10 Faces Behind The Incredible Law School Underemployment Crisis
June 1, 2012 6:27 PM   Subscribe

So everyone who's not working for big corporate law can feed themselves and is really upbeat(?!) about their future. According to the pictures at least.
posted by Rubbstone at 6:33 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, if "everyone" is defined as a few people who were willing to be featured in a piece like this.
posted by John Cohen at 6:38 PM on June 1, 2012

I'm thinking that times when there has been a surplus of unemployed lawyers have usually ended up being fairly... interesting.
posted by lekvar at 6:40 PM on June 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

"I realized how miserable I was when I was making a good deal of money in this law firm."

Way to validate the misery of the "thousands of law school graduates [who] are still unemployed while stuck with six-figure student loan debt."
posted by pla at 6:42 PM on June 1, 2012

That link is full of first world problems looking for a solution.
posted by roboton666 at 6:46 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Teaser headline at the bottom to get you to click through to the next story:

"Law school grads weren't the only ones hurt by the recession"

Apparently news to Business Insider readers. ("I say, Jeeves, what's this I hear about a recession? Shall I have to sell the third Porsche to keep up with the caviar bills?")
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:48 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it seems like they really chose these 10 people poorly. Two that I count graduated before the crisis and realized they didn't want to practice law before the crisis. Another did just fine and voluntarily left law because biglaw involved too many hours (shocking, apparently?) I bet just among my personal friends/acquaintances I could find you more compelling sob stories than this.
posted by naju at 6:49 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also just as an aside, I find it continually very interesting that I learn more about the law school unemployment crisis from Metafilter than anywhere else, including my legal coworkers and friends. Wasn't the Dewey collapse thread just a few days ago?
posted by naju at 6:51 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

It goes beyond just law schools
posted by Postroad at 6:53 PM on June 1, 2012

Wow, that is such a terrible set of people to choose that I suspect they did it deliberately. So I guess the point is that there is no law school problem and everyone is fine?
posted by jacalata at 6:54 PM on June 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

She remains on food stamps so her social life suffers.

Food stamps cover all kinds of party foods, so what's the problem.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:54 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

In 1933, the unemployment rate hit over 24%.

Or, in other words, about 75% of people who wanted jobs had jobs. And Business Insider would almost certainly have been right there informing us that if Robert Smith of Wichita had gotten a great job in a factory and his young wife was even able to take in laundry, and Thomas Cabot Gardner Lowell of Boston had just quit his job in his father's business to start writing poetry full-time even though it was a struggle, and everything was Tough But Not That Bad.

I'm not naturally that doom-y about law school prospects, but this was just silly. Also, food stamps girl needs to get off her high horse and make some friends in her income bracket.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:16 PM on June 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who wants to attend law school and be a lawyer, I clicked on the link to this article with a sense of worry. These articles on the "broken law school system" and how most law school graduates as of late are graduating with huge debt and no job to pay it off ... they always worry me. After all, these are smart people — smart enough to graduate from top law schools — and I bet they never thought they'd end up where they are now. Who's to say it won't happen to me, too?

But as I was reading through these stories, I noticed that overwhelming majority of them end with the person realizing that regardless of whether or not they utilize the skills and knowledge they learned in law school, they don't want to be a "attorney" in the traditional sense.

For that reason, this article is not especially useful to me personally. I want to be an attorney. And I am very lucky in that I have had an incredible amount of exposure to various aspects of the legal field, prior to attending law school. In fact, I feel that I am as certain as I can be without actually having done it that attending law school and being an attorney is the right choice for me.

These people in the article didn't have that opportunity. I feel for them, I really do. I hope that they find jobs they are happy with and somehow manage to pay off their debt, because I don't think they deserve the situation they are in.

It used to be that if you could get into a top law school and graduate with decent grades, you could find a job right out of law school to pay those student loans. So even if you weren't sure that being an attorney was absolutely what you wanted, the risk-reward calculation wasn't too intimidating: as long as you had halfway decent grades and could stick it out at a boring-but-high-paying job for a couple years, you didn't have to be an attorney forever if you didn't like it — plus you have the law degree on your resume for whenever you pursue the career that you actually enjoy.

But the jobs that they could have gotten right out of law school to pay their student loans — those jobs have all dried up. The 2008 economic crisis changed everything. All of a sudden their law school risk-reward calculation got turned upside down.

I hope that by the time I enter law school (let alone graduate and pass the bar), the economic situation will be different. But regardless, I am going to prepare as best I can prior to entering law school and throughout law school to make sure that I will not struggle with debt and regret my choice to attend.

I really want to be an attorney. I hope I can make it happen.

I hope. I hope ...
posted by hypotheticole at 8:22 PM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

This might have been a better representation of some opportunities good law schools think are perfectly suitable, given the current market.

I know a few people graduating from and entering some top law schools this year. I am curious (I know it's none of my business) what the grads plan on doing, what offers they've gotten. It seems grim so far, but hopefully the grads will find something.
posted by discopolo at 9:37 PM on June 1, 2012

lekvar: I'm thinking that times when there has been a surplus of unemployed lawyers have usually ended up being fairly... interesting.
What times are those?
posted by Estragon at 10:29 PM on June 1, 2012

"You get really excited about the opportunities and the money and the glamour of high-profile law firms," says Cooney, a 2010 graduate of Albany Law School.

Glamour. Hahaha...I am a mid-level associate at a "high-profile" law firm and it is the opposite of glamorous. No one that isn't another "Big Law" lawyer gives a shit or knows the names of any law firms and my day consists primarily of drudgery. I am very thankful for the position I have, however, I don't mean to be snide or trite.

Thelen Reid was almost certainly the name of the firm the one guy worked at which laid off their entire first-year class when the economy hit the skids. They subsequently dissolved.
posted by Falconetti at 11:16 PM on June 1, 2012

Yeah, only two of these stories had any pathos, the lady on foodstamps not being able to pay her bills doing health law and the guy who went to GW with the absolute worst timing. The rest of the stories seemed to be more "yeah, there were some bumps on the road but what are you going to do?
posted by skewed at 12:11 AM on June 2, 2012

hypotheticole: Be sure your pre-law research takes you beyond the hopeful fields of Autoadmit and places where it's taken for granted that it's a great idea to take the LSAT, the way it was when my dad went to law school for $200/year and paid it off by working at a gas station.

It's not just the economy that has hurt law employment. A lot of it is permanent social change--whether it's automation or the power to look up free legal forms on Google.

But a lot of people are drawn to dreams of a lawyer world that passed from the scene years ago, before things became so different, bleak and debt-laden. The notion of an honorable life in the law is so tightly woven into American democracy and pop culture that the prospect of being ruined, instead of completed, by law school might seem impossible.

Nevertheless...while I hope your applications to top schools are fruitful, you owe it to yourself to consider Inside the Law School Scam, Law School Transparency, and JDUnderground. The latter is unpleasant and dismal in attitude but regularly links to devastating info.

The scandal hit the front page of the New York Times today and it's only going to get worse. But deans will continue to claim it's a momentary dip in the economy, as they take home 6-figure sums, manipulate employment statistics and freight young people with the lifelong effects of tuition rates climbing to $50K/yr.

At one local law school, the office where you pay these fees has a poster on the wall advising SUICIDE: A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO A TEMPORARY PROBLEM.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:11 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

" What times are those?"

He means that lawyers unhappy with social conditions throw revolutions, such as the American (Jefferson, Adams), Russian (Lenin), or French. Or the Indian fight for independence (Gandhi). You need peasants to fight them, but usually someone middle class leads them, and usually it's unhappy lawyers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:36 AM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm really not sure about the representativeness of that list. Only one or two of those people were obvious psychopaths.
posted by Sonny Jim at 4:07 AM on June 2, 2012

He means that lawyers unhappy with social conditions throw revolutions, such as the American (Jefferson, Adams), Russian (Lenin), or French. Or the Indian fight for independence (Gandhi). You need peasants to fight them, but usually someone middle class leads them, and usually it's unhappy lawyers.

You also need unhappy graphic designers. Otherwise all the signs are in latin.
posted by hal9k at 5:10 AM on June 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

posted by CharlesV42 at 5:45 AM on June 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Discopolo's link about Gilbert & O'Bryan's ad for BC Law grads kinda took my breath away: 10k a year, projected for a 40k/year school.

“Compensation is mainly based on percentage of work billed and collected ... We expect an associate to earn $10,000 in compensation in the first year.”

even though.....

"What we emphasize is that we do provide the opportunity for new associates to have their own case load right from the start," said O'Bryan."

Obviously brand new lawyers don't have a stable of clients, as O'Bryan acknowledges. Also, as he and every other lawyer knows, brand new graduates often aren't ready to do anything on their own in practice. So they're controlling the vertical, and the horizontal, here.

But nevertheless...

O'Bryan...said he's received about 32 applications for the $10K per year job, since posting it one week ago. He said that while the pay is low, the lawyer who is eventually hired will gain valuable experience.

Then they have the pure cheek to add this:

“This is an excellent position for a new lawyer or someone returning to a legal career, and a good place to learn how to practice law with real clients. ... Benefits include malpractice insurance, health insurance, employer paid clothing allowance and an MBTA pass.


"Former employees have gone on to prominence in other firms, government and private practice.”

I'll bet they have. They ran screaming.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:21 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

These guys have neglected and totally untrafficked fb and twitter presences. Must resist.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:25 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

"A Lawyer is an honest Employment, so is mine. Like me too he acts in a double Capacity, both against Rogues and for ‘em; for ’tis but fitting that we should protect and encourage Cheats, since we live by them."
posted by wallstreet1929 at 6:40 AM on June 2, 2012

Also, I love the "billed and collected" part. BC Law ought to be ashamed to have these guys on their jobsite.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:08 AM on June 2, 2012

My sister went to law school, and by the end she was stressed out, and had a tough time lining up a job after graduation.

It's just a nutty system, and I think anyone who goes through law school has to wind up temporarily insane, or temporarily incapable of making rational decisions, just because of the stress, the pressure, the workload...

It would be easy to say "too bad they don't have a job, they should have done their research first", but if you have advisors saying you'll get that job after grad, you tend to believe them.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:25 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been reading Inside the Law School Scam for quite some time, and there is indeed a trap

- law schools inflate their post-graduation law statistics to the point that they've started getting sued for fraud. it's hard to blame law students for getting suckered in when they've been the victims of systematic industry wide fraud, reinforced by false expectations held throughout society based on the way things used to be
- most people can't go to law school without taking on titanic levels of debt
- any job opportunities outside of BigLaw do not pay enough to cover debt payments
- there are far too few BigLaw jobs available, and many are at least a little soul-crushing
- tuition debts are not dischargable, even in bankruptcy

Taken together, people from bland middle-class are falling into a trap such that they will never be able to afford their own house. This is not a joke.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2012

Some students have filed class-action law suits against more than a dozen schools alleging that officials misled them about their job prospects after graduation.

This is why I stopped teaching martial arts. You can't really make a living in the martial arts unless you are a 3rd or 4th Dan black belt, but those little brown belts have learned enough skills to try to kick your ass when they get disappointed.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:33 PM on June 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

What a disappointing article. I thought it was going to give me 10 people to blame. Oh well.
posted by joannemerriam at 2:21 PM on June 3, 2012

Some students have filed class-action law suits against more than a dozen schools alleging that officials misled them about their job prospects after graduation.

I don't recall any CS grads writing viruses to attack university servers when they were oversold on the dot-com craze, but maybe I missed it.
posted by dgran at 7:50 AM on June 4, 2012

Eyebrows McGee: Thanks.
posted by Estragon at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2012

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