A third-year student at Boston College Law School made a very reasonable request of the law school’s interim dean, George D. Brown: Give me my money back.

I say it’s a reasonable request, because it is customary in this country to get a refund when you buy something that is defective in some fundamental way. And the people who won’t give you a refund are usually scam artists or a**holes.

Dean George Brown doesn’t want to pull a Mel Gibson, does he?

Well, the Boston College 3L isn’t sure that Dean Brown will do the right thing. So the student wrote an impassioned open letter to the dean, which was published by EagleiOnline

You should read the full letter on EagleiOnline, which makes a thoughtful and well-stated argument. After describing the awful legal job market, which is affecting many third-year law students, the author pulls out all the stops:

I write to you from a more desperate place than most: my wife is pregnant with our first child. She is due in April. With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my J.D, and resentful at the thought that I was convinced to go to law school by empty promises of a fulfilling and remunerative career. And although my situation puts the enormity of the problem into sharp focus, there are a lot of us facing similar financial disasters. In all of this, we have had very little help from career services, who all seem to be as confounded as we are by this job market. Kate Devlin Joyce has been an amazing and helpful ally; everyone else in that office has shrugged their shoulders at us and asked if we have tried using Linkedin.

I’d like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I’ve paid over the last two and a half years.

A lot of people will read this letter as a joke. And surely Dean George Brown will look at it as a stunt and quickly dismiss the request or ignore it completely.

But why is that? If you buy something, and it’s a piece of crap, you should be able to give it back and get your money back. Boston College sold him a promise, and Boston College cannot fulfill that promise; why can’t he get his money back?

A lot of people will argue that this kid didn’t purchase a J.D., he purchased an education and a way of thinking, and he cannot just “return” these things in exchange for his money back. You know who will say those things? Law professors, deans, and other theorists who have idealized the process of “thinking like a lawyer.”

But this kid (and thousands out there like him) did not go to law school to gain some intangible brain stimulation. They went to law school in order to get a job. That’s the whole point of a professional school. Deans who don’t understand that point do a disservice to their students.

Sadly, Boston College will never give this kid his money back. Why? Well, what’s in it for them? This 3L thinks it could be a win-win for himself and the law school:

This will benefit both of us: on the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I’ll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News.

Here’s where he’s wrong. Boston College can just do what every other law school is doing: artificially inflate its employment statistics with a variety of part-time, temporary, or on-campus jobs. U.S. News has decided to ignore this problem, so there is no downside to the law school if its students can’t find the kinds of legal jobs they expected.

And this kid will probably end up with some kind of job. He’s got a baby on the way! What, he’s just going to sit on the couch and steal used Pampers out of area trashcans? No. He’ll find something. He’ll go back to his prior career in teaching (if he can), he’ll work retail, he’ll clean toilets — he’ll do what he has to in order to provide for his family.

And when, through his hard work and determination, he finds something to bring in a little bit of cash, BAM, BC Law will report him as “employed upon graduation” to U.S. News. Problem solved! And BC Law will have no compunction when it comes time to cash his tuition checks (or hit him up for alumni donations). His debts are his problem; BC’s problem is finding the next class of 1Ls who will sign up for the wonderful experience of going to law school.

Now, if Boston College actually had to deal with anything approaching a consumer protection law, things might be different. But since nobody (least of all the ABA) has any interest in making sure law schools provide anything of actual value to law students, BC can keep on doing what it is doing.

You’re not getting your money back, buddy. The best thing you can do is to tell your kid not to go to law school.

Open Letter to Interim Dean Brown [EagleiOnline]


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