September 26, 2007

"I didn't think three years out I'd be uninsured, thinking it's a great day when a crackhead brings me $500."

Do you really want to go to law school?

30 comments:

monsalvat said...

You would need a heart of stone not to laugh at this.

Matt Brown said...

"... many are blaming their law schools for failing to warn them about the dark side of the job market."

Is it the school's responsibility to tell them this, or is it something they should have researched on their own? You would think that law students would have to do a fair amount of research.

Seven Machos said...

Kids: if you read this blog, go to the best law school you get into. Period.

The Drill SGT said...

Ineresting article, but I note that it didn't show that the US was the country with by far the highest ratio of lawyers to population, nor the number of legal events per pop, per year.

lots of legal work out there, but too too many lawyers chasing it.

Pogo said...

Who would have guessed that becoming a doctor or a lawyer in 2008 would find former students "simply cannot earn enough income after graduation to support the debt they incur"?

I have said it here before: Smart young men and women should avoid medical school. And now, it appears, law school as well should be avoided.

My nephew's fiance just finished med school and told me last weekend that she wished she's never gone. She picked a field that gets her out of ever dealing with patients or a call schedule because patient care has become onerous. Some of her classmates are struggling to pay back $200,000 in loans, while being pushed to enter fields like Primary Care that cannot possibly make these payments.

The next 10 years are going to be interesting as students figure out that the traditional methods into upper middle class or higher are gone, maybe forever (except maybe for the top ten law schools).

An Edjamikated Redneck said...

Maybe the problem isn't the career, but the exploding cost of education.

I am missing the link, but hasn't the cost of education risen at something like 4 times the pace of the cost of living?

Bissage said...

The story goes that Daniel Webster was advised not to pursue the law because the profession had become overcrowded and that he responded, "There is always room at the top."

Count me among those who would advise grown adults like "Loyola 2L" to complain less and to work more.

That’s because it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.

Daniel Webster said it first.

Just kidding.

Ha!

Too many jims said...

Seven Machos said...
Kids: if you read this blog, go to the best law school you get into. Period.


If you are not paying for it, if you want to go into academia, if you want to pursue a clerkship, if you want to be a federal appellate judge, if you want to be able to pick up and easily move anywhere in the country, or if you know that you want to be in a "big law" law firm long term, I agree with you.

If you are paying for most of it on your own, I think you need to balance the cost. If you are an Illinois resident (read: resident tuition) and you get into UofI and Chicago and Northwestern should you choose Chicago because it is the highest ranked? If so you'll graduate with about $120,000 in debt just for tuition (assuming you are paying full boat). If you choose Illinois you will be at about $70,000 for tuition. Factor in cost of living differences between Champaign-Urbana and Chicago and we are talking real money.

If you think you want to try a "big law" law firm experience in Chicago (and perhaps some other cities), you could still go to Illinois so long as you committed yoursef to kicking ass your first year. (I used Illinois as an example but a similar argument could be made for a student from Iowa, Wisconsin or Indiana.)

Tim said...

Oh my.

A personal injury attorney having a tough time.

Didn't we enact whole rafts of law and regulatory schemes to reduce injuries across the board? Isn't this a good thing?

I guess not.

What we need here, I tell you, is a single-payer legal system. The current legal system is clearly broken, and can only be fixed by a fair, equitable single-payer legal system.

It's for the children, of personal injury attorneys.

Seven Machos said...

A large part of this is what happens you subsidize any good: the price goes up. And since education is very heavily subsidized, it's not surprising that the cost of education has gone up very much.

Loans act as subsidies just as much as grants do.

Economics, man. It's a bitch. I'm a big believer in subsidized education to make it readily available. But this is one of the highly undesirable effects -- even if you don't like lawyers because the high debt happens to everyone.

Kevin Lomax said...

The story goes that Daniel Webster was advised not to pursue the law because the profession had become overcrowded and that he responded, "There is always room at the top."

I like that. I consider law school to be the biggest gamble of my life. I went in not knowing as much as I should have of the overall economics. Thankfully, I rocked my first semester and continue to own law school. Looking back, if I hadn't I should probably have considered dropping out. If part of the reason you are going is to increase your earning power, it simply does not make sense to incur the full load of debt for a degree that won't then allow you to pay for it and may make you unemployable in fields that may not want to hire a JD.

There is always room at the top. Unfortunately, many law students are used to always being at the top and simply cannot fathom an educational system where a B average is complete and utter failure.

peter hoh said...

Kids: if you read this blog, seriously consider becoming a plumber or an electrician.

Roger said...

Rather than lawyering or medicine, I understand being an actuary is one of the best jobs there is; highly paid, regular hours, and the peace and comfort of working with numbers--numbers dont get their feelings hurt, have massive egos, and dont stab you in the back.

Re the post: why does the term schadenfeude come to mind?

Balfegor said...

Rather than lawyering or medicine, I understand being an actuary is one of the best jobs there is; highly paid, regular hours, and the peace and comfort of working with numbers--numbers dont get their feelings hurt, have massive egos, and dont stab you in the back.

I guess so. But if I look here, it looks to me like you need 9.5 years and six exams before you reach the starting salary of a first year associate at a big law firm (raised to $160,000/year this past year -- there are rumours that the NYC firms that are sufficiently leveraged are going to go up to $190,000 in the near future). Working as an actuary is well paid, compared against the median income in the US, but not quite as well paid as being a lawyer in a big firm.

That said (and speaking of those numbers), after interacting with auditors on a number of occasions, I kind of think it would be kind of neat to be a forensic auditor. I have no idea what the salary would be, though, and I'm not particularly interested in taking accountancy classes to go for a CPA.

There is always room at the top. Unfortunately, many law students are used to always being at the top and simply cannot fathom an educational system where a B average is complete and utter failure.

Well, only if you're at a second tier school. At a top ten school, I think the B-average students are mostly able to land the high paying jobs. Maybe not Wachtell or Cravath, but at decent firms that will pay them more money than they're worth.

And I feel I should say what I always say in these kinds of threads, which is that even at the top ten schools, law school admissions is not all that selective. Sure 50%+ have always been in the top 10% of their class, but I would not say that getting into a good school requires you be the sort of person to whom a string of B's is going to come as a shock. Well, unless you went to a school with insane grade inflation.

Trooper York said...

The problem here is that everyone wants to be a home run hitter....get a job at a big firm and score the big bucks....there is plenty of money for the single hitters...the everyday workman who prepares wills, estates, real estate closing's even small bore criminal defense cases....the work is there if you want...just get off your ass...roll up your sleeves and dig in...and don't listen to your professor's because they don't know jack about the real world...they are really there to punch your ticket and mainly serve as comic relief.

jimbino said...

Funny, I went to UT Law School because it was so cheap. I had been working as an engineer in Austin, paying through the nose at a marginal income tax rate of 50% to 70% to support a nation of breeders and the higher education of their white kids. The tuition at UT Law was about $0, with fees making up less than $400 per semester.

So I went to Law School because it was cheap and fun (at least for two years) and gave me a way to get some of my stolen wealth back from the USSA and the Socialist State of Texas.

Now I find out that my education there has a market value of some $100,000!

StephenB said...

Having just started my first year of law school, I was a bit upset by this article. When I approached my contracts professor about it, he replied: Yeah you're going to be unemployed if you take "Save the Whale" classes, because they're not hiring down at the Save the Whale Foundation. They're hiring at business firms, though. So take business classes. Go where the supply is, he said.

So I feel a little better about it.

John said...

Education should not be that expensive and lawyers should not be that well paid. Think about what a lawyer does? A lawyer is a transaction cost. A necessary transaction cost because if you don't have lawyers you don't have a workable legal system but a transaction cost nonetheless. As our legal system has gotten more complex and interest group driven, lawyers have become rent seekers. It was a great gravy train while it lasted but finally society is pushing back through things like tort reform and reducing the complexity of the legal system and reducing the rent taken by lawyers. Universities have been part of that rent seeking by setting up law schools as for profit organizations and raising tuition through the roof.

As society pushes back from the rent seeking and legal salaries decline as a share of GNP, law schools will start to feel the pinch and either close or lower tuition. Even the elite law schools will feel the pinch. This contraction is starting with the low hanging fruit of tort lawyers but Biglaw is next. There is simply no way that corporate America will pay the kind of legal fees that they are now forever. At some point someone is going to look behind the curtain and realize that 90% of what biglaw provides their clients could be done cheaper through in house counsel or through less presigous competing law firms. Yes, Biglaw has all of the show horses who went to the right schools and clerked for the right judges but how much of day to day corporate work requires show horses and not just work horses? Is corporate America really getting its moneysworth from BIGLAW when any number of cheaper alternatives could do the same work for a lower price? I don't think so and it is a matter of time before they figure this out. We have already seen this in insurance defense where insurance companies used to pay firms lucrative rates but now contract out to sole practicioners or use in house council for much lower rates. This is the wave of the future and it is only a matter of time before it hits biglaw and the salaries for even the top schools start to go down as well.

chuckR said...

peter hoh said...

Kids: if you read this blog, seriously consider becoming a plumber or an electrician.

My wife did some web development for a plumbing company. They have 300 plumbers from doing roll-ups of small outfits. Benefits include 401K, medical/dental and the feeling that the plumber is still pretty much his own boss. They pay for training and licensure tests. Supplies are stocked by a supply chain management company and the plumbing company never owns the stock - transferred from the supplier directly to the consumer. This restocking is cued by a wireless point of sale/inventory device and the restocking is done at the plumbers home - they don't waste time going to the main office, such as it is. Master plumbers can make $80K for a 9 to 5, more for OT and weekends. Journeymen start at around $40K.
Here's the punchline - the CEO is a lawyer who has been in private practice.

MadisonMan said...

You mean Willie Nelson was wrong?

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

MM, even Apollo Creed got it wrong, as follows:

COMMENTATOR: Any quick advice for young boxing hopefuls?

APOLLO CREED: Stay in school an' use your brains, dig -- Be a lawyer, be a doctor, carry a leather briefcase an' forget about sports!! Sports can only make ya grunt an' smell -- Be a thinker not a stinker!!


Fortunately for all of us, Apollo wised up and became an actor. That’s why he gets the big money.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. There's still plenty of meat on that bone. Now you take this home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato. Baby, you've got a stew going!

class-factotum said...

So take business classes. Go where the supply is, he said.

Not sure I would take career advice from a guy who doesn't know the difference between supply and demand.

hdhouse said...

soooo many lawyers....


........so few ambulances

P. D. "Bo" Steele said...

This article only confirms my decision to drop out of correspondence law school and pursue that PHd in Sociology.

former law student said...

Has BYU's Gordon Smith read this article? Further, is there really any point to opening a law school at UC Irvine to create more un and underemployed lawyers? Moreover, UC Law school tuition is rising up to market rates, a 266% increase since 2001.

richard mcenroe said...

"First we starve all the lawyers." -- What Wat Tyler Would Have Said If He Wasn't So Frikkin' Impatient...

Bill said...

Drill Sgt, the linked Online WSJ has a graphic that shows a ratio of one lawyer to 284 people in the US.

Revenant said...

So the number of lawyers has increased faster than the demand for legal services... and lawyer salaries dropped? Bizarre. If only there was some sort of economic law to describe this kind of behavior.

LJ said...

The problem with law school is that it's a lottery. I also attend the University of Houston Law School and happen know Fox Curl (aka 'the crackhead's lawyer') as well. We both know plenty of folks from our alma mater who make big money in the biglaw meatgrinder, for better or for worse. It's not so much a matter of where you go, but how well you do once you get there.

There is a lot of legal work out there, but it's the people who can't afford it who need it the most. While we may have "too many lawyers" in the minds of some, we don't have nearly enough to provide quality legal representation and advice to anyone but the wealthy. No one with $100,000 plus in student loans can afford to serve those people. That's a far bigger problem in my mind than law students making less than they thought they would.