Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Unheralded Heroes of Law School

When I was a 1L, there was a girl in my class--let's call her Ana--who I hung out with often. For the first half of the semester, I found her to be delightful. I learned a ton about her as the year progressed. She came from an upper middle class background. Her father was a doctor and she was an only child whose mother had recently passed. Upon finishing up at the top of her class, her dad gave her two options--go to medical school or law school. She was a very girly girl and she fancied herself a creative type. She wanted to go into fashion or beauty, but she decided to appease her father and go to law school in the meantime.

So, as the weeks progressed, I noticed something odd about the way she looked at accomplishment in school. If she were called on in class, and she got the right answer, she was ecstatic. I, on the other hand, quickly realized that class participation didn't matter and I expended little to no energy in getting the right answer. I certainly didn't yell out, "Rah, rah, rah," if I managed to go through class not getting called on or I hit the nail on the head with the perfect answer. I kept my eye on the ball and focused on studying. Ana, on the other hand, hardly ever studied. I told her she should, but she said that the real studying doesn't start until Halloween. Since that is a rumor that is tossed around law school, I didn't think much of it.

Then Halloween came around and Ana lost it. She locked herself in her room for days at a time with gallons of water and hit the books. DAYS, as in missing days of class to study.

Sure enough, when exams came around, Ana didn't do so well. I can't say how she did for sure, but I can say she cleared out of her apartment in the late night hours in mid-January and left her roommate with a lease and no roommate.

At the time, my friends and I pitied her. Now, I harbor a bit of jealousy. Why? Because, although I enjoyed practicing the law, I can't do it. And I have 3 years of debt to repay, rather than one. Now, I'm in an saturated market where I can't find a job--and I'm too overqualified to get out of this market. Contrarily, Ana has one semester of debt, and is probably working in something she enjoys. Or, even if she too lost her job, she doesn't have an enormous amount of debt to pay back monthly, while she is waiting for the next big thing.

I lost touch with Ana. She probably didn't want to have contact with anyone or anything that would remind her of her horrible experience. I imagine she is out in Los Angeles in the fashion scene. Or maybe she married her long time boyfriend who she had left back home to go to law school.

So, when I read the third comment on my last post. It reminded me of Ana. The comment that came from a guy named fanofskolnick was sad, but really embodied what many law school "dropouts" (for lack of a better word) feel. It's a different world, where naturally intelligent people are scorned for what they have always prided themselves in--whether that creativity or writing skills. It's a place where you can wildly successful outside the classroom and be ridiculed inside the classroom. If you find, at the end of the first semester or year, that you're not doing well and don't know why or that it's not for you--it doesn't mean you're a failure or a quitter. It means that you're wise enough to cut your losses and move onto something better. You may owe $20K after one semester, or even more. But at least you won't find yourself in the same place after 3 years and $120K of debt. It's really not you! It is just one of those irrational places. Law school is certainly not for everyone.

Friday, January 29, 2010

This Lemming Knows What He's Talking About...

I ran across this gem in my morning surf.  It's a somewhat realistic critique of law school, as put forth by a 3L.  My points are in red.

Law School Rewarding, But Tough
January 29, 2010 - 2:27am
By Benjamin Keep

As the recession lingers and law school applications skyrocket, applicants should pause to consider just what sort of beast law school is. Out of all graduate school options, law school seems like the cheap and effective one. Most Ph.D. programs require significant years of work that result in a modest salary in research, administration or private practice; medical school offers a significant salary at roughly the same time investment, but at a considerably higher cost; but law school offers both a short time investment with a high earning potential (though usually at the cost of significant student loans). Perhaps the law school J.D. competes only with the MBA in its perceived payoff. Yet both have come under attack as being ineffective and superfluous as investment banks and large law firms continue to hemorrhage employees.  But I say, why must one go to graduate school at all? Plumbers, Electricians, HVAC installers all seem to earn a good living.  And I think, as far as graduate degrees go, that it's probably more expensive than many more practical graduate degrees--such as Masters of Social Work or Physician's Assistant School. However, he claims, the distinction lies in that you have higher earning potential. This is arguable at best. Many attorneys never get out of the high 5 figure salary.  And many lawyers these days cannot even land a job and are working for free (i.e. for the experience). 

Law school is an easy target, in part because it pursues ambiguous goals. Law school promises both to be undergraduate-plus — a teaching environment that emphasizes analytical reasoning, problem-solving, and intellectual rigor — and a professional school, where students learn the suite of researching, writing and advocacy skills that effective lawyers use. The J.D. is somewhat of an anomaly: academics disagree as to whether the degree is doctorate-level or not. Law School is a refuge for those that are not ready to enter the real world.  Why wouldn't someone be ready, you ask?  Perhaps because they picked the wrong undergrad degree, 'wrong' being defined as a degree based on curiosity rather than practicality.  Others are not ready to work because they need more or a different college experience.  This is where Law School comes in handy.  People get wasted and act stupid for an additional three years, under the guise of obtaining a questionable doctorate level degree. 

Members of journals are generally required to write a small, thesis-length piece (called a note) during their second year, but the length and depth cannot compare to a dissertation, and students write most notes without significant faculty supervision. The vast majority of these notes are dropped after they have been written, left unpublished and unpursued. In addition, a significant number of students decline the journal application process in the first place.  I don't think that anyone LOVES the journal experience, but it's a necessity if you want to land a BigLaw job right after law school--if there are any jobs to be had.  Generally, it's a hamster wheel for law students. You don't know enough about anything as a law student to write a legitimate note--that will be recognized in any field.  But I think that BigLaw values the fact that you can produce high volumes of writing under the pressue of a deadline.  To that end, it is necessary to show you are up for it.  The people that decline to write on are too busy with the college experience to be bothered, or did not have sufficient attorney influence to realize that it's something they should be doing. 

Law school doesn’t strictly impart attorney skills either. Only one required course teaches the fundamentals of legal practice (“lawyering” or “legal research and writing”); the vast majority of other classes are substantive or exploratory in nature. Law School fails miserably at preparing one to practice the law.  This is definitely true.  And I'm sure that legal research and writing could be taught on the job--so it's arguable that the entire 3 years is a worthless waste of time if you actually want to practice law.  If you really want to be a lawyer, after high school--take BARBRI and sit for the Cali Bar. You will owe nearly nothing and be in the same place as most Law School Grads in terms of having NO IDEA what the hell you're doing.

However valuable the Socratic method is as a teaching tool, its justification as preparation for judicial inquiry can fall flat, particularly when most lawyers, even those practicing litigation, never see the inside of a courtroom. Law school graduates exit with principles, not rules. No law student leaves school knowing what the law is, rather, they all leave with a toolbox for thinking about legal questions. It's funny that this is mentioned. I thought that appearing before a judge would be like the Socratic Method--but it wasn't.  Generally, no one was harder on me with questioning than my Civ Pro Professor.  She was a royal bitch. I've argued cases at the Appellate Division, I've argued motions in Supreme Court, Superior  Court, Civil Court, I've had trials. I've never had any issues answering the Judge's questions to his satisfaction. I find Judges to be agreeable people.  Maybe the Socratic Method helped, but I think I would be just as good on my feet had I went straight to court after college. I think you either have it or you don't. 

After passing the bar, lawyers specialize and largely ignore the law in the areas they don’t practice. Students learn the most about law at their firms, in their clinics and at their internships.

Law school is schizophrenic in a more abstract way as well. The rigor that makes law school appealing also burdens the experience with an insistent linearity. Most law students are over-achieving type-A personalities, helping to make the environment one that cultivates lawyerly attributes: an exhaustive work ethic, a detail-oriented approach and an obsessive nature. The timeline and pace of the lifestyle leaves little time for exploration, and less for reflection.

The popular conception that law students go on to pursue a diverse range of different jobs is true. But it’s not true in the way most think. The law touches a lot of things: governance, business, social relations, international relations, technology — but despite the diverse contexts, the purpose of law schools is to create prestigious lawyers. How would this kid know? He's completely wrong.  People have a very hard time entering other fields, even fields they know that they can master or have daily contact with through the law, because non-legal employers are reluctant to hire lawyers.  They think you will leave them for more pay.  The reason why the pay is so low, is because they don't hire you and put you in upper management.  Non-legal employers hire you for entry level positions earning 40K+.  Essentially, they hire you for jobs you could have gotten three years prior--right out of college.  That makes Law School worth it, right?  And with all of the loans you have pulled out, you need to earn more than $40K to survive.  I find it funny that a 3L can speak to this when he has yet to hunt for a non-lawyer job. I speak from experience.  I got this very same offer two weeks ago from company.  Mind you, I'm nearly a decade out.

To pursue a career in public interest, teaching, management, policy or administration requires considerable job search fortitude. You will be swimming against a tide of processes created to transition law students into lawyers.  I don't understand what the "tide of processes," but I will say that these jobs are the most sought after in the age of deferrment. As you know, entire first year classes of BigLaw have been deferred indefinitely and given stipends conditioned upon practicing public interest.  So, these jobs--which are low paying--are hard to get unless you're in the top 5% at Harvard or Yale.  Prestige has become the new form of currency.

The popular perception of legal work can also be quite different from the reality. Very few legal jobs require covert investigations, in-court turnabouts, and flashes of genius. Most require patient document review, extensive computer research and copious editing. Law students must keep their career goals in mind throughout the training process to effectively transition into a successful, happy career.  Doc Review!!! Don't I know it!

To those who are applying to law school this season: good luck.

Benjamin Keep, a third-year law student at Cornell, administers Barely Legal, a column featuring a rotating cast of law students that appears alternate Fridays this semester. He may be reached at

Well, as far as lemmings go, he is extremely enlightened.  Good luck out there, in the wasteland!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No More Room at the Bench! The ABA speaks!!!

Surely, by now, you've heard of the above-titled article by Mark Greenbaum. It was among one of the first mainstream media articles that addressed the oversupply of lawyers and asked that the ABA become accountable for its sins--namely, failing to regulate law schools. Well, there's been a response!

Here are portions of ABA President Carolyn Lamm's Letter to the Editor, in pertinent part--which I lifted from ATLMy comments are in grey:

To the Editor:

You published a recent opinion piece by Mark Greenbaum. His analysis is premised on incorrect facts from which he draws flawed conclusions. He misstates the number of American Bar Association-approved law schools, ties it to what he describes as a “flood of graduates,” and insists the ABA should “block” new schools. He fails to acknowledge that in fact existing law schools have reduced voluntarily class size and therefore despite a minimal increase in the number of accredited law schools (7% over a 5 year period) first year enrollment grew by only two percent. Hardly producing a “flood of graduates”.

First of all, the flood started in the late 90s--not since the Great Recession.  I have yet to hear about a law school that is voluntarily reducing its class size. I would venture to say that is a fib.  However, I have heard that applications are up 20% and that New York Law School, for example, is expecting 50% more first years this coming school year. That is an additional 250 attorneys when New York City cannot support the tens of thousands of attorneys it currently houses.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ad People are so Pleasant...

I was sent this trailer featuring a documentary called Lemonade (as in, when given lemons--make lemonade).  I totally relate to the gut wrenching stories of how they felt when they were laid off and how they were blindsided by it...

But, as an attorney and a self-admitted pessimist, I could hardly relate to how they turned their situations around.

I'm going to see this movie and become something random and unrelated to the law.  Like a ballerina. Just you wait!

Between the Election Last Week and Talk of a New Public Law School, Massachusetts Can Sink Into the Ocean for All I Care!

Unfortunately, not enough of it rests on the coast. As you may know from my previous posts, the Massachusetts Board of Education is going to vote on whether or not to acquire a toilet unaccredited Law School in the southeastern part of the state. The goal is to turn it into a Public Law School. Being prescient, I say that their approval is imminent.

Anyhoo, ran into this article that states the obvious--that Massachusetts may not need a state-owned "cheaper" law school. Mr. Sawyer cites the dearth of jobs for lawyers, which is becoming common knowledge. Of course, his primary point is that the shitty 4th Tier schools in the area are decrying Massachusetts' purchase most loudly. I guess they don't want the competition. By the way, when I said cheaper, I meant $23K a year--So it's not exactly cheap.

I have been covering this issue since October. At some point the Mass. Treasurer stated that Massachusetts cannot afford to buy this unaccredited school formerly known as Southern New England School of Law in North Dartmouth. But since October, all talks have gone south and it looks like Massachusetts wants to get in on the action. I guess I can't blame them since law schools are extremely profitable. The biggest reason cited previously, was that Southeastern portion of the state was not adequately serviced by Law Schools. Law Students in that region have long commutes to the 8 private law schools in other parts of the state. Furthermore, proponents in government argued, every state should have a public school option and Mass of Chew Shits doesn't.

Going back to the article, the author mistakenly says that the New Toilet School of Law of Southeastern Mass may be able to service public interest and small rural solo practices. Yah, right. The Harvard Law Grads won't give public interest jobs up... and I'm sure there are plenty o'solos in the countryside of Massachusetts.

So, thanks Massachusetts for contributing to the problem and fucking over your citizens who want to go to law school, as well as smearing your public university's good name with a shit law school. Good move! I expect this kind of behavior from Domino's, but not the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Jersey Shore or Law School, that is the question...

Vinny Guadagnino of the Jersey Shore is wants to join our distinguished profession after he is finished partying it up at the Jersey Shore.  He says that he did "decent" on the LSAT and he had a 3.9 in undergrad.  If his score was higher, he might have tried Harvard or Yale.  You know what I say? One word... Fuggedaboutit!

Seriously, though. If I had to have one Jersey Shore kid join the Legal Industry--I'm glad it's Vinny.  Could you imagine if Snooky, the Midget Elvira, were to show up in Law School?  She wouldn't last a day under the Socratic method. She would probably think the professors don't like her and she'd want to go home. That one was for Jersey Shore Fans...  love that show!

UPDATE:  I had to add his quote that I found in the NY Daily News...

"I took the LSAT," Guadagnino, 21, told "My score was decent. I had a plan that if my score was really well [sic], then I might of just went to Yale or Harvard.

But it was just mediocre. I can get into law school," he added. "I had a 3.9 GPA, Latin Honors, but I'm doing this right now. Law school is always on the back burner."

For now, Guadagnino, who is reportedly in talks to return to the "Shore" for a second season, is happy with his new life as a MTV reality star.

"To tell you the truth, man, [being a] lawyer isn't something I wanted to do. Nobody wants to be a lawyer -- it's hard work," he confessed. "But it was kind of my academic route."

Read more:


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hourly Billing vs. Flat Fee

The WSJ poses the question, which type of case makes an attorney work harder?

I have done both types of cases before and I need to think about this one.

When I did a flat fee case, I would try to be effective, i.e. take as little time as possible to close the case.  My superiors would put pressure on me to complete the case as soon as possible because flat fee cases were considered low yield, and were only taken on as a means to get referrals for more lucrative cases, i.e. cases billed hourly. 

The goal of taking on any case was to do it in the amount of time it would take to remain on par with your billable rate.  For example, if you were doing a complicated real estate closing for $3000 and you typically charged $225 an hour--you had to accomplish the closing in 13 hours or you have lost money for your firm.  So, we still tracked the billable hours to measure profitability and as a means of putting pressure on an associate.

So, effectively, by keeping tab on the time it takes you to do a flat rate case--you are working harder and faster.  But I can't say that you're doing a better job.  After all, you're rushing and many mistakes happen when you are rushing.

President Obama Must Have Received My Letter!

Finally, the President has noticed that Middle America is drowning under the weight of student loans and is planning on discussing the issue during the State of the Union Address on Wednesday Night.  Everyone should tune in!  And tell me what he says too, beause I most likely will not watch it. 

Anyhoo, this Forbes Article offers a primer of his proposed solution:

The president's plan would cap payments on federal loans at 10% of a borrower's income for those earning above $33,075 (which is 150% of minimum wage). Under the president's plan someone who earns less than  $33,075 would owe nothing on a monthly basis. Those with higher incomes would have monthly student loan payments that equal 10% of their income above $33,075. The plan also allows loans to be forgiven after 20 years instead of 25.

So, this is great news for the plethora of unemployed attorneys who are earning $0 a year.  This is also great news for the poor attorneys that have managed to snag "experience traps," a.k.a. associate type positions earning $30K that claim to be a good experience. 

The bad news, of course, is that you will be paying the mounting principal and interest one day. In our beautiful Capitalist model, banks don't take risks and they never lose. Remember that!

By the way, the plan does not apply to private loans.  So, since most law students have maxed out on federal loans at the undergrad level, I'm not sure how much that will help my readers.  Maybe this will help reinforce that private loans are to be avoided like the plague--as if you didn't know.

So, in conclusion, I'm happy if he manages to get this passed.  However, I will never be satisfied until private loans are dischargeable in bankruptcy.  To have it any other way is a testament to our government's bow to big business. 

Thanks Obama!  I realize that the New World Order owns you, but just try a little harder.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Trade School over College?

New York times published an on-line video about people opting for Trade Schools rather than College.  Wouldn't you know it... the students cite two reasons for choosing Trade School over College...  Two reasons that are near and dear to my heart: (1) Cost and (2) Loss of Oppurtunity Cost, aka Time.  I can't speak to the need in any of the fields cited in this video.  But I know that they are not taking on as much debt as one would attending college, therefore their risk is less. 

Kudos to these guys and the New York Times for telling this story!

Just an Observation....

So, a typical day in Shit Law Practice is as follows:
I'd rush down to court to make 9:30 a.m. call. I'd roll in, right in the nick of time, and sit in the jury box (which is where the attorneys sat during call). I would look around at my peers in the jury box and I would notice, more often than not, I was one of a few ladies and I was the only minority. On occassion, I would see another minority. It was usually a black male. We would acknowledge each other as the outsiders with a very professional nod. At that point in my life, I felt like the law profession was an Old Boy's Club. Usually, old and white too. But this mirrored my experience in Law School--at least, in that most of the students were white. At the time, I guess I assumed that minorities didn't really go to law school in large numbers. Afterall, minorities weren't at my Law Firm either. And it was my understanding that there had never been a minority associate prior to myself. So, I took it as it was. Everyone was always pleasant with me. I didn't see it as a problem. I thought it was the way our profession was--mostly white and male.

When I went to a mid-level firm, my days in court were very similar to those days in shit law. I was often the only minority in the room, once again. It was reaffirmation of what I knew to be true.

Then, I went to Big Law. It was a whole new world. There were minorities everywhere. Even people of different sexual orientations and religious practices. I was so enthralled. How could this be? Minorities were seemingly absent from the legal industry from law school to shit law to mid-level firms... and then they appeared magically at the highest level of practice! It was quite a delight.

But then I found out that our presence in big law wasn't so much of a magical occurence. Big Law recruits minorities and women because it affects their Vault numbers. The fact that they went out of their way to recruit people like me made the law firm seem disengenuous. Shouldn't they just hire the best and brightest? I don't want to be given any handouts and the law firm's attempts to color the roster of the big firm made me question whether or not I deserved to be there... or was I just a tally mark for Human Resources?

But I grew to love the diversity of experiences there. And I do admit, it added a little something to the environment that had been lacking at my other firms.

But, eventually, I was laid off from Big Law. Now, I do document review. When I walk into my work room, I find that the majority of my fellow document reviewers are minorities--and female as well. Was this where they had been hiding all along? I see asians and hispanics and blacks and women and lawyers nearly old enough to retire.

I'm not sure if my observations are accurate. I can only speak to what I see. But, if I have seen an accurate cross section of the legal world, what does this say about minorities and women in the law? Maybe we are good enough to be at the top firms for their own purposes... but when the going gets tough, we are the first to get sacrificed.

You would be shocked at how many people who do document review were laid off from Big Law. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a refuge for those who couldn't do better. It seems to be a pergatory for those who did.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wall of Shame V: Who Paid Off the Supreme Court????

The Supreme Court has decided to do away with the distinction between a corporation and an individual for the purpose of campaign donation--thereby, opening the door to allowing corporations like Banks, Insurance Companies and Unions (the axis of Evil) unfettered campaign spending and the consequential currying of poltical favor. This distinction has been around for over one hundred years!

Why don't we just close down the polling centers and hold votes on Wall Street, Justice Scalia?

Opinion was 5-4: Scalia, Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy for.

Sotomayor, Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer against.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting and Keeping Clients During Your Legal Career

Wow... I'm tired.  Doc Review is killing me.

But I have to get this off my chest.
I know that it is the impossible, or nearly impossible, dream to become a solo.  But I can't help but think that my chances of being a solo have been cut off at the knees.  As many of my readers know, I have been practicing for a while.  I started at shit law and worked my way up.  As you all should know, a person who only worked in Big Law stands little chance of getting a client for a firm until he's a partner.  But I had a chance to drum up clients for a long time.  And in the beginning I did.  For every real estate closing I did, I gained a child custody hearing.  For every traffic ticket I defended, I gained a partnership dissolution case.  I had clients that wanted me to handle all of their work.  They had my cell phone number and I fully intended on carrying these people with me until I could handle the cases on my own and get the money in full, rather than a salary.  When I left the firm, my boss made me sign an agreement that I wouldn't take the clients with me, or I wouldn't get my last two weeks of pay.

Once I left shit law, I went to a firm that was more polished.  And I still had clients calling my cell phone and asking me to represent them in various capacities.  Did my new law firm appreciate that?  NO.

I went to the partner in my polished mid-size firm and told him that I had a client that wanted me to handle a matter and he forbade me from taking his case.  He said his liability insurance wouldn't cover a case of a different variety than the practice typically handled and he wasn't interested in the business.  So, I had to hand off these clients to various friends and my former firm.  I dropped the clients one by one.

And while at that firm, I gained even more clients.  We would represent them in one capacity and they would ask that I handle another type of case that they anticipated coming down the pipeline.  When I approached the partner with OUR clients and a different case, he once again declined the business.

I'm sure you all have heard that attorneys are not good businessmen, and this was a prime example of that.  He had concerns about not handling the case as well as someone who specialized in that area of the law would tarnish our "good name."  He also expressed concern with trampling on the feet of other attorneys that typically represented these businesses because they were "friends."  There are no friends in business.

Then, at a big firm, there was no chance that my clients and their five figure defense costs would interest my firm.  In fact, I was forced to sign a document saying I wouldn't represent someone outside of the firm or I would jeopardize my job.  I never did.  For the few clients that still called my cell with emergencies, I referred them away....

Now, as a doc review attorney, on every project that I take--I am forced to sign a document saying I will not represent anyone else while on the project.

So, by now I would have had a nice book of business, but I don't. It's as if being a solo is not difficult enough.  All of the firms you work for figure out a way to either take you off their cases, so there is no danger of the client following you.  And all subsequent firms don't necessarily want the business.  You're forced to hang a shingle with no clients to speak of.  You have all the experience you need, but no clients.  There's not much that separates you from a solo straight out of law school.

At some point, you get to an age where you will not get hired without a book of business.  I worked with a gentleman that was in-house counsel to a large company until it was bought and he was let go.  He worked there for 25 years.  His only client was that company.  At 60 years old, looking for a job, he was told that someone of his experience could not be hired unless he came with a substantial book of business.  Obviously, this was impossible.  That is the ultimate in age discrimination.  And, in most people's opinion, being in-house counsel was arriving.... Isn't that the apex of one's legal career?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Being the Only Law School in Memphis, Tennessee is the Key to Success!

The Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in Memphis, Tennessee managed to raise $500,000 more than its $12 million fundraising goal. I can only speculate as to why. God knows my Tier 1 has yet to see a dime from me. I am thinking it's the only school in town, so there may still be a perceived need in the area for lawyers. But note, the bulk of the money came from big companies--not graduates. Companies like FedEx and Autozone, along with a couple of big Memphis Firms gave to the cause--a brand new building. Or a gut renovated old U.S. Customs Building.

I guess they are getting ready for the competition, Belmont, which is opening in the near future to "fulfill the need" in the back country of Tennessee.

Whatever. There's nothing much to say about this topic. You can read my mind, I'm sure. There are much needier causes in the world that could have used that $12.5 million. Haiti, AIDS, World Peace? But it's a charitable deduction to the donors, any way you cut it. It's a for profit business, but it's considered charitable. Even the state of Tennessee and the local government chipped in. It's just a waste. Maybe they should have raised the money to sponsor a free legal education for all those willing to go into Tennessee Public Interest Law. In-state tuition and fees for one year costs a student $28K. So, with all of that money, C. Hump could have sponsored 133 students for three years. I wish they did that instead of building a fancy pants building.

Well, I'm just a scam-blogger. What do I know?

Another Good Read...

Remember that show The Deep End?  I hate it and I haven't even seen it.  It's not reality anymore.  Even our cream of the crop are suffering.  This article does a great job of explaining how The Deep End and our perceptions of the legal industry differ from the reality of our best and brightest attorneys.   Emphasis added by me, of course.

Thanks for the tip!

January 17, 2010
No Longer Their Golden Ticket

THE first-year corporate lawyers of “The Deep End,” a series that has its premiere on ABC this week, inhabit an alternative legal universe, where advancement on the partner track seems measured by their perfect grooming and ability to model designer suits and trade flirtatious banter.

In the sleek offices of the fictional firm Sterling Huddle Oppenheim & Craft, high above the Los Angeles smog canopy, life is a colorful, quip-filled adventure. “This is your lucky chance, your break in the clouds, your four-leaf clover,” a senior lawyer informs Dylan, a fresh Columbia Law School graduate, during his interview.

Associates may grumble that the firm is a pit of back-stabbing, a machine that grinds young lawyers down. But they still find time for laughs over beers, games of basketball on a rooftop court and, of course, sex.

Adventure? Laughter? Among law associates? This must be a period drama.

In fact, “The Deep End” was conceived in 2007, that halcyon era of $160,000 starting salaries and full employment even for law grads who had scored in the 150s on their LSAT’s.

Those days are over. As the profession lurches through its worst slump in decades, with jobs and bonuses cut and internal pressures to perform rising, associates do not just feel as if they are diving into the deep end, but rather, drowning.

Lawyers who entered the field as recently as a few years ago could reasonably expect a life of comfort, security and social esteem. Many are now faced with a different landscape. Firms shed more than 4,600 lawyers last year, according to a blog that tracks the legal industry, Law Shucks. Bonuses for those who survive are shriveling, and an increasing number of firms now compensate associates based on grades for performance — shades of law school — rather than automatically advancing them on the salary scale.

For those just starting out, it’s easy to think that the rules have changed six minutes into the first period.

“I thought, ‘Great, I can afford to buy a house at 23,’ ” said Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa, recalling her first year as an associate in 2006 at Pillsbury in San Francisco. “If I start this way at 23, goodness knows what it will be like when I’m 40.”

She accepted the notoriously grueling workload for the prospect of Caribbean vacations, a convertible and a big loft apartment. But young lawyers now entering the field can feel no such assurance, said Ms. Musiitwa, 27, who left Pillsbury after a year to start a boutique firm. If she were an associate now, she would “have to work a million times harder,” she said, “just to make sure that next time there’s a cut, I’m not on that list.”

One 2008 graduate of a top-10 law school, who worked at a large Chicago firm for a year, said she spent days trying to look busy as business dried up while not billing a single hour, before being laid off last fall along with a quarter of the other first-year hires.

“We used to gather in someone’s office, close the door, and say, ‘I hate my life, why are we doing this?’ ” she said. Like most other young associates interviewed for this article, she asked that her name not be used for fear of jeopardizing her climb up the already rickety ladder of a law career.

The main reason for the squeeze is the Great Recession, which has cut deeply into the kinds of companies — in financial services, real estate, high tech — that are the wellsprings of fees for corporate lawyers. The client companies that survived are doing fewer deals, and driving harder bargains with their lawyers: many negotiate a flat fee for the job, meaning firms can no longer bill by the hour for every legal eagle on the case.

Even associates who find plenty to do worry that outstanding performance is no longer enough to protect them, said Daniel Lukasik, a Buffalo lawyer who runs an information and outreach Web site called Lawyers With Depression, adding that his traffic is up 25 percent since June, to about 25,000 visitors a month.

Mr. Lukasik recently received a call from a man who said he was a fifth-year associate in Manhattan who complained that he felt expendable even though he was a top performer.

“He said to me, ‘What more do I have to do?’ ” Mr. Lukasik recalled. “ ‘I’m billing a large amount of hours, I’m a team player,’ but he said it’s very possible he might lose his job. And he was a Yale graduate, at a top-20 firm.

Elizabeth Tillinghast, a former lawyer who is now a practicing psychiatrist in Manhattan, said: “Lawyers are famous for having high levels of depression and anxiety, but it has increased. Everybody’s morale is down.”

A recent survey by the New York City bar association found that 50 percent of lawyers seeking counseling from its lawyer-outreach program list mental health as their primary concern, up from 40 percent in 2005.

The life of a law associate may always have been a grind, in which associates got used to exchanging familiar nods with the late-night cleaning crew. But it was not an existential crisis, as many say it is today. People complained — but they did not howl.

A midlevel associate in the New York office of a white-shoe firm, who writes provocatively about law-firm life under the name Legal Tease on her blog, Sweet Hot Justice, described a big law firm as “an absolute torture shack.

The worst thing about the field’s contraction, she said in an interview, is that it has walled off the traditional escape route — suffering at a law firm for a few years until you pay off your education loans, then moving onto a lower-paying but comfortable gig as in-house lawyer for a company.

“I’m happy to take a huge pay cut, I’d love to get out, but there are no jobs,” she said. “There’s nowhere to go. The revolving door is jammed and everybody is suffering.”

The pain of 26-year-olds earning six figures may not seem great in a country where unemployment hovers around 10 percent. But, Legal Tease argued, that six-figure salary looks a lot smaller when you divide it by the number of hours worked. “If you do the math, you’re making less than a baby sitter — not a nanny even, but an actual baby sitter in high school,” she insisted.

She is one of the lucky ones — definition: employed.

Plenty of recent law school graduates are not finding work at all, said Eileen C. Travis, the director of the New York City bar association’s lawyer assistance program. “There is pretty much a freeze on hiring,” she said.

Some partners say that the next generation may have to expect less from a legal career. “What has come to pass is that a law degree is not a ticket to a six-figure salary and a six-figure bonus,” said Matthew A. Feldman, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher in New York.

Smart, talented people will still find advancement within firms, he said. But “speaking candidly,” he added, “in the past, associates were a little oblivious” in presuming that if they “simply showed up every day and didn’t offend anyone, they were there indefinitely. They have had a wake-up call.”

It is more than dips in income that are reshaping the law firm culture. The prestige and self-identity of being a lawyer are in play. Pre-shakeout, lawyers could tell themselves that they were, if not exactly Masters of the Universe like investment bankers, perhaps Major-Domos of a Mid-Size Galaxy.

As a young lawyer, you could get through 1 a.m. due-diligence sessions by reminding yourself that you were following in the tradition of Louis Brandeis, Clarence Darrow or, at least, Ally McBeal.

It is harder to maintain that sense of esteem now that your contract work is being farmed out to low-cost lawyers in Bangalore, and your client who is splitting up with her spouse can handle it herself with a $31.99 do-it-yourself divorce kit from Office Depot, said David Lat, the managing editor of Above the Law, a well-read blog about the legal industry.

“There’s a different feeling in the air,” said Mr. Lat, a Yale Law-educated former associate at a major firm. And in some quarters, the sense of outrage is giving way to simple fatigue and resignation.

In 2008 when firms announced cuts in bonuses and office perks, “there was an outcry, a certain sense of entitlement,” he said. Lawyers, being lawyers, had fight. Now, less so.

“That sense of entitlement is so 2007,” he said. With 14,000 lawyer and legal staff jobs lost since the beginning of 2008, “to whine about how your firm no longer has chair massages on Friday seems a little petty.”

Is a Temp the New Perm?

My dear friend Ivy sent me that pic and I let out a little gasp.  Is this my future?

While Obama is covering my health insurance, I suppose I can live on the horribly methodic, brain dumbing work--but is this present slowly turning into my future?  I read the article in Businessweek and I felt no better.  Upon evaluation, it is clear that I am now a Disposable Worker.

A "Disposable Worker": "no health insurance, no retirement benefits, no sick days, no vacation, no severance, and no access to unemployment insurance."

When it's put that way, doc review sounds pretty horrible, doesn't it.  Yet, piles of attorneys are being fleeced from law firms every day and dumped into document review projects; where you are no longer a professional.  You are an hourly wage worker. If you don't work, you don't eat. If you get sick, you suffer financially as well as physically.

"You know American workers are in bad shape when a low-paying, no-benefits job is considered a sweet deal."

I have received two offers of employment since being let go.  Both were laughable.  So, I continue to click away at document review.  Temp attorneys are made fun of constantly, but facts are facts. I may not have vacation pay or stability.  But , with a semi-decent rate, I will make more as a temp attorney than I will at either of the companies/law firms that offered me a position.  The only advantage a low paying job offers is stability, and even that is questionable. ""When I hear people talk about temp vs. permanent jobs, I laugh," says Barry Asin, chief analyst at the Los Altos (Calif.) labor-analysis firm Staffing Industry Analysts. "The idea that any job is permanent has been well proven not to be true." As Kelly Services (KELYA) CEO Carl Camden puts it: "We're all temps now.""

And when is this likely to change?  Or will this be life from this point forward?
"The forecast for the next five to 10 years: more of the same, with paltry pay gains, worsening working conditions, and little job security. Right on up to the C-suite, more jobs will be freelance and temporary, and even seemingly permanent positions will be at greater risk."

This gives me pause. I find myself thankful to be in a large urban center that offers temporary placements.   I definitely consider myself lucky.  I've landed on my feet, for now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Our Obligation as Attorneys.

‘First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.’

- Pastor Martin Niemoller

When I graduated from law school, I clerked for a criminal judge for a couple of years. I would be in the chambers when Detectives would come to see the judge, hoping she would sign off on a warrant. They would sweat. They would pace. They would nervously make small talk with me, telling me how long they have been working on this particular case and how they were certain that this defendant was the "One." More times than not, after meeting with the judge, they would leave the chambers in frustration. It was very hard to get the judge's signature. If she didn't think you had probable cause to obtain a warrant, she wouldn't give it to you.

Then everything changed. The Patriot Act was passed and the judge's chamber's became a revolving door. She would sign warrants she didn't wholeheartedly support because she felt her hands were tied. It was frustrating to her, but very exciting for law enforcement. It was a free pass to tap a person. Their email, cell phone, text messages, pages, land line, etc. It was a momentous time in history that went unnoticed because it came under the guise of the War on Terrorism. Many of the police officers I saw on a daily basis were dealing with street crime, but it didn't matter. The law is the law. And the law was on the side of the law enforcement.

I'm not even sure on the status of the The Patriot Act anymore. But I know that a police state culture has become a part of being in America. I only need an evening of watching television to see that.

On Saturday night, I caught an episode of COPS that enraged me. In this particular segment, an out-of-state vehicle is broken down on the side of the road in Arkansas. An officer sees the vehicle and pulls up behind it to "help." He runs the license plates and they come back clear.
He walks over to the two black gentlemen and asks them what's happening. They say that their car broke down. He asks them for their licenses and goes back to the patrol car. They both check out clear. Then he notices, as he walking back to the two men that there is a lot of cash in the car. One guy says, "it's not that much." Then he starts asking them if they had been drinking. He could tell apparently. The man doesn't look drunk at all. Aside from that, he wasn't driving. Instead of doing the normal test on the guy (the walking test and the ABC backwards test--which I can't do sober btw), he does some kind of weird test involving following his fingers. After a few second, he accuses the guy of being on a stimulant like marijuana. "I can tell," he says.

Once again, it's not illegal to smoke pot. It's illegal to buy it and to sell it. Then he starts patting down the other gentleman, asking him if he has anything in his pocket. He comes clean and says that there's pot in his pocket. It was a nominal amount. The cop takes the man's hands to his back as if he is going to arrest him. So, coming clean and being honest got him no where. And like so many black men on COPS, the guy runs.

I have watched this show enough to know that this type of behavior is frequent. At first I wondered why they did it, but now I understand. It doesn't matter if you're cooperative or not. If you come clean or not. If you're actually engaging in something illegal or not. The officer will figure out a reason to arrest you and it fucks up your life. The cop takes arresting a person very lightly. The arrestee doesn't, and shouldn't. I have never been treated that way. It never gets that far with someone like me. But I can understand why you'd risk running because you have a slim chance of getting away verses a certainty of getting arrested.

At this point, there are two officers on the scene and one goes chasing the other. The one that remains admits he wanted to buy pot. I don't give a shit. The ends do not justify the means.

We all remain quiet when we see this type of harassment run rampant on television shows that air during prime time. Some people think that they deserve it, because they were doing something illegal. Some people may think that their particular race would never be treated that way. But if we don't fight this fascist type of policing when it only affects poor black men, who will be there to save us when it affect us all.

If we, one day, allow the police to tap our phones for the sake of fighting crime. Even if they are looking for drug dealers and terrorists, you too will be arrested if you discuss potentially evading taxes or leaving you sleeping child alone for a minute while you ran to the corner store for milk or driving home a little tipsy last night. I don't care that you may be doing something wrong, it's not about that. It's about your rights to live in a free country.

With all of the many attorneys in this country, why haven't we tackled this issue? We have record numbers of unemployed and underutilized attorneys in this country and we are a record low with personal freedom. Something needs to change.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wall of Shame Part IV: Attorney Steals for a few Luxuries in Life, and gets Disbarred!

Minneapolis Criminal Defense Attorney gets disbarred for being a criminal and stealing approximately $125,000 from his partners at Halberg. Classic. And what did he spend it on? Stupid shit. Really. I wish I could say that he needed it for his mortgage.

Halberg was founded in 2005. Thomas A. Rothstein was in charge of his small firm's finances. He had several partners, each owning 25%. A annual distribution would be made to the partners and every time Rothstein cut a check, he would write an extra check out to himself. I guess he thought the few extra thousand would go unnoticed.

In 2006, "he also used the company credit card for unauthorized purchases, including $562 at iTunes, $230 at a car wash, $824 at Pilgrim Cleaners, $2,875 at Continental Diamonds, $527 for flowers and $2,500 at the Trent Tucker Poker Tournament." In 2007, Rothstein used the company credit card and spent "$767 at iTunes, $403 for Pilgrim Cleaners, $347 for flowers, $506 at Continental Diamonds and $1,250 for personal trainer Judy Beyers."

That's a ton of music. I'd love to have access to his iTunes library. I certainly hope he's got a nice body too, with all of those personal training sessions. I'm wondering if the jewelry and flowers were for a Mrs. Rothstein or for Ms. Beyers--since he was her best customer. And, why poker? I guess the money he was swindling wasn't enough. He needed to gamble as well. And he needed to have some CLEAN and pressed clothes on while he gambled. Also, I'm sure he showed up to his personal training session with flowers and a shiny ride every time.

What strikes me about this selfish slug, was that he didn't steal to pay for anything that could arguably be considered necessary. I guess he was doing okay as an attorney. He wasn't struggling to make ends meet. But he needed to steal to live glamorously???? I guess this can be considered an Angel's Fable. You know, like "The Fox and the Grapes," "The Tortoise and the Hare" or "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." I'll call it, "The Lawyer and the Luxury Lifestyle." And the moral of the story is: Lawyers that have glamorous lifestyles are probably swindling someone; clients, partners, employees... someone.

The Glory Days for our profession are over. Most lawyers I know are living paycheck to paycheck. Even the ones that kept their big firm jobs. The lure of the glamorous lifestyle will cause you to spend money you don't have, when/if you land that big firm job. And for the other 95% of lawyers that never get the Big Firm job, it's very hard to reconcile attorneys' reputation for excess with your bank account. Everyone out of law school thinks that they should be at least as well off as their parents, with a nice home, two cars and yearly vacation. Meanwhile, with such a tremendous debt on their backs, they are hardly paying their rent. Not to mention that everyone around an attorney thinks that they "can afford it." The situation is only made worse. Most lawyers can't afford very much at all. A quick perusal of the worn soles of shoes and frayed hems of suit pants at the courthouse will speak volumes about an attorney's lifestyle.

I'm a member of the generation that was supposed to be the first to do worse than its parents. I think it's my generation, and the next few as well.

Isn't It Ironic?

So, I've been unemployed for several months now.  And I have gotten a few prescriptions at full price waiting for Blue Cross to send me my new insurance cards.   I've been patient.  I paid my first premium to ADP which handles the payments for COBRA, and I expecting to get the cards... in 45 days or so from payment.  Instead, I got another bill for my next payment to ADP. What?

I called ADP.  IRONICALLY, the company that handles my COBRA payments has a call center in India. Just so you know, COBRA is for unemployed people.  I can imagine there's someone that lost their call center job in Idaho because their company decided to ship the call center to India. I was peeved that this happened my my job wasn't actually outsourced to India (yet).  I wouldn't complain as much if they did an adequate job.  But somewhere in India, someone forgot to tell Blue Cross that I paid the premium.  And the Indian couldn't help me, except to tell me that I should contact Blue Cross because they somehow were at fault.

I contacted a lovely midwestern gal named Crissy who made it her business to make things right.  Initially, she said they they received nothing from ADP and I was currently uninsured.   That was a couple of days ago.  Today, she called me personally to tell me that she fixed the problem (which stemmed from someone dropping the ball in Bangalore) and my insurance cards were on the way.  Thanks Crissy!

Oh yah... My sink in the kitchen was leaking something awful yesterday.  I imagine the undocumented workers who were hired to renovate my unit did some shoddy work.
I'm not joking about undocumented, either.  One time, a neighbor called the cops on a homeless man that harassed people entering and leaving the building. Upon the cop's arrival, the undocumented workers (who were working in the courtyard) literally ran away from the building.   They ran down the block and around the corner.  All 10 of them.  I guess they thought the INS had come for them. It was quite a funny scene.

Excuse me... I digress.  I called my plumber to come down and fix the leak.  He had fixed within 45 minutes. I gave him a check for $212.30 (with tax).

I wish I was a plumber.  I only command $32/hour.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Time to Celebrate!

6000 Visitors (in America)! Well, it's been more than that, since I started keeping track in November and the blog was started in September! Thank you, readers! I really enjoy keeping this blog and I hope that I've helped some of you in the tiniest little way.

Mainstream Media Acknowledges Overabundance of Law Schools

The Washington Monthly covers the issue of too many law schools and not enough opportunity.

So happy that the message is getting out. It's about time!  Big Kudos to the LA Times writer, Mark Greenbaum, for discussing the issue and alerting other mainstream media of the problem.

January 8, 2010 02:07 PM
Too Many Law Schools?
by Daniel Luzer

Mark Greenbaum writes in the Los Angeles Times that there are too many law schools in America. According to the article:

The problem can be traced to the American Bar Assn., which continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates. There is a finite number of jobs for lawyers, and this continual flood of graduates only suppresses wages. Because the ABA has repeatedly signaled its unwillingness to adapt to this changing reality, the federal government should consider taking steps to stop the rapid flow of attorneys into a marketplace that cannot sustain them.
The basic problem is that people rack up an average $92,000 in debt (for private law schools) because of the implied promise of a high-paying job at the end. Except that industry predications indicate that there are likely to be less than 30,000 legal jobs available per year. Some 45,000 people graduate from law school every year.

And more law schools open every year, including a new, unaccredited one at U.C. Irvine. The problem, according to the author, is that the American Bar Association “cites antitrust concerns in refusing to block new schools.”

The author says that it appears clear now that the ABA has a conflict of interest and should get out of the business of accrediting law schools. It’s not clear how this step would entirely solve the problem but it’s about time someone pointed out that going to law school is no longer the golden ticket it was once thought to be. In fact, the law degree is starting to look a little more like the famously unlucrative humanities PhD.

Daniel Luzer is higher education blogger for the Washington Monthly.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Deduct Law School Tuition in Taxes?

Okay... rare double header here.  Usually, I take a bit of a breather between postings--but I couldn't wait on this article.
Basically, Nurse deducts student loans for MBA on annual tax return. She is called out by the IRS. She challenges the IRS, sans attorney, and WINS!

I don't do tax. But, something tells me that his little decision, although not binding on the courts, can be considered persuasive in deducting law school tuition and/or loans as a business expense or something.  I don't know.   Any thoughts????

Heads are Rolling in the "Non" Profit Student Lender World!

This article brought a smile to face.  Apparently, the Government woke up and said, "Where's my money?" and the scuzzy lenders in a multitude of states are saying, "Baby, I got cha money."  Joking.  The Nonprofit Lenders from numerous many states got a lot of explaining to do and they don't have the federally subsidized money anymore.  They gave it out like sample crack rocks on the middle school playground.  

The laundry list of misdeeds follows:

1. An Iowa Nonprofit Student Lender would pay cash to an alumni association for "steer[ing] students to the nonprofit's loans" in the form of  "questionable executive compensation and perks, deceptive advertising and tens of millions of dollars in unwarranted federal subsidies."

2.  The same Iowa Nonprofit paid 50 colleges $1.5 million from 2002 to 2007 "to reimburse colleges for administrative costs associated with counseling borrowers, certifying loan applications and disbursing its private loans" which presents a "a potential conflict of interest between their pecuniary interests and the best interests of prospective borrowers." 

3.  A Rhode Island Nonprofit sold loans to a For-Profit Loan Giant, Nelnet, but allowed Nelnet the right to issue the loans under the Rhode Island Nonprofit's name.  With RI's name, Nelnet opened up a College Planning Center which  "provided free financial aid advice, often encouraged students to take out Nelnet loans. But it did not identify its affiliation with the for-profit to students... In fact, it continued to call itself 'a free resource offered by the Rhode Island Student Loan Authority' in marketing materials." The Treasurer of Rhode Island, aka Captain Obvious, says that a nonprofit should be accountable to the people of Rhode Island and not to an out-of-state loan provider.

4.  A fishy financial practice of financing new loans with proceeds of old loans, was used by for-profit and nonprofit lenders, thereby cheating taxpayers out of $809 million.  
5.  The Government thinks that the Executives in charge of these Nonprofit Student Lenders are making too much money."Executive pay at some nonprofit lenders also has come under fire. Out of 10 independent nonprofit lenders that filed federal tax documents for 2007, eight had top executives whose salaries were greater than the average compensation earned by heads of similar-sized nonprofit financial institutions, according to an analysis of data provided by the Economic Research Institute, a compensation consulting firm."  Pointing out the obvious, once again:  "Nonprofits' executives "on the one hand, publicize their strong belief in public service but, on the other hand, will enter public service only at a salary commensurate with private employment"  
6.  The Connecticut Nonprofit Student Lender awarded "perks executives and board members. The nonprofit, for example, spent $1,884 on three stretch limousines and one sedan to take board members to a holiday party, $660 on four tickets for executives to attend the Big East Basketball tournament in March 2007 and $6,580 for four club seats to the University of Connecticut 2008 football season, according to a recent report by state auditors. Executives also spent more than $3,000 at a golf club in 2008. The former president approved his own expenses after a weekend and vacation day spent golfing."  

Government ain't too happy about any of this.  
I don't really see how some of these practices are different than what was done in the subprime mortgage scandal.  Mortgage brokers were given more money when they closed a deal on a subprime mortgage, even though the 30 year mortgage was probably the best type of mortgage for most mortgagors--or no mortgage at all in most cases.  Here, the Financial Aid offices of Higher Education are being paid to push a loan down your throat.
It reminds me of another enlightening moment I had when I was a second year.  I needed some more money because of an emergency of some sort and I went to Financial Aid and they handed me the Access Student Loan docs to fill out.  It dawned on me, that there could be another lender out there.  Why am I not being given an option.  So, I asked if there was another loan that I could take out.  
"Nope, we only work with Access."
Wondering if the Dean of my school was on the Board for Access.  Furthermore, wondering if the issue of Deans serving on the Board of Lenders will ever be addressed.
I'm not even sure what the exact connection is between nonprofits and the Department of Education and taxpayer money... but I'm happy as heck that someone is fixing scenarios that seem wrong or a bit unethical.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ahhhhh.. the Memories.

So, I've been totally honest with my readers and explained that I fucked up my first semester.  I did well the rest of law school--never getting below a "B"--but the damage is done.  If you don't do well your first semester, as in top 25% at a first tier like my alma mater, it will be an uphill struggle.

So, around this time of year--during my first year of law school, grades were released.  It was plainly obvious at that time that a Professor's feelings for you didn't matter.  He didn't know whose exam he was grading. I was a number to him when he graded my exam... not an intelligent student who does well under the Socratic Method in class.  Also, it was plainly obvious that class participation counted for nothing. Not that I was ever "into it."  But there were surely people that were into it... that were a bit deflated to see that it wasn't even a factor in their grades.  It was eye opening time.

I ran into my Torts professor in the hall and he said, "Hey, how did you do????"  I told him I got a B- and he was a little disappointed... he was sure that I would get an A.  Oh well.

The other little tidbit of information that you knew... but didn't completely understand.. was the curve.  My school, considering itself competitive and difficult, liked to fuck its students in the ass.  I know, I'm a  bit vulgar, but this topic brings it out of me.  The curve was around a low C--about a 70.  I knew that when I started, but wasn't sure what that meant.

So, back to mid-January of my 1L year.  I get my grades off of some chart on a billboard with our ID numbers listed on the left and the grade on the right. I'm old, so it was low-tech at the time.  I think the tech transition happened by my 3L year.  I am checking the billboard for my Crim Law grades.  This was, and arguably still is, my favorite subject.  I am a True Crime buff, by the way. I love to read about serial killers.  When I started law school, I used to declare that I came to law school to be a criminal defense attorney--not a lawyer.  So, this topic was easy for me.  I studied it and knew it like the back of my hand.  I had an excellent back and forth with the Professor. He liked me.  My case briefs were in order.  I knew my stuff.  Frankly speaking, of all the first year subjects, Crim Law was the easiest to master for everyone.  So, I felt I needed this one in the bag.

But I got a D.  I was blown away.  I thought it must be a mistake.  It was the worst grade I have ever gotten. I don't even remember having gotten a C since middle school.

The Professor handed out some sort of answer key to the students.  I reviewed it and and I was confident that I had spotted all of the issues. ALL OF THEM!  How could I get a D?  I felt like my future was in jeopardy.  So, I went up to visit my Crim Law Professor during office hours to ask him to reconsider his mistake.

He explained it to me this way:

Angel, you spotted 100% of the issues I was hoping you would see, but that is not how you are graded.  This is how I grade exams.... I grade all of the exams and put a number at the top, standing for the number of issues that you spotted on the exam.  On the exam, there 50 issues that I expected the students to spot. You got 50.  You exam goes on the floor.  The next exam taker spotted 52.  2 more than I expected anyone to spot, or that I saw myself.  That exam goes to the left of your exam.  I pick up the next one and that person spotted 55. That exam goes to the left of yours and the other.  The next exam taker only spotted 40.  That goes to the right of your exam.  I picked up the next exam and they spotted 48 of the issues.  That exam goes on the floor between yours and one where 40 issues were spotted.  I go through this exercise with all of the exams on the floor in a big line.  The one in the middle gets a 70.  The one on the right gets a failing grade and the one on the left gets a 100.  So, although you spotted all of the issues that I anticipated, more than half of the students in your class saw more issues than you or I did.  Therefore you get a D.  Because of the curve, someone will get a 100 and someone will fail, and everyone else is distributed into a bell curve around a 70. I'm so sorry.  You did a great job, but others in your section did much better.

At least I got the reassurance that I knew my stuff.  But that is not how one is graded in law school.  Today, any experience in criminal law is sorely missing from my resume.  I did manage to move past this bad grade, never getting a C or lower the rest of law school. But my fate was decided.  So, if your grades were worse than expected, don't be sad.  It's not you, it's the system.

This Was to Be Expected....

After sitting around for a year, wondering what came of life and dreams in America, people are waking up and deciding that they need to take steps to become more marketable.  So, they are going to Grad School--specifically Law School.  Ha.  Are you more marketable if you get a degree in a field with no job market?  That is the question.  Kinda like a tree falling in the woods, right?  In any case, welcome to our hell hole.

I'm in an especially bad mood today because my project is over and I've facing eminent homelessness again.  Great.  I know I'm being melodramatic. I have money in the bank. I'm sure I'll be okay--relatively.  As in, relative to being a mom on welfare.  I just wish I had a crystal ball.

So, here's that article.  Pertinent portions are bolded:

January 10, 2010

Recession Spurs Interest in Graduate, Law Schools

It took longer than some experts expected, but the recession and the resulting shortage of good jobs have spurred a jump in applications to law schools and a growing interest in graduate programs.
The number of people taking the Law School Admissions Test, for example, rose 20 percent in October, compared with October 2008, reaching an all-time high of 60,746. And the number of Americans who took the Graduate Record Examination in 2009 rose 13 percent, to a record 670,000, compared with the year before, according to theEducational Testing Service, which administers the test. The increase is a sharp reversal from 2008, when the number fell 2 percent even though the recession was already under way.
“There’s a bit of lag time between when people start to worry about the economy and when they get their applications going,” said Wendy Margolis, director of communications for the Law School Admission Council, which administers the L.S.A.T.
Jeffrey S. Brand, dean of the University of San Francisco School of Law, echoed that view.
“I think the crash was so severe that people were kind of catatonic,” Mr. Brand said. “They weren’t sure what to do. They’re coming out of that mode now.”
David G. Payne, the Educational Testing Service’s vice president and chief operating officer for college and graduate programs, said the rise in interest in graduate programs was tied to the troubled economy and increased school recruiting.
“When job creation slows, there’s an increase in the number of people who pursue a graduate degree,” Mr. Payne said.
Officials at many law schools reported substantial increases in applications over last year. Washington University in St. Louis has had a 19 percent year-to-date increase in applications to its college of law. At the University of San Francisco School of Law, applications are up 35 percent over last year, and at the University of Iowa’s College of Law, applications are up 39 percent.
Some increases are more explicable than others. Applications to the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University have risen 54 percent this year, which may be related to its rise in the U.S. News & World Report rankings to 23 in 2009, from 36 the year before.
But at Cornell University’s Law School, whose ranking has remained relatively stable, applications are up 44 percent, and no one is quite sure of the reason for such a large increase.
Richard Geiger, dean of admissions, said: “I’m a little thrown off by the fact that our increase is much bigger than expected. There’s nothing big we’re doing to explain that kind of increase.”
Prebble Q. Ramswell, 37, is among those choosing to return to school after being unable to find work.
A mother with two bachelor’s degrees, one in political science and the other in psychology and sociology, Ms. Ramswell has nearly 10 years of work experience, including six years as an intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Ms. Ramswell lost her job with the C.I.A. when her contract ended last spring. She and her husband, who had also worked for the C.I.A., were both unemployed.
“We were having such a difficult time finding work,” she said. After months of searching, her husband found work in Florida, and the couple and their 4-year-old daughter moved there from Northern Virginia.
“I still had no luck finding anything, so I said to myself, ‘What is it in my life that I have wanted to do, that could make something good of a situation that has turned horribly wrong?’ ”
Ms. Ramswell is now applying for a master’s degree in liberal arts, looking to leverage her background in social science and, ultimately, to become a psychotherapist.
“I’ve realized that it will make me more marketable and open more doors,” she said.
Stephanie E. Neal, 24, also said she was hoping to increase her appeal to employers by returning to school. She graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology in 2008 and has since completed a paralegal certificate and a victim’s assistance certificate. But she has been unemployed since May and is now preparing to take the G.R.E. She lives with her parents in Southern California and said “desperation” has pushed her back toward academia.
“With every job going to someone who has more experience and who is willing to take a pay cut to have a job, I’m left with what amounts to slim pickings,” she said. “With no income, I’ve turned to the idea of higher education.”
Collins Byrd, dean of admissions at the University of Iowa’s College of Law, said he had seen many applicants like Ms. Neal.
“I think people spent the past year in a bit of shell shock,” Mr. Byrd said. “I don’t think people applied at as high a rate because they just didn’t know what to do. They sat there and did nothing.
“Now they’re seeing what they can do, seeing if they can take out loans or mortgages on housing. I think people are coming to grips with reality.”

End of Article.
Education is a farce.


Blog Template by - Header Image by Arpi