future. They were really good at playing on people's low self-esteem, promising folks they'd make the world a better place, protect their communities, learn the meaning of honor, strength, teamwork.

Some of my friends signed on with them. And it seemed all good at first.

Then they started coming back. They weren't the same people any more. They couldn't hold normal jobs, and just everyday stuff might set them off. They'd been through too much. And all of the benefits they were promised? Gone, just like that. For all the flag waving and parades, in the end, they were just left without much options. Even the post office jobs were filled up. No one had any use for them.

Sometimes... I just wish we lived in a society that didn't have so much pro-legal propaganda. Offering someone the choice between poverty or law school, I mean, what would you choose?
posted by yeloson at 2:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [65 favorites]


I could be wrong, but the employment situation for JDs wasn't that hot 2.5 years ago when he went to law school.

To paraphrase FelliniBlank's point, if you're smart enough to go to law school, you should be smart enough to figure out that promises of untold riches if you'll only spend six figures at our prestigious school might be just a tad self-interested.
posted by fatbird at 2:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


He paid for an education, and he got an education.

What's next on the docket?
posted by Capt. Renault at 2:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's worth noting that this kid hasn't even graduated yet, so he's been looking for a job for about 4 months, part time, at most.

I dunno about this kid in particular, but a smart law student (which may rule out this kid) starts looking for a job the moment they start applying to law school and doesn't stop until they accept an offer at the job they actually want to stay with for the foreseeable future.

So a smart law student in his situation will have been looking for a job for about 3 years.

So yeah, they've got 95% employment six months out, but the percentage of those people working a job that actually requires a law degree is deliberately obscured.

And it completely omits the percentage that have the job they want. Law schools should report at least two graphs: a graph of income and a graph of "on a scale of 1-10, how close is your job to the job you want." The graph of income would also show employment, since unemployment would be represented as no or very low income. I predict that the job satisfaction graph would be horrible for most law schools.
posted by jedicus at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child.

Note to wife and future child: You're on to a loser with this one, start planning your exit strategy now.
posted by Artw at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


Also previously.
posted by dhens at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2010


If you're smart enough to get into law school, you ought to be smart enough to figure out that getting a degree in whatever doesn't mean the world owes you a living.

The idea that college is for learning and is above such plebeian concerns as employment is quickly rendered moot by top law schools pushing those 6-figure starting salaries and high employment rates. I have at least two friends that are now working bullshitty 6-month temp clerk jobs their schools got them in as a way to "help" in such a tough job market: also to juke their employment numbers. The hard fact is that employment still sucks for lawyers, law schools haven't done anything except hope things get better.

When I was in school, there was a point in time where I want to continue studying philosophy into grad school. My professor at a time, a Jesuit, basically told me that, yes, the image of a dirt poor philosophy major is true ... but it gets worse, that I shouldn't even count on teaching when I get out and I should be really prepared to deal with academia bullshit if I'm ever so lucky to land a teaching position (I had zero interest in teaching at the time, but that's beside the point). In any case it was made clear to me that in no uncertain terms, if I didn't find that this was my absolute calling I'd hate myself, because there's a very real chance I could be working at Starbucks and paying off a mountain of debt (no offense to philosophy grad majors working at Starbucks, seriously, just making a point).

This isn't what law schools are doing, at all, even in this shitty economy. My neighbor's daughter is a 1L at a top ten law school and everyone seems to believe that everything will just return to normal. There's no plan on if firms don't start hiring at the levels they once hired at, etc. and they keep feeding the kids the line that it is okay, put everything on credit, you're going to be a lawyer from a top ten law school, you're the one who always makes the money. I tried explaining that no, I have friends who just graduated towards the top of their class from the very law school they went to and are seriously struggling to stay afloat.

N.B. This would all be moot if you didn't need a big lawyer law job coming out of law school to pay off the fucking debts.
posted by geoff. at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [13 favorites]


So I presume he'd be willing to "return" whatever college credits he's earned and start over again from scratch (including having to find some way to finance school again) when the economy turns around and he decides he really does need a degree?

Because being a high school grad is going to make job hunting so much easier?
posted by JaredSeth at 2:22 PM on October 25, 2010


Considering that law schools demand some $150k, backed by the promise that you can be a lawyer when you finish

They promise you a career like Axe Body Spray promises you a hot girlfriend.
posted by rocket88 at 2:23 PM on October 25, 2010 [19 favorites]


Also also previously previously.
posted by Gator at 2:24 PM on October 25, 2010


But all that said he's an idiot. As much as law schools need to be more open and transparent about the realities if the (lack of) value they offer for the money, most of the data is out there for anyone thinking about law school to see. Unless BC made specific promises (e.g., not "95% of our graduates find work" but rather "you, specifically, will find a job as an attorney"), he hasn't a leg to stand on.

Or smart enough to apply for a hardship deferral on your loan

Yeah, meanwhile interest accumulates, quite possibly interest rates rise, and you end up with significantly more debt than when you started. It's better than going into default, but not by much.
posted by jedicus at 2:25 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's better than going into default, but not by much.

This is student loan debt, you don't go into default. Hardship is about all you can do.
posted by geoff. at 2:26 PM on October 25, 2010


Since law schools tout their placement records, and market themselves at least in part based on the kinds of firms and agencies that recruit on campus, it's likely that this letter is tied to the particularly slim pickings Boston College was able to offer its students this year.

Increasingly, it looks like the legal profession has adjusted to the recession by simply ignoring most of those who graduated in 2009 and 2010. Now it looks like this may extend into the class of 2011. So as a symbolic gesture that points out the absurdity of a people with $180,000 in debt and no job prospects, it kind of works for me.

It will probably not help this one person get his tuition back, though.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:26 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's possible to be intelligent and naive at the same time - and one could argue that the implicit promises of future success cultivated by many educational institutions are partially responsible for a lot of young people making mistakes in this regard.

This is more prevalent at the undergraduate level, of course, and he should have known better, but arguably his failure to find legal employment is not all on him.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 2:27 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


So I presume he'd be willing to "return" whatever college credits he's earned and start over again from scratch (including having to find some way to finance school again) when the economy turns around and he decides he really does need a degree?

That's the offer. You give me my money back, and you can destroy my transcript. I know half a dozen people who would take that offer in a heartbeat, and I went to a top-25 school.
posted by valkyryn at 2:28 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Increasingly, it looks like the legal profession has adjusted to the recession by simply ignoring most of those who graduated in 2009 and 2010.

Ain't it the truth. I graduated in 2009, and lemme tell you, the market sucks. I was lucky enough to land a job, but the pay is crap, and it may actually be a resume stain, not a valuable experience-builder. So now I'm kind of stuck, and everyone wants to hire people with 3-5 years of experience at minimum.
posted by valkyryn at 2:30 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is student loan debt, you don't go into default.

Sure you do. For loans paid monthly (that's most of them), it happens after 270 days without a payment.
posted by jedicus at 2:30 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is just like Hoop Dreams.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:33 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


No wonder this guy can't find a job. He's a whiny, self-righteous imbecile with no common sense or sense of personal responsibility.

Still, I'm going to rule against Boston College, as it was their mistake to admit someone this ignorant and unbalanced into law school.
posted by Davenhill at 2:33 PM on October 25, 2010


That's the offer. You give me my money back, and you can destroy my transcript. I know half a dozen people who would take that offer in a heartbeat, and I went to a top-25 school.

Oh man I'd take it.

So now I'm kind of stuck, and everyone wants to hire people with 3-5 years of experience at minimum.

Indeed. My wife is an attorney and her firm recently interviewed for a junior associate position. They were inundated with applications from not just former law firm partners but former senior law firm partners with portable business (for non-attorneys: clients they could bring to the new firm). It is an employers' market out there.
posted by jedicus at 2:33 PM on October 25, 2010


No geoff., you do go into default. I did, after law school. They sold my law school loans to a collection agency (which, by the way, were much easier to work with than the state agency that approved the loans in the first place). And if you don't or can't pay, once they've got you in collections they go for a judgment against you. Then they garnish your wages. So yes, you can default on these loans. But unlike an underwater mortgage, you can never walk away from them.

But that's what this is about. This isn't about getting a refund. S/he knows that isn't possible. This is about making a public statement about the stupidity of going to law school now. I still have friends that talk about going to law school. And we're three years into lexpocalypse. Some think "eh, the economy will improve by the time I get out" and others just don't even know it is going on. I'm very frank with people who ask me about it. I ask them how much they are making now, and how much they think they will be making in three years if they work hard where they are. Then I tell them what I'm making, or what my friends are making, and usually that's enough to convince them that they'd be damn fools to take on $100k+ in debt.

This, and that funny video recently posted are the only revenge that we'll ever get against a profession that eats its young.
posted by jph at 2:34 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If he'd posted it under his actual name perhaps he could have parlayed this letter and the notoriety it brings into a cushy job disapproving of and regretting things!

Exactly what I was thinking. With his mix of hubris, ignorance, overinflated sense of entitlement, and willingness to bend time-honoured legal systems to suit his immediate needs, he should really be running for Congress on a Tea Party ticket.
posted by gompa at 2:37 PM on October 25, 2010


I just wish that one could just read law to be a lawyer like in the olden days instead of having to be a college/law school graduate.
posted by inturnaround at 2:38 PM on October 25, 2010


I just wish that one could just read law to be a lawyer like in the olden days instead of having to be a college/law school graduate.

You can still do that in a few states, and a few people do it each year.
posted by jedicus at 2:39 PM on October 25, 2010


...and now his name is out there for all prospective employers to laugh at.
Best regards,

[Name redacted]
Class of 2011
Doesn't look to me that his name is out there to be laughed at. Me, I would have signed that letter!

Looks like everyone pointed out all his logical fallacies, other than, maybe he should have engaged in a little more intelligent family planning. I too have a hard time sleeping at night, wondering how i'll feed my children, then I remember, oh yeah, you dumbass, you don't have any kids! and then I sleep the sleep of the innocents'.

Maybe he should have worked his way through law school, stayed a teacher, or saved up until he could afford to go.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:39 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno about this kid in particular, but a smart law student (which may rule out this kid) starts looking for a job the moment they start applying to law school and doesn't stop until they accept an offer at the job they actually want to stay with for the foreseeable future.

So a smart law student in his situation will have been looking for a job for about 3 years.


I must be totally doing it wrong then (2L without a job prospect).

Since internships with firms have been tightened up and job offers are even being rescinded, few 3Ls I know have much of a clue about where they are going to work (except for the public defenders), and the ones who do made sure that they are getting a job out of school by being in the top 10% of the class.

His complaint is unjustified for many more reasons, but he still has a year before he needs to start paying his loans (you get a 6 month automatic deferment) and then, if times are really tough he can apply for a hardship deferment. In the meantime he can spend time with his new kid while he applies for jobs. It really sounds like his big complaint is with their student services and career counseling, in which case his open letter is extremely short-sighted. Law schools are rumor mills and I'm sure his entire class knows exactly who wrote the letter and you can bet that this will negatively effect his job search even more.
posted by cyphill at 2:40 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sweet, if this works I'm going to ask for a refund on my lifetime of state and federal taxes in exchange for my citizenship.
posted by Davenhill at 2:42 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child. She is due in April. With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D, and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career.

I'm not seeing much bad luck here. Poor decisionmaking abounds however.

No wonder you worry about putting food on the table. Who's got time to work with all this whining to be done ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:43 PM on October 25, 2010


His complaint is unjustified for many more reasons, but he still has a year before he needs to start paying his loans (you get a 6 month automatic deferment) and then, if times are really tough he can apply for a hardship deferment.

Ha. No desirable employer is going to hire somebody with no employment track record. The fact that times were tough for everybody is of no consequence. Employers can restrict themselves to the few who did manage to find work and still have more qualified applicants than open positions. Shoot, they'll have laid off experienced attorneys beating down their door, to say nothing of recent graduates with top grades.

Once you're off the 1L summer->2L summer->full time track, you're basically dead in the water. And if you never get onto that track in the first place? To be brutally honest you should drop out after you fail to get a 1L summer job offer. Ask for a partial refund of your second semester tuition, and count yourself lucky that you escaped with only ~$25,000 in extra debt instead of over $100,000.
posted by jedicus at 2:46 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Dear 3L student,

I sorry this letter finds you in a state of concern. Before I go further, my congratulations on your future child, you and your wife must be very happy. With that said, I want to thank you for taking the time to write, even if was later posted online. I understand that burning bridges this far along in your path towards graduation, and eventually landing a job, is a risky move, but you took it. Bravo!

I understand your concern for your future, especially in regards to your new family. Unfortunately, you continued to enroll in classes at this prestigious law school, and those courses cost money. When you do land a job, and I'm sure you will, seeing how driven you are, those courses will be of value to you. But if we are to refund your tuition, what assurance do we have that you will not use your education, now obtained for free?

I propose a rather unique solution to what you see as a unique situation. Give us your child, so that Boston College Law School may raise the child as our own. The child will work for his or her room and board, but will be given the education you wish to throw aside. You lose both the financial burden of the career you feel unable to pursue, and the costs of raising a child in this economy.

I would love to discuss this proposal with you further. I would also love to hear any other thoughts or solutions you may have. Thanks very much for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you.

Best regards,

George D. Brown
Interim Dean
posted by filthy light thief at 2:47 PM on October 25, 2010 [21 favorites]


Every chance I've had since starting law school, I've desperately tried to convince people to avoid making the same mistake I did (and I was lucky enough to get a biglaw job). It never works. People inevitably have the same reaction as the female in yeolcoatl's video. Everyone is convinced they're different. Sorry, you're not (unless you get into Yale, in which case, congrats, you are in fact different).
posted by shen1138 at 2:48 PM on October 25, 2010


That's the offer. You give me my money back, and you can destroy my transcript. I know half a dozen people who would take that offer in a heartbeat, and I went to a top-25 school.

I would take that offer today. I know significantly more than half a dozen who would do the same.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:48 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Drat. "I am sorry this letter finds you..."

Curse this lack of secretarial assistance after 2:30pm! Curse this economic downturn!
posted by filthy light thief at 2:49 PM on October 25, 2010


Sweet, if this works I'm going to ask for a refund on my lifetime of state and federal taxes in exchange for my citizenship.

The difference being that you've been enjoying the benefits of your citizenship all your life. [name redacted] is never going to enjoy the exercise of his law degree, despite the bucolic promises of his alma mater.

I'm actually a bit torn on this. Law schools are essentially engaged in widespread fraud right now, and are creating huge numbers of disaffected graduates who'll be paying off massive debt for decades with nothing to show for it. I'm having a bit of difficulty seeing the difference between law school and any number of "flip houses for profits" mortgage deals during the housing bubble that were too good to be true and required a certain willful disbelief in reality on the part of the consumer. Yes, the consumer was an active participant in the deal that came tumbling down, but when it comes to banks and Wall St., we don't have any problem saying "not so fast, Mr. spreadsheet..."
posted by fatbird at 2:49 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Too many students and not enough jobs. Isn't this true of a lot of (most?) graduate programs these days? Last week we had a class of 30 MLIS students tour my branch and after they left a co-worker of mine involved in HR had a lot of sorrowful things to say about their job prospects.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:53 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


"In any case it was made clear to me that in no uncertain terms, if I didn't find that this was my absolute calling I'd hate myself, because there's a very real chance I could be working at Starbucks and paying off a mountain of debt (no offense to philosophy grad majors working at Starbucks, seriously, just making a point)."

That's almost exactly what I tell my undergrads that want to major in philosophy. Want to just get a B.A.? Great! Go beyond that? NOOOOoooooo!

So, in short, philosophy professors try to do right by our students, law schools exploit their students.
posted by oddman at 2:56 PM on October 25, 2010


Thanks, shen1138, but it's not my video. Muddler did the FPP. =)
posted by yeolcoatl at 2:57 PM on October 25, 2010


The graduates of 2007-201x are often doing badly compared to prior years, suffering from astronomical rates of unemployment, tons of student debt, awful career prospects. Welcome to this generation. Sometimes what you plan doesn't work out. It's a lot more productive to come up with a new plan than it is to pull public stunts to try to draw attention to how wronged you feel.

I mean, I made bad decisions about my education and career path. I did that. The economy went bad, but my decisions in the first place were bad. They gave me a lot of debt and unemployment and underemployment when I was lucky. But the world? It didn't owe me a better job or my money back. I made bad decisions. Things didn't work out. I made a new plan. This one will hopefully work better. If it doesn't, there will be another plan after that. And another. My old mistakes will continue to impact my finances for years to come, but well, you know what? It's just stuff. I'll live.

As it stands, not that I hire lawyers, but I wouldn't hire this guy, or the scambloggers and whatnot. The sort of people whose misfortunes are all conveniently (and noisily) the fault of other people are rarely the sort of people you want to work with.
posted by gracedissolved at 3:00 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why he's not suing Boston College for the emotional distress associated with having to walk dangerously sharp and hard stairs, and being served too-hot coffee. Or for the harms done by not having taught him the proper usage of "enormity".
posted by darth_tedious at 3:01 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sure you do. For loans paid monthly (that's most of them), it happens after 270 days without a payment.

No geoff., you do go into default. I did, after law school.

Mea culpa, my brain was confusing default for bankruptcy.
posted by geoff. at 3:03 PM on October 25, 2010


While I understand the guy's feelings, as a (future) lawyer he should realize that contracts, once entered into, are legally binding. Mitigating circumstances not specifically covered in the contract are very unlikely to be accepted as grounds for removing oneself from the contract. If he's really planning on entering the law field he should get used to this kind of treatment as he is likely to be on the other end of it and might want consider his own expected behavior in that situation.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:04 PM on October 25, 2010


Why blame the school? No schools ever issue job market stats to incoming students. It is in the interests of their faculty that classes be filled so that the faculty keep their jobs and the school gets income from tuition. They are not about to slit their own wrists.

Were I a student part-way through law school I would make sure my wife did not get pregant to place a greater stress on my family and my schooling.

That said, I went to a film that I thought was going to be really good. Walked out half way through it. Should I have asked for my money back?
posted by Postroad at 3:05 PM on October 25, 2010


filthy light thief: "I sorry this letter finds you in a state of concern. "

"me laugh your letter. What you do? Sue? Ha! Ha!"
posted by boo_radley at 3:05 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


Law schools are essentially engaged in widespread fraud right now

Bit hyperbolic, surely.

Oversupply of lawyers is fairly common knowledge and has been for years and years. Maybe if they had said we guarantee you a gd jb - but notice that "I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career" is passive voice with no identified agent. (Bad lawyer trick, that.) So who exactly convinced him?

If he had worked as, say, a paralegal for even six months he would have had both those ideas knocked out of his head right smart quick.

Anyway, the real scandal of higher education is in the undergraduate arena, so enough of this guy.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:06 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


English graduate programs are notorious for this, The Card Cheat. You see, composition is a mandatory subject for almost all US university freshmen, and comp classes need a relatively small number of students to remain effective. That's a LOT of sections, and the faculty are too busy teaching upper-level classes or graduate students to handle the grading workload of a freshman comp class. Enter the graduate student assistantship, which is usually offered to both MA and PhD students in order to fill the podium in front of all those freshmen. It's teaching experience, yes. It's also a preview of the future graduate's life as an adjunct, since tenure-track jobs are getting scarcer and scarcer.

Me, bitter? A bit. I got into English graduate study in the 80s, when we were being reassured that the professors hired to teach the baby boomers were going to retire soon and we'd get their jobs. I think the people who told us that believed it. The reality of adjuncting and loss of entry-level tenure-track jobs was, at that time, not the concern of the tenured professors telling us this. I don't know if it's the same way now.

(I changed fields for my doctorate, to history of education. Never said I was smart, just educated.)
posted by catlet at 3:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to a film that I thought was going to be really good. Walked out half way through it. Should I have asked for my money back?

I know people who (claim to) have successfully done this.
posted by IndigoJones at 3:07 PM on October 25, 2010


If you're interested, a couple of professors have examined what it means for law firms and law schools that law school tuition has outpaced inflation, while employment rates (and job satisfaction rates) have plummeted. They try to explain "why law firms have long continued to get larger despite ordinary diseconomies of scale, though with a certain brittleness reflected in the lateral mobility common in this day and age" and contradict "rumors of the 'Death of Big Law'", arguing "the large firm is here to stay, but in an evolving configuration with profound implications for practicing and aspiring lawyers, as well as the law schools that prepare them for the increasingly competitive and increasingly global markets for their services."

I wish law schools were more honest about their job placement statistics, the actual jobs of their graduated, the actual salaries of most of their graduates, and the realities of the debt-to-income ratio. I wish they were honest about your employment options if you don't get a summer offer as a 1L. They aren't. If they were, they would no longer be in a position to raise tuition out-of-step with the market value of a degree that is, essentially, a club membership fee.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:10 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


filthy light thief: "I sorry this letter finds you in a state of concern. "

boo_radley: "me laugh your letter. What you do? Sue? Ha! Ha!"

Good sir, I would like to you remind you that I have already proposed an edit to my earlier statement.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:11 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


That's the offer. You give me my money back, and you can destroy my transcript.

Man, thinking about it some more, I'd even take the offer in exchange for, say, a 50-75% reduction in my student loan debt.

But if we are to refund your tuition, what assurance do we have that you will not use your education, now obtained for free?

Eh, without a law degree it's much, much more difficult to sit for the bar (as noted above it can be done, but it's hard; it usually involves some number of years of apprenticeship). And without being an attorney it's pretty difficult to actually use the law degree.

Shoot, as long as we're dreaming of refunds, I'd be happy to sign a contract agreeing never to attend a law school again, sit for the bar, or work in any law-related capacity whatsoever (e.g. paralegal, patent agent).
posted by jedicus at 3:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: "Good sir, I would like to you remind you that"

Dear. Mr. thief,
I accept your colander, and believe that you are a lice fry at mart.

dictated but not read,
posted by boo_radley at 3:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I definitely weep for the lost generation of lawyers, though mainly for those who rode the crest--graduating in say, 2008 and 2009--the kids who didn't have the benefit of knowing how bad the economy was getting when they matriculated. For most of those foolhardy enough to follow in their footsteps though, I simply sigh. Poor choices. All the same, my BA is in English, so I can't really fault others for taking degrees that are somewhat useless.

All the same, this fellow will owe quite a good deal of money and may never win a lucrative job in his field sufficient to pay off his loans. We may sneer, but that is a bad situation to be in, regardless of whether he foolishly navigated himself there.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I got into English graduate study in the 80s, when we were being reassured that the professors hired to teach the baby boomers were going to retire soon and we'd get their jobs.

Ah, yes...the Retiring Baby Boomer Tsunami. Catch the wave and land a job!
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:16 PM on October 25, 2010


Maybe he should have thought about getting a job before having a kid.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:17 PM on October 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Has this story been posted already?

"Over 317,000 waiters and waitresses have college degrees (over 8,000 of them have doctoral or professional degrees), along with over 80,000 bartenders, and over 18,000 parking lot attendants. All told, some 17,000,000 Americans with college degrees are doing jobs that the BLS says require less than the skill levels associated with a bachelor’s degree."

"there are 5,057 janitors in the U.S. with Ph.D.’s, other doctorates, or professional degrees."
posted by vidur at 3:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [9 favorites]


Law schools are essentially engaged in widespread fraud right now
Bit hyperbolic, surely.


Perhaps, but no one here has any problem offering or accepting as fact that law schools radically misrepresent their employment statistics. If this scuttlebutt were backed up with documentation, I'd have no problem describing what law schools do as "fraud". If they lie about the likelihood of remuneration to get you to pay huge sums to attend their school, how is that not fraud?
posted by fatbird at 3:29 PM on October 25, 2010


Interesting and informative article, vidur. I do disagree with part of the author's interpretation though:
I have long been a proponent of Charles Murray’s thesis that an increasing number of people attending college do not have the cognitive abilities or other attributes usually necessary for success at higher levels of learning. As more and more try to attend colleges, either college degrees will be watered down (something already happening I suspect) or drop-out rates will rise.
That smacks of pretty haughty elitism. While that may play a part, I think the main reason so many college graduates are working comparatively unskilled jobs is that there hasn't been adequate job growth in sectors that do require an education. It's not that a bunch of stupid or lazy people got college degrees and then went on to do jobs for stupid and lazy people. It's that a bunch of reasonably smart and reasonably driven people got college degrees and then couldn't find a job that actually required one.

Oh...I thought Charles Murray sounded familiar. That would be The Bell Curve fellow. Hmph.
posted by jedicus at 3:30 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


When my ex-wife tried to change our custody and support agreement, I hired a lawyer. After many weeks of meetings and many thousands in legal fees, I learned that if we went to trial she would most likely get everything she asked for. There was pretty much no way I could win.
I wonder what my lawyer would have said if I offered to just agree to her demands in exchange for a full refund of his fees?
posted by rocket88 at 3:31 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Give us your child, so that Boston College Law School may raise eat the child as our own.

(Modest Proposal'd)
posted by drezdn at 3:32 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


If they lie about the likelihood of remuneration to get you to pay huge sums to attend their school, how is that not fraud?

Lie and fraud are strong words. Law schools play games with statistics and cherry pick the best stats to put themselves in the best possible light. They show off the successful students and sweep the unsuccessful masses under the rug. But lie? I think only a few, extremely scummy schools engage in statistical manipulation and misrepresentation to a degree that could begin to be called fraud.
posted by jedicus at 3:34 PM on October 25, 2010


The idea of being owed a job upon graduation is pretty funny. Try going to art school and see what happens to 95% of the graduates.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:34 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If I do a search on "law career outlook" on Google, every posting tells me what this guy already could have known if he'd actually researched his job possibilities. And these aren't lots of derranged unemployed law school graduates posting. It's the federal government.


How do I know shit looked like this online 4 years ago? Because I decided, back then, yet again, not to go to law school. (Seriously, how many times can one guy take the LSAT and not use it.)

I have empathy for him, because I have made mistakes. But I don't think my mistakes entitle me to anything.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:34 PM on October 25, 2010


My husband's been out of work since he graduated with a master's degree in Engineering in May of 2009. Instead of asking for a refund on his Bachelor's, he's going back to get a PhD. If that doesn't work, we'll move back in with his parents. Thankfully, he didn't deliberately and with forethought chose a program that would bankrupt us if we made any mistakes in life, as we've made several.

Yes, it sucks to live in the US sometimes. If only we had the political will to protect all our citizens from the consequences of making a mistake, like many other western countries have already done.
posted by muddgirl at 3:34 PM on October 25, 2010


/Attempts weeping for a lost generation of lawyers
/fails
posted by Artw at 3:35 PM on October 25, 2010 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this guys seems like kind of a dumb ass, but he does raise the point that how the U.S. funds higher education in is country truly is absurd. You are told all through high school and college that law school/med school/professorship is the ticket to a personally rewarding, stable job. That colors your thinking qute a lot when you sign those loan papers, especially when all of your peers are signing the same papers and there really aren't many other options out there for someone to who wants to go through grad school: either your parents are rich, you are fortunate to go to one of the exceedingly rare public universities that has kept it's tuition at a reasonable level (I know of none I can name), or you apply for a scholarship that comes with a service commitment, such as with the military. Ironically, it's this last option that allows the greatest amount of freedom.

I went through a professional school program where employment afterward was much more secure upon completion than in the legal field. When signing promissory note after promissory note I would occasionally have a panic attack at being 100s of thousands of dollars in debt in my early 20s but the line my classmates and I used to reassure each other with was "Oh, it's only numbers on paper, you'll always have a roof over your head and food on your table."

While this is a true statement, those loans continue to affect a lot of my career decisions and financial plans, now 18 years later, that no 22 year old could fairly be expected to consider the implications of when they first sign those papers. My intention was to work in the public health field with poor, uninsured patients but there was simply no way I could do this financially until congress made more money available for student loan repayment under the National Health Service Corps (Thanks Obama!). My wife and I delayed having children. We haven't put much money toward retirement, and now are looking at having to work until age 70. There's very little chance we will be able to put much money away for our children's education. And this is all after writing a check to Wells Fargo Fucking Bank for $4100 each and every month for 10 years now. The principle on my loans turned out to be $175,000 and when all was said and done, even by maximizing my government subsidized loans, the bank will collect $310,000 from me.

Certainly, it is folly to try and collect a tuition refund from your school, and three years ago it should have been much clearer to him what his job situation was going to look like. But when you get into to grad school, these loans are essentially being pushed at you from all directions, including the school, and everyone's telling you the world is your oyster; you're at a stage in your life where you really have no concept of what a hundred thousand dollars means. I don't blame him if he's a little bitter now that he's putting all of this together.

And just remember, our country's future supply of doctors, lawyers, researchers, professors, pharmacists, airline pilots, nurses all depends on people continuing to make the questionable economic decision to start their careers carrying this kind of debt in an uncertain economy. Me? I'm not sure I would go back and do it again given the chance.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:38 PM on October 25, 2010 [32 favorites]


I guess this guy read Fritz Karinthy.
posted by phliar at 3:40 PM on October 25, 2010


I definitely weep for the lost generation of lawyers, though mainly for those who rode the crest--graduating in say, 2008 and 2009--the kids who didn't have the benefit of knowing how bad the economy was getting when they matriculated.

Your sympathy is appreciated.

But a job would be appreciated more.
posted by valkyryn at 3:40 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You are told all through high school and college that law school/med school/professorship is the ticket to a personally rewarding, stable job.

As someone who strongly considered careers in both law school and academia while in high school and college, I have to say that I don't think I ever heard anyone describe either of those careers as "the ticket to a personally rewarding, stable job." I think people considering law school hear what they want to hear, and not what people are actually telling them.
posted by The World Famous at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, it sucks to live in the US sometimes.

NPR did a story not long ago about young Irish adults expatriating just to find work. It looks like we're headed there too.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2010


Law schools play games with statistics and cherry pick the best stats to put themselves in the best possible light. They show off the successful students and sweep the unsuccessful masses under the rug. But lie?

What definition of "lying" are you using? "Play games with statistics", "cherry pick", and "show off the successful and sweep the unsuccessful under the rug" all sound like lying to me, and quite conscious deception at that, by any common sense definition of "lying".
posted by fatbird at 3:42 PM on October 25, 2010


If only this entitled blowhard had had a class with Professor Kingsfield:
"Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about you becoming a lawyer."
posted by ericb at 3:46 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


What definition of "lying" are you using?

The kind that might form the basis of an action for fraud.

In the ordinary sense, sure, they lie like dogs. But as it so often does, the law requires more.
posted by jedicus at 3:47 PM on October 25, 2010


Related: Are you forgetting that you came to me for a job?
posted by ericb at 3:49 PM on October 25, 2010


fatbird: The difference being that you've been enjoying the benefits of your citizenship all your life.

Oh, I wouldn't say I've been *enjoying* it, Bob.

Sincerely, Peter Gibbons.
posted by Davenhill at 3:52 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


What definition of "lying" are you using? "Play games with statistics", "cherry pick", and "show off the successful and sweep the unsuccessful under the rug" all sound like lying to me, and quite conscious deception at that, by any common sense definition of "lying".

This should qualify you for a refund on any law course you have previously paid for.
posted by biffa at 3:53 PM on October 25, 2010


I didn't read the article. There are a ton of people who have trouble finding a job. Most of them don't pull idiotic PR stunts. I owe it to them to ignore this guy/girl exactly as much as I am ignoring all the people with the sense to know that the world does not revolve around them.
posted by I Foody at 3:53 PM on October 25, 2010


> I do disagree with part of the author's interpretation though

Oh, the article has quite a few uncharitable bits:
I think the American people understand, albeit dimly, the logic above
It is the numbers that are really illuminating, though.
posted by vidur at 3:54 PM on October 25, 2010


If only this entitled blowhard had had a class with Professor Kingsfield:

Well, to be fair, "The Paper Chase" was published in 1970. The average tuition at a 4-year university in 1970 was about $1,980 dollars (see here (pdf)), which is ~$11K adjusted for inflation. It's about 4 times that now. And sometimes law schools are actually more per year than the undergrad colleges - and you typically don't get the kind of scholarships in law school that you would for undergrad.

Most law students today are in way deeper than a 1L scared away by Kingsfield would've been.
posted by rkent at 3:55 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Con-men profit by their marks' greed. I don't know that these top tier law schools were promising a living after graduation as much as they were promising wealth. (Well, maybe not real wealth)
posted by klarck at 3:59 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


The kind that might form the basis of an action for fraud.

Let's work through this, then, under the assumption that commonly held knowledge about their practices are true:
1. a representation of an existing fact;
A JD has X% chance of getting a job, as demonstrated by these statistics showing previous JDs being employed at a rate of X%.
2. its materiality;
Post-graduation employment is of obvious materiality when considering the significant investment to get the JD.
3. its falsity;
They know that X is too high, because they're doing things like counting Starbucks employess with JDs among X, providing short term employment at the school to buoy X, and in general cherry picking their data and sweeping the unsuccessful graduates under the rug.
4. the speaker's knowledge of its falsity;
By definition, they can't cherry pick their data without knowing that one case is a rosier picture than reality. Also, doing things like counting Starbuck's employees and offering short-term work to unemployed JDs pretty obviously demonstrates that they know they're misrepresenting X.
5. the speaker's intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;
They're offering misleading employment statistics to get the prospective JD to come to their school at a six-figure cost in tuition.
6. plaintiff's ignorance of its falsity;
The student goes to law school, taking out huge loans to do so, in part because of the expectation of an X chance of getting a job with the degree afterwards.
7. plaintiff's reliance on the truth of the representation;
The student obviously believes the law school's presentation if they rely on it in their decision-making.
8. plaintiff's right to rely upon it; and
The student should be able to trust the school not to misrepresent the value of the education it's offering.
9. consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.
Huge an un-repayable loans because she believed the school.

There are weaknesses in this case, but they're all on the side of the plaintiff and their ability to trust/right-to-rely-upon the school's representations of X. I don't see any weaknesses in demonstrating that the law schools are wilfully misrepresenting the employment landscape in order to get students to give them a lot of money.

It's not that I think there's a successful action that could come of this, but I don't know why we're shying away from an ordinary sense application of the word "fraud" if it's true that

In the ordinary sense, sure, they lie like dogs.
posted by fatbird at 4:01 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


This made me laugh.
posted by New England Cultist at 4:07 PM on October 25, 2010


Sitting in classrooms for 3 years provides little to no substantive value when it comes to learning a trade, especially one such as law.

People go to law school because they more or less legally required to do so to sit for the bar exam.

The entire system is a cancer and exploitative of young people attempting to find a place.

Education debt is just one more notch in the American devouring of its own middle class.

People need to organize. If every indebted student defaulted in unison, what would be the result?
posted by norabarnacl3 at 4:10 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


IndigoJones: If he had worked as, say, a paralegal for even six months he would have had both those ideas knocked out of his head right smart quick.

Yup. I did just that and every pie-in-the-sky dream I had about the legal profession (and boy did I have them) evaporated within six weeks, not six months, and it was a rude awakening. That time also taught me that having the expectation that anybody with a law degree can aspire to "a fulfilling and remunerative career" was as much of a bullshit delusion then (lo those many years ago) as it is now.

Anyway, more generally (not referring to you, IndigoJones, but to this whole thread), it's easy to do the whole grand-slam pile-on on this guy, because he presents such an easy target, and his sense of entitlement is annoying, but it's not really all that different from the sense of entitlement lots of Americans have -- painting him as uniquely stupid or uniquely brazen is a mistake.

In this shark's maw of an economy, I have empathy for people that I thought I'd never have empathy for, including him. Sneer and snark all you want. My only thought is "There but for the grace of the universe, etc."

The World Famous: As someone who strongly considered careers in both law school and academia while in high school and college, I have to say that I don't think I ever heard anyone describe either of those careers as "the ticket to a personally rewarding, stable job." I think people considering law school hear what they want to hear, and not what people are actually telling them.

Yes and no. If by "what they want to hear" you mean culture in general, then yes, people are hearing what they want to hear, just as people who assume that a pill will cure their erectile dysfunction or that a certain model car will guarantee them a wide-open road with no traffic and lots of hot sexual encounters are hearing what they want to hear. Also, I have no idea what this guy's family life was, but if any of his relatives are lawyers, you can bet that he heard from an early age that being a lawyer was an ideal career. I know I did. I know more than a handful of men my age who for various reasons went to law school and got careers as lawyers (at a much better time in the economy) not because they wanted to, not because they loved the law and what it represented, but because dad and granddad were lawyers, or because it would disappoint mom if they didn't. I don't think those are reasons to go into any career, but it happens.

Grad schools in general are very good at marketing themselves. If you believe any of the marketing, you're dead.
posted by blucevalo at 4:16 PM on October 25, 2010


norabarnacl3, if that pile of unsupported assertions is representative of your critical thinking skills, I am extremely thankful on your behalf that there are good lawyers around should you ever need one.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 4:18 PM on October 25, 2010


Maybe he should have thought about getting a job before having a kid.

You hear that sentiment a lot, but not usually in this context.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 4:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


A JD has X% chance of getting a job, as demonstrated by these statistics showing previous JDs being employed at a rate of X%.

That's a massive failure of logic. "Past performance is not indicative of future results," as every stock prospectus will tell you.

They know that X is too high, because they're doing things like counting Starbucks employees with JDs among X, providing short term employment at the school to buoy X, and in general cherry picking their data and sweeping the unsuccessful graduates under the rug.

Are people employed at Starbucks not employed? Is short term employment at the law school not employment? They only claim an employment rate, not a successful, long-term, law-related employment rate.

plaintiff's ignorance of its falsity

You claim this yet you operate under "the assumption that commonly held knowledge about their practices are true." If it is commonly held knowledge then it seems hard to believe that the plaintiff was actually ignorant of the alleged falsity of the statement.

The student should be able to trust the school not to misrepresent the value of the education it's offering.

Again, the commonly held knowledge part comes to bite you. Too many people have been talking about schools playing marketing games for too long for this to be as solid as you'd like to claim in a fraud case.
posted by jedicus at 4:20 PM on October 25, 2010


People need to organize. If every indebted student defaulted in unison, what would be the result?

Good luck getting that to happen, since almost all students are indebted, and almost all law students are significantly indebted (to the tune of something like $75,000 nationally, and that's just law school debt). It's an insurmountable collective action problem.

If a law grad with a job defaults, he or she is likely to get fired. If a law grad without a job defaults, he or she is extremely unlikely to get a job. If a law grad is in the middle of a collection action, it will be difficult to sit for the bar (the bar frowns on being a defendant in a civil suit and on money management problems; if the default is intentional it's even worse). So every grad that defaults reduces the competition for jobs. The result? Everyone says "you first" hoping to snap up a job in a less competitive market.

A better target for organization would be reform of the education funding system and allowing for the discharge of student loans in bankruptcy.
posted by jedicus at 4:26 PM on October 25, 2010


Also, I have no idea what this guy's family life was, but if any of his relatives are lawyers, you can bet that he heard from an early age that being a lawyer was an ideal career.

I don't think you can "bet" that. My dad's a lawyer and I chose law school against his clear and detailed advice to the contrary.
posted by The World Famous at 4:27 PM on October 25, 2010


jedicus: "If a law grad with a job defaults, he or she is likely to get fired..."

Right, thats where collective action comes in. A firm isn't going to fire 80% of its associates.

I mean I realize the reality of the suggestion is rather unlikely, my point was more that the system is so exploitative that such an event would at least be justified.

Bankruptcy reform is perhaps one of the most realistic responses, along with adjustment of tuition rates.

But there is absolutely no reason people should have to delay children and home purchases 10-20 years down the road just for the shot at the middle class for which a $100k degree is nowadays required.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 4:40 PM on October 25, 2010


In a better world, the law school racket would be abolished and all outstanding loans would be forgiven or refunded. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world.
posted by Yakuman at 4:42 PM on October 25, 2010


A firm isn't going to fire 80% of its associates.

Why not? It can hire replacements in about a week and a half, and the way the market is going, it could probably hire them for half what it's currently paying.
posted by valkyryn at 4:50 PM on October 25, 2010


Yeah, as valkyryn said, why not? And again, the collective action problem is insurmountable. Every associate that quits is one less competitor for billable hours or a partner position.
posted by jedicus at 4:56 PM on October 25, 2010


Is there any field which doesn't have horrible prospects right now? I know my own field, biology, isn't doing so hot, with research budgets shrinking and a lot of universities making a determined effort to trade the tenured faculty for adjunct teachers. The whole 'well, he should have known that the legal field is doing poorly' only works if it's doing relatively worse than comparable fields, and I'm not sure it is. Engineers have been laid off left and right in my area. Medicine is becoming less and less lucrative for the practitioners lately. Pretty much all professionals are having a bad time of it in the last few years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:57 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I hope this student realizes that once the Bar is passed, that degree is a ticket to practice law. As in self-employment. I'd say the same thing to someone graduating from med school. These aren't mere degrees, they are built-in careers.
posted by cmgonzalez at 5:01 PM on October 25, 2010


He could have been a judge. There is apparently a shortage of judges in LA.
posted by binturong at 5:01 PM on October 25, 2010


A third year law student at Boston College doesn't like the prospects he has after graduation, so he decided to ask the dean for a refund.

If he think his prospects are bad now, he should wait until potential employers find out that he wrote this letter.

Hopefully, he will drop out anyway. The world has enough stupid, incompetent lawyers.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2010



But there is absolutely no reason people should have to delay children and home purchases 10-20 years down the road just for the shot at the middle class for which a $100k degree is nowadays required.

And that's really what we're talking about, too. The best case scenario here, assuming Mr law-talking-guy/father-to-be is able to land a job, his reward is a house in the suburbs, two average economy cars in the driveway, 2 weeks of vacation a year, and 60 hour work weeks. This is the admission price of the American Dream now.

We will never get the tea partiers and aging Baby boomers to allow educational finance reform without taking up arms against the socialist threat; in their insulated bubble, lawyers all drive BMWs, play golf, and own beach houses in Hilton Head.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2010


I have a friend who just graduated from law school a couple years ago, with an MBA to go with it. He was still unemployed for the most part, last I checked. it probably didn't help that he decided to move to Florida, which was hard hit by the recession.
posted by delmoi at 5:09 PM on October 25, 2010


The whole 'well, he should have known that the legal field is doing poorly' only works if it's doing relatively worse than comparable fields, and I'm not sure it is.

The reality of the legal field has always been bad. NALP has data online going back to 1999. Data for the class of 1999 is a little hard to tease apart, but the general trend of the bimodal salary distribution was already present. So law went from bad to worse.

Engineers can get a job with a bachelor's degree. Even a master's is only a two year program. Lawyers, by contrast, have at least one and usually more like three additional years of student debt. They also tend not to have a good fallback degree given their debt load (history, English, and political science are common undergraduate degrees).

Medicine may be becoming less lucrative, but it's still light years ahead of law.

I hope this student realizes that once the Bar is passed, that degree is a ticket to practice law. As in self-employment.

Oh man. Starting a law practice is so very, very hard. It's asking a lot to expect people who couldn't get a job with a firm to also be capable of founding a successful small business while operating under a crushing debt load in a saturated, cutthroat market. Oh, and the three years of law school did essentially nothing to prepare them for doing so.
posted by jedicus at 5:10 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, the prisoner's dilemma.

These days, paying to go to law school only makes a modicum of sense if you are going to a highly enough ranked school (say, T10, maybe even T5) and are willing to work hard enough to distinguish yourself sufficiently to be hired into a big law firm (or are willing to live on the cheap and ride out your tuition on an LRAP program--which, to be clear, will still require you to go to a good school and really work hard). Being in $150,000 or so in debt is workable when the starting salary is $175K. It's crushing otherwise, particularly for the underemployed, making $15-20/hour doing doc review.

As to Mitrovarr's point, I don't necessarily think that lawyers are doing worse than anyone else--it's just that law has long been promoted as a career in which, with a bit of hard work and gumption, really anyone could make a good life for themselves. This became sort of a feedback loop where it became more and more rarified--bars got harder, tuition more expensive, and salaries ever higher, all as a sort of closed set. "You can make it!" But the whole house of cards came falling down. Some, like the lost grads in 2007/2008 and maybe 2009, may never see particularly productive employment. I know my big firm has literally zero appetite for hiring them; new positions will always be filled by that year's graduates. Period. Yes, you can hang up a shingle, but it can be exceedingly difficult to start as a sole practitioner. I would have no idea how to do that, and I've been working for a while now. Law school does not prepare you to be a lawyer. It simply exists to take your money.

So while there may be poor prospects for biologists or engineers, I think biology and engineering programs exist to train people to be, well, biologists and engineers, whereas law schools exist to make money and to serve as something of a gatekeeper for the legal profession, where you can Make It BIG! I doubt any biology program has touted the lucrative prospects for its graduates in the same way law schools do.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:15 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


ericb: ""Mr. Hart, here is a dime. Call your mother. Tell her there is serious doubt about you becoming a lawyer.""

New rule: Anybody who makes a Paper Chase reference gets a favorite. No exceptions.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 5:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


My uncle is a sole practitioner; I forget exactly when he graduated from law school, but it was within the past 10-15 years. He did not go to a top ten law school; I think he went to the University of Michigan Law School. He's doing all right for himself. I was going to offer him up as an example of why people should bootstrap or something, but then I remembered the following things:

1. He's fucking brilliant.
2. He's unbelievably charismatic, to a really exceptional degree.
3. He basically has no conscience or moral center.
4. Also, he did graduate ten years ago or so.

So, you know. If you have a Giant Smarty Brain, no soul, the kind of charisma that would make Bill Clinton jealous, and a time machine, maybe there's a future in law for you too!
posted by KathrynT at 5:27 PM on October 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I hope this student realizes that once the Bar is passed, that degree is a ticket to practice law. As in self-employment. I'd say the same thing to someone graduating from med school. These aren't mere degrees, they are built-in careers.

Um, okay. I'm a new graduate, $175,000 in debt, first payment due in 6 months. I have no office, no office equipment, no clientele, no business contacts, no training in running a business (or interest in it for that matter). Taking out a business loan with a set up like this seems to be a rather bad financial decision. And that totally assumes one is willing to practice a type of law that can be done by one guy independently in an office, ie divorce, DUI defense, etc. Suppose you'd like to work in a field that requires expertise from coworkers with different back grounds, for instance environmental or corporate law.

This is much more true in medicine, which requires a much greater up front cost to get established purchasing equipment, exam rooms, xray machines, not to mention negotiating contracts with insurance companies, getting malpractice insurance.

Waving one's hands and saying "the market fixes it!" is elegant but applying this principle in the real world gets considerably messier and soon hustling for the rare job that opens up at a stable company begins to look pretty comparable.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


He did not go to a top ten law school; I think he went to the University of Michigan Law School.

Michigan is #9 and it's a great school.
posted by The World Famous at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


In that case, he probably didn't go there. My apologies for unintentionally slandering U of M!
posted by KathrynT at 5:44 PM on October 25, 2010


From the comments:No matter how you slice this, “Name Redacted” actively made a decision to live outside his means.

HURF DURF EXTRAVAGANT LIFESTYLES EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT THE RISKS ARE, IF YOU DONT LIKE IT STOP WHINING
posted by dunkadunc at 6:52 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Michigan is #9 and it's a great school.

And ten years makes a huge difference here. In 1995, U of M Law's tuition was just under $8,000 for Michigan residents. In 2000, it was $21k, a 150% increase. By 2008 it had gone up to $38k, almost 300% of what it was in 1995. They've recently slashed tuition down to a mere $20.6k, which is almost a 50% cut, so good for them, but that's still more than twice what tuition was when your uncle was paying for it.

How do we know this? Because we have numbers.

So basically, the students who are the most completely shafted by the timing of their graduation in terms of their job prospects are also those students who paid more tuition than any students in Michigan history.

I'm guessing similar patterns exist elsewhere.
posted by valkyryn at 7:01 PM on October 25, 2010


There's a real sense in which lawyers who graduated more than ten years ago, especially those lawyers who don't work at big firms and thus are first-hand witnesses to the ongoing bloodbath, just don't get it.

My employer currently employs ten attorneys. One of them has been there for twenty years (VP and General Counsel), one for almost that (VP of HR), one for fifteen years (my boss), two for about 7-10 (guys in claims), and everyone else less than five. I and another attorney were hired in 2009. So basically all the people who have any decision-making authority have been out of law school since I was in junior high.

They look at my salary and think "Wow, that's more than I was making when I got out!" But two things: First, inflation. $60k in 2009 dollars is only $45 in 1995 dollars. But second, they graduated with a minimum of debt. I think my boss had something like $20k, which even adjusting for inflation is only $27k. The older attorneys had even less. So by living frugally for a couple of years they were able to be completely debt free even given the stinginess of our employer.

Now they're the ones calling the shots, and they remember that hey, it was tough for a few years but they were just fine, so why am I complaining? Well, I'm complaining because 30% of my net income goes to student loans.

In short, they want to hire young attorneys, but they don't actually want to pay for young attorneys. Which is why I'm mailing resumes just about as fast as I can.
posted by valkyryn at 7:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Valkryn, I think you'll find that the 1995 numbers are per semester, so the full year would be just under $16,000. The increase to $21,000 in 2000 would just be a 31% increase (which is, obviously, still quite a lot). That's growing at about 5% a year--more than inflation, but not by a whole lot. Though I wholeheartedly agree with your premise that, for the most part, the students graduating today have paid the most tuition only to enter one of the worst job markets.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 PM on October 25, 2010


Another problem is that things have gotten a lot worse for law students really rapidly. Like, within the amount of time it takes to graduate from law school. I started at the same time as this guy, but I applied a year earlier and deferred for a year. Tuition and fees at my school this year are around twenty thousand dollars higher than they were four years ago. And I'm paying in-state tuition at a public school! Not to mention that each semester my course book totals have been higher than the semester before, the costs of food, housing, and public transit around here are constantly rising, etc.

At the same time, when I applied in fall 2006, it was taken for granted that students at my school all got summer jobs, which were pretty low-pressure, prominently featured schmoozing and fun events and trips, and essentially guaranteed an offer for permanent employment following graduation, assuming they didn't fuck up in some cataclysmic way. A year ago, a lot of the students who applied in '06 and didn't defer for a year were going back to school only to hear that the firm where they worked over the summer was making job offers to 0% of their summer classes, and almost none of the firms doing on-campus interviews wanted to talk to third-year students.

I consider myself extremely lucky to not be in the same situation as the author of this piece, but I have some good friends who are. I don't think they made the decision to come to law school on a whim. I think they looked at the state of things in fall 2007 and earlier and thought it looked like a reasonable choice, and then the market fell out from under the profession and tuition skyrocketed. Not all of us worked as paralegals for 6 months before law school (I was a fucking software engineer for god's sake) and not all of us had heard of the NALP directory, so a lot of us who were "doing our research" by talking to friends who are attorneys, reading recommended sources of information, etc. weren't getting the dreary outlook a few people earlier in this thread have mentioned. I guarantee you the U.S. News and World Report grad school rankings issue wasn't telling us "ENTIRE LEGAL PROFESSION IS A HOUSE OF CARDS DESTINED TO TUMBLE MOMENTARILY; YOUR TUITION LIKELY TO INCREASE 66% OVER THE COURSE OF YOUR STUDIES," and if it had been, some of us would have chosen differently.

I'm not defending everyone - I'm sure a lot of people go to law school without considering the implications of their choice, and the waves of kids that are still enrolling post-crash should be on more notice at this point that tuitions are high and the outlook is bleak than we were 4 years ago - but I do think there are a lot of kids getting kind of screwed. It's partly their fault, but so it is with homeowners in foreclosure and poor people who vote for Republicans, and I can spare some sympathy for people who are suffering as a result of those choices too.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:16 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can't one get away with much less debt at a not-top-10 university? I suppose with the salary you'd be getting from the small firms more likely to employ you without one a degree from one of the prestige schools, you wouldn't be living high on the hog in some major metro a year out of school, though. You'd have to make do with living comfortably somewhere in flyover country.
posted by wierdo at 7:25 PM on October 25, 2010


Ridiculous.

In my generation of law school applicants (say, 1993 - 1995), with room, board and tuition at at least 50% less than they are now, it was already well-understood that going to any law school outside of the Top 14 (other than with a scholarship or in-state public tuition) was a big, big gamble, and one especially likely to go bad if you graduated in a recession.

This guy, unlike us, had access in 2007-2008 to 10 years of legal-job-search messages boards which should have made abundantly clear the shape of job market prospects for BC grads in a typical year, and in a recessionary year (say, for people attending school during the dot-com bust of 2001-2002, which had a severe impact upon recruiting). Moreover, when he was making his enrollment decision in May of 2008, the sharp decline of the economy was quite well in evidence.

He had every tool at his disposal to make a good decision, and didn't.
posted by MattD at 7:28 PM on October 25, 2010


wierdo: It's pretty screwed up, but a lot of the not-top-10 universities are just as expensive (if not more), and your chances of getting a job that'll pay back your student loans are even lower.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 7:28 PM on October 25, 2010


Can't one get away with much less debt at a not-top-10 university?

Nope. The law school I graduated from is currently #19 (though as I've said before, it's kind of the poster child for the rankings being worthless), and the average debt load for graduates is $108,000 (that's just law school debt, by the way, not undergrad). The average nationally is about $75,000; again, only law school debt.

I suppose with the salary you'd be getting from the small firms more likely to employ you without one a degree from one of the prestige schools, you wouldn't be living high on the hog in some major metro a year out of school, though.

Right now very few of those small firms are hiring anybody at all. And those that are hiring are getting the trickle down from the very top schools.

Regardless, firms are only interested in the top quarter of students at a given school. Many firms (virtually all large ones) are only interested in the top 10% these days. So the vast majority of law students have no hope at getting a job with a firm of any size--and thus decent pay.
posted by jedicus at 7:41 PM on October 25, 2010


Every few days, I find myself regretting spending so much for my undergrad and graduate degrees. What I really regret is having grown up without a connection to real life -- my family worked very hard for money, were middle class in a nation that has tons of cheap labor, and my college's philosophy/marketing/branding aimed at its students shined a light on "successful" alums. I never heard what happened to the average alum. I was young enough or maybe excited enough to believe "success" was the average story that was the result of going to a certain school. I suppose my college's brand was what I unconsciously used as a safety net.

But I never learned how to get what I had daydreamed about. Frankly, I didn't know that I didn't know. I just salivated after prestige. I was a poser. And now it's been long enough after college and grad school that I'm not defined by where I went to school and there are people at my workplace who didn't go to schools of that so-called caliber. There are days I don't understand why I'm in the field I am in and why I was so dumb at 18, and why everything seemed to indicate that I was making smart choices, when saving money would have been smart. I didn't want to limit myself, and the schools' marketing seemed to say they could carry me to amazing places. It seemed more like a promise than a lottery ticket, but in the end, it's a lottery ticket.

I think this guy needs to blame himself. I blame myself everyday. We're just unlucky because the way people talk about college, grad school, higher education, etc. and student loans is different now. There's a bigger emphasis on taking educational debt seriously, like any other debt would be treated but only because so many students loans have proven to become overwhelming and haven't been as easy to pay back as we thought they would be. I distinctly remember being told student debt is "good debt." My fault was that I didn't question it and that I didn't want to. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I was comfortable enough materially (as was my ego) to make decisions that appealed more to my idea of myself than who I turned into in actuality.
posted by anniecat at 7:50 PM on October 25, 2010 [8 favorites]


I was talking to an older coworker who discouraged his kids from going into software design as he had, despite their knack for it. Go to law school he said, that's were the money is. Besides all software will be outsourced. Now his kids are living and home between occasional legal discovery work, while whole we are scouring resumes trying to find a couple of good java developers.
posted by humanfont at 8:04 PM on October 25, 2010


I definitely graduated with north of $100,000 in law school debt. I can't even remember exactly.

I also wanted to concur with Valkryn's sentiment that the elders don't get our predicament (MattD, I'm not necessarily referring to you, old timer). I talk to some of the partners at my firm about their lives as associates, and it's like a fairy tale. Agreements came by overnight courier, and, consequently, it would generally be two days before you would get comments back. No email. Time enough to write file memos on transactions once they closed. Not at the beck and call of bankers every goddamn hour of every goddamn day thanks to simultaneous deals in far-flung time zones and instantaneous blackberry connectivity. Plus, the crushing debt, there's that too. And seeing a lot of competent colleagues get the boot. Low morale is the new standard operating procedure.

Granted, I lived through some of the bonus / special one time bonus / retroactive pay increase years--that was pretty sweet. Hell, I think I got a raise even before I started. Gather 'round, and I'll even tell you about the time they were giving out everyone's choice of iPod, tennis lessons, selection of wines, cooking classes, I can't even remember what else. And the Seamless Web; how I miss it.

We've had a laugh, Law, but you still pretty much suck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:07 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


was already well-understood that going to any law school outside of the Top 14 (other than with a scholarship or in-state public tuition) was a big, big gamble, and one especially likely to go bad if you graduated in a recession.

I can't imagine what it is like outside the T-14 (it should really be the T-5 now), but inside the T-14 is pretty abysmal. I think this is what really makes it different from before. I would be interested in the real employment numbers for T-14 graduates that are also in the top 20% and I wouldn't be surprised if it was around 50-60% (perhaps if you excluded the top 3 or 4).
posted by geoff. at 8:19 PM on October 25, 2010


Employment opportunities for law graduates do suck right now. I'm a year below this guy, at a different school, and I feel bad for him. His class, and the class before him, took the brunt of the Biglaw purge. As some have mentioned before, Biglaw seems to have stabilized itself, but mostly by ignoring two or three years of graduates. Those years are lost years; people unlucky enough to have made the decision to go to law school are going to be struggling with their debt and lack of jobs at graduating for a long time: it will have serious financial repercussions for a lot of people.


But the prospects are not as terrible as they were last year. The layoffs, no-offers and deferrals of the previous two years have stemmed the flow of new graduates into the Biglaw system. The large firms have trimmed their pipelines, and for the first time in a few years, have made a large number employment offers to their 2L summers. The situation that newer students face is:a much smaller Biglaw pipeline, but a substantial chance of a job offer (rather than a no-offer or deferral) after their 2L summer. I think that absent another major blow to the economy, the Biglaw market will recover. It's going to take a few years, I think, and it's going to happen at different rates in different markets. From my experience on the ground, it seems that the NYC market is making a solid recovery; it's closely tied to Wall Street and Wall Street is doing well. More localized markets, say, Boston, or any other similarly situated regional city, seem to be much more sluggish on the rebound.

Anyway, we're starting to see the return of good summer jobs. I was lucky enough to get one. But it still doesn't match the pre-recession numbers, and it is mostly for my class, not the class above me.

If there's one lesson I take from this whole debacle, it's about how much luck plays into job prospects. I could have gone to year school one or two years earlier than I did, and my likely career path would be quite different, and more challenging. It has nothing to do with skill, and everything to do with random timing. I hang out with kids a year above me, and I take classes with them: they are just as smart, and will make just as competent attorneys, but because of timing, have a significantly different future ahead of them.

It's a really weird experience. There's this theory of American Capitalism that is fed to you in grade school is: if you work hard, you will succeed. But the reality of it is that there are all these strange, unknown and powerful economic forces that help to determine your career, and you're just kind of along for the ride.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 8:22 PM on October 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is why America is fucked. Not the guy writing the letter to the Dean, he's not being serious, it's the commenters who cannot wait to sink the boot in. It's hilarious because I don't have to live there, because when I struggle my countrymen carry me until I can look after myself. Move to Australia, folks.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 8:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [10 favorites]


Congrats, Habeas--Glad to hear you've got a job lined up. Good work. And I think you've hit the nail on the head vis à vis being at Fortune's whimsy, and why this downturn has been so difficult for lawyers. It's definitely a career that attracts the risk averse--and having whole classes sent off to purgatory is really unsettling, even for those who have jobs.

I don't deny that the same could be said for any number of occupations, but law has had the double whammy of a particularly large investment (close to $150,000 for my JD) and a reputation for being a safe bet. In the end, it's more of a gamble than people realized--a real sea change in the outlook. I don't think lawyers deserve any more sympathy than anyone else, by any means--it's just that in a few short years, this has gone from a very safe profession to a very speculative profession.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:54 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


He could get a job selling cocaine to his employed lawyer friends. It's the American Way.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:56 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is why America is fucked. Not the guy writing the letter to the Dean, he's not being serious, it's the commenters who cannot wait to sink the boot in. It's hilarious because I don't have to live there, because when I struggle my countrymen carry me until I can look after myself. Move to Australia, folks.

Awesome! Thanks for the invite, man. Can I stay at your place for a few months? I'm just bringing a few essentials. Plan to pick me up at the airport around 11 pm please, and don't be late. I don't like to be kept waiting and neither does Mullet (that's my cat --- please call him Mr. Mullet until he starts being comfortable around you or just until he stops peeing in your shoes).
posted by anniecat at 9:33 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


If thats the kind of argument that comes out of BC Law, maybe tuition is over-priced.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:41 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is there any field which doesn't have horrible prospects right now? . . . Pretty much all professionals are having a bad time of it in the last few years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:57 PM on October 25 [2 favorites +] [!]


. . .Wall Street is doing well.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 8:22 PM on October 25 [3 favorites +] [!]

posted by Ndwright at 9:47 PM on October 25, 2010


If you're smart enough to get into law school, you ought to be smart enough to figure out that getting a degree in whatever doesn't mean the world owes you a living.

Thing is, at least at all the Universities 'round here, law school has become a fall back option; if you don't have any real ambition to do anything in particular, and don't want to have to deal with the real world yet, you go to law school. It's as worthless as an MBA, or a Bachelor's in Letters. You get it because you can't be arsed to come up with any real decisions.

It's an awfully expensive way to spend your time trying to figure out what you want to do with your life, but that's exactly what so many people are doing nowadays.
posted by askmeaboutLOOM at 10:53 PM on October 25, 2010


I graduated from law school in 2008 without a job and it took me 6-7 months after taking the bar to find one. And really I was extremely lucky to get this job and only got it because I went to school with someone that worked there, the job wasn't advertised so I had little competition, and one of my favorite law school professors just happened to be good friends with the top two attorneys in my department. So yeah I got lucky.

While this letter is obnoxious, I totally understand where he's coming from. You're told your whole life that if you work hard and go to school and pick a sensible field (which traditionally law has been)you'll be able to get a good job. Believing this doesn't make you an asshole with entitlement issues. People who go to law school are working their asses off. And their unpaid internships give a lot of courts, government entities, and non profits the free labor they need to survive.

It's really easy to know law school was a bad idea after the fact, but really I don't know how someone starting out in 2005 could know it was a horrible idea. I neve had a lawyer I knew tell me not to go to law school. Quite the opposite. I read books. I visited ton of schools. When you are told over and over that you'll be making a minimum of 100k upon graduation, 150k of debt seems manageable and if that had been true it would have been.

Despite some really hard times I got out ok. I don't regret going to law school, more probably for personal reasons than professional ones, but I do like being an attorney although I know I probably won't always, but everyone else I know pretty much hates their job so I don't think I'm that badly off. I am very concerned about what the future of my career holds, but so is pretty much everyone I know. I don't think lawyers are much different in this respect. I think we just had a lot farther to fall.

I do hope this guy finds a job. I understand the sort of stupid stuff you can do when you are desperate, have been subjected to non stop stress for 2.5 years, and are scared as hell. And I didn't have a kid on the way.
posted by whoaali at 12:00 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


He could get a job selling cocaine to his employed lawyer friends. It's the American Way.

Even the coke dealers are unemployed right now. This is a bull market for downers.
posted by atrazine at 12:03 AM on October 26, 2010


Fuck lawyers. What about the Fine Artists? When do they get their refunds?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:43 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck lawyers. What about the Fine Artists? When do they get their refunds

When they realize that they dont need the guise of pursuing a university degree to form self-expression.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:55 AM on October 26, 2010


The idea that degree = career is stupid to begin with. Get the degree because you want it. And good luck after that.

I say this as a multiple-attempt college student who, at 36 is still technically a sophomore and is at least a half semester from his AA, but gets paid really well to do almost exactly what he wants to do. I'm not saying one shouldn't get a degree; in fact, I think everyone should. But if you're only doing it to get a career, then I think you'll forever be set up for disappointment. You're not immune from economic factors just because you got an education.

Personally, I blame the parents.
posted by grubi at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


In England, students can get loans for their tuition fees and living costs.

These don't have to be repaid until your base salary hits £15,000/year. The amount that has to be repaid varies with your salary, so when you earn more, you repay more. The interest is based on the retail price index.

I think this guy is a bit of an idiot, but schemes like this seem fair to me and would help assuage most of his fears.
posted by Stark at 8:04 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Stark - we have federally-subsidised student loans in the US as well, but there are a lot of limits on them. Lots of students, especially at law school (which is for people who already have a 4-year bachelor's degree) don't qualify for those sorts of subsidised loans.

The general rule of thumb in the US is "don't attend any post-undergraduate programs that you have to personally finance". If law schools haven't figured out a way to get free labor out of their students in exchange for tuition, then there's something pretty flawed with the system.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2010


Not free labor, obviously... subsidised labor.
posted by muddgirl at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2010


It is, indeed, an extremely flawed system.

I went to law school eight years after college, after starting and not finishing a PhD program, after working my way up the food chain in an academic publishing career. I paid for some, not all, of law school in the academic publishing wing of the law school I attended (part-time). I was not in law school for the degree; I would have gotten my PhD for the degree. I was in law school to be doing what I am now (10 years out of law school, yes, I'm old), but I could not sit for the bar exam without the degree from the accredited law school. Believe me, if I could have, I would not have spent the time and money in law school. And I really like my job as a public interest attorney.

Only six states allow you to take the bar exam without graduation from an accredited law school--where accredited it not only by state educational authorities, but also the state bar association and the American Bar Association, which is just a professional club--and they still require several years study with either a judge or practising attorney. Bar admission in one state is not generally transferable to another without at least three and sometimes seven years of practice under your belt.

Law schools and law professors don't use student labor in the way that many graduate programs do. Nonlaywers are not allowed to teach classes at accredited law schools (occasionally, third-year students are permitted to lead first year research and writing sections, but not teach). The clinics (which are think law schools need more of) don't pay the students handling the cases; they just give them class credit. In order to allow law students to do legal work in clinics, generally, the student must have completed 3/5th of law school. Every legal document prepared by the students must be signed by a licensed attorney. Although they can often appear in court on behalf of a client in civil matters or pretrial matters unaccompanied, law students must be accompanied by a licensed attorney (usually at a fairly low ratio of attorney to student) in all criminal matters and most trials.

More importantly, to be accredited by the ABA--remember most states won't let you take their bar if you did not attend an ABA accredited law school--full-time students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week which includes as research assistants for faculty. Without out a pretty rare scholarship, you pretty much can't attend law school without paying for it personally (you or your spouse) and without attending an accredited law school, you pretty much can't be an attorney in the U.S.

Law schools make money for their universities. They charge all that money to students because they can. You want to be a lawyer in the US? Except in very rare circumstance, your only choice is through the law school.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am convinced my (very well regarded) law school would be among the first to implement a mandatory "have a classmate on your lap" requirement as a way of increasing income. The law school is a huge cash cow. Doubly so with the foreign LLMs (and, to some non-negligible degree, the 2L transfer students). The schools really don't look out for the students (who, for the avoidance of doubt, really need to be looking out for themselves). I could ride this hobby horse all week!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:31 AM on October 26, 2010


Well I certainly feel less shitty about my debt now.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love how many law students think they are entitled to a job at some gargantuan law firm with a corner office and a salary vastly out of proportion to what they are actually worth (which is nothing). I've tried to see things from [Name Redacted]'s perspective, but had difficulty getting my head that far up my ass.

In the real world, there are plenty of options for law grads, beginning with passing the bar and hanging up a shingle. Scary? Sure. But (a) they'll learn what it's really like to work on an actual case instead of racking up billable hours for stuff that probably benefits no one; and (b) they might actually do something other than shuffle money between rich people.

While that's going on, there's all sorts of time to cultivate a professional network of people who work in the real world of law (rather than the legal firmament). A decent network will definitely feed the family, especially if the recent law grad continues to work hard and develop professionally. Eventually, they'll either end up with a thriving practice of their own, or end up taking a job with people they've met along the way.

It's worked for me, so far. I'm not starving. Every day, I get to work on interesting cases with lawyers I like. I'm not rich, but I've helped an awful lot of people with real world problems, and I've had fun doing it.
posted by Hylas at 11:44 AM on October 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


When they realize that they dont need the guise of pursuing a university degree to form self-expression.

Nor do people need a degree in law to engage in the practice of mediation and dispute resolution. A baseball bat and a pair of brass knuckles always worked well in the past.

I was tricked into believing that going to Goldsmiths would make me as rich as Damien Hirst. They told me that entry into the Artists Guild would be the key to fortune and fame. Not only that, but I'd be able to be the lead in an world-shattering art-rock band. I was supposed to be the next David Byrne. The next Eno! I want my money back!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:05 PM on October 26, 2010


> What about the Fine Artists? When do they get their refunds

When they realize that they dont need the guise of pursuing a university degree to form self-expression.


This is rather asinine. Yes, someone with true artistic talent doesn't need an education to express themselves, but a university art program is a fine place for them to learn skills they didn't have, work with mixed media that they might not otherwise afford or be able to manage on their own, learn how about criticism and critical theory, and generally get to be in a community of like minded individuals.

I know you like to sneer wildly, but do try to make sense.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:21 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, ladies and gents, thanks to this thread, I feel a little better about staying late at work tonight. Gotta keep those hungry class-of-09 wolves from my door...
posted by bepe at 2:47 PM on October 26, 2010


This is rather asinine. Yes, someone with true artistic talent doesn't need an education to express themselves, but a university art program is a fine place for them to learn skills they didn't have, work with mixed media that they might not otherwise afford or be able to manage on their own, learn how about criticism and critical theory, and generally get to be in a community of like minded individuals.

It can also help you get a job in your preferred industry. Certainly not always, and probably less of the time for artists, but it certainly has helped some people.

Well, ladies and gents, thanks to this thread, I feel a little better about staying late at work tonight.

I dunno. I've heard about this supposed glut of lawyers for going on 30 years now. It almost seems like an industry-inspired meme to keep current workers in line.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:52 PM on October 26, 2010


"In the real world, there are plenty of options for law grads, beginning with passing the bar and hanging up a shingle. "

I think this ought to be emphasized. Lawyers have many options. So, if one traditional venue is an unlikely avenue for success, you can try another. Compare this to PhD's in the humanities (that other thread on the blue). If you have a PhD in philosophy, you can't exactly start-up a philosophy store/service/agency.
posted by oddman at 11:49 AM on October 27, 2010


I think this ought to be emphasized. Lawyers have many options.

There are whole books devoted to non-law jobs for people with a law degree. Most people who graduate from college (at least without a degree in philosophy from a western analytic tradition school) have not really developed their ability for critical analysis beyond a rudimentary level. Anyone who graduates from an ABA school and has passed a bar exam has demonstrated an an analytical ability far beyond most of their peers who lack a legal education. Not only that, but they did it in direct competition with other students. And bar passers in states like mine can talk about how more law grads fail the bar than pass it.

Anyone who has that kind of proven ability can have a decent chance at success outside the legal arena if they are reasonably sociable. A wise grad could probably sift through, say, the 2010-2011 Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools
and get a list of areas in which they can reasonably claim to have received substantial instruction beyond what an undergraduate or other advanced degree may have. The ABA also has an interesting policy argument that the JD ought to be considered an equivalent to the PhD "for educational employment purposes. (Council Statements [pdf].)

As a personal aside, when I was finishing my BA in philosophy, I wanted to attend grad school, but one of my professors laughed and told me he thought it was idiotic. "It isn't because you can't do it," he said, "but why would you want to spend a fortune to compete with hundreds of people for one of a dozen jobs that pays hardly anything?" At the time, I told him to fuck off, but my dreams of a PhD never materialized. I ended up in law school by accident (if you can call a full-tuition scholarship an accident) and am now pretty happy I inadvertently followed his advice despite the "lousy" labor market for lawyers.
posted by Hylas at 2:46 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


This thread has made me intensely sad for my friends who are currently in law school. I've known how bad the market is for a couple of years, and I think they must have, too. But now that their 2L summer jobs weren't able to offer them employment, they're really starting to become frantic. I wish I could offer them hope...
posted by stoneweaver at 1:25 PM on November 1, 2010


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