We have linked in the past to Big Debt, Small Law. Like Third Tier Reality, which we linked to yesterday, Big Debt focuses on exposing what the writer sees as the fraud of American legal education and the legal profession more generally.
The bloggers behind these and similar sites — deeply bitter and angry, but often viciously funny — vent at length about non-elite law schools that lure in students with false promises of post-graduation job opportunities and six-figure salaries. Students at these schools take on six figures of educational debt, devote three years of their lives to law school, and then can’t find jobs when they graduate. If they’re “lucky,” they secure employment as contract attorneys, reviewing documents for $21 an hour — and even these temp attorney jobs are disappearing, thanks to outsourcing.
But Law Is 4 Losers, the author of Big Debt, Small Law, has his doubts. For the sake of balance, let’s look at his objections.
You can check out his full post here. It’s long, but an interesting and worthwhile read, even if you disagree with his conclusions. It’s also very funny (if you don’t mind a little — or a lot of — meanness).
We’ll highlight a few excerpts. The thesis of the post is that advocates of solo practice are essentially preying upon people who have already been defrauded, by TTT (“third tier toilet”) law schools:
Consider the typical, hapless TTT law school grad: First she invested 100 K in a worthless undergrad degree like English Lit or Poli-Sci, then compounded this initial mistake by piling on 120 K or more in non-dischargeable law school loans, bought hook, line and sinker the materially fraudulent salary stats of her law school, endured the BarBri blather-thons, walked the hot coal hazing ritual of the bar’zam, and now finds herself coping with $1500 a month loan payments and a total lack of job opportunities. It’s a familar disaster….
Even document review, the perennial “parting gift” of the law school also-ran, has now been shipped off to India like those factory jobs of yore.
Contract attorney work reminds us of the Woody Allen quip about food at a Catskills resort: it’s terrible, and there’s not enough of it. Is solo practice the way out?
Here at Big Debt, we find these “solo law practice” pipedreams rather comical, and somewhat akin to delusions….
Like the Wizard of Oz, the curtain has long since been pulled back on the charade of solo shitlaw by consumer-friendly websites like Legalzoom. The public know full well what a worthless “product” most shitlawyers peddle, and the jig is now up. It sure don’t take 7 years of schoolin’ to cut n’ paste some janitor’s Last Will & Testament together or grovel before some lowlife traffic court judge for a point reduction. Anyone who can read can now pretty much solve their own legal problems by downloading a few boilerplate forms, doing some quick Googling, and pulling the old cut n’ paste.
This strikes us as a legitimate concern for potential solo practitioners. Sure, a “real lawyer” can draft a better, more personalized will for you than the boilerplate form you buy at Staples. But is the difference in quality worth thousands of dollars?
Opening a solo shitlaw office in 2010 is like opening a typewriter repair store in 1993- your product is already obsolete. And no, we don’t want to hear about your uncle/neighbor/dad’s college roommate who made millions in the 1980s on whiplash cases. That horse has long since limped off to the glue factory. Maybe Grandpa Kettle made a living shoeing horses, but that doesn’t mean my spiffy new blacksmith shop on the NJ Turnpike will become a going concern. Times have changed.
Other examples of practice areas that allowed graduates of non-elite law schools to make tons of money as personal injury lawyers: asbestos, lead paint, tobacco. Alas, these cash cows from the past are fading fast.
Solo practitioners often talk about the pleasure of helping “real people” with “real problems.” But this doesn’t paint an appealing picture:
Doc review will look like a night on the town once you get a few “rubber check retainers” for some serial drunkard’s 4th DWI, or sit in some kerosene-reeking trailer park signing up an SSI disability scammer with bulging spinal discs, or chew No-Doz until 4 am filling out the 84,578 pages of HUD-1 dreck and title work toilet paper for some $300 fee residential real estate closing.
Law Is 4 Losers concludes the post on this cheery note:
[S]tarting a “solo practice” in 2010 is like selling saltwater on a lifeboat: people are already surrounded by an infinite quantity of this worthless and unpalatable resource. Drinking that shit will kill you quicker than thirst. Just open up your hometown Yellow Pages and count the 500 or so pages of desperate solo shitlawyers begging for DWI, real estate, personal injury, and other “common folk” law.
When you’ve finished that assignment, we recommend a “bonus tour” of craigslist’s “legal services” section, where the truly desperate bottom feeders hang out. Like catfish, these folks subsist on a steady diet of legal excrement, the sludge every other lawyer has already turned down. Some of these “craigslisters” will even shovel your snow or clean your gutters during your free 7-hour consultation.
When you’ve completed this “lawyer-counting” assignment, ask yourselves how many lawyers you (and your family) have needed in your life and divide this by the number of lawyers you’ve counted in your area. Lawyers aren’t much for arithmetic, but this is what’s known as “doing the math.” And unlike Solo Practice U, these numbers don’t lie.
You can read the full post by clicking here.
We don’t want to be all doom and gloom. For a cheerier perspective on solo practice, see here. You can also read about Roxana St. Thomas’s rather positive experience with Solo Practice University, in this post and this one.
New Shingle-Hangers get hung out to dry [Big Debt, Small Law]
Earlier: Start Up LLP: Creating Your Own Law Firm
Notes from the Breadline: To Be On Your Own (Part II)
Notes from the Breadline: To Be On Your Own (Part III)
Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Contract Attorneys