Another Case Study of a Ruined Lawyer’s Life And His Rationalizations

Josh was kind enough to share his story publicly. He’s a 36 year old lawyer who went to law school in the hopes of upgrading his lifestyle. But like many others before him, he was in for a rude awakening which has negatively affected his personal life and forced him to say “fuck it” alter his life perspectives.  

Prior to law school, Josh had a steady job with health insurance, a 401K, and had no debt. He was living with his girlfriend and her parents offered to front the wedding expenses. His “prospects were looking good”.

Josh then went to law school (and a top tier school at that) thinking it would lead to greener pastures. He married his girlfriend, had two children and bought a condo. He had a realistic career plan in public service work (assuming he is being truthful and not harboring the “Biglaw $160,000 or Bust” mentality. I’ll get more into that later). But he ran into the familiar problems facing 90% of law school graduates who don’t graduate in the top 10% of their class. He hopped from job to job (each with its own problems), tried his hand in solo practice resulting in unpaid taxes, and his student loan and credit card debt continued to grow. He divorced and left his house while agreeing to pay a portion of the mortgage for a while.

He sums up his current situation:

And now, fifteen years after graduating from college, I’m living very much like I did back then, and very much like recent college graduates today. My [new] girlfriend and I just moved into to a 2.5-bedroom apartment in a converted factory building. Our rent is $900 a month. We live in the second-poorest neighborhood in one of the poorest cities in the country. We love New York and Boston, but are satisfied with Hartford’s small but accessible art and music scenes. We play in a band. We share a 17-year-old truck that we almost never drive. We slowly pay our debts.

Of course, I make more money than most Millennials [$70,000 from the article], but my expenses include not only the usual $400 monthly loan payment, but an $800 monthly subsidy of my ex-wife’s mortgage and a $208 monthly installment payment to the IRS. And my girlfriend and I have two deadbeat roommates who eat a ton and don’t pitch in at all: my two sons, six and nine years old.

A few commenters say that Josh put himself into this situation because of his rash decisions. He and his girlfriend should have delayed marriage and having children until they both had stable careers. Same for buying the condo. But like the typical special snowflake, everything was going well for Josh and he figured that going to law school would be one more financially sound decision.

Spoilers aside, in the end, Josh pulls through and imparts his wisdom to the young and the clueless:

If there’s a lesson to be learned from my decade and a half of treading water, it’s to resist the pull of material things. I don’t mean that we should all renounce our possessions and become ascetics—I like smartphones and cool sneakers and going to the movies. I mean that it’s worth questioning our assumptions about what it means to be grown up, and about how we measure success. In the nearly two decades since I left home, I have lived in $400 ghetto apartments and a $325K three-bedroom house in the suburbs, and I am certain that the house and the suburbs made me no happier than the apartments and the city. I have driven a fresh-off-the-assembly-line Scion and an aged truck with no radio, no power steering, and no automatic anything, and the new car made me no happier than the old (except for the power steering; parallel parking without power steering is hard work). I’ve been lucky to find work I loved during most of my adult life, and I’m lucky to have two wonderful, healthy children. Those things have consistently made me happy, and I realize now, I could have had them without a lot of the debt and stress and suburban ennui.

Josh tries to be positive and is trying to make the best of it. He says he is grateful for what he has while rejecting gross materialism, consumerism, etc. Mo money = mo problems, right? He is careful about not sounding like a deranged malcontent. Like others who shared their stories publicly, he begins with the obligatory line “I’m happy with my decision to go to law school”. He also says that he loves his current job as a public defender which I wholeheartedly believe. However, he gave some hints that he had biglaw champagne wishes and caviar dreams:

[G]oing to law school was the first step in a quest for a conception of middle-class life that was always slightly out of reach, a quest that proved financially disastrous. I don’t know whether this was simply a question of biting off more than I could chew or whether I was led astray by easy credit and an unrealistic notion of how I ought to live.

It will not surprise you to learn that I did absolutely no research on the financial or practical realities of law school. [No, it didn’t surprise me.]

Some will interpret Josh’s epiphany as capitulation and rationalization in disguise. Like many 0Ls and 1Ls who secretly dream of making the $160,000 salary and sneering down at everyone else, once they realize that Biglaw does not want them, they publicly reject it. They point to its influential decline, the greediness and cutthroat politics, the psychotic bosses (which also exist in law firms of all sizes), the 80+ hour work weeks, and working for “evil corporations”. Coincidentally, they all of a sudden care about work-life balance, quality of life, family and other feel-good topics they previously didn’t give a shit about.

When life does not turn out the way you dreamed as a kid, especially after all of the years of hard work and sacrifice, you have to rationalize or you’ll eventually go crazy or kill yourself. They become too ashamed to hang out with their successful friends and sooner or later disappear. Their confidence collapses.

So is Josh’s life ruined? Because this is a subjective question, he alone can make that determination. He seems to be happy so it is best to leave it at that. But people his age would not want to be in his situation.

I wish Josh the best of luck. For someone who is supposedly happy with his career decision, he issues very ominous warnings. His story should be shared to the idealistic, the delusional and the desperate. Thankfully, looking at the decline in law school applications, more people are becoming aware that going to law school can be a financially ruinous decision.

Which Law School Will Be The First To Close? Three Different Opinions

We forgotten attorneys have been eagerly placing our bets on which law school will be the first to shut its doors. It’s likely that the low-ranked schools will be the first to close because decreasing enrollment and increased operating costs will eventually make the school unprofitable. But others think that more prestigious law schools will close in order to protect the reputation of its parent university.

Three lawprofs offer contrasting opinions. 

Brian Leiter, the Lex Luthor Professor of Law and Philosophical Ramblings, believes that “the most vulnerable schools are free-standing ones of relatively recent vintage, and those also happen to be overwhelmingly 4th-tier–but their “4th tier” status is not the primary explanation of their vulnerability, but rather one that just exacerbates their vulnerability to enrollment (and thus revenue) declines.” In other words, the schools most likely to close are low ranked schools with no parent university who will cover its losses.

Dean Gershon (Mississippi) questions this logic, using the example of the now closed Emory and Georgetown Dental Schools (among others). G-town and Emory closed their dental schools after facing lower applicant numbers and decline in the quality of its applicants.

What is interesting is that among the universities choosing to shut down their dental programs were prestigious schools like Georgetown and Emory. My understanding is that those universities determined that their dental schools no longer attracted the types of students they wanted to have at their institutions. Like law schools, the greatest decline in dental school applications occurred at the top end of standardized scores and undergraduate GPA’s. Emory and Georgetown were concerned that the students in their dental schools would not reflect the high credentials of students in their other programs, so they decided that it was better to close the doors, than to allow the dental school to “dumb down” the university.

The assumption seems to be that it will most likely be fourth-tier schools that will close, if law schools close. Based on what happened to dental schools in an almost identical atmosphere, I am not sure that assumption is correct.

Finally, Paul Campos believes that even though most law schools are operating at a deficit, few law schools will actually close for non-financial reasons.

(a) Completely shutting down [a university’s] law school would be embarrassing to the parent university, and it will avoid doing so if there are other realistic options. [Ed. Note: Campos argues that it’s prestigious for the university to have a law school and have influential politicians as graduates.]

(b) It’s not at all difficult to operate an ABA law school that doesn’t lose money, even in a world in which half as many people, or even fewer, apply to law school as was the case in the salad days (Crucial caveat: (b) only continues to be true in a strong form as long as something like the current federal educational loan system remains in place).

So who is right?

The low ranked schools will do whatever it takes to stay open because it is still very profitable. Their strategy is to stay alive long enough by admitting anyone with a pulse – and perhaps violate an ABA regulation or two – until their competitors die off first. They know that they will never become a highly ranked or even a respectable institution. They don’t care about the future of their graduates. And of course, when they get sued, they blame their graduates. 

Low ranked schools will also publicly disparage higher ranked schools. Cooley has for a very long time publicly accused other law schools of elitism in its blog post “Fourth Tier My…”.

Shit-tier schools are dramatically cutting costs. Nando’s Third Tier Reality calls out the desperate tactics of New England School of Law – including forcing faculty to accept resignations or face termination.

What about higher ranked schools? The best of the best will weather the storm. Mid ranked schools and some top-ish schools – particularly those connected to prestigious undergraduate universities are vulnerable to closure. The schools that come to my mind are Rutgers, George Washington, American, UCLA and the University of Minnesota. Their employment statistics are below par for schools of their caliber. Because of this, applicants will likely choose a slightly lower ranked school that offer a full or substantial tuition discount, which will create a costly price war and result in decreasing revenue. 

These schools may also have to maintain a certain prestige in order to justify the parent university covering its losses. Like Georgetown and Emory dental schools, if the number and quality of applicants along with revenue continue to decline, the regents and provosts will seriously consider closing down the school rather than see it turn into a clown college.

I have to agree with Leiter that the low ranked schools will be the first to close as they are starting their death spiral. Their enrollments have dropped sharply and will likely continue to do so. They are purely profit motivated and will quickly fold once the money tree is chopped off. These schools will get no moral support from their higher ranked colleagues and eventually, they too will publicly call for their closure. I suspect that these schools will not really close – they will instead stop training JDs and turn into a paralegal school.

But some higher ranked schools may also close, especially if smarter people pursue other professions. Some will be casualties of the law school attrition war. Others pride themselves on admitting the intellectual elite and would rather close than admit the proletariat.

Closure of a law school will depend on the state of the economy, rising legal demand and others. But at this point, we don’t care who dies first. Once we hear about the first law school shutdown, we will take the day off and celebrate in solidarity in bars and taverns nationwide.

It’s Hard Being a Law Professor These Days (And a Proposal For Unemployed Former Law Review Editors)

Law professors have been getting a lot of shit for good reason. They write useless law review articles that no one reads. They also act oblivious to the current unemployment and debt crisis that their students are facing. Some have the gall to think that their work and opinions are above those of practicing attorneys who have to deal with legal issues every day. And they certainly have no interest in advocating changes because it may affect their employment.

I still believe that law professors have no duty to find jobs for their students. Most law professors have little connections with the professional community. And it would add an unreasonable burden to their two class per semester schedule and their paid summer sabbaticals.

I can understand why law professors are resistant to change, particularly when it comes to protecting their job security tenure. But that also means that they know the current unemployment situation facing lawyers. Everyone knows that law professors are full of shit when they say that they sacrificed a Biglaw career and can easily go back.

Some law professors are also sensitive to criticism, especially when it comes from outside their academic circle. Without naming names or websites, there was a lulz-worthy war of words and blog posts between an up-and-coming law professor and a group of criminal defense attorneys over “revenge porn”. After having her ass handed to her, the lawprof retreated to her faculty-only blog where she accused her critics of being sexist and misogynists.  

The ABA’s legal education task force recommended that faculty members undertake the following:

  • Become informed about the subjects addressed in this report and recommendations, in order to play an effective role in the improvement of legal education at the faculty member’s school. In other stop pretending that a crisis does not exist. But being informed about the law school clusterfuck is one thing. Doing something about it is another.
  • Individually and as part of a faculty, reduce the role given to status as a measure of personal and institutional success. I am not sure why this is an issue. Law professors usually want a guaranteed paycheck tenure and little else after that.
  • Support the law school in implementing [changes to the law school curriculum proposed by the task force]. Good luck with that. Most of the task force’s recommendations require law schools to cut tuition provide value to students and eliminate useless spending – including faculty. Tenured faculty will fight tooth and nail before they agree to changes that will affect their job security.

My recommendations for law professors is the same that I gave to law schools. If you want to keep your jobs, you will have to call out and shame the shit schools that produce unemployable lawyers. There is speculation that almost every law school is losing money and may even face shutdown if this trend continues. Do you want your school to close or cut salaries? Also, stop saying that law schools are eventually worth the cost because we all know that is bullshit for most people. Also, PLEASE stop saying that a legal education provides some “intrinsic” value.

And now, I have a proposal for the unemployed former editors of law review facing a penal sentence of eternal cite-checking in the document review dungeons. Most of you had the thankless duty of reading and cite-checking every submission to your law review. During that time, many of you probably questioned why the editorial staff decided to publish some really shoddy submissions – Exhibit A for example. I hope that the disgruntled among you will start a blog or website that publicly reviews the worst submissions you had to deal with. I’m sure you will find a LOT of material. 

Law review publications are used mostly as a resume bump and has little to no quality control procedures. Also, most publications are presumed to be correct because….they are written by law professors (and the occasional judge, law student or practitioner). By publicly calling out the worst of the worst, law professors will think twice before writing some random bullshit. This may also minimize the chances of academic con-artists from getting tenure.

In a few years, law professors will be working a lot longer for less pay. Academia will not be the employment haven it once was. But they are to blame because they let this happen.

What Small Firm Solos Think How Much New Attorneys Should Be Paid.

A reader showed me a discussion among a group of solo practitioners over how much a newly minted attorney with no experience should be paid. The discussion should be required reading for people who are STILL stupid enough to ask “should I go to law school”. It provides an insight into how bad the legal job market is and how cheap and entitled some solo and small firm attorneys are.

The original poster said that he trolled Cragislist offering an associate position at $2,000 per month claiming that he was only trying to gauge the market. He received a few responses, including one who told him to go fuck himself.

The responses from his solo colleagues were varied. I’ll condense some of the common and interesting responses with my thoughts.

Paying $24,000 per year may violate labor laws. This is possible. It’s true that lawyers are exempt from the 40 hour overtime rule. But a good employment litigation attorney will look into just exactly what the associate was doing. Was the employee actually doing exempt lawyer work? Or was he just fetching coffee or looking for keywords from a stack of documents? A young employment attorney with an axe to grind against cheapskates will be glad to take a case like this either on principle or at least with a minimum up front payment. Even if the lawsuit ultimately fails, the lawyer’s fees will make the employer think twice about pulling this shit again. Also, the effect on his reputation will make it harder to get good employees in the future. It’s funny how stories like this quickly end up at legal gossip websites like Above the Law and the local legal newspaper – like that doc reviewer class action suit.

You are barely paying above the poverty line; young attorneys have student loans and living expenses to pay. The ability to pay student loans and living expenses is not the employer’s problem. And there is no moral obligation for an employer to break the iron laws of supply and demand. But living in poverty will have an effect of how motivated and loyal your associate will be. See high turnover below.

You’re going to have high turnover. If you are going to pay poverty level salaries without clear incentives, do not expect a loyal employee. Your new employee has student loans to pay, a family to support and dreams of being a good lawyer. Once your employee realizes that he has no future with you with no opportunities for career growth and raises, he will lose respect for you (assuming he has had any in the first place) and start looking for a new job. Don’t even get me started on how a disgruntled associate can disrupt your practice – particularly if he has been planning an exit strategy for some time.

Offer bonuses for bringing in business. Some commenters suggest that solos offer a base salary but sweeten the pot for bringing in business. I see in many lawyer job advertisements a bullshit line saying something like “potential for advancement and raises” which usually means “you’ll get a raise whenever I feel like giving it”.

This is a common deal with most small firms. It’s also also something most associates cannot or don’t want to do. They wanted to become lawyers because they did not want to be salesmen. Apparently, for some, this is considered laziness.

Government jobs pay $24,000 to start so the private sector can too. A government job offers at least seven things that a small solo can’t: 1) A clear and decent salary increase schedule; 2) Much better chance of job security; 3) A better working environment and practical learning experience; 4) A better likelihood of being a competitive candidate for private firms seeking attorneys with inside government information and experience; 5) The prestige of working for a respectable – and sometimes feared – organization; 6) Better benefits; and 7) PSLF – look it up. Can Ms. Small Solo offer something similar? Good luck finding that unicorn.

Most attorneys are not worth $24,000 per year and it’s more than what I’m willing to pay. I would rather pay that to a paralegal. One commenter went on a harangue about how even experienced attorneys cannot do simple discovery motions, were entitled, and how they should get out of the law if they can’t handle a routine case.

People like her think that because they have the power of the paycheck, their employees should do nothing less than walk on water and take a bullet for them. I guess this must be their idea of “work ethic”. They also think that employees should be paid no more than minimum wage until they prove themselves.

I wonder who these people think they are with their enormous egos. She is a solo practitioner. She doesn’t have the brand recognition of a Biglaw, Midlaw or even some respected small firms. I’m willing to bet that her employees do not brag to their family and friends that they work for her. If it wasn’t for this shitty economy and the moral bankruptcy of law schools, most people would tell her to take her insulting salary offer and shove it.

But there are many like her and I should give her credit for saying what some didn’t want to say.

I’ve hired several attorneys that cost me more than they were worth. This happens. But a subsequent commenter said it best: If you had constant turnover in your office, have you taken a good look in the mirror and considered whether you are a bad manager/teacher?

I have heard tons of stories from solos who left firms with insane, psychotic bosses. Also, some firms are known for hiring new associates every three to four months. Most of these assholes defend their actions by saying that they will get the same kind of abuse from judges and demanding clients. If they can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. Others just don’t give a fuck about churning and burning associates – it’s all about the Benjamins. 

People like these don’t need associates. They should probably hire a contract attorney for the unusual shit and hire a full time legal assistant or paralegal for the drudgery.

The associate can turn to IBR to lower their student loan payment. Looks like some of the smarter attorneys are catching on to my idea. Why pay associates a large salary if their money will go to paying student loans? Once student loans exceed $200,000, some will be inclined to pay the least as possible and will take a job that will allow that.

Most know that there is an oversupply of new lawyers and thus employers are entitled to feel entitled. But after reading the responses, it is nice to know that there are some people who understand young lawyers’ problems. Yet there are others who see this as an opportunity to exploit the vulnerable with vague promises of “experience” and “possibility of career advancement” while projecting to others about how great they are. I can only hope that the collective will reward those who do the right thing and shame those who do not.

One commenter aptly stated that this shows how hard times are: Attorneys can’t pay for competent help and new attorneys can’t find work that pays enough to put a decent roof over their head and to eat.

So as far as I’m concerned, a firm that offers $24,000 to start with vague promises of raises and advancement is most likely fucking with you. Proceed accordingly.

Suicide – Ending a Life Without Meaning

With many college graduates burdened with seemingly insurmountable student loan debt, it doesn’t surprise me that some have contemplated suicide.

An article in Above the Law covered a NYU grad about to be laid off from Biglaw who has been thinking about killing himself. He won’t pull the trigger because he doesn’t want to burden his father who has co-signed the loan.

A commenter at Outside the Law School Scam says this:

Fuck them. My life is literally ruined because of law school, and the life of my spouse who is sticking with me, and the life of my kid who I can’t provide for as well as I want to because I PAID MY FUCKING MONEY TO SOME LYING LAW PROFESSOR.
Jesus Christ I want to kill myself.

There are many stories like this. And I too have thought about it a long time ago. Thankfully, for most people, suicidal thoughts are just a symptom of depression and it usually goes away after some meditation, counseling or a stiff drink with friends. Getting laid helps too.

I don’t care about suicidal people, to be honest. Unlike others, I long ago stopped telling people to give life a chance. Now I think people should be able to kill themselves if they don’t like the cards they have been dealt.

Some people just suck at life. Others do it because have no other way to escape from a really deplorable and irreversible fate – like living as a blind amputee beggar in a third world country.

But many young people kill themselves because they are not living the life they had expected after graduation. They have to own a Porsche, a house and be debt-free before turning 30. They have to live with status or life isn’t worth living.

Others kill themselves because they cannot meet others’ expectations. Some have obligations to parents who have given up their life savings to send them to an expensive school; and if they have nothing to show for it after graduating, it would break their parents’ heart (and their retirement). Others are expected to support their parents when they get old and the pressure is too much.

Anyway, if you really, really, really, REALLY want to kill yourself, then do it. But are you sure that the afterlife (if one exists) will be better than the shit life you’re living now? Do you know for certain that your life won’t get better later? Do you really want to take that irreversible gamble?

Next question: Do you want to leave this world without at least trying do something meaningful? If so, hurry up and take your cyanide pill and stop wasting our oxygen. You are a fucking loser and a coward. My tax dollars are being wasted on paying your unemployment benefits and food stamps. Your parents wasted 20+ years of their lives raising your sorry ass. Your friends of the opposite sex may temporarily grieve at your death but their life will go on – they will meet someone new, get married, have lots of sex and live happily ever after. You, on the other hand, were just a paragraph in their life story. You were the nice, smart one with a lot of potential but just a little off.

Create a bucket list of all the things you wanted to do and then do it! What’s stopping you? Student loans? Then don’t pay it – defer it, IBR it, or just default! The hell with the “personal responsibility” talking points. They can’t collect loan payments from a dead person. Does it matter whether you die with a debt of $50,000 or $500,000? You don’t take your debts with you when you die.

If you’re going to die, you may as well die fighting. Fight the system, the law school scam, the greedy biglaw pigs, the conservative or liberal hypocrites, or anything that pisses you off.

Finally, don’t worry about being rich. Being rich has its own share of problems. Most of the expensive things you own will be fun for a few months at most. Afterwards, maintaining them becomes a headache. If you’ve learned anything from the law school scam, some people did not get wealthy by being honest.

If you think about it, for the final few moments before killing yourself, you are truly free. Your debts, your Linkedin profile, your Facebook friends, your Avvo rating – all of that is irrelevant. The limitations you put on yourself are gone. So why limit that feeling for a few minutes? Why not a few years? Travel that unknown road and see where it takes you. It may not lead to the promised land, but it’s worth a shot.

“Smart People” Are Ditching Law School to Pursue Other Options

The day of reckoning is coming. In 2012, the number of law school applicants have been fallen by 12.3%. This was on top of a similar percentage of drop in applicants in 2011.

And recently, Professor Jerry Organ published an interesting study showing that the LSAT scores of law school matriculants in 2013 have changed for the worse. Specifically, the number of matriculants with LSAT scores about 165 have fallen while matriculants with LSAT scores below 150 have increased.

Professor Organ also points out that as of 2009, law schools use the highest score of an applicant who has taken the LSAT numerous times (as opposed to average scores) for US News Rankings LSAC/ABA reporting purposes. This may mean that a number of these sub 150 LSAT matriculants have taken the LSAT multiple times and still couldn’t break the life-changing 150 barrier.

He closes with the following prediction:

In terms of LSAT profile, the Fall 2013 entering class is almost certainly the weakest of any class going back to Fall 2002. This may impact the classroom experience at some law schools and may impact bar passage results when the Fall 2013 entering class graduates in 2016. 

In other words, law schools are admitting dumbasses lowering their admission standards at their own peril.  

Look, I – and many others – are not saying that people who score less than 150 on the LSAT will be bad attorneys. It’s just that with this score, you will likely have a harder time reading through and understanding thought-provoking yet practical legal concepts like the Rule of Perpetuities, the Erie Doctrine, the Privileges and Immunities Clause and UCC 2-207, to name a few. You will have to step up your studies and possibly take some Ritalin or risk flunking out of school or failing the bar exam.

So why are the 165+ group not going to law school? Professor Organ plans to explain this in a future blog post but I thought I’d put in my two cents:

1) The gunners are going to med school or MBA school – Now that more 0Ls and their parents know that even attending a top-tier law school is risky due to the lawyer glut, the greedy, money-hungry bastards graduates of top schools are applying to other professional programs. The future patent lawyers are applying to medical school. Biglaw wannabes are flocking to MBA programs hoping to become investment bankers instead.

TIP: If you have a strong GPA and LSAT score (165+), you should contact a few top tier MBA programs and ask if you have a shot at being admitted without taking the GMAT. The LSAT and GMAT scoring system have similar characteristics – try dropping the 1 and adding a 0 to the end of your LSAT score. The ranking percentiles for both the LSAT and GMAT are similar at the 170+/700+ scoring range. If some good B-schools will consider your application and you are not interested in a joint JD/MBA program, you can use this as a tool to negotiate a tuition discount between either program.

2) Holding out for Harvard – I think a few law school wannabes have deferred going to law school for a year hoping to attend Harvard, Yale or Stanford. They will use the extra year to bump up their GPA/LSAT scores, gain work experience and maybe save money for tuition. The borderline applicants may have a chance. The dreamers will keep dreaming.

3) Those who are on the fence will wait – If a college graduate with decent scores has a stable (although boring) job, there is no point in ditching it. They can wait. In the years to come, law school tuition will drop further and applicants with top credentials will be heavily recruited with tuition discount offers and stipends.

SURVIVOR: The Law School Edition

Previously, I said that I would write about the numerous actors that directly or indirectly caused the law school clusterfuck scam crisis. So let’s start with the law schools. When I talk about law schools, I refer to mostly law school administrators and their staff, particularly those in marketing or career services.

How have law schools failed their students and the profession? Oh where to begin….For years, law schools have misled prospective and current students on their likelihood of obtaining sustainable salaries and respectable jobs after graduation. And to those who end up working at Petsmart, law schools have further misled them about how “versatile” a JD degree is. Even though the ABA and the almighty US News rankings gods have started to crack down on this practice, law schools still cannot be trusted to give morally truthful information.

Law schools have also failed their students and the profession by being overly obsessed with rankings. Apologists say that “managing” a school’s ranking is necessary in order to protect the value of their degrees. But in the name of this obsession, law schools have artificially raised tuition to debt-slave levels, gave tuition discounts based solely on LSAT and GPAs (as opposed to people showing potential for becoming good lawyers) and paid ridiculous sums of money to tenured faculty who mostly care about writing obscure and inane scholarshit.

Finally, one would think that in light of current events, law schools would speak out against the opening of new law schools. But no – administrators stay silent or give pathetic praises as schools like UC Irvine, Indiana Tech, Cooley and the Infilaw collective infest themselves in new cities.

As a result, law schools continue to churn out more graduates than the economy will bear. Many will resort to income-based repayment plans like IBR/PAYE and live like a college student for a good portion of their adult lives. Most of these graduates will not be able to help the poor because they will be poor themselves. Some will leave the profession for other ventures. Others will say “fuck it” and default on their debt. And a rare few will turn to the dark side and start a scam of their own.

So now let’s look at the ABA’s recommendations.

The ABA Task Force’s Recommendations (Page 31, E. Law Schools)

1. Develop and Implement a Plan for Reducing the Cost and Limiting Increases in the Cost of Delivering the J.D. Education, and Continually Assess and Improve The Plan. Good luck with that. The only way this will work is if the Task Force or another independent agency receives an actual cost reduction plan with realistic projections – instead of empty platitudes. The Task Force must then make sure that schools are doing everything they can to meet these goals. Will this happen? Right.

2. Develop and Implement a Plan to Manage the Investment of Law School Resources in Faculty Scholarly Activity, and Continually Assess Success in Accomplishing the Goals in the Plan. WTFITS? For most schools, faculty “scholarly activity” should be placed in the back burner.

3. Develop a Clear Statement of the Value the Law School’s Program of Education and other Services Will Provide, Including Relation to Employment Opportunities, and Communicate that Statement to Students and Prospective Students. This is useless. Law schools will continue to use vague slogans like “promoting justice”, “helping the disadvantaged”, “developing leadership skills” and other bullshit.

4. Adopt, as an Institution-Wide Responsibility, Promoting Career Success of Graduates and Develop Plans for Meeting that Responsibility. I am not sure how law schools will develop a plan that will adequately promote the success of its graduates other than reducing class size and setting up apprenticeship classes. Even I think it’s unreasonable for law school CSOs to hold the hand of every unemployed graduate until he finds a job. 

5. Develop Comprehensive Programs of Financial Counseling for Law Students, and Continually Assess the Effectiveness of Such Programs. Just about every law school – including the elite – are aware of IBR/PAYE and other alternative payment plans and have been promoting them to their unemployed graduates. They should also include seminars on hiding assets, kiting checks, avoiding bank levies and wage garnishments and living on bad credit.

In short, the Task Force’s recommendations are unenforceable, vague and will do nothing to control the lawyer oversupply problem. 

So What Should Law Schools Do? I’m going to avoid the obvious responses like reducing tuition and limiting enrollment because few law schools will voluntarily take this financially disastrous step.

First, some law school deans and administrators – especially the trap and mid-ranked schools –will have to openly criticize underperforming law schools. Sorry, it has come to this. The time for genteel exchange of ideas is over. People are beginning to believe that there is little to no quality difference between a school ranked #21 vs one ranked #121.  This is why some decent schools are starting to see their rankings drop and tuition revenue decline. The financial strategy of the low end schools is to admit almost anyone with a pulse while they wait for the mid range schools’ implosions and eventual closures. So to the deans of soon to be shit-tier schools, you better step up your game and protect your turf. 

Second, law schools collectively have to stop playing the US News rankings game. Increasingly savvier 0Ls are using the rankings to extort tuition discounts from desperate schools. As a result, top schools are paying more for bright students. If this trend continues, eventually top students will be distributed among different schools and recruiters will soon realize this. If schools use their tuition revenue to meet their existing students’ needs instead of gaming a faux beauty contest, it’s highly probable that there won’t be operating deficits and their  graduates will be better prepared for the job market.

Finally, law schools need to know their place manage their expectations. Low end law schools should not court high end law firms – it’s a waste of time and money trying to do so. If their 1Ls want to transfer to a “better” school, let them and help them along the way. If the stubborn ambitious 2L with the 2.0 GPA is still gunning for biglaw, tell him he’s on his own and don’t waste resources helping him find Santa Claus. Don’t pay for the privilege of having Supreme Court Justices speak at your school’s commencement when you know damn well they will not consider your graduates for a clerkship.

In the final analysis, the ABA’s recommendations is a vague circle-jerk and will do nothing to change the status quo. Law schools are in survival mode and some will eventually shrink or die. The ABA should implement policies that hasten this process for the sake of the profession.