Thursday, January 6, 2011

Step 1: Get Into Law School, Step 2: Graduate from Law School, Step 3: Pass the Bar Exam, Step 3: Sell Your Diploma Because You're NEVER Going to Practice



Doing things differently?  Hmmm.  That's one way to "see it."

Interesting week in the law world.  I know these several things have been covered, but because I think they are all related, I'm going to cover the stories again.
Law Schools have no regard for whether  you'll be able to practice the law when you graduate.  NONE.  My alma mater admitted people with petty crimes on their records and mental illness.  These were issues that were left for the "Character and Fitness" portion of the bar to deal with.
Case in point, Michael Behzadi.  This freak graduated from the esteemed Florida Coastal School of Law.  Haven't heard of it?  Well, that's because it sucks.  And with every psychopath they shove onto the street, their reputation will grow.  Michael pled guilty to making threats.  He had a To-Do list, much like any organized student of the law.  Except his list had some disturbing to-dos:

The first item on the list is to "buy eggs," but the list also includes running guns to Nigeria and killing Behzadi's professor at Florida Coastal School of Law.
According to court documents, Behzadi's girlfriend reported in March that he was planning to kill his ex-girlfriend, her new boyfriend and her parents.
According to the documents, Behzadi sent his girlfriend an online message that read, "I don't want to kill her with the S&W revolver. Kill her. Shoot her dead. Drive up to Wisconsin first. Kill her family then tell her before I kill her. Dead. It feels good to hurt people."
Oopsie.  Well, how was FC to know that he was unstable?  Well, according to this article, he had a long history of mental problems.  Maybe they thought that law school would stabilize him?  Ha.  Anyone whose been to law school knows that law school, especially 1L year will unhinge you.  So, epic fail.

How about this one?  A blind chick from California was admitted to UCLA school of law.  How nice!  A token disabled person.  Nevermind the fact that she had to SUE to take the bar exam:

Enyart sued the NCBE, ACT and the State Bar of California in California federal court for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and state civil rights laws.
     She asked the court to order the NCBE to allow her to use a computer equipped with ZoomText and JAWS, presenting a sworn statement from her ophthalmologist to back up her software preferences.
     Finding that the accommodations provided by the NCBE were not sufficient to make the test accessible to Enyart, and that she would be kept from pursuing her chosen profession if her requests were not met, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer granted a preliminary injunction and ordered NCBE to provide the software. He required Enyart to put up a $5,000 bond to cover the costs in case the NCBE eventually proved that the injunction was illegal.

Hmm.  That's a hidden cost of becoming a lawyer if I ever heard one.  During one the injunctions, the poor girl actually took the bar exam and FAILED:
The NCBE appealed, and while the case was pending Enyart took and failed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (MPRE) and the bar exam. She requested a second preliminary injunction to take the tests again, which the court granted. Enyart has since received a high enough score on the August 2010 MPRE to qualify for admission to the California Bar but she failed to pass the July 2010 California Bar Exam, according to the ruling. 
I'm sure she'll keep chugging along until she passes, but she has yet to conquer the greatest hurdle of all: getting a job.  I'm not even talking about the job market sucking ass.  Anyone who has worked in law firms knows that they are the least likely to have the accommodations needed to employ a blind person.  Even if she managed to get a job at a firm that was willing to deal with her blindness by getting word processing software for the Blind--how is she to do on-line research?  Looking up something like "factors in determining child custody" on Westlaw will result in 200 cases and you can't skim the cases for relevance if you're blind.  Or, if you can, it will take you 800% longer because the software will read every last word aloud.  And what if you're a blind litigator?  How will you present evidence to the Court if you can't see it?  I bumble and fumble through my folder when I'm in front of a judge and I'm sure that's not unique to seeing people.  So, good luck getting a job.  UCLA should be ashamed of selling you a dream that will never be realized or only realized with great difficulty. I'm not saying it's right--it's just the facts.

Lastly, once you have gotten through law school and invested over $100K in getting the degree--sometimes the smartest thing to do with it is sell it on ebay for $200K.

So, what's the moral of this story?  If law schools want to maintain a place of dignity and respect in this Country, they should invest some time and energy into admitting students who can do legal work and give back to their alma maters happily.  Somewhere along the way, alumni contributions have been phased out as a source of income and tuition has increased to fund law school operations.  This model is bound to implode as fewer and fewer alumni look back upon their law school experience as worthy and lemmings grow brains and use a cost/benefit analysis in deciding whether law school is a worthy investment.

Today, I spoke to an older attorney who must be living under a rock.  She expressed dissatisfaction at her alma mater for costing her a whopping $20K.  We're all in the same market.  If she thinks her degree wasn't worth $20K, why do you think yours is worth $200K?  It defies logic.

17 comments:

  1. "You're never going to practice" seems like it can apply to a lot of newly licensed attorneys, not just those who are disabled or have mental issues.

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  2. Actually, that's my point. They should worry about producing attorneys in general that will never have an opportunity to practice. It's Customer Service 101. So, not only should they not admit students that can't pass the bar ultimately, but they should cut their admission down so that they can ensure a 100% employment rate. If a school like Duke, whittled it's graduating class down to 50 grads, there will be enough law firms that MUST have a Duke graduate and the Duke JD will remain a valuable degree. By flooding the market with students from your school, you are dooming your degree to becoming a dime a dozen.

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  3. Actually, I had a blind friend who's computer text reader read the material faster than I could follow it. He was used to it and processed text at a faster rate than we skim. It was truly amazing.

    I am sure some Biglaw firm would love to check the blind female box off their diversity checklist.

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  4. This is exactly the problem with new JDs. EVERYONE is ENTITLED to be a lawyer and make big $$$$$$. I fully understand the ADA and other such "access" laws. However, NO ONE is entitled to a salary at all. I had a law professor many years ago that said "we all can agree that we want more lawyers with (a particular attribute)". I raised my hand and asked "why"? The class was appalled and disgusted with me for questioning why I would question an outcome based assumption. 20 years later, today, we are seeing why my question was not outrageous and so many of you are unemployed and bankrupt. We don't need so many lawyers.

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  5. And you can see why UCLA went ahead and let her in, just like how you can see why they let the nutjob in at Florida Coastal: The schools saved themselves a lawsuit.

    Not that you can't have a blind attorney. I'm thinking of people with certain learning disabilities who have to ask for "extra time" on the bar exam. God bless you for trying, but if I am being sued, and you are my attorney, I prefer you not to have a raging case of ADHD to the point where you speak in sentence fragments and can't sit still enough to listen to the proceedings. Maybe that sounds mean on my part, but I had to watch as a friend crashed and burned in the teaching profession after being given a million accommodations for her learning disability in taking tests. Do you know why she failed, went back to school, and had to find something else to do? That exact same learning disability. She could not keep up with the demands of teaching a classroom and it didn't take long for the students to figure it out and turn the room into a monkey house.

    And in the end, it was a sweet win for the university. They accommodated someone with a learning disability, they weren't sued, and they had a paying customer....nevermind that she ended up suffering the humiliation of losing her job in a very brutal manner, moving back home with her parents, and spending another 4 years in school to learn how to do something else.

    It doesn't make a lot of sense if you think about it. If I can't write a coherent sentence because I have incredibly poor writing skills and read at the 3rd grade level, a law school isn't going to admit me (except maybe Cooley). They aren't going to hire a secretary to take dictation because I am unable to write well enough to take my semester exams.

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  6. A blind person succeeding as an attorney sounds like "being an attorney overcoming hurdles is awesome" movie schlock if ever I've seen it.

    I cringe every time I hear about someone having a right to a chosen profession. There is no such thing and there shouldn't be. Being a profession demands that there be uniform standards of some kind. Allowing the standards to be arbitrarily broken or adjusted because one has a physical disability (e.g. "blind" or "ADHD") rather than a legal status (e.g. "felon") or a morally objectionable character (e.g. "communist") is absurd. Maybe I'm missing something, but I honestly don't see how a legally blind person can competently represent a client.

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  7. I had three law school classmates (out of ca. 140) who were blind and there was even a Prof who was also blind. They were given lots of accommodation in law school (e.g. exta time on exams).

    One of the three is now in private practice in a very small town; his win-loss trial record is not great, the second is a Prof at a third-tier law school, and I have no idea what happened to the third.

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  8. Big problem in the US is that everything became too politically correct and in order to provide *everyone* with an equal opportunity, the bar had to be set low, otherwise only the skilled and the talented (and some who are hardworking who apply themselves) will be able to move ahead. However in the US, we just cannot bring ourselves to admit that not everyone has the intellectual capacity. Not everyone is equal.

    Maybe at one time 2T and some 3T schools provided the opportunity for those who did not perform too well on their LSATs to overstep one obstacle to go to law school. I know some may disagree with me, but I have no problem with some schools not placing emphasis on LSAT score in order to be accepted. However, applicants should still meet the necessary requirements in order to be accepted. My biggest issue is that many of these low ranked 3Ts and 4Ts not only lowered the bar with LSAT scores, but also lowered the bar in accepting applicants who have average GPAs from low ranked UGCs.

    My 23 y/o cousin was recently accepted into Cooley. He applied to several area law schools including Pace, St. John's, Brooklyn, and New York, and three out of state law schools: Thomas Goode Jones, Capital, and Cooley. Cooley was the only law school which accepted my cousin. My cousin took the LSAT three times and his highest score was 149. He is also a recent grad from a real toilet 4T UGC (his undergrad college is notorious in the NY metro area in which many recruiters and hiring managers immediately reject job applications from grads from this school). But apparently my cousin met Cooley’s criteria and was accepted.

    My cousin, as well as his family, views his acceptance into Cooley as a chance in becoming an attorney. This school accepting my cousin is doing more of a disservice to him. I attempted to express my concern that attending Cooley was not only a financially bad idea, but his JD may not have any merit when he seeks work as an attorney. I even encouraged the kid to try getting accepted into an ABA approved paralegal program since he wanted to work in law since he was eight, however my idea was basically shut down. But aside from student loan and living expense debt, at least maybe my cousin taking some legal courses on a UGC level and completing an internship may spare this kid some heartache in the long run. If this kid just did ok at 4T UGC (his GPA was 3.1), there is no way this kid has the skill set to interpret case law, regulations, and statutes. His writing skills are less than average too; his girlfriend basically helped him write all of his papers in college (he majored in Criminal Justice). The killer part: He and his family think that if he cannot get hired at a law firm, no problem—he can open his own practice! It’s a train wreck just waiting to happen.

    What is most tragic is that the ABA, which is supposed to carefully monitor and set standards in the profession, is responsible in causing the oversaturation of attorneys in allowing far too many low ranking, uncompetitive law schools in being accredited in the first place. The ABA owes it to these students at these low ranked law schools some assistance with their loans. If the ABA is going to allow such a large number of law schools in being accredited, then it should step up to the plate and take some accountability for this problem.

    (Apologies for the long post.)

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  9. on a brighter note, she will most likely have a much easier time discharging her debts under the "undue hardship" test. From what I understand, you basically have to have a physical disability that causes you not to be able to work.

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  10. My law school admitted a student that had lost his ability to teach after he copped to an Alford Plea for having inappropriate contact with a minor, one of his students. It was only after the story broke in a major local daily, halfway through his 2L year, the school tried to kick him out. Of course he threatened legal action and the school backed down.

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  11. TMF,

    It was a long post but entirely worth the read. And props to you for your first paragraph. It's refreshing to see somebody cast political correctness to the wind and just come out and say "NO, we are not all equal, yes, there are stupid people in the U.S., and NO, they should not be allowed into medical school, law school, engineering schools, or teaching programs, because, THEY'RE STUPID."

    And I don't often say this but I have to agree with J-Dog all out on this, if a profession has standards, those standards should be upheld and enforced. I don't give a shit if your a one legged female midget from Botswana, if you don't have the grades and the test scores to make the cut, guess what, that's it, done, try some other profession. Just sayin...

    -DaleyCenter

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  12. I hate for the record the knock against the blind law grads, but yes there is a limit to the legal duties a blind law grad could perform without assistance of some sort. I reject the argument that blind law grads could not practice law, as the practice of law is multifacted to include give advice/counsel, litigate, draft legal documents, to teach and train, and to do research.

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  13. TMF:

    I think the phrase is "cognitive dissonance."

    I couldn't believe it myself when an acquaintance of mine who knows my story well, actually suggested to one friend, who is in her mid-30's, recently graduated with one worthless masters degree, and is unable to find a job, that she should go to law school!

    Riiiiight.


    Luckily, this lady turned to me and said, "I have a friend who recently graduated from law school who can't find a job. Isn't the legal job market bad?" At which I vigorously nodded my head and advised her against the folly of the entire thing.

    I was amazed that my friend would recommend such a thing as I'm not sure why trading one lottery degree for another lottery degree is the smartest thing to do. Yes, if only you could accurately forecast the job market, opportunities, or your ability to control what happens in your career path!

    Anyhow, back to the original topic...

    I can't help but think of the play "My Boy Jack" that I recently saw on PBS. The story was that Rudyard Kipling's son wanted to serve in the army and was not deterred by the fact that they told him that he was too nearsighted to actually serve.

    While you think, "why, that's sad! They should let him be in the army if he wants!" or you may think, "why only take the most absolutely fit people to be slaughtered?" The sad truth was, back then, if you were running around on the field and you suddenly lost your glasses and couldn't see, you were a danger to yourself and your platoon.

    Yet, his dad pulled some strings. He got in the army, and was killed when he lost his glasses on the field and could not see to be able to run to safety.

    That's right. The armed services have physical and mental restrictions on who can serve, and that's how employment and school should work.

    Hell, there are things I want to do in life, but I am not rich enough, smart enough, or capable enough to do them. I want to be a primo scientist, or the life of the party that everybody loves to call and invite to things, but I've accepted my strengths and weaknesses in life that direct that I should do something else.

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  14. TMF, that was worth reading. We are not created equal. I do not have the size, skill or endurance to play second base for the San Francisco Giants. I'm also left-handed.

    The ABA and the law schools are afraid of lawsuits. These sissies always back off. This is embarrassing on so many levels. Nobody likes suits, and the cost can be high, but the ABA has an irrational fear of lawsuits. This *should* make the ABA understand why businesses and laypeople HATE and DETEST lawyers.

    Imagine medical and dental schools accepting blind students. While these professionals work with their hands and minds, lawyers do not require much dexterity. However, there are limitations to what a blind attorney can do. She would need major assistance, and how many firms are willing to invest this much money into one associate?

    Could you imagine a medical or dental school accepting someone with mental issues or criminal records?!

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  15. Ferdinand CesaranoJanuary 10, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    It is absurd to suggest that a person, because he or she is a communist, is of morally objectionable character. Very likely quite the opposite is true.

    Ferdinand Cesarano
    "Fred the Red"

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  16. I always say that the biggest beneficiaries of law schools are NEVER the law graduates, but the law firms and other employers of law graduates.

    Another beneficiary of law schools is the faculty and the administration running the law schools.

    In this capitalistic society, why would the law school industry in general make the law graduates the biggest beneficiaries, when the people running the law industry are law firms, employers of law graduates, and the faculty??

    As a corollary, college education in the US mainly benefits corporate America, who are the employers of college graduates. Education in America produces workers for corporate America, not citizens for the society.

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  17. Wow. You guys kind of sound like idiots. And shame on you for taking away from a hope that your blind cousin has. This is about real people, not about Cooley, but maybe you should look into Cooley more and realize that they produce the most practice-ready attorneys out there... Sorry that you have to steal others' dreams because you do not know anything about what you are talking about. Check the bar passage rates, and the scholarships. Then take half a second, and check out the national championship titles. Personally, I did not go to Cooley because it was the only school I could get into. With financial aid to support it, I got into Temple, Indiana, Michigan State, Florida, etc., some with great 50-60% scholarships. I chose Cooley for practical reasons, and let all of the uppity people who were the reason I did not want to associate with U of M (from when I rejected their undergrad admissions offer)... well, I let them put their families (not "working" teens) into 500K in debt. I will be a damn good lawyer, and the last eight years will cost me about 90K. Even better news? Our school helps us to make sure we have real job prospects. Good luck to all of you with a real pretty school name on your JD. When you don't know what you are doing, it's really okay, you can always pay off your pretty-looking loans when you become a paralegal.

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