Law School Discussion

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1
http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/03/news/economy/legal_industry/index.htm?postversion=2008120305

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With $166,000 in loans and no legal job in sight, Rob Cox, 33, is beginning to question his decision to go to law school. He has expanded his job search to include other industries, but he sometimes finds his schooling works against him.

"My resume, which consists mostly of schooling and volunteer positions I held during school, is less than appealing to the type of companies I'm aiming for," he said.

For those considering expensive private law schools, don't fall into the debt trap like the folks interviewed in the CNN article. 

Law school is NOT worth the mortgage that this level of debt will put on your life. 

A debt at the $150-160,000 level means paying about $1000-1200/month to the loan company for the next 25 years.

And also, the debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  If you default, the loan company and its collections agents can still come after you and your assets.

For most people, law school is a disastrous financial choice.  Avoid overpriced private law schools at all costs.

2
Most of you are well aware that that salary claims from law schools need to be taken with a grain of salt.  My own Temple University is no exception, and I am astounded at the claims Temple is making.

In my 3L year of law school, I attended a career services event for graduating students.  At this event, the career services office displayed a PowerPoint slide show with detailed statistics on employment.  I distinctly recall that most people going into private practice went into small firms, and that small firms paid between 40k and 60k annually.  Despite this, Temple's website claimed private practice "average" starting salaries in the 80k range:

http://web.archive.org/web/20060909061346/www.law.temple.edu/servlet/RetrievePage?site=TempleLaw&page=Prospective_Profile_Enter_Clas

Today, Temple Law is claiming an "average" starting salary for private practice that is well over $100,000:

http://www.law.temple.edu/servlet/RetrievePage?site=TempleLaw&page=Prospective_Profile_Enter_Clas

$108,303 to be exact.

Beware, for I don't believe that this figure accurately represents the reality on the ground.  People I know who tried to leave the document review shops were getting offers in the 40-50k range for plaintiff's firms, and 60-70k range for midsize ID firms. 

I really hate that Temple continues to publish this "average" salary figure.  The "average" student from Temple is not going to command a six-figure salary upon graduation. 

It is in my view unconscionable that Temple does not post a complete picture of where its graduates go after they leave the law school.  What % go into private practice, and what is the breakdown of salaries by quintile or quartile?  What % go to small, medium, and large firms?  What % go into public service, and what is the breakdown of salaries by quartile? 

Temple Law is a great school with competent, dedicated faculty, solid facilities, and a new dean who is among the most intelligent and talented professors I have ever encountered.  It bogles my mind that Temple does not publish open, complete, and clear employment stats. 

3
http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--budget-lawschools0422apr22,0,4222067.story

You've got to be f#!@*(ing kidding me... the last thing NY needs is more TTT law schools flodding the market with graduates.

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"There's no question that we simply have a glut of law schools," said Makau Mutua, interim dean of the University at Buffalo Law School. "There's no shortage of access to legal education for New Yorkers who want to go to law school."

The state budget passed by the Legislature earlier this month includes more than $50 million for developing law schools in the Rochester and Binghamton areas and on Long Island. The Rochester school would be affiliated with St. John Fisher College, a private school in suburban Pittsford, while the SUNY system's Binghamton and Stony Brook universities would get their own law schools.

More than $2 million would help pay for Fisher to study creation of a law school. The rest of the funding is for the two SUNY schools, with the lion's share going to Stony Brook, including $250,000 for a feasibility study and $45 million for building the law school.




And the politicians ADMIT that this is to make MONEY!

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A state lawmaker who pushed for the St. John Fisher funding in the state budget says a law school, if located in downtown Rochester, would give the city a much-needed economic boost.

"This is really about improving regionalism and improving Rochester's academic landscape and career opportunities," said state Senator Joseph Robach, a Republican from suburban Greece.


The law school scam is reaching new lows.  Private schools getting more taxpayer dollars is a disgrace!  This is nothing but corporate welfare. 

4
http://www.law.com/jsp/law/careercenter/lawArticleCareerCenter.jsp?id=1201864411540

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Jason Luros graduated in the top 20 percent of his class at Golden Gate University School of Law in 2007, with a portfolio of internships including business and intellectual property law experience and work abroad.

Given the impression from professors and career counselors that he was doing fine and that law firms were hiring, Luros said that he was surprised at the feeble job market that greeted him on return from Europe last summer. Most of his interviews were with firms of five to 30 attorneys -- and they weren't hiring.

"All the opportunities that I heard about required active bar membership and a lot of experience," Luros said.

...

Luros decided to pop into the office of a financial services firm and fill out an application. After three rounds of interviews, the firm offered him a job as a financial planner and started him on a training program.

...

University of San Francisco School of Law Dean Jeffrey Brand says that segment might soon see growth. He sees an employment trend on the horizon that will have graduates from nonelite schools taking a harder look at careers outside the law.

With the economy's recent downturn and mushrooming overhead costs, he thinks law firms will be scaling back job offers.

"What I've heard from firms is that the associate economic structure they've created is destined to collapse," Brand said. Alumni are reporting that large national firms are increasingly hiring laterals or experienced lawyers on a contract basis, he added. "There are fewer associate positions for recent graduates," Brand said. "It's going to require them to be more resourceful in figuring out what they're going to do."

Yet another sign that the bright and shiny future that many law schools promise is often nothing but a sham.  It's just not worth the time and money to attend an expensive private law school if you aren't absolutely sure you want to be a lawyer. 

5
Where should I go next fall? / A look at doc review in Washington D.C.
« on: November 10, 2007, 09:55:40 AM »
http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/display.php?id=34054&comments=show

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Jay Kuperstein had a good job. He worked in New York for the NBA, editing basketball videos. Then he got tired of sitting in front of a video monitor for 15 hours a day and decided to go to law school.

Kuperstein, who is 30 years old, graduated from American University’s law school in 2005. The plan was to become a sports agent. “I thought it would be good with my background and law degree,” he says. “But it turns out it’s a job that’s nearly impossible to get.”

And so this new lawyer found himself sitting in front of a computer for 15 hours a day, working as a temp document reviewer, one of a growing species of big-city lawyer that sifts through electronic documents to determine whether they are relevant to pending court cases and investigations.

If you don't get into a top school or don't want to really market yourself (it takes a lot of guts and perseverance to get a job otherwise), doc review will probably be your career path. 

Save your money.  Save yourselves.  Avoid law school at all costs.

6
Requires a subscription, but someone posted the text on jdunderground:

http://www.jdunderground.com/thread.php?threadId=5977

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Mike Doty landed a six-figure job this fall as an associate at a big law firm in Minneapolis because of a smart move: The University of Chicago Law School graduate had performed so well at a second-tier school in Cleveland that he was able to transfer to Chicago after his first year.

Many of the friends Mr. Doty left behind in Cleveland graduated with no jobs and a lot of debt. "Law school is definitely a huge financial mistake for a lot of people," he says. "Schools are asking consumers to spend upwards of $100,000 on a product, and there's nobody out there giving them the information they need to make an informed decision."


Law-school application season has begun, and prospective students have a lot at stake as they choose among schools. Many recent law-school graduates who don't work at big firms are struggling to pay off student loans in an increasingly tough job market. The legal sector has grown at an average annual inflation-adjusted rate of 1.2% since 1988, or less than half as fast as the broader economy, according to Commerce Department data. While the top firms have prospered, leading to ever-rising salaries for new lawyers there, studies suggest salary growth elsewhere has stagnated.

The article mainly offers advice on how to avoid the debt trap:

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Consider an in-state public law school: Unless you've been accepted at a nationally recognized top-tier school, where getting a job is easier regardless of your grades, think hard about minimizing cost. Over the past 20 years, law-school tuition increases were nearly triple the rate of inflation, and in 2006, graduates of public and private law schools had borrowed an average of $54,509 and $83,181, respectively, up 17% and 18.6% from the amount borrowed by graduates in 2002, according to the American Bar Association. An in-state public law school costs about half as much, on average, as a private school or a public school for out-of-state residents.

And of course, there's a blurb on the shady practices that career services offices use to puff up their school's employment stats:

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Scrutinize schools' data on graduate employment: Most law schools try to keep track of where their graduates end up and what their salaries are, but some schools are more forthright than others. When schools report that a certain percentage of their students were employed nine months after graduation, the figures can include nonlaw jobs or jobs for hourly wages. Some schools' salary data are heavily based on their most successful graduates who made it to big firms. Don't rely on the salary figure unless it's based on a high percentage of graduates who reported their salaries to the school. (Those percentages can be found in the "career prospects" section for individual schools in the "online premium edition" of U.S. News's latest graduate-school rankings. It sells for $14.95 at www.usnews.com, under "rankings.") And schools often include lawyers working on a contract basis in their figures, even though those jobs often don't offer significant career-growth potential.

Most of this is old hat to people who have been at lawschooldiscussion for several months, but I think this is good information for new members.

7
http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/manhattan_work_at_mumbai_prices/

This bodes ill for the future of legal work that does not require the physical presence of an attorney in the United States.  A lot of transactional work and back end litigation support is extremely easy to export to India.

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It is 10:30 in the morning in Mumbai—1 a.m. in New York City—and Aditi Tulpule settles between the partitions of her computer station, one of many such workspaces along an extended blond-wood desk.

Tulpule, 32, has two law degrees: one from one of India’s top law schools and a graduate law degree from a school in Great Britain. She is licensed to practice law in both countries and has five years of cor­porate law experience behind her.

She’ll spend her day abstracting leases, reviewing documents, drafting contracts, then sending her work ­­product to private law firms and in-house legal departments based in the United States, where the work originated—and where American lawyers will put their names on the documents she creates.

American lawyers believe the work Tulpule does is not cost-effective for them to handle personally. When Tulpule does it, she charges an hour­ly rate about 80-90 percent less than what Americans do. That’s because she’s among the 100 or so lawyers who work in the Mumbai office of Pangea3, one of India’s rising stars in a growing industry called legal process outsourcing, or simply LPO.

The pay differential is frightening.

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Picture two fifth-year lawyers—one working for a law firm based in New York City, the other for a legal outsourcing company in Mumbai, India. Both lawyers are working on projects for Fortune 500 clients, yet under very different circumstances. Here’s an unscientific snapshot of just how different those circumstances might be.
ASSOCIATE PAY

Manhattan: $200,000 per year

India: $7,000-$8,000

(equivalent spending power of $35-$40,000 in U.S.)


Right now outsourcing to India is in its infant stages, but India is churning out lawyers at a fairly brisk pace:

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The first instance of legal work being outsourced to India took place in 1995, says Rahul Jindal, a prominent LPO blogger. It started gaining steam after 2000, and Jindal estimates that there are about 100 legal outsourcing companies that employ between 600 and 800 Indian attorneys.

While that number is still a tiny percentage of India’s legal sector, which is estimated to have 80,000 new law graduates every year, it can only increase based on estimates of how big outsourcing is expected to become.

For people who want to practice law in small firm/solo settings, I think the impact will be minimal.  Matters like criminal defense, family law, and estate planning (anything that needs face to face contact) are safe territory. 

Corporate stuff (contracts, tax, compliance, big litigation support) are IMO doomed industries in the US.  This is especially ominous for document reviewers -- the legal equivalent of the American Autoworker.  Right now the wages are good, but the labor is all to easily moved.

8
This is further proof that law school is not a financially wise move:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119040786780835602.html

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Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book "Urban Lawyers" found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% -- while income for the other 75% actually dropped.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the inflation-adjusted average income of sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. A recent survey showed that out of nearly 600 lawyers at firms of 10 lawyers or fewer in Indiana, wages for the majority only kept pace with inflation or dropped in real terms over the past five years.

The findings of the WSJ are further proof that many law schools are merely overpriced revenue generators for universities.   

9
This was posted on jdunderground: USNEWS Average Debt figures

Some sample #'s

School,   Average Debt Amount,   % of students who took out loans.

Expensive T2's:
Yeshiva University (Cardozo) (NY)     $100,292     84%
Villanova University  (PA)     $98,326     81%

Expensive TTTs:
New York Law School      $95,318     93%
Florida Coastal School of Law      $93,370     92%
Thomas M. Cooley Law School (MI)    $93,067    98%

Better Buys:
Ohio State University (Moritz)     $53,179     78%
University of Wisconsin--Madison      $64,535     85%
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill      $59,329     81%

Your debt load will of course depend on your personal circumstances, but there are plenty of solid law schools out there that will not place you under burdensome loans. 

10
http://www.elsblog.org/the_empirical_legal_studi/2007/09/distribution-of.html

There's a very interesting chart and commentary:

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The national median starting salary for a 2 to 10 lawyer firm is $50,000.   There are a lot of struggling alumni out there. And do we really need more law schools?  For many, getting a JD is a very risky financial proposition, especially when you factor in bar passage.

To make matters worse, consider that the NALP data is from law grads who reported income.  My hunch is that grads who earned less are less likely to report.

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