Anyone who’s been following the implosion of the law school bubble is well aware of the fact that many recent graduates have been left floundering when it comes to employment prospects. And given the vast media coverage of the legal academy’s existential crisis, everyone and their mother knows that entry-level law jobs are few and far between. People are hungry for experience, but they’ve quickly come to the conclusion that it’s a real seller’s market out there. In today’s economy, it’s kill, be killed, or work in retail with a law degree (a fate which, for some, may be worse than even death).
As expected, some employers have chosen to take advantage of this situation. Take, for example, the “excellent position” we covered last summer, after a number of tipsters emailed us to express their outrage. The job was touted as providing “valuable experience,” and even though it had a sad little yearly salary of $10,000, some 32 people applied.
In the wonderful world of legal one-uppance, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with an even more audacious employment scheme. Would you be willing to pay someone for legal experience? Because that’s what this Connecticut law firm expects you to do.
Leave it to a lawyer to come up with a way to turn this dearth of job opportunities into a revenue stream….
It’s a little bit early for tuition hike season, but in a few weeks, we’ll start getting stories about law schools raising tuition on students just because they can. We say it every year, and we’ll say it again this year, but it appears that law school tuition is one of the only things that is recession-proof.
Law salaries remain flat. Law applications are even down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean tuition will follow. Here’s how committed law schools are to raising tuition: they’ll raise tuition and then give high-achieving students scholarships to offset the increase. It’s as if low-achieving law students are subsidizing tuition for high-achieving law students at schools across the country.
Law schools are willing to do whatever it takes to keep making the tuition number go up. At Miami, they raised tuition and then (after we asked about it) gave 2Ls a “waiver” from the hike.
It goes up at Duke. Last year, tuition went up at Duke Law School by 4 percent. Why? Why was the money needed during a time of extreme challenge in the legal job market? Who knows? It’s not like Duke is required to explain itself to students.
But this year, some Duke Law students are trying to make the administration understand that the “standard” tuition hike doesn’t make any sense for the students at the school….
With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s attempt to win their first national championship in a quarter of a century, and at the same time, their attempt to end the Southeastern Conference’s years of dominance of the BCS, I am hoping that this return to glory by a once storied franchise will be accompanied by a return to glory for the storied legal profession.
When I was growing up, most thought of lawyers as highly educated, intelligent, and self-motivated (even to a fault) professionals. Many considered lawyers to be part of the upper echelon of society, and most people also believed that simply being a lawyer would result in a huge, guaranteed payday. And for most of college football history, the Fighting Irish received similarly high praise.
In recent years, however, both the legal profession and the Irish have been held up to strong criticism, and were unable to enjoy the same success people became accustomed to. Even while I was still in law school at my TTT, respected attorneys told me not to worry about the school I was attending, because by the time that I got to my second or third job, no one would care anymore. The little detail that everyone left out was just how much it would matter for that first job — because it’s rough to get to the second or third job when you can’t even find your first, no matter how hard you try.
Going along with the Fighting Irish’s return to the top, here’s a look at a few other things that were once closely associated with the legal profession that are no longer true, but would be welcomed back with open arms….
If you’ve been a loyal reader of Above the Law, you know that law school graduates have done some pretty crazy things to pay off their educational debt, up to and including the attempted sale of their law degrees on websites like Craigslist and eBay. Back in 2008, a graduate of DePaul Law tried to sell his degree on eBay for $100,000, the approximate value of his law school loans. Similarly, in 2010, a graduate of Georgetown Law attempted to sell his degree on Craigslist for his remaining student loan balance.
Some of these stunts failed miserably, but others (sort of) worked — the disgruntled Georgetown graduate managed to sell his diploma for 10 percent of the original asking price. But what about the current deluge of downtrodden law students? What can they do to offset their student loan debt?
Well, they can sell their names on eBay, for starters….
* While Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts made a plea to keep funding for the federal judiciary intact, we learned that student loan default cases have fallen since 2011. You really gotta love that income-based repayment. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]
* Introducing the Asia 50, a list of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific region. When it comes to the firms with the biggest footprints, only one American Biglaw shop made the cut. Go ahead and take a wild guess on which one it was. [Asian Lawyer]
* Congratulations are in order, because after almost a year of stalling, Arnold & Porter partner William Baer was finally confirmed by the Senate as the chief of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. [Bloomberg]
* Our elected officials might not have allowed the country to fall off the fiscal cliff, but the American Invents Act was put on hold, so if you’re a patent nerd, you can still be mad about something. [National Law Journal]
* In the latest NYC subway shoving death, a woman was charged with second-degree murder as a hate crime, and allegedly bragged about other hate crimes she’s committed to police. Lovely. [New York Times]
* Next time you’re trapped on a plane that’s literally filled with other people’s crap for 11 hours, don’t bother suing over your hellish experience — you’re going to be preempted by federal law. [New York Law Journal]
One guy went to a professional school that takes the responsibility for training the next generation seriously. The other guy went to law school.
If you talk to legal educators for long enough, you might start to think that they are trying their best. You might start to think that there is no other way they can approach the training of lawyers. You might even start to think that they are more concerned with education then with bilking law students for all they’re worth.
Don’t believe it. Law schools are involved in a straight cash grab, and it turns out the we only need to look towards our nation’s medical schools to see how things look when schools are more concerned with the profession than profits.
It turns out that a very prestigious medical school is looking to trim a year off of the education — because doing so will reduce student debt and encourage young doctors to go into underserved fields….
You may recall that back in 2011, before all of the law school litigation came into being, the California Culinary Academy (CCA) was hit with a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit filed by its graduates. The allegations contained therein — misleading job data, high tuition, and difficulty finding jobs after graduation — were very, very similar to those found in the law school lawsuits we revel in covering. Unlike the law schools that are currently under fire, the CCA offered to settle the case for $40 million, and that settlement was approved and entered as a final judgment this summer.
While the only law school lawsuit that’s come anywhere close to CCA’s status has been Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law — currently in discovery, where all sorts of interesting stuff has been unearthed — law school plaintiffs may have another avenue to explore, thanks to yet another lawsuit that’s been filed by CCA graduates. This time, the bitter would-be cooks are out for blood against the very company that funded their failed culinary education.
That’s right, Sallie Mae is being sued for handing out private loans with “credit-card interest rates” like candy — really expensive, life-ruining candy. When will law school graduates do the same thing?
Here at Above the Law, we frequently address law school loan debt and the many ways it has screwed over various members of the legal profession, including some of our own editors. As many of you know, both Elie and I graduated from law school with six figures of loan debt. And although we both have a seemingly insurmountable pile of debt to pay off, we’ve gone about doing so in different ways. He’s been paying collection agencies not to break his knees since 2007, and I’ve been paying my loans like a good little indentured servant since 2010.
But I’ve got to admit, that wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t for income-based repayment (IBR), the magical plan that caps your payments at 15 percent of your discretionary income. With IBR, I’ve been able to continue making interest-only payments for about two years, gleefully awaiting the day that I’ll finally be able to dig into the principal amount — which will likely never happen, but hey, a girl can dream.
The pesky thing about IBR is that you have to reapply each year to tell your loan servicer that yes, you’re still ridiculously poor, and no, you still can’t afford to pay those insane amounts they’d expect you to fork over otherwise. I sent in my reapplication packet more than a month ago, specifically so that I’d know what my new payment amount would be for the upcoming bill’s due date.
So you can imagine my COMPLETE AND UTTER shock when I opened my mail this morning to see that with my glamorous “entry-level journalism salary,” I’d apparently been kicked off of my IBR plan.
Man, I need to write a book. At this point, it could be about anything. Law. Debt. Raising a baby who can take a punch. It doesn’t matter. I’ve known for some time that selling a book is the only way I’m ever going to pay off my massive law school debts.
What I didn’t know was that becoming a best seller was the only idea our nation’s political leaders have for paying off their own law school debts. Seriously, you’d think my book idea was a fanciful plan that is the cause of terrible financial planning. And it is. But I’ve written before about how our president, Barack Obama, didn’t pay off his law school debts and until he published a best-seller. It’s not exactly a sound financial plan, even though it does work out in some cases.
But this “just write a book” approach to law school debt knows no party lines. Today I found out that Republican Senator (and likely presidential candidate unless Republicans figure out that “Cubans from Miami” are not the same as “Mexicans living in Colorado”) Marco Rubio took the same path to paying off his law school debts.
So, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about still having this much debt, and instead get busy writing, “How to Write a Successful Blog When Your Readers Kind of Hate You.” Because apparently, that’s how a leader approaches the vexing problem of educational debt….
* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2012 Acritas Brand Index survey, the current leader of the Global 100 is the most powerful Biglaw brand for the fifth year in a row. [American Lawyer]
* But that might not last for long, considering the dilemma Baker & McKenzie is facing when it comes to joining the Shanghai Bar Association in China. The firm is one of the first to indicate that it’ll take the plunge. [Wall Street Journal]
* Thanks to the Second Circuit, Rajat Gupta will be a free man on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction. We wonder what Benula Bensam would have to say about this new twist. [DealBook / New York Times]
* Jason Smiekel, the lawyer who pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former client, was sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison. The things men will do for HHHBs. [Chicago Tribune]
* Student loan payments: coming to a paycheck deduction near you! Congress is considering an overhaul of the country’s student debt collection practices, and Rep. Tom Petri has some interesting ideas. [Bloomberg]
* The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest school to hop aboard the solo practice incubator train, but graduates will have to rent their office space from the school. Nice. /sarcasm [National Law Journal]
* “We didn’t file this complaint lightly.” Sorry, Judge Norman, but as it turns out, you can’t just sentence a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole without pissing off the ACLU. [Tulsa World]
* When your alterations cost more than your wedding gown, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have some problems — ones worth suing over, if you’re a true bridezilla (like moi). [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
Ms. JD is hosting their 2nd annual cocktail benefit to raise money for the Global Education Fund. The event will be held on August 21, 2014 at 111 Minna in San Francisco. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to fund the legal educations of four dedicated law students in Uganda who count on our support to continue their studies at Makerere University during the 2014-15 academic year.
The Global Education Fund enable womens in developing countries to pursue legal educations who otherwise would not have access to further education. According to the World Bank, investment in education for girls has one of the highest rates of return to promote development. In Uganda, more than 45% of women over the age of 25 have no schooling at all, and men are more than twice as likely as women to have access to higher education. Together, we can work to end educational inequality. For more information about the program, please visit http://ms-jd.org/programs/global-education-fund/
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.