March 1, 2012

Anti-law school propaganda.



Yikes. That was mean. I must say I laughed at the law professor (at 1:50): "I will assign you an enormous amount of reading, and then proceed to humiliate you during lecture." (No real law professor would say that. Even if he'd admit to an intention to humiliate students with the Socratic method — and I've never run across a law professor who did — he wouldn't refer to the Socratic dialogue as "lecture." And he probably wouldn't assign a lot of material. The most Socratic fun/torture is done with just a couple cases per class.)

(Via Prof. Jacobson.)

52 comments:

cubanbob said...

Unless you are really smart, have a great work ethic, have a naturally lawyerly like mind and can get accepted to a top tiered law school you are probably better off not going to law school. There are as many former lawyers as there are lawyers currently practicing, so why waste the years and the money on something that if you don't have the innate skills and ability to succeed at?

Larry J said...

Does America really need for one out of every 300 people to be a lawyer?

Would it really be so bad if most of the law schools were closed, razed and the ground salted?

traditionalguy said...

The goal of Bar Associations and Bar Exams is the same one. It is to make a shortage of lawyers and drive up our prices.

Learning law is intellectually satisfying. Practicing law is a paper chase with a few moments of real accomplishment when your client is not a jerk.

But that is true of every Profession out there. This latest Propaganda smells like the old Limit The Numbers game again.

Bob Ellison said...

Lawyers merit study as a group of elitists. They tend to be just that: they think they're smarter and wiser than the rest of us. A very few of them become professors, but most just practice law or else use whatever strength of mind Kingsfield taught them to do something else.

I'd like to see a study:

1) Lawyers tend to be elite (smarter, better educated, higher SES, etc.)

2) What are the figures on these people WRT depression, marriage rates, divorce rates, wealth creation (hmm...is it possible to create wealth in this profession?)?

3) What are the figures for people who want to enter law school, who enter law school, who graduate from law school, who pass the bar, and who practice law? I'm guessing these figures are pretty easy to find; I just haven't looked.

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

Sounds like a riff on "The Paper Chase".

Or what Ed Asner said to Mary Tyler Moore when she interviewed for the job at WJM

chuck b. said...

The happiest lawyers I know (and have known) are all patent attorneys. They seem to really like their work. But I also know that behind their backs, most of the people who work with them, don't like them. There's some resentment about the money, I think.

Coketown said...

Mamas have no choice but to let their babies grow up to be doctors and such.

D.D. Driver said...

Ugh. I used to hate law students who constantly bitched about how much law school suck.

These people are annoying.

I would advise kids not to go to law school because they will come out with $120K + in nondischargable debt in a soft job market.

...but the experience itself was challenging and fun.

Mark O said...

Patent lawyers?

There was a time when the law was a profession and not a business. In those halcyon days, beneath the beating of pterodactyl wings, one studied the law because of an interest in, if not obsession for understanding it. Going to law school now is a great financial risk for all but those in the top 10-15 law schools. Even then the future is uncertain. The price of law school has exceeded inflation by at least 4 times. It’s big business and shows signs of corruption. If you score above the 90th percentile in the LSAT and can get a scholarship, and you love the law, and you are in one of those 15 schools, you could reasonably consider it.

William said...

Is this a muted form of bragging? Look at me. I'm meta and aware of all my flaws and the foolishness of my quest, but I'm still able to hunker down, study hard, and achieve my pointless goals......After I got my BA in English, I toyed with the idea of becoming either a lawyer or an English teacher. So far as I can remember, I have never won an argument, and my standards of personal hygiene and moral character are not those of a professional. I, therefore, rejected the idea of law school out of hand. But sometimes, when I think of the roads not taken, I mourn not becoming an English teacher. Perhaps, I'm not being fair, but is law school anyone's first, best dream. It's dentistry school for liberal art majors.

Hagar said...

With the number of law professors out there, I am sure there is at least one "real" law professor somehere saying or doing most anything you can imagine - and probaly some things you can't, or don't want to.

Alex said...

The most lucrative areas of law these days are patent & licensing law. Is that right?

Bruce Hayden said...

The happiest lawyers I know (and have known) are all patent attorneys. They seem to really like their work. But I also know that behind their backs, most of the people who work with them, don't like them. There's some resentment about the money, I think.

Also, the best looking, most humorous, sexiest, etc.

Bruce Hayden said...

Also, the best looking, most humorous, sexiest, etc.

Oh, I forgot the mention the amazing coincidence, that I am a patent attorney.

Geoff Matthews said...

Professor, its called a joke.

The Elder said...

Patent attorneys are also the most delusional.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think there needs to be a university that doesn't offer degrees. Then you would weed out everyone who was there for credential rather than curiosity.

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor, its called a joke."

What's your point?

Ann Althouse said...

I mean, obviously, it's satire, but it's saying something that it means to say.

Hagar said...

The last couple of days I get a message that "there is a script on this page that will make your computer run slow - continue to run this script? Yes or no", or words to that effect.
What is this about?

chickenlittle said...

I mean, obviously, it's satire, but it's saying something that it means to say.

It's not at all very forthright but I think it's saying that law firm hiring is still flat, tutitions have gotten out of hand and that the "cash cow" business model for law schools should be scaled back to something more realistic...but what?

Bruce Hayden said...

Also, the best looking, most humorous, sexiest, etc.

Well, the male patent attorneys, maybe. Not as much with the, very rare, female ones.

I don't think that the reason that patent attorneys seem to enjoy their jobs more is the money. At least in larger law firms, we tend to earn a bit less than most everyone else. The problem as far as billing goes is that patent work is product oriented, and not process oriented. In the end, if you are doing patent prep and prosecution, there will be an easily distinguishable bottom line for your work - so much for drafting and filing an application, so much for responding to an office action, etc. Hourly billing rate is much less important there, and you most often cannot crank up your renumeration by raising that rate every year. No patent attorney is worth over maybe $400 an hour. Probably not more than $250-$300. Period. (And, yes, I have billed over that). And, that is a real problem with larger firms, where partners can bill at twice that rate.

Let me suggest that one big reason that patent attorneys are happier than most attorneys is that their jobs are more challenging. I joke that when I am tired of being an attorney, I can be an engineer, and when I am tired of being an engineer, I can go back to being an attorney.

The reality is that if are to be good at being a patent attorney, you need to understand an invention almost as well as the inventor, in hours, instead of the months or years that he took to make his invention. And, then be able to jump from one area of technology to another on demand. You don't have longer, because you only have, say, $10k to understand the invention, draft it, and file it, including all revisions, and you are billing at, say $250 per hour. And, if you don't understand it well enough, and express that understanding well enough, and how it is novel and nonobvious, then you are flushing your clients' money down the drain.

Also, the law, rules, and procedures, though based on 200+ years of history and case law, are intricate.

Which means that patent law is one of the most intellectually satisfying areas of the law. Day in and day out. Most attorneys spend their lives with the routine. Patent work is rarely boring.

Why would it be hard to work for patent attorneys? First, they are, on average, brighter than most attorneys. In some cases, almost non-functionally bright.

Another problem is that it is a practice with a lot of complex rules and procedures, and a lot of hard rules. You don't file X by Y date, and all that money that your client spent up to this point is flushed down the toilet.

And, it is set to get significantly worse, with the enactment last year of the Leahy-Smith "America (Dis)Invents Act", with thousands of pages of new rules being proposed right now, that will significantly affect the practice. And, yes, make it that much harder.

Add to that, that patent attorneys have to be insanely detail oriented, both in what they draft and file, and in getting all the paperwork right and filed in time. Staff have to be trusted not to make mistakes, because they are the ones who actually watch all the deadlines and make sure that the right things get filed by those deadlines - we just oversee their work (but are legally responsible if they screw up). Making those problems worse - the only way (outside of opinion or litigation work) to make good money is to have a large docket, which means a lot of cases being monitored for years before anything happens with them. Which translates into a lot of critical clerical work, where mistakes cannot be tolerated, because they can so easily be fatal to a client's patent application.

The flip side though is that support staff for patent work appears to be more uniformly distributed than that of, say, litigation assistants. While the patent attorneys may have to work around the clock to make deadlines, their support staff rarely need to work beyond the normal 40 hour week.

Bruce Hayden said...

Patent attorneys are also the most delusional.

I thought that it meant that we had a better sense of humor.

Bruce Hayden said...

The most lucrative areas of law these days are patent & licensing law. Is that right?

Not really. Best money is in big firms and tort litigation. But, not the bottom feeder type, but rather for the type of lawyers who get the cases from the guys you see on TV after they fail to settle with a couple of phone calls. And, yes, class action litigation.

I have pointed out above why there is a fairly hard cap on what you can make in patent prep and prosecution - because the practice is essentially product, and not process oriented.

There is good money in patent opinion work - opining whether or not a patent is infringed, invalid, can be designed around, etc. But that work is mostly gotten by reputation and connections. Not something that you can develop in less than a couple decades of practice, esp. since one of the first things that you check when reviewing an opinion is the drafting (or signing) attorney's USPTO registration number.

Patent litigation and licensing can be very lucrative, esp. since it tends to be much more process oriented, allowing the attorneys to bill at big firm rates. This also means that the work can be churned, allowing for a lot of overlawyering. This is esp. true for litigation defense work.

But, when it comes to patent litigation, the really big money is, as with tort litigation, with contingency fee litigation. Sure, you get offers for contingency fee patent prep and prosecution, but it is almost invariably a losing proposition. Just too many variables, including the fact that you almost never know what the relevant prior art is before you file a patent application, because of all the unpublished patent applications pending in the patent office. And, it is just going to get worse, with our adoption of a bastardized first-to-file system, where someone can beat you out by one day, and you won't know for at least a year and a half. (Under the old, first-to-invent law, you had a chance to swear your invention behind theirs - no more).

Lem said...

Who needs a home when you have a colostomy bag?

Bruce Hayden said...

The most lucrative areas of law these days are patent & licensing law. Is that right?

Let me qualify my previous post. The pay for patent prep and prosecution work is much less variable than for much of the rest of law. There aren't a lot of patent attorneys doing that type of work making less than $100k a year if they are working full time, but few making more than $250k. And, that mostly either by managing other attorneys or through contingency fee litigation.

So, if you compare patent attorneys to the universe of all attorneys, then their median salary is higher. But, it is not a good way to make really good money.

I am a bit jaded here, having worked until recently with a decent sized general practice firms, where the patent attorneys were some of the lowest compensated and lowest billing rate attorneys in the firm. At 20+ years of practice, my billing rate and pay were below that of 6-8 year attorneys who worked in "soft IP". And, it only got worse, the more senior you got.

I think that the reason that patent attorney pay is distributed on a much flatter curve than that of most attorneys, is that it is much easier to compare apples to apples, when you have discrete products to compare, as contrasted with most attorney work, which is more process oriented.

Triangle Man said...

It's not at all very forthright but I think it's saying that law firm hiring is still flat, tutitions have gotten out of hand and that the "cash cow" business model for law schools should be scaled back to something more realistic...but what?

@chickenlittle

Who is saying that, and why? Prospective law students? What is the play on popping the law school bubble?

MadisonMan said...

I enjoyed that. I hope the market doesn't become flooded with similar videos for future doctors, engineers, journalists, etc. Memes just get copied all the time these days.

cubanbob said...

The Elder said...
Patent attorneys are also the most delusional.

3/1/12 2:28 PM

Except for their invoicing. Evil perhaps but nevertheless deadly serious.

Geoff Matthews said...

Professor,

The joke is taking an attitude that students suspect instructors have and amplifying it.

It isn't meant to be factual, or even satirical. Its meant to be silly.

This bit was done by the students at the U of Calgary Law School. I suspect that means they aren't finished with school yet (if it wasn't actors who did this). Which means they aren't really trying to talk their 16-year-old selves out of wanting to go to law school.
Good to see where your sacred cows are.

Ann Althouse said...

"The joke is taking an attitude that students suspect instructors have and amplifying it. It isn't meant to be factual, or even satirical. Its meant to be silly."

Yes, but you give the impression that you're trying to correct something I have gotten wrong and that isn't the case.

Deekaman said...

"Law School...for those who can't handle Engineering".

;-)

Penny said...

Good chuckle.

It spoke to the 16 year old lawyer in all of us... who didn't want to be a doctor.

Penny said...

Reminds me of all those articles you read in the newspaper where Joe, who was just murdered, was planning on going to school to be a teacher.

Penny said...

Bruce Haydon, I really appreciated your in-depth comments.

If I meet a young person who has fluid interpersonal skills PLUS technology skills, I usually head them toward Engineering Management. Now? Might suggest they also think about becoming a patent attorney specializing in litigation and licensing.

Chuck66 said...

I want to go to law school at Georgetown so I can get some action 2.74 times a day like the lady who testified yesterday.

Amy Schley said...

Might suggest they also think about becoming a patent attorney specializing in litigation and licensing.

Do let them know that one need not go to law school to be a patent agent -- that is, a person who helps another obtain a patent. A law license is only needed for patent litigation and licensing.

Bruce, any suggestions for a new attorney qualified-to-be-but-not-yet-a-member-of-the-patent-bar trying to get a job? My personal experience has been that it's a great field if you're already in the running for a big law job, but otherwise pretty damn hard to get into.

Penny said...

Thanks for that additional info, Amy. Didn't realize there were patent agents, although not surprised.

There are a hundred steps...and a hundred jobs... along the road to figuring out what you are good at, and what you can make a decent living from at the same time.

Penny said...

Eventually.

Make a decent living from EVENTUALLY.

Penny said...

Back to the video...

Wouldn't really expect a 16 year old to have a firm grasp on what they will "eventually" become. I pretty much feel the same about an 18 year old college freshman. Maybe I can stretch that to a 21 year old with a bachelor's degree. And even a 22 year old with a new MBA degree, or a 23 year old law student who just graduated.

Unlike most parents, I would not give special consideration to my kid who needs to do some summering and then falling and wintering and springing on some other continent unless it's on THEIR dime.

Ahhhh, but dimes go so much further there! So there IS that.

bagoh20 said...

I don't know how you legal heads do it. I've spent untold hours working with attorneys in various endeavors, and I just could not stand doing that work for even a week. Paper, arguing, paper, intimidation, posturing, offer, counter-offer, paper, rephrasing the phrases of other phrasers on paper, paper, paper.

Most unappealing of all is that much of the product of all that work gets put in a folder in a file cabinet and never sees the light of day again.

Like, plumbers, I'm glad you are there when I need one, but I would never want to be one. Thanks for being weird enough to do what you do. When I need a lawyer, they do general help and give me piece of mind, but of course if not for other lawyers, I don't think I would ever need one.

If you find it rewarding, then more power to you, but I just don't get it.

bagoh20 said...

When I was 16, I wanted to be a scientist or veterinarian. I still do.

Penny said...

And my vet makes more money tutoring high school kids in math, so she does.

Penny said...

What does that tell you?

Penny said...

It tells me that high school teachers need to start doing their REAL jobs.

Kids have no trouble dreaming ... all by themselves.

Most kids don't learn basic math and English... by dreaming.

bagoh20 said...

I just paid 3 grand today to get a dog's leg fixed, so they must do alright. It's not even my dog, but a rescue that I found on the street, so they gave me $1000 discount. It's usually 4 grand for about an hour of work with some expenses for meds, but most had to be profit.

Penny said...

Kids leave high school without knowing the basics, yet we paid their teachers BIG bucks.

Parents with some money can get their kids tutored for even more BIG bucks.

And if that isn't in the cards...well they can always go to the local Community College to take remedial high school math and English.

No worries either for those not wanting to go to college. Companies that hire are now fully responsible for teaching...what?

Surprise! Basic high school math and English!

Penny said...

What's wrong with this picture?

It isn't just a dream.

It's real, and it's happening right this minute at a high school, college or workplace near you.

Penny said...

What's "right" about this picture?

Nice to see so many people gainfully employed doing something that really DOES matter.

Penny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig said...

I would have applied to law school if it hadn't been for L.A. Law. I didn't wish I had applied until Allie McBeal came along.