Law School

What Law School Was Like

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Yesterday, when I should have been working on a myriad of tasks piled high on my desk, I took time out for about an hour to take part of an LSAT, Law School Admission Test, practice test on-line.  My son, who is half way through his junior year at the University of Illinois, and who wants to be an attorney in spite of my warnings, has begun preparation for taking the LSAT next year.  Go here to read, or if you are a masochist take, parts of an LSAT sample test.  After an hour or so of this I was overjoyed at the fact that I am a third of a century beyond having to take the LSAT!  When I took the LSAT for the first time in the fall of 1979 I bombed it, which is unsurprising since I had done almost no prep for it.  I took it again and jumped a hundred points, the test used a different grading scale back then, which was not supposed to be possible.  I assume that I must have learned something from the first attempt to take the test.  All I recall is that after my second attempt I was certain that I probably had done far worse than my first attempt.  This trip down memory lane has caused me to recall some aspects of law school that I have not thought much about, or repressed, lo these three decades.  Here are some of them.

1.  Law School Taught Me Little About Being a Lawyer-  Considering that I spent three years of my life doing it, it is astounding to me how little I learned in law school about actually being a lawyer.  Actually it is not astounding.  Most law school professors have very little experience in being attorneys.  Take them out of their little niche of knowledge as to the law and most of them have little to impart, except moth-eaten stories about their halcyon days as young clerks to Justices so and so.  I often heard them say that they assumed that we could find our way to the court-house door.  Well sure, but what to do after I got there took me, literally, five years of trial and error, and a rugged five years it was for me and my clients.  There is something wrong about a system of professional education that teaches you little about the profession.

2.  Moot court-the exception-The only class in law school where I learned something about the nuts and bolts of the profession was moot court which was run by actual attorneys and judges.  That gave me an inkling that law school and the practice of law were like comparing a movie about flying to actual flying.

3.  The first year-Most law students regard their first year as a hellish experience and mine certainly was.  I routinely stayed up until 1:00 AM reading cases.  The boredom and tedium were unbelievable.  Classroom was somewhat better, as I enjoyed the Socratic method at least by those professors able enough to do it well.  Alas that was not the case with most of my professors, quite a few of whom who would ask a few perfunctory questions and then lecture non-stop.  However, some were quite good at it.  The standout for me was Wayne LaFave who taught Criminal Procedure.  Although I didn’t think at the time I would do any criminal law, I took every course he taught, a fortuitous event since I did end up doing a fair amount of criminal defense and he was the go to expert in the field of search and seizure.  Professor LaFave has retired from full-time teaching and I regret that my son will not be able to have the same experience that I did.  His class my first year was a bright spot in a bleak landscape.

4.  Social Life-What’s That?-My undergrad girlfriend went off to SIU to go to law school.  She did not really want to go to law school and she flunked out.  That was probably fortunate for me, as a first year law student had little time for socializing if they were not going to flunk out.  I dated little in my first year or my second year.  In my third year I met my wife and the rest has been a happy thirty years for me.  Some law students dated each other which I always thought was a mistake.  The last thing I wanted to think or talk about on a date was the law, and law students, like lawyers, will usually talk about the law when they get together. Continue reading

You Have Been Warned !

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You let me down, man! Now I don’t believe in nothing no more! I’m going to law school!

Jimbo Jones

The above PSA should have been brought to you by the American Bar Association.

Irony: Law School Grads Suing Law Schools

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As faithful readers know, I have long sent out warnings to the unwary about the pitfalls of going to law school.  Read previous posts on the subject here, here , here here and here.

Dissatisfied law students are now suing their law schools.  Such law suits have always existed, usually filed by some desperate unemployed attorney with crushing debt, and such litigation has gotten no place.  Now this type of litigation has been taken up quite a few notches:

Two law firms, Law Offices of David Anziska and Strauss Law PLLC, have announced their intention to jointly file class action lawsuits against 15 more U.S. law schools (full press release below). The law schools are located in seven states:

  • California: California Western School of Law, Southwestern Law School, and University of San Francisco School of Law (3)
  • Florida: Florida Coastal School of Law (1)
  • Illinois: Chicago-Kent College of Law, DePaul University School of Law, and John Marshall School of Law (3)
  • Maryland: University of Baltimore School of Law (1)
  • New York: Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Hofstra Law School, Pace University School of Law, and St. John’s University School of Law (5)
  • Pennsylvania: Villanova University School of Law and Widener University School of Law (also has a campus in Delaware) (2)

These complaints will follow previous complaints filed against New York Law School, Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in California.

With these lawsuits, nearly 10% of all ABA-approved law schools across eight states will be accused of tortiously misrepresenting job placement statistics and violating state consumer protection laws. As with the previous complaints, the relief sought will include tuition reimbursement, punitive damages, and injunctive relief such as mandatory auditing of employment data and cessation of false advertising tactics. Continue reading

Civil Litigation: The Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth

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Well, even the New York Times is reporting what a dismal choice law school tends to be for so many would be attorneys these days.  Read all about it here.

My favorite passage in this story is this quote from a jobless law school grad who owes 250k :

“It’s a prestige thing,” he says. “I’m an attorney. All of my friends see me as a person they look up to. They understand I’m in a lot of debt, but I’ve done something they feel they could never do and the respect and admiration is important.”

I had a root canal done yesterday and I really appreciated the roar of laughter that paragraph elicited from me.

I have written several posts in the hopes of giving people thinking of law school some idea of the debt ice berg they are probably sailing towards.   This is the start of a series to give some idea of what the practice of law tends to be in reality, rather than in theory as set forth in law schools.  Continue reading

Message From the ABA: Uh, Maybe Going to Law School Isn’t Such a Great Idea

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As faithful readers of this blog know, I am an attorney, and I have written several posts which may be read here, here and here, warning about some of the pitfalls of the profession, especially the financial cost of attending law school.  The facts of law school debt as opposed to the job market have become so grim that even the American Bar Association has now issued a warning on the subject that may be read here.  This is significant since the ABA has studiously ignored this problem for over a decade, even denying  that there was a problem, and has passed out accreditation to new law schools with a glad hand.  Well, better late than never.

Far too many law students expect that earning a law degree will solve their financial problems for life. In reality, however, attending law school can become a financial burden for law students who fail to consider carefully the financial implications of their decision.

You can underline and put several stars by that!  The general public has the illusion that the law is a quick path to riches.  Few things are farther from the truth.  Except for the top 10% of the top law schools most new attorneys, if they can find employment, will be starting out at around 40-45k a year.  When I graduated from law school in 1982 I started out at 16k.  Earning 40k a year and having 100k in law school debts is a very bad situation, and decades of dealing with a huge debt, which cannot be discharged in bankruptcy except under the most extreme circumstances, await.

Obtaining a degree from an ABA-accredited law school is not cheap. Over the last twenty-five years, law school tuition has consistently risen two times as fast as inflation. Consequently, the average tuition at private law schools in 2008 was $34,298, while the average in-state tuition for public law schools was $16,836. When one adds books and living expenses to tuition, the average public law student borrows $71,436 for law school, while the average private school student borrows $91,506. Many students borrow far more than $100,000, and these numbers do not even include debt that students may still carry from their undergraduate years.

The numbers speak for themselves.  I would never have taken on this type of debt to become an attorney, and if I had, I can’t imagine how I would have serviced that debt in my first lean decade as an attorney.   There is more good news for people about to begin law school: Continue reading

Pro Bono Publico

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Hattip to Instapundit.  To all would be attorneys who read TAC, I have warned you about the law as a profession on several occasions, here, here, and here.  You have been adequately warned!   For those of you who ignore my advice and are jobless on graduation, you can always sue your law school.   (Of course my first born is planning on following me in the law, so my warnings must be inadequate!)  Now this post will have to be brief, because I have 10 calls to return, three bankruptcies to prepare, 2 trials to get ready for, and all the other charming events that the day will bring me in the law mines!

Has Law School Become a Dead End Trap for the Unwary?

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Hattip to Instapundit.

Law Prof Brian Tamanaha explains it all:

It’s grim reading. The observations are raw, bitter, and filled with despair. It is easier to avert our eyes and carry on with our pursuits. But please, take a few moments and force yourself to look at Third Tier Reality, Esq. Never, Exposing the Law School Scam, Jobless Juris Doctor, Temporary Attorney: The Sweatshop Edition, and linked sites. Read the posts and the comments. These sites are proliferating, with thousands of hits.

Look past the occasional vulgarity and disgusting pictures. Don’t dismiss the posters as whiners. To a person they accept responsibility for their poor decisions. But they make a strong case that something is deeply wrong with law schools.

Their complaint is that non-elite law schools are selling a fraudulent bill of goods. Law schools advertise deceptively high rates of employment and misleading income figures. Many graduates can’t get jobs. Many graduates end up as temp attorneys working for $15 to $20 dollars an hour on two week gigs, with no benefits. The luckier graduates land jobs in government or small firms for maybe $45,000, with limited prospects for improvement. A handful of lottery winners score big firm jobs.

And for the opportunity to enter a saturated legal market with long odds against them, the tens of thousands newly minted lawyers who graduate each year from non-elite schools will have paid around $150,000 in tuition and living expenses, and given up three years of income. Many leave law school with well over $100,000 in non-dischargeable debt, obligated to pay $1,000 a month for thirty years. Continue reading

10 Reasons Not to Go To Law School

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Blogs seem to attract more than their fair share of lawyers, law students and people who want to be lawyers.  As a 27 year veteran of the bar, pro bono publico, I am giving my top ten reasons why people should consider not going to law school. Continue reading

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