Monday, June 20, 2011

First and Second Tier Reality: Esq. Never is back!

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.

You can contact Esq. Never @ (


  1. I was in the top twenty of law schools. I knew that I was screwed when I graduated with no job and I saw other classmates working as waiters and shoe salespeople after law school. I naively thought, there is no way there will not be good opportunities if you go to a fairly decent law school, and I did rely on my law school's statistics that virtually said the equivalent of 100% of graduates get good paying jobs. I was wrong. Law schools lie. A six figure, dead-end lesson of life.

    I hope the TJL lawsuit wins big and they start going up the ladder.

  2. Exactly, Esq. Never. More focus on the first tier toilets please.

  3. I have covered second tier sewage pits, third tier commodes and fourth tier trash heaps quite extensively. I occasionally highlight schools on the lower end of the first tier.

    However, I actually agree that the first tier toilets may be worse - because they provide the cover of "legitimacy." Look, this school is part of Georgetown Univerity or Duke. If I get in, I am almost assured of landing a good job upon graduation.

    With the lower-ranked commodes, most kids have at least some understanding that they will need to excel. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that even TTT kids - who graduate in the top 5% of the class - are unable to land legal jobs. I am not talking about $160K jobs; I mean lawyer jobs, period. Many of them who do land lawyer jobs soon realize that they are making less than many college grads.

    Should such a graduate be thrilled to land a $43K per year insurance defense mill job, when he graduated in the top 5 students in the class? Some commodes are talking about trimming class sizes. In the final analysis, we need to see schools closed down. At least several dozen. We also need Congressional swine and the Department of "Education" pigs to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy.

    At this time, the lenders and schools bear NONE of the risk of a student default. The burden falls entirely on the student, or his co-signer parents or spouse. The lender cockroaches and schools have a HUGE incentive to lower standards and extend loans to as many people as possible. This DEFINITELY must change.

  4. Wait for the crash. Its coming.

  5. Suckahs! You should have gone to business school instead. bwahahahaha.

  6. Student loan defaults will be the death of these law schools. History has shown, when people in power have to start pay $ things change.

  7. My favorite part of the scam is that you are encouraged you to defer until they stop calculating defaults. Brilliant

  8. "You should have gone to business school instead. bwahahahaha."

    Yeah, that's really working out well for the MBA grads I know...

  9. Suckahs! You should have gone to business school instead. bwahahahaha.

    June 21, 2011 12:14

    Business school is for people either not bright enough in science to get into a REAL program like medicine, or whose math skills suck and can't do engineering!

    Essentially, bean counters and paper-shovelers.

  10. Engineering - yeahhh right, I'm from that discipline and most of my engineering buds are working retail if they're lucky. That's the biggest myth out there.

  11. I stick by my original assessment. Go to the cheapest law school you can get into. Some of my T10 buddies agree with me on that one. When you are debt free in under 10 years, life is good.

  12. Thank you. I went to a Top 14 and am stuck in doc review. Top half of the class too. Ive seen lots of UVA, NYU, and even Stanford on my projects.

  13. Student defaults are not going to solve the problem...the Feds GUARANTEED those loan, so just like with the mortgage crisis the US Taxpayer is the ultimate guarantor. The schools won't care...if you can't pay, Uncle Sam will. It's no risk for them.

    ELIMINATING the guarantee or limiting it to 50% of the amount of the loan will be a good start.

  14. @ June 22, 6:41PM-

    So true, and the best statement and thank you.

    Also, I would add to your summation, that the restoration of full Bankruptcy protections for student loans is critical, as well.

    But really folks---read all the above comments---by now, aren't we are all talking about nothing less than crimes against US Indentured, and Educated Citizens, and also Educated Humanity? and about a US that is now spiraling into chaos and self-destruction?

    But look at it all in a sort of science fictional abstract way:

    The last straw in the back-breaking collapse of a nation surely has to be the hard Fucking over by the society, of the society's best hope for the future, the Students.

    Higher education inAmerica has failed the society, and the late Professor Allan Bloom called it.

    He surely did.

  15. I went to U of Baltimore Law school 8 years ago, took out 60 K in loans. I worked for the public defender and moved onto insurance defense, now civil lit. Last year I made 110K in a medium sized firm. You don't have to go to a T1 or take out 130k in loans to get a good legal job. You have to be willing to work hard, start anywhere you can, and network. The market is the pits now, so I agree that you should take out as few loans as you can. You don't need big law or big debt to have a great career and make good money.

    1. Thank you! Great response. Some people fail to realize that in the legal field you still have to network prior to graduation and post graduation. Just going to a big name school does not and will not guarantee a nice big firm job. I

  16. I went to the University of Minnesota and work doc review in the Chicago area. I work with Golden Gate, CUNY, Cooley, OSU, John Marshall, and Wayne grads. We make the same salary.

    I was top half. Mock trial, internships, and all that other bullshit too. I was out of state and now have the student loans to prove it.

  17. I, too, was top 20 and I got three employment offers upon graduation, none of them over $55K. Definitely not worth $80K in debt, especially since I hated practicing law and eventually got out. I would welcome more posts about first tier toilets!

  18. Off Topic. but:

    I hope Warren Buffet spends eternity screaming in never ending pain, and in Hell for all of his crimes against Humanity.

    Then, and only then, will Warren Buffet's filthy, hated finger be removed from the disgusting, rotten, and filthy economic pie that exists in America today.

    And I hope Warren Buffet thinks of JD Painterguy on his deathbed, as he draws his last, rattling breath, and as his miserable old carcass gives up the ghost, someday.

    Hopefully sooner than later.

    I will make a special trip in order to spit on his grave marker someday.

    Death comes to us all. To Bartleby, and to kings and to counselors.

    Anyway, this is all written in the name of art and satire, so no offense to the miserable asshole known as Warren Buffet. Really.

    Ah, Bartleby! Ah, humanity!

  19. Just looking at one of my loan statements now. These people run a fucking shell game. I feel like I'm playing a game of Monopoly with a precocious five year-old, who is just good enough to know the rules and just "id" enough (and not in any way in which that might be construed to be a good thing) to make them up in his favor. These people just run a con. It's a fraud. They're criminals. They should be prosecuted and have their hands slammed in the slammer door. But if we've learned anything in the last several years, financial crime doesn't get prosecuted, and that's either because the political forces at play have already stacked the deck - consequences be damned - or because the people who could be hurt just don't matter. The world is just about doors and locks. It's about keeping you out. So you - we - are; and, worse still, you've been put into a game in which the only move you can make to help yourself is to slam your fist down upon the board and upset the whole carefully-crafted arrangement. If you play at all, every move is a losing move. It shouldn't be that way. It's unacceptable that it is that way. I've lost any sympathy I might once have had for the argument, "Some has to pay, if you don't." Are these anyone's hard-earned taxpayer dollars? Are they? Nope. All private money, my friends. No one will be worse off for my non-payment - except, perhaps, for those whose existence I object to in the first place. They can go away. Any unhappiness they reap will have been theirs that they have sown. Any economic calamity flowing from my default will not fall upon my account. The die is cast. There is but one end to this financial story. I might be a character in the plot, but the protagonist never writes his own story. The protagonist is condemned to another's end, which was, in truth, unleashed upon him; and those who live within a fictional world of another's control are but instrumentalities who bring about their author's foretold inevitability, in this case a tragedy. I will go on. Access Group, I promise, will not survive the coming economic collapse it and its co-conspirators in spirit have written.

  20. I went to Wharton undergrad and have never lived up to my potential. I really, really wanted to go to law school 30 years ago, but was rejected because of lousy grades. This site is so reassuring that things could be worse.

    Now I earn $17.92 an hour plus tips as a part time tour guide for GrayLine atop the double decker buses, working about 25 hours a week. My share of the health insurance premium is $140 a month -- that's the main reason I'm working. Also, going up and down the stairs on the buses is my major exercise. I'm 5'8", weigh 360 pounds, and am lucky to have any job.

    My folks died and my inheritance is about $1 million worth of stock. Some of my peers from Wharton have been earning more than that as their annual bonus for over 20 years, so I view myself as having very little status in comparison. I'm lucky I don't have a useless law degree, lucky I have reasonable health insurance, lucky I have a decent one bedroom in Forest Hills for about $1,000 a month, and lucky I have enough inherited wealth to survive, even if I don't collect social security, although I'd rather my mom and dad were still around.

  21. I am failing out of cooley. I am a 3L. That is right, they let me make it to 3L!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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