By Esq. Never
It was bound to happen.
Few people, regardless of their perspective on the law school scam, would deny that the law school employment figures are distorted. Heck, Villanova Law School, while not owning up to engineered employment stats, was forced to admit that they outright cooked the books when it came to admissions data. In fact, even the most ardent defenders of the law school cartel are forced to defend such deceptions with little more than hackneyed quips such as, "You should have done more research."
Well, now one law school has the opportunity to literally "tell it to the judge". As many of you know, at long last, one of the nation's premier toilets, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is being sued for the pitiful employment prospects it offers even some of its best students.
Others attorneys have mentioned the possibility of bringing additional low ranked schools to justice. If the lawsuit against TJL is successful, you can be sure that it won't take long for barristers across the country to start circling the wagons around the rest of diploma mills that used to comprise what US News once considered to be the third and fourth tiers of American law schools. There is, after all, no honor among thieves.
I, of course, welcome the potential destitution of these egregious funnels for federal student loan dollars. Charging tens of thousands a year in tuition alone for laughable degrees that are entirely worthless outside of one of the most saturated fields in the nation is untenable.
That said, are the third and fourth tier schools really the worst offenders of the law school scam? When I was applying to law school, my understanding was that almost nobody from these schools would ever get a big law job. It would be very difficult to move to another part of the country, and most students would simply have to be willing to work for small local firms or other jobs that didn't pay much.
In fact, one school I looked at in the third tier that offered me a scholarship listed its average starting salary at about $65,000. This is well more than most law school graduates can reasonably expect to make, but it's a heck of a lot more realistic that the $80,000 - $120,000 range most of better ranked school usually list.
In one sense, the lower ranked schools are more crooked in that they charge just as much as the better ranked schools but can't even pretend to offer starting salaries that justify their tuition. In another sense, however, there isn't any reasonable expectation that there will be jobs that justify the expense.
Now, I am not being hypocritical. I'm not saying that first and second tier graduates were deceived while third and fourth tier graduates should have known better.
What I'm saying is that there is a tendency to focus too much on the lower ranked schools while ignoring their brethren in the top 100. The schools that get the most abuse are Cooley, Thomas Jefferson, and Florida Coastal. All of these institutions are indeed dumps, but the deception in which they engage is different and a lot more overt than that of the more established law schools.
What do I mean? Well, let me first use a quote I recently found on JD Underground, "Good lord 120k in average debt is a nightmare. These poor souls will either join the mob, skip the country or killself."
The quote was in response to a posting about Roger Williams Law. I don't disagree, but why is it so much more of a nightmare for a Roger Williams grad to carry this debt than say an American or Pepperdine grad?
It isn't. Aunt Sallie doesn't tell a Richmond graduate not to worry about the monthly payments just because he had a higher LSAT score than the guy down the road at Regent.
Indeed, I would argue that the scam is even more deplorable as you move up the ranks (until hitting the truly elite schools). You see, in order to get into most second (and virtually all first) tier schools, you need at least a 160 LSAT score plus solid grades in college. Often times, it'll take even more than that. If my memory is correct, you need to be at least in the top 80% percentile of all test takers to get into these schools.
Do you think any of these people would really have forgone three years in the workforce and driven themselves into the red if they had known beforehand that they'd be making little more than college graduates while faxing over medical forms to verify $3,000 worth of medical fees from a third rate chiropractor in Southeast DC for a case that would otherwise be worth $100 for an emergency room visit?
Does a Cardoza graduate have a smug sense of superiority as he codes documents in a subterranean urban dungeon next to some NYLS kid who could only hit a 151 on the LSAT?
You do realize there's no room on the industrial boiler in the back of the basement on which to hang your "prestigious" degree?
That is, if you can find one of these positions to begin with. Try looking for entry level attorney positions. You're lucky if you can even find a toilet law role that pays $40,000 (sans benefits) for which to apply in the first place. Maybe having a degree from a better school will give you a leg up against the other 5,462 other candidates who applied for the job, but going to Boston University isn't going make jobs magically appear anymore than a Suffolk Law diploma will.
Plenty of people have heard about UVA grads who were threatening to protest because they didn't have jobs lined up. When I was running my blog, I heard from Georgetown students who were practically in tears because of how miserable their post law school lives had been. Having a GULC pedigree doesn't exactly take the sting out of being being a secretary or a waitress.
I'm not quite in this elite circle, but I went to a second tier school where it pretty much took a score in the 160's to get in, and it's the same story. LinkedIn profile after LinkedIn profile give vague descriptions of being lawyers but don't list any actual full time attorney work under experience. Plenty of people, like me, just left the profession and moved to other fields that don't even require a law degree.
You see, the only advantage of going to most better ranked schools is that there's a larger window for landing acceptable attorney positions. At a school like UVA, it may be as wide as the top 50% of the class. At GW, it may only be 20%. At most second tier schools, you're probably out of luck if you're out of the top 10%.
Once you fall outside of those ranges of class ranks, you might as well have gone to a third or fourth tier school. Toilet law is toilet law. Document review is document review. Thoughts of throwing yourself off a bridge are...well, you get the idea.
I believe the point of calling out the scam isn't to vindicate the victims. Plenty of us were naive, prideful, and even greedy. That doesn't matter. Just because we were good marks, doesn't entitle the law schools to use us as conduits for pillaging the federal government's generous loan system.
That said, I do believe that those who went to better schools are a bit more justified in their outrage at the scam. They weren't taken in by fly by night operations with names like "Florida Coastal", "LaVerne", and "Thomas Jefferson". They were duped by established, not-for-profit institutions of higher learning such as Georgetown, Villanova University, Boston University, American University, and Emory University (to name only a small number).
I am definitely pleased to hear about the serious attempts to see some of the most overt examples of the law school scam brought down. I will be even more pleased when the scams that hide behind the pedigrees of elite institutions also need to worry about hanging up the old "Going out Business" signs.
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