To accompany Noam Scheiber’s big article on Biglaw — which I discussed yesterday, and Anonymous Partner analyzed this morning — the New Republic asked six prominent observers of the legal profession (including yours truly) for their ideas on how to fix law school. For all of the blame that Biglaw gets for the profession’s problems, some of the difficulties can be traced back to the legal academy and how it teaches and trains lawyers (or fails to do so).
Let’s check out the various reform proposals. Which ones do you agree with?
Last week, we focused a lot on a controversial study about the economic value of going to law school. Today, I want to look at some more useful approaches to the question.
Looking at the lifetime earnings of of J.D. holders compared to people with undergraduate-only education based on historical data about J.D. earnings couldn’t have less to do with the current decisions facing prospective law students. Prospective law students are looking at a shifting market for legal employment, and they are dealing with skyrocketing tuition. Are there any studies that are looking at the economic value for them?
In fact, there are… and while the outlook doesn’t paint the rosy picture some law professors seem really invested in, there are rational arguments available for those who want to convince people to go to law school…
Any time the punishment for going to your law school involves a graduate essentially “taking the black” and joining the U.S. Army to escape his crushing debt burdens, you have to be really proud of the value offered by your institution.
The quote from University of St. Thomas Law School graduate Thomas McGregor neatly sums up everything that recent law graduates are facing in this legal economy: “I paid off $108,000 of law school loan debt. All I had to do was put my life on the line.”
Parents, take note of such stories the next time you pressure your kids to go to law school and “get a real job”…
We’ve talked extensively about the decline in law school applications. Law schools are now entering a time of consequences. Schools at the very top are going to do fine. Shockingly, schools at the very bottom are probably also okay, as there is always somebody who has no business going to law school who still wants to go.
But schools in the great middle — from just outside the top tier to anybody trying to maintain a bare minimum of standards — are feeling the crunch.
Something has to give. And one law school on the West Coast has decided that people should be the first to go. First, the school fired staff. Now, the school is slashing class size. But I’ll note that the school does not seem to be slashing salaries or cutting tuition. Apparently, people are easier to cut than budgets….
For prospective law students, the promise of merit-based scholarship money amid a broken legal market seems like an incredible deal. So what if there aren’t any jobs? You’re going to go to law school at a significantly discounted rate, or maybe even for free, so you won’t be at any real loss.
Or will you?
What law schools don’t like to tell you with regard to these frequently conditional scholarships is just how difficult it can be to keep them. When you’re banking the terms of your financial future on a law school grading curve, things can get a little tricky. Some might even describe the situation as a big racket. Thankfully, the ABA has started keeping tabs on these programs, and now there’s a wealth of information available on retention rates for scholarships of this kind.
So out of the 140 schools offering conditional scholarships, which ones are most likely to take back your law school funny money? Let’s find out…
Won’t be long before law schools are getting this guy to sell you legal education.
It really bothers me when law schools resort to “used car salesmen” tactics to try to induce law students to sign up for school. Say what you will about the value of legal education, but it’s not like buying a Sham-Wow. Students can’t be influenced by “special, limited time” offers when trying to decide if and where to invest three years of their time. If nothing else, you’re entering into the lottery to win a legal career, not an iPad Mini.
Law schools that try to exploit “impulse buy” reactions to fill their seats should be ashamed of themselves. They are taking advantage of kids — twenty-somethings who don’t have lawyers or accountants or appraisers representing their interests. Law schools are at a huge informational advantage concerning the true value of their services, value that they try to hide at every turn from independent third parties. Law students are trying to cobble together what they can based on word of mouth, Google, and some published rankings. Turning the screws on these prospective students with offers that “expire in 24 hours” is a good business strategy if you are trying to sell them a toaster, but it’s a disgraceful thing to do for a place that claims to be an “institution of higher learning.”
I can only hope that anybody who received this “hard-sell” email from this law school did the smart thing and just walked away…
Now with the internet, you don’t even need to spring for a nice plate to panhandle.
In the before times, in the long, long ago, there was no internet. There was no Shark Tank. There were banks and capitalists. You had to go to them with your business ventures, beg them for start-up money, and that’s the way the world worked.
Now, anybody can beg anybody else for money. There’s no dignity anymore. There aren’t eight Jewish bankers who control everything. You don’t have to borrow money for your house from Mr. Potter. You don’t need to promise eternal salvation before passing the hat around. Now, any idiot with a dream and a keyboard can go on the internet and beg people for money.
Kickstarter is at least a place where ideas beg for money. A tipster sent us a link to “Upstart,” where individuals ask you to fund them in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings. So far, four people with J.D.s think they’re so special you should give them money so they can do what they want…
Regular readers of this blog know that you cannot discharge student loan obligations through bankruptcy absent a showing of undue hardship. If you go broke borrowing money for expensive cars, houses, and monkeys/butlers, no problem, file for bankruptcy and start over. But if you go broke trying to better yourself through education, the government will make you beg and prove that you are sad and hopeless. Wonderful system we’ve got here.
We’ve also talked about how many people who might be eligible for undue hardship on their student debts don’t even try. The system is daunting and complicated, and I’ve argued that prostrating yourself in front of a bankruptcy court and letting them invade your life to the point of telling you how much you should be spending on your cell phone is not something that comes naturally to people with pride and dignity. This might be hard to understand for people who have never been in this situation, but I’d much rather be a “deadbeat” and have my wages garnished with the discretion on how I spend the rest than have some old judge tell me how much money I should be spending on breakfast.
When trying to get your debts discharged through bankruptcy, there seems to be no limit to what a judge can take into account to see if you are really desperate. But a recent Ninth Circuit opinion upholding a discharge by reversing the district court put one boundary on what a court can look at to determine if you’ve tried to pay your debts in “good faith.”
The court can’t look at your household and suggest that you pimp out your wife. So at least that’s something…
As many of you know, I went straight through from college to law school without taking any time off. And many of you know that I count this as one of my many mistakes. The people I know who took time off between college and law school came back to law school with an appreciation of school and a focus on what skills they needed to succeed in the real world.
People like me who went straight through tended to start out with a “College II” mentality, got book-raped first semester, and muddled through law school kind of wondering why everything was so boring. In my anecdotal experience, these people disproportionately ended up in Biglaw, because people who get on only one train tend to end up at the same destination.
Given that experience, I think this new pilot program from Harvard Law School could be a very good idea. Harvard Law will now admit Harvard undergraduates after their junior year of college, provided they agree to an automatic, two-year, post-graduation deferment. That’s two years after college where you can work, earn money, and experience the real world outside the ivory tower, all the while knowing that you have Harvard Law to fall back on.
At least, that’s the positive view of the program. Our tipsters point out the cynical side….
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 six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months (Robert Kinney and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong again March 15 to 23), and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.
Are you challenged by the costs and logistics of maintaining your office, distracting you from the practice of law?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Everyone is talking about the importance of Social Media in Corporate America. But it is relatively safe to say that most law firms and lawyers are slightly behind the social curve. Most lawyers, at minimum, use LinkedIn, for networking. Some even use Twitter for pushing out short, pithy content, while many have Blogs, where they write their little hearts out. The adage “it is better to give than to receive” is not always true though in the world of Social. In the Social World – it is best to listen, give back and engage.
Social Media is a communications tool that can deeply educate you about the needs and wants of your clients and prospects when used in conjunction social media monitoring and sharing tools.
Take this quick quiz and see if you know how to use Social to help you engage more with your clients or to better service the ones you have.