Friday, May 7, 2010

Top Law School Grad Sells Movies and Music On-Line From Parent's Basement!

I love mainstream press covering the Black Death of the Legal Profession... but they are so late to the Party. I cannot say it enough, people that decide to go to law school in the next few years are total idiots. Idiots!
Fabian Ronisky thought he was on track last summer to become a high-powered corporate lawyer. He was an intern at a leading firm in Los Angeles, earning about $3,000 weekly. But the firm didn't offer him a permanent job.
So Mr. Ronisky, a 25-year-old student at Chicago's Northwestern University School of Law, spent the fall sending 50 resumes to law firms and government agencies, to no avail. Now, just days shy of graduation and with $150,000 of student loans, he plans to move back to his parents' home in San Diego and sell music and movies online.
I really feel for this guy, because he didn't know this was coming when he was a 1L. Now the mainstream press has jumped on the story that I could have covered 5 years ago.

Part of the problem is supply and demand. Law-school enrollment has held steady in recent years while law firms, judges, the government and other employers have drastically cut hiring in the economic downturn.
Large corporate law firms have been hit particularly hard. The nation's 100 highest-grossing corporate firms last year reported an average revenue decline of 3.4%, the first overall drop in more than 20 years, according to the May issue of The American Lawyer magazine.
I am wondering what the 3.4% decline in revenue would have been if they hadn't fired so many associates? Anyone venture to guess?

I think that the whole model has been screwed for many years. People/Lawyers have always focused on landing that big firm associate position right after law school. What no one ever talks about, and what was always true regardless of the economy, is that one's days are numbered when working for BigLaw. It's just a matter of time before it's obvious that MOST of the associates are not "Partner Material" and they have to go on their merry way to other pursuits. Many of these pursuits are not nearly as profitable as BigLaw--non-profits and government positions, mostly. So many of these BigLaw associates never see it coming either, so they live high on the horse and DO NOT make headway on their loans. They don't see the end of the tracks for the gravy train, and they have to downsize drastically when it stops. This is when things were good. The reason for all of this? There has always been an overabundance of attorneys--at least since the bubble burst and maybe before--so it's always been a wiser economic choice to hire in a new flock of attorneys than pay the older ones more.
So, that's reality in a nutshell.


  1. Oh man. This is so true and what the T14 schools will NEVER tell their students. There should be workshops at T14 schools on money management and how to prepare for long-term unemployment or making $30k at a non-profit after a year or two making $160k because that's where most of them will end up. It is incredible to see how quickly biglaw associates can spend a $3000/week paycheck. I knew one guy in law school who spent money like it grew on trees. He never used any of his earnings on paying off his loans. He was so sure he'd be making six figures for the rest of his life because he went to Harvard and a T14. He ended up unemployed after working less than two years in biglaw. I no longer speak to him but I heard through the grapevine that he's joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed. Oopsie.

  2. I saw the above-refd article in

    I thought I was the only one who was struggling to pay off my loans. I went to lower ranked school and graduated in the bottom half.

    I never have had a legal job (other than doc-review...which is basically for losers (i guess like me). I started investigating law scam blogs and I am scared.

    I too started law school bright-eyed bushy tailed. The thing is the grading system is stacked against you. At the top law schools, you get graded well regardless. You could say because a Harvard student is smarter (yes likely). But in reality their grade wouldn't matter because of the prestige/alumni/connections/placement/demand already inherent for them. I don't know if this is a famous story or a story that only I have heard but I remember someone telling me that a Harvard prof told first-day of class freshmen to RELAX! and not get stressed out because just by their admittance they had already won the lottery to higher income/status/job placement.

    At my law school I struggled and still got average grades. I thought "am I dumb?" but that wasn't the case initially. However the failure has made me dumber because it has cast a cloud of failure over me (then-NOW).

    I am going to try to see if I can work some public job for loan forgiveness. Check out this link I found (

    I have put so many personal things on hold because of falling in love, marriage, kids, NO VACATIONS EVER. I mean why drag a sweet girl into this debt (90K).

    Best, m

  3. Not that I know every single person and their work history, but it looks to me like the majority of people who make "partner" are people on the outside who have done something that can bring recognition and prestige to the firm.

    The associate system doesn't permit prestige.

  4. To quote Justice Brandeis "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." That's the whole point of the blogs like BIDER, something about that acronym doesn't sit right with me...maybe I instinctively want to type out BIDEN instead, and the others out there.

    The Legal Education/Industrial Complex has been a walking corpse, holy shit zombies! grab me a chainsaw!, and it's far past time for change. One problem I have is that market forces are doing what insiders/participants SHOULD have done themselves. The other, even bigger, problem that I have as a result of change coming from market forces is that WE are the beneficiaries of their "negligence." We are the so called "Lost Generation" who pay the penalty not the people who are really at fault (insert something about outrageous miscarriage of justice here). Someone is getting overpaid from our suffering and I want names! (just kidding, we all know who they are, but really it pisses me off just a tad).

  5. mark: You're situation is by far one of the better situations Angel and I have come across on our

    blog. Many of the people who comment here and write at other scam blogs are owe more than

    $200k in loans. $90k is a lot, but it is manageable once you find a job. Be sure to read my posts on

    working abroad if it is something you'd be willing to do for a few years.

    The problem with loan forgiveness is that these jobs are impossible to find right now, especially for JDs. I'm not optimistic about the creation of more public interest jobs for the unemployed and overeducated masses. You could very well search for years and never find one of these jobs. As a JD, most of us would likely be considered overqualified, inexperienced, and illfitted for a Head Start or school librarian job. I think any one of us would jump at the chance to be a school librarian and have our loans fogiven in a decade, but there are thousands of laid off teachers and librarians who are better suited for those jobs.

    I attended a T14 school and grades DO matter, especially right now when everyone is competing for the few Biglaw first year associate openings left. The T14 schools perpetuate the myth that whoever goes through their halls is guaranteed a lucrative legal position with biglaw or government until they choose to leave or "burn out". This is utterly false. Even before the recession, there were people in the bottom half of the T14 graduating without job offers. I knew people who didn't even get a job their 2L summer. It was shocking because my grades were not good but I always got a summer internship. Some people ended up doing research for a professor or working at the law school library. One guy even had his 2L employment rescinded at the last minute after he gave them his first year grades which placed him in the bottom quartile of his class. Never underestimate the callousness of these biglaw partners or their ability to screw over people even after they guarantee you a job.

    Another myth that most T14 students believe is that they can keep their biglaw job for as long as they want until they eventually "burn out", usually in about five years. That's not true, at least not anymore. I know plenty of people who were laid off in less than a year, a year, or two years. Some were fired after failing the bar exam. Others were unlucky enough to accept an offer with a firm that immediately went under several months after graduation. And then there are people who quit after 18 months or so after finding out that they hate practicing law. I couldn't even stand being at my summer job. The work and the Type-A personalities were awful. That's why I recommend to anyone thinking about attending law school to work as a paralegal or legal secretary after college to give you an idea of the type of work and people you will need to deal with to be successful as a lawyer. Being smart and attending a T14 school doesn't mean that you're cut out to be a lawyer and unfortuntely a lot of people don't figure that out until after they spend $200k, three years in law school, and take the bar exam.

    The legal profession is extremely unforgiving to those who branch out into other fields or even work in doc review. That's why most people with less than 2 years of experience at a law firm these days will likely never find their way back to biglaw. Once you're done, you're done. There is an endless supply of fresh meat for the biglaw grinder and they won't bother with those of us who have already been used and spit out.

    If I were you I'd cut your losses and forget about anything to do with the law. Graduating at the bottom of your class at a TTT won't get you anything but doc review gigs for the rest of your life. Figure out a way to sell yourself to non-legal employers or teach abroad. Those are the only options left for most of us.

  6. Dear Hardknocks,

    It is around noon on Saturday May 8, 2010. I read these blogs until 4am last night and woke up at 7am, not being able to sleep.

    I genuinely had no idea that other people were going through this. My Sallie Mae loans are overdue. I owe about $1000 as a late payment. I wanted to do some research on Sallie Mae so went on the internet. Before I did that I just was casually looking at because their headlines are usually topical. Little did I know how topical! The story with the Northwestern Law grad unable to find a job left me shaken.

    I don't understand how he can't get work; I mean what about the connections/reputation/being white/internships etc. Ironically, I bet he will have a job offer within a week due to NWU and notoriety.

    I couldn't stand the doc-review gigs. It felt like being in study hall in high school. Everyone was super quiet and there was an air of desperation like we were sub-humans who didn't get prom dates. Never again.

    I really need someone to talk to as I don't know where to turn. I read on one blog that the disenfranchised should start blogs. Well, at 5am I bought domain name; surprised it was still available and I hope I will do something with that.

    sorry for the grammaticl errrors and mizspellings. Just tired and frustrated.

    if you wish to email me I can be reached at

    best and thanks for listening, m

  7. In addition to being a big fan of LOST, I was also a big fan of the X-Files when I was a kid. There is an episode called "Hell Money" from the third season of that show. It's about a random lottery that people play. The prize is lots of money, but the risk is like losing random organs and such. (like an eye or kidney or some such thing). I thought it was an interesting episode.

    Of particular resonance was the quote at the end of the episode of the man who arranged the whole lottery scheme.

    Agent Scully says:
    You cheated them out of life by promising them prosperity when the only possible reward was death.

    Dr. Wu says:
    In my belief, death is nothing to be feared. It's merely a stage of transition. But life without hope-- now, that's living hell. So, hope was my gift to these men.


    In a sense, this is also the gift of law school to young law students. You have a small percent shot at making it big. (what, like 10%?) and perhaps a somewhat bigger percent shot at living at least an above average life (like 25?). But it doesn't matter that law school gives you like an 75% chance of utter failure. It gives you hope at the beginning, and you can't put a price tag on hope.

    This one of the reasons people will continue to go to law school. The gamble is worth it to them. Because until they actually fail, there is still hope that they will be the ones that break the odds and succeed.

  8. Archangel, I was a big fan of x-files also.... weird.
    Anyway... M,
    There's lots of things that you are totally free to feel, but one of which is NOT alone. We are not alone. There are tons of people who did everything right up until a point and then turned the wrong way and fucked up their lives with an education heavy resume, no experience and tremendous debt. You just got to hustle... get out of doc review or your brain will die a slow death.

  9. I have been thinking about these damn blogs all day. Finally got out of the house to get something to eat, so depressed though instead of going to restaurant ($15), went to the grocery store. Time to eat my unsatisfying, cold, but healthy meal. I have been damn near suicidal all day.

    I REALLY did think I was the ONLY ONE and it was my fault, lack of ambition, grades, etc.

    Thought of an interesting story that I remembered today from many years ago. You might like to use it...

    During my 3L, my TTT had a recruiting fair in one of the larger meeting rooms. The long tables were all lined up so that 3Ls could fraternize with the several (10+) law firm representatives.

    We were told to bring our resumes and dress appropriately. All the girls looked cute and likewise the guys were dressed to impress. I wore my best tie and my only suit (nice Ralph Lauren pinstripe). I brought my resume but since my GPA was about 2.9 I wisely didn't have that indicated, but I figured I could just yuk it up with a few of these reps and all would be well.

    As I was walking around I noticed a table that was empty but had a stack of face down documents on it. Out of curiosity, I started glancing through the 20+ papers. They looked like form-style resumes that had been printed identically. They were fellow 3L students, however each form had the GPA down to the second decimal place listed next to each person's name. I did not see one form that had less than 3.6 GPA (most were damn near 4.0 actually).

    Suddenly someone from career services came up to me and told me that I shouldn't be looking at those. I said sorry and put them down. I then realized that these were the chosen students who would be presented to these firms. Although all 3L were told to show up with their personalized crazy-font resumes only the chosen few had their forms typed up by Career Services.

    I sort of realized that I was on my own then and never contacted Career Services; although everyone was encouraged to do so! None of those firms probably had any serious interest in anyone that didn't have a pre-made form-resume.

    I left without handing out a resume to any of those reps. It was a dog and pony show, where the winners were already picked. So not only do you have the deck stacked against you by T14 schools; within your own school it likely occurs.

    Years later still no legal job. Starting to realize by reading these blogs that TV show lawyers' life will never be mine. I always thought it would happen serendipitously.

    On a lighter(?) note, saw David Duchovny once at a bookstore. Although he sort of is goofy looking on TV, in person he looks like an exceptionally handsome MOVIE STAR!

    I sort of thought how actors are like law students. Most think they will be Oscar winning, matinee-idols, and super wealthy if they just work hard. However the roles are given to the best-looking generally.

    Time marches on and many lose their looks never gaining fame. However, each acting school will tell them to memorize the lines, etc. they will not say you are too UGLY for any lead roles.
    The schools will never say 99% of success is based on LOOKS ALONE no matter how good you can act.

    If you mention the LOOKS factor, they will say what about the success of Tom Cruise (not tall), Sandra Bullock (older not 120lbs 20-something), etc. those are not typically successful actors though (and even then those two are successful because they are super charismatic (not a teachable/learned trait).

    Even good old David Duchovny was likely told during the X-files heydey he would have the private plane life of Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise and not be on an HBO show.

    I know, long meandering post. Any ideas of what to do with would be appreciated (

    best, m

  10. I have received some negative emails regarding my offbeat somewhat off topic post.

    The allure of thinking YOU are the exception is so seductive as I write this sentence I almost expect my phone to ring with a legal job offer for $70,000 asking me when I can start.

    That is what every negative commenter relies on while posting on these blogs. The almost mythical - exception. Everyone of these negative commentators is either THE EXCEPTION or knows of the scrappy, hard-working (vague descriptions anyway) who against all odds went to a TTT and now reps only Superfund class-action law suits (as a solo practioner of course).

    I hope that I am conveying that the relevant material I am concerned about is the percentage of attorneys who are employed regardless of connections, which school, age, weight, ability to sing Irish fight songs, or whatever X factor is in a negative commentators mind that makes them feel justified in putting a law school graduate down.

    Think like the job market for nurses: I can easily ascertain, % employed, income, benefits, demand, etc. THIS IS A HARD STATISTIC not a anecdotal story supplemented with a Lou Holtz-ish pep talk.

    If you were going to nursing school would you go if your future employment was based only 40% future employment, family connections, which school attended (even though yours is approved federally), nursing journal review? (for top 10% of nursing school class), etc.

    BTW: The rational answer is NO for all the moronic trolls.

    I have never heard of people commenting that some particular nurse was "scrappy and diligent" and therefore that was the only way she was able to gain employment, yet everyone of these morons uses this as their central theme discounting time already spent/opportunity costs/family etc. It is my dream to be a working attorney but should I just show up at a firm and sit at an empty desk and tell'em "I won't take NO for an answer. Lets get to work!" Y'know I betcha its worked somewhere/sometime before (another mythical story for you idiotic trolls).

    The law schools purport that like nursing you don't need anecdotal X factors to be employed. Yet the basis for most negative commentators in all these law blogs are nothing but anecdotal exceptions.

    best, m

  11. Belatedly, I would like to point out that engineering, like law, is slow to hire right now. The portability of engineers is more expected, but a lot of corporations would rather pay the people they have double time than pay for you and your benefits.

    That said, my engineering degree is getting me a lot more interviews these days than my law degree or the fact that I'm still working at a law firm.

  12. Thanks Hardknocks,

    Been thinking about your advice. First I was offended by your "forget about anything having to do with the law" comment.

    I was so enraptured by the TV show law life, I have actually turned up my nose at a job that paid $50+ with full-benefits and was a sure thing (and that was 2 years after I grad. law and unemployed!!!). I still thought if I get a break I will be making several multiples of that as an atty. so why commit to them (JPmorgan).

    Can't go overseas, have 3 pets whom I adore.

    Public service jobs seem to pay so low that any loan forgiveness would be more offset with a better paying job unless you are really passionate about the specific cause.

    I am going to focus on $$$, a job, and really commit to financially being more fit.

    best, mark

  13. JD to hopefully persuading McDonalds to give me a job. Yeah!!!! Now that is career development.



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