Friday, October 15, 2010

55,000 Victims Took the LSAT Last Weekend...

Yes, that is 55,000 more people buying into the Ponzi Scheme that is called the American law school system. It took AOL News - not the New York Times - to reiterate everything Angel and I along with the usual folks like Professor Brian Tamanaha and Ellie Mystal have warned our readers about the pitfalls of law school for nearly two years:
You don't need a law degree to know that false advertising is against the law. So why is it that so many law schools appear to be doing just that: inflating job prospects for graduates while jacking up tuition rates?

Last weekend, about 55,000 students took the LSAT -- the standardized test for law school. That's the second highest tally ever, according to exam officials.

Most of these students are aiming for a law degree to get rich. In a 2008 Kaplan survey, 73 percent cited high income potential as a reason for attending law school.

But the legal job market, decimated by the recession, isn't the golden ticket it used to be -- and some legal scholars believe the calamity may be permanent. Law schools are releasing an army of young professionals who will start off with $150,000-plus in non-dischargeable debt and not be able to find work as attorneys and repay their loans.

"Many graduates can't get jobs," Brian Tamanaha, professor at Washington University Law School in St. Louis, told The National Jurist. "Many graduates end up as temp attorneys working for $15 to $20 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."

The New York Daily News recently profiled one young lawyer from a good school who is cleaning toilets in Manhattan.

But don't expect to get any of this news from laws schools. They're too busy scamming applicants by advertising deceptively high rates of employment and misleading income figures, critics contend.

"This data is entirely self-reported by schools and should be treated as essentially fiction," said University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, a well-known expert on law school rankings. "In addition, we know nothing about the nature of the employment -- it could simply be as a research assistant, which is what Northwestern did a few years ago for its unemployed grads."

Law School Transparency, a nonprofit organization hoping to shed light on the real employment situation, asked law schools in July to provide more detailed job statistics than they now report to the American Bar Association, which regulates law schools, or U.S. News & World Report, which ranks law schools.

Their deadline for committing to cooperate passed last month and only one school out of 199 agreed to provide the information, said executive director Kyle McEntee.

"Everybody is up in arms about Goldman Sachs allegedly selling products it expected to fail," lawyer Elie Mystal wrote in popular law blog Above the Law. "How is that any different than the scam being run by some law schools where the tuition keeps going up while the job prospects disappear?"

t's time to send in auditors to examine what law schools advertise and ensure numbers are being reported accurately, so customers can make an informed decision about whether a law degree will really be a good investment of money, time and energy.

In the meantime, potential law school students need to do their research, temper their expectations and weigh the opportunity costs. Sure, law school is a smart decision for some people, especially if you can get into a top school, attend school for free or are so passionate about law that you don't care how much you earn. It's also a profession with one of the lowest job satisfaction rates and highest depression rates.

But far too many who get their JD will find themselves three years down the road with a mountain of debt, few job prospects and doubts that their law school has any idea what truth in advertising means.
If there is any good news to report, it is that the number of LSAT takers actually dropped from last October. A whopping 61,000 people took the LSAT in October 2009 as reported by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC). That is about a 10 percent drop in people taking the LSAT. I have no idea what this means. Is it possible that more people are reading the scamblogs and discovering that going to a law school other than Yale no longer ensures a 160k biglaw job or a comfy position with the government? Who knows. Nonetheless, 55k is still too large a number. Clearly, thousands of people aren't doing their research on the law school scam. With every person who enters law school, it makes the legal job market that much more difficult for the rest of us. There doesn't seem to be an end in sight. If you are one of a handful of these test takers who are still in doubt about going to law school, do the smart thing and let go of the law school myth dream. You will only be out of the $136 LSAT fee and maybe a few hundred more for study aids and LSAT courses. That is much better than being out of $136k and unemployed or unhappy in your shitlaw job three years from now. I pray that someone out there is listening.

Thanks to reader A.S. for the tip.


  1. Wow. That op-ed is great. The author must be a JD. I hope it reaches a wide and very different audience. Perhaps he should become a scambuster blogger.

  2. Great piece. This should be read by everyone contemplating law school. The lemmings are lured in by fraudulent statistics put out by august "institutions of higher learning." They ought to look at the inner workings of universitites and the banks, per Andrew Cuomo's investigation. We are talking about some very "elite" schools.

  3. I took the LSAT this past weekend. I'm so ambivalent. If I weren't going into patent law I wouldn't even be considering this path. I'm still scared to death that patent law will be drying up.

  4. This is sobering. I was a patent examiner and it's what got me interested in law. I've blown through maybe $2k in my pursuit so far with my blissful ignorance. Unfortunately, it's only now, after a Kaplan course, two LSATs, and 6 applications that I've started reading this blog and others like it. The sad part is I'm still delusional. I really want to go to law school although I might count myself lucky if I get all rejections and just go forth in life with my engineering degree.

  5. "Most of these students are aiming for a law degree to get rich. In a 2008 Kaplan survey, 73 percent cited high income potential as a reason for attending law school."

    This might be the scariest part of the article.

  6. Patent law is suffering from a massive oversupply of lawyers and rampant outsourcing. If you get into a top 6 school on a free ride, perhaps do it. Otherwise, there's a sucker born every minute, don't let it be you.

  7. I am practicing patent law in Canada. The individual inventor work has completely dried out in the past two years. This trend is further compounded by oversupply of patent practitioners and DIY operations. Even in Canada, where the legal market is in much better shape, it is very difficult to make $100K practicing patent law. Given proliferation of the internet and Indian outsourcing, I believe this is a permanent collapse of legal market and there will be no recovery.

  8. Unless you have a PhD and experience in a hard science or an EE degree from undergrad patent law is probably already dried up for you. If you have the EE degree I think you might be able to make it in time, but it'll be a tight window.

    You know that you don't need to go to law school to handle patents though right? The law degree is actually only a marginal upgrade at best for most. As everyone looks to cut costs, and the ABA/courts continue to not care about unauthorized practice of law, patent examiners become more and more useful and take more and more of that work.

  9. I know someone who went back to school to get more training in sciences to become a patent lawyer. That's right - AFTER passing the bar. His loans are six figures and surprise, surprise, he can't drum up enough work. He's now doing the functional equivalent of selling apples for 5 cents a piece and thinking seriously about whether to end it all. No joke.

  10. Patent practitioners in small firms and soles in the U.S. are in no better situation than shit law lawyers. When a lawyer is giving free initial consultations it says all to me about his clientele, his practice and his revenue. I can understand when a patent lawyer gives a short free consultation to a corporate prospect, but giving free legal consultations indiscriminately to deadbeats coming from the internet - WTF?! Try calling to a doctor for a free initial consultation and see how far that is going to go.

  11. @ 2:52

    I believe you're confusing patent examiners with patent agents.

  12. Just passed CT this week...working at stop and shop...went to Quinnapenisack

  13. Oh well, bring on the LSAT takers, welcome to the piece of crap career called the legal profession. At least I can say I did well in school, had a LSAT score in the 170s, went to a decent T20 law school, and I say the experience sucked. I did not know there were all these garbage law schools taking in people as long as they had a pulse and could sign loan docs. If you go to law school with a LSAT score below 155 that is just plain crazy. The suckiness of this profession has to be experienced to be believed, bring on the LSAT takers. When I went to law school ten years ago tuition was less than half what it is now, $45,000 a year to hear that crusty crap, and then almost none of it is relevant to actual is messed up.



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