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Is Law School a Losing Game? Article

post #1 of 130
Thread Starter 
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/bu..._r=1&src=busln
post #2 of 130
Yes, please stop going to law school and graduating just to further crowd this field I'm working in. Go study criminal justice and work in a prison instead.
post #3 of 130
Who has an account to the NYT? Fuck that shit.
post #4 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by deadly7 View Post
Who has an account to the NYT? Fuck that shit.

Quote:
Is Law School a Losing Game?
By DAVID SEGAL
Published: January 8, 2011


IF there is ever a class in how to remain calm while trapped beneath $250,000 in loans, Michael Wallerstein ought to teach it.

Here he is, sitting one afternoon at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a tall, sandy-haired, 27-year-old radiating a kind of surfer-dude serenity. His secret, if that's the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash.

"And I don't open the e-mail alerts with my credit score," he adds. "I can't look at my credit score any more."

Mr. Wallerstein, who can't afford to pay down interest and thus watches the outstanding loan balance grow, is in roughly the same financial hell as people who bought more home than they could afford during the real estate boom. But creditors can't foreclose on him because he didn't spend the money on a house.

He spent it on a law degree. And from every angle, this now looks like a catastrophic investment.

Well, every angle except one: the view from law schools. To judge from data that law schools collect, and which is published in the closely parsed U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, the prospects of young doctors of jurisprudence are downright rosy.

In reality, and based on every other source of information, Mr. Wallerstein and a generation of J.D.'s face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated.

And with corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees, both in the United States and in countries like India. It's common to hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the domestic steel industry decades ago.

But improbably enough, law schools have concluded that life for newly minted grads is getting sweeter, at least by one crucial measure. In 1997, when U.S. News first published a statistic called "graduates known to be employed nine months after graduation," law schools reported an average employment rate of 84 percent. In the most recent U.S. News rankings, 93 percent of grads were working "” nearly a 10-point jump.

In the Wonderland of these statistics, a remarkable number of law school grads are not just busy "” they are raking it in. Many schools, even those that have failed to break into the U.S. News top 40, state that the median starting salary of graduates in the private sector is $160,000. That seems highly unlikely, given that Harvard and Yale, at the top of the pile, list the exact same figure.

How do law schools depict a feast amid so much famine?

"Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm," says William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves. "Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty."

IT is an open secret, Professor Henderson and others say, that schools finesse survey information in dozens of ways. And the survey's guidelines, which are established not by U.S. News but by the American Bar Association, in conjunction with an organization called the National Association for Law Placement, all but invite trimming.

A law grad, for instance, counts as "employed after nine months" even if he or she has a job that doesn't require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee's? You're employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You're working, too.

Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it.

They are also cash cows.

Tuition at even mediocre law schools can cost up to $43,000 a year. Those huge lecture-hall classes "” remember "The Paper Chase"? "” keep teaching costs down. There are no labs or expensive equipment to maintain. So much money flows into law schools that law professors are among the highest paid in academia, and law schools that are part of universities often subsidize the money-losing fields of higher education.

"If you're a law school and you add 25 kids to your class, that's a million dollars, and you don't even have to hire another teacher," says Allen Tanenbaum, a lawyer in Atlanta who led the American Bar Association's commission on the impact of the economic crisis on the profession and legal needs. "That additional income goes straight to the bottom line."

There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses. You can sample their rage, and their admonitions, on what are known as law school scam blogs, with names like Shilling Me Softly, Subprime JD and Rose Colored Glasses.

7 pages long, but that's the gist of it.
post #5 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by deadly7 View Post
Who has an account to the NYT? Fuck that shit.

Everybody who ever wanted to read an article or use their archives?
post #6 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by cptjeff View Post
Everybody who ever wanted to read an article or use their archives?

Neither is a category to which I belong. If a website is going to make it a hassle for me to read their shit, I can get the information from one of a billion other places on the Internet.

Also, that article is kind of "Duh" and very indicative of students that have done no research about alums from their school and the industry in general.
post #7 of 130
i mean any time you have a really down economic turn you're going to have people going to law school at a normal pace while the job market can't catch up to the new grads. but it's usually a bad bet to go $250k in debt for law school imo. that's a choice the guy made.
post #8 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by deadly7 View Post
Neither is a category to which I belong. If a website is going to make it a hassle for me to read their shit, I can get the information from one of a billion other places on the Internet. Also, that article is kind of "Duh" and very indicative of students that have done no research about alums from their school and the industry in general.
The point is that their research may encounter fraudulent data. It is less reasonable to expect that every prospective law student look beyond distortions in data than to advocate that more stringent reporting standards be enacted, which is what some people in the article call for. Anecdotal evidence that you get from talking to a few alums is also unreliable.
post #9 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluemagic View Post
The point is that their research may encounter fraudulent data. It is less reasonable to expect that every prospective law student look beyond distortions in data than to advocate that more stringent reporting standards be enacted, which is what some people in the article call for. Anecdotal evidence that you get from talking to a few alums is also unreliable.

Ah. This is different than what I took away from a piece of hb's snippet. We've had this discussion in several other threads (scattered in general, CE, etc) and the general consensus has been that stricter regulations are necessary for education in general. Schools won't police themselves because saying "10% of our grads are actually in the profession" makes you look bad. I do agree in general that post-secondary institutions get away with a lot of deceptive advertising that can be very difficult to navigate without an inside source.
post #10 of 130
^which is why you spend the 60 seconds or so it takes to register and be able to read anything the best newspaper in the US has ever published.
post #11 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by harvey_birdman View Post
Yes, please stop going to law school and graduating just to further crowd this field I'm working in. Go study criminal justice and work in a prison instead.

What, you don't enjoy the heavily saturated market?

I'm assuming you're primarily speaking to those attending Tier 3 and 4 schools? I see little point in pursuing a legal education if you're not going to be competitive in your class and/or nationally. The demand certainly isn't good enough to justify a legal education with mediocre credentials.

Nothing in the article surprised me but I've already done a good deal of research on the topic. However, I do agree that they should enforce stricter regulations in the surveys. Surveys without strict regulations are far too easy to manipulate.
post #12 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluemagic View Post
The point is that their research may encounter fraudulent data. It is less reasonable to expect that every prospective law student look beyond distortions in data than to advocate that more stringent reporting standards be enacted, which is what some people in the article call for. Anecdotal evidence that you get from talking to a few alums is also unreliable.
i agree with you for the most part, but even a rudimentary level of research (which anyone should do while considering a $100k+ investment) would immediately show that you only get those high salaries if you finish at or near the top of your graduating class -- which means if a student is basing their decision to attend a school on the idea that they'll be earning that high salary from jump street they're also assuming they're going to do better than 95% of the other kids who are applying. and for that they deserve to be $250k in debt. it also explains why people hate lawyers.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Modern Day Adonis View Post
I'm assuming you're primarily speaking to those attending Tier 3 and 4 schools? I see little point in pursuing a legal education if you're not going to be competitive in your class and/or nationally. The demand certainly isn't good enough to justify a legal education with mediocre credentials.
if you can get t2 or t3 with little/no debt coming out it's a great deal for you.
post #13 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by rjakapeanut View Post
if you can get t2 or t3 with little/no debt coming out, have no aspirations for BigLaw, or can guarantee you finish in the top 1% of your class, or are okay with making $50k in a government job or trying to get your face plastered on a billboard it's a great deal for you.

Fixed that for you.
post #14 of 130
Quote:
Originally Posted by BC2012 View Post
Fixed that for you.

nothing wrong with not wanting big law or working a government job. $50k a year is plenty for some people.

besides a JD opens doors for you.
post #15 of 130
I truly feel sorry for all of my friends/acquaintances who are giddy about going to law school. Most of them will be going to Tier 2-4 schools, and will emerge with serious debt. Logic cannot bring them back from the cliff.
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