Those Poor Law Students
The long gravy train of the law business may be coming to a grinding halt. I’m purposely using the word “business” instead of “profession” because the vast majority of students enter law school to make tons of money, particularly those from top tier schools who admit they drool about getting one of those reportedly $160,000 a year starting jobs. Those dreams are frequently turning into nightmares these days. One student, who is facing $200,000 in debt, told the Times “had I seen where the market was going, I would’ve gone to a lower-ranked but less expensive public school. I’m questioning whether law school was the right choice at all.” Similar comments are made all over the web, with many law graduates extremely bitter because the jobs and riches didn’t come with the degree but only bone crushing debt. So much for a profession whose professed goal is to obtain justice and serve society. The ABA wanted to make the study of law expensive by accrediting law schools and eliminating as much as possible alternative and less expensive ways to learn the law, such as apprenticeships..It did this by getting nearly every state to require that every bar exam applicant have a degree from an ABA accredited law school. By making law school expensive, newly licensed attorneys had to concentrate on making money rather than serving society. The senior guys in the firm got the junior guys to chase the almighty buck, hooked them in so to speak. The top law firms that represented the nation’s corporate elite mostly hired graduates of top tier schools. The graduates also did what they were told so they could eventually become a partner. The money culture began in law school and continued in the firm (billable hours and rainmaker). It worked when the corporations were rich and the money flowed. Now the country is broke, most corporations are squeezing every buck they can to show profits, the corporations are questioning their legal fees and many law firms are forced to shed even partners. Some firms closed their doors or merged. In the meantime, the law profession, which has never been embraced by the public, has dramatically increased resentment within its own ranks by failing to deliver those $100,000 to $160,000 a year jobs in sufficient numbers. The ABA’s jacking up the cost of a law degree backfired big time. And things probably won’t get better very soon. The typical American is having trouble making ends meet, millions of people are unemployed, millions more are fearful of losing their jobs so they cut spending to the bone forcing corporations to do like wise. The leaders of this country made a terrible mistake by raising expectations of the average citizen to the point where they believed they could own a house, two cars, a boat, an SUV and send their kids to college by placing a fender on a car or by shuffling paper in a white collar job. The law profession did the same thing by giving the impression if youngsters got good grades in college, high marks on an exam that had nothing to do with the actual practice of law, and read a bunch of books, the world would be at their feet. Now the reality of the 21st century, where computers and robots compete with humans for jobs, expectations are being dashed in droves. And having a bunch of indebted, angry and desperate attorneys looking for work isn’t good. In fact, it’s downright scary. And we have no one to blame but ourselves for promoting the false notion that anyone can live an affluent life if only they work hard and play by the rules. Life has never been that simple although it seemed that way because until now it was easy to live beyond our means.