Sunday, May 23, 2010

Thoughts on the Georgetown Law/NPR Segment

I'm a little late posting my thoughts since I only listened to the interview ten minutes ago. You can visit Fluster Cucked and Attorney to Temp to read what other scam bloggers thought about the NPR segment.

Reader "Minneapolis 3L" made the following comment about the interview in our open thread last night. I think his opinions sum up a lot of the sentiment I've been hearing around the web from scam bloggers and our readers. We all know that T14 and TTT grads can't find jobs. The question the mainstream media should be asking is why is the law school scam and outrageous tuition rates allowed to continue?

As the mainstream media slowly picks up on the story of law school being financial suicide for the vast majority of graduates, I noticed NPR did a story on Friday about underemployed law students. It was a strange format, a five-member panel of Georgetown law students. While the lead-in made it sound like NPR would tell everyone how much of a scam law school is, the piece turned out to be fluff, with all of the students saying something like "oh well, I won't make 160k right out of school, but I will have a decent life in government work." EVEN the 3Ls whose plan was to "move to California and shack up with my solo practitioner pal."

These 3Ls were a bunch of ninnies who were obviously hedging and not placing a toe out of line. They probably were lined up for the panel by GULC's career services office. Despite two or three of the panel members really having NOTHING solid and lined up, they made it sound like they were just happy to "settle" for a job that paid under 160k. No one came flat out and said "we are unemployed and grasping at straws, fuck you GULC for charging us 150k," even though that was clearly the situation for two, and maybe three, of them. Only two of them had real jobs, one with the federal mine safety agency, and one with some legal aid org on the West coast...sounded like volunteer work actually.

Anyway, I had high hopes for this story, but NPR dropped the ball and basically turned it into a fluff piece about how law school can still give you a great job in government or public interest, just not in biglaw anymore. LOL. I'm sure any 0L or their parents listening naively breathed a big sigh of relief and cut a check for their seat deposit in the class of 2013. "Well, I won't be making 160k at biglaw, but at least I will have a decent federal job and it's probably less stressful than biglaw anyway. Law school is a great choice."
I think Minneapolis 3L makes some good points. After listening to the interview, I wouldn't call the Georgetown 3Ls ninnies. Yes, a few of them are more optimistic than those of us who have been unemployed for awhile and have come to the realization that things won't get better soon enough to help any of us. But a few of them made really great points about the problems with the structure of law firms and how they knew they got the rough end of the stick because they'd never get the chance of working at a biglaw firm. You either get a biglaw job offer after your 2L summer or you're out of the game forever. From the transcript:

Mr. LEWIS: I think that a lot of the real problem that's happened at legal profession is that now we're suffering because the economics of the large law firm just doesn't work. You know, I think that's why you see not many of the firms have gone under, but one of the things that I hope that does come out of this is a restructuring of it.

And maybe law students are going to have to realize that coming out of law school after a three-year education and expecting $160,000 a year is just not a realistic business model.

Ms. BOGO: I do think that our generation be it our year or the year behind us and maybe the year in front of us or something like that, I think we did kind of get the rough end of a stick just because we didn't know that the economy was going to take a downturn when we signed up for X number of loans every year.

And if the economy does turn around, which I'm optimistic maybe because I have to be, but if the economy does turn around and law firms start hiring again, they're not going to hire us. They're going to hire the class that's behind us, who are coming straight out of law school, who they can train up in the way that they always have.

SIEGEL: Because this is a career in which you get on the escalator at a...

Ms. BOGO: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...particular time, in a summer when you're at law school. They look you over and you look them over. And then you...

Ms. BOGO: Yes. Law firms generally don't hire you out of government or out of, you know, being a private practitioner. They generally hire you straight out of law school or from another comparable firm.

I sympathize with these students because they aren't any better off than the rest of us and are in for a rocky year. Just give those 3Ls a few more years unemployed or underemployed in a job that doesn't pay enough to payoff their loans and they'll be a lot more frustrated with their situation than they are now. NPR can find plenty of T14 grads from several years ago who never found a job or were laid off and have been unemployed ever since. Graduates a few years in the real world are likelier to complain about their law school experience and troubles paying off their six-figure debt. But that is assuming the mainstream media wants to question the law school scam at all. As Frank at Fluster Cucked said:
I don't know what NPR is like in other cities, but in my area NPR airs "support for NPR" ads from law schools, including one from Boston University (which airs nationally, I assume). Perhaps NPR doesn't want to risk angering its supporters. I suppose that that is a sensible policy, but it calls into question the network's journalistic independence.
Much of the mainstream media is corporately owned or depend on the support of universities and large donors who are on the board of a university. I'm not holding my breath for the mainstream media to rock the boat if it means angering very rich and powerful people, whether they be in politics, business, or the education scam.

Please post your thoughts on the interview in the comments section below.


  1. I love how every one focuses on the $160 biglaw job. The fact of the matter is that there isn't a $130K job, not a $65K job, but maybe, just maybe a $32.5K job esp for those outside of T14 and not top 10%.

    This is the real story here. No one in their right mind is going to feel sorry for anyone making $110K instead of $160. But if you've taken on $150K and are making $35K - $45K then that's something to complain about. Not to mention that you're overqualified for every other entry level position.

    I'm glad to say its not just lawyers who are hard headed about the eduction scam though. My sister in law is going to get a masters degree in linguistics despite my warnings of poverty and overqualification for any entry level job. but she will hear none of it because she will naturally have an edge on other candidates for ANY position b/c she has a masters and "you can't put a price tag on education." at some point in the conversation i swear i'll i heard was , "bahhh, bahhhh, bahhh" another sheep to the education slaughter house.

  2. Anon: There aren't even $32.5k jobs for T14 grads. There are no jobs. That's why this interview doesn't bring anything new to the table that we already knew firsthand. This is a lost decade and there aren't enough jobs for our generation. The problem is that not only don't we have jobs like millions of other Americans, but we are considered overqualified for entry level work and we have so much debt that we can never pay back. THAT is the problem - the law school scam, the proliferation of schools with the ABA's blessing, charging hundreds of thousands of dollars for a useless degree, and their unwillingness to help their unemployed graduates find jobs and pay off their loans. It's disgusting, it's immoral, and it's criminal.

  3. I agree that these Georgetown graduates should be interviewed again in 3-5 years for their thoughts on the value of their degrees. HardKnocks, you are so right about being overqualified for entry-level work. I was turned down for every entry-level position I applied for when I decided to transition out of law, for that very reason. That's my biggest complaint about law schools. They tell you a law degree "opens a lot of doors," which is complete B.S. A law degree is only valuable if you want to practice law. If you do not want to practice law, it is a huge burden/scarlet letter that you will have to overcome on your job search. I became so desperate at one point that I thought of removing the J.D. from my resume. Then I realized it would do no good since I would then be left with a three-year gap in my resume from the years I practiced. I also agree with BIDER that the mainstream media will never cover the real story - that the law market is oversaturated with attorneys and a law degree is simply a bad investment, unless you have a rich uncle who doesn't care about throwing away $100K to finance it.

  4. I have nothing to add here, and I agree with all! Why do they frame the debate in terms of a $160k salary? It's not a question of whether you find a $160k salary -- it's whether you get a job. Can't the listeners apply that basic LSAT like analysis of looking for the assumptions? As far as this NPR segment goes, softball questions get softball answers. For a real radio show, listen to Nookular Don.

  5. The softball segment has a place in the media landscape. The segment was an interesting chat with some graduating students. For those not in law like me, it was easy to read between the lines of the students who did not want to sound greedy and ungrateful at not having $160k jobs -- but it was understood, they signed up for one thing and are finding the reality to be very different.

    Don't knock the segment too much -- just like most things in media, you'll see bias where you want to see it, or where the opinions aren't voiced strongly enough for your taste. And take comfort in knowing that non-law people likely came away from it generally in line with what you want them to know about law and university and the industry.

  6. I think the interesting thing about all this is that EVERYONE (outside of law school administrators and professors) can agree that there are less jobs for law grads and that the jobs that are left (if any) are less paying.

    Yeah so although EVERYONE agrees with this, for some reason NO ONE seems to think that law school tuition should DECLINE to correspond with the lack of employment opportunities.

    In other words, it's OK that the biglaw "business model no longer works" but it's also OK that the biglawschool business model STILL works? WTF?

    That's called being a f*cking sucker and this country was built on the backs of suckers.



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