Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Annual Ritual: Minnesota Lawyer Interviews Unemployed TTT Grads Before the Bar Exam

Earlier this year, I wrote several posts based on the 2009 Minnesota Lawyer interview with Minnesota TTT grads who were planning to take the bar exam.

This is what I had to say about the 2009 interview in April of this year:
None of the graduates in the video seemed to have a job lined up at the time of the bar exam. I hope the guy who failed the bar exam twice passed the third time around if only to save himself from wasting more money on test prep courses. But Ms. Guertin from William Mitchell School of Law nails it when she says at 1:02 that passing the bar exam doesn't necessarily mean you're guaranteed a job.

The bar exam will not guarantee anyone a job right now. The only thing that will be easier is finding doc review work and you can make more money than a law graduate who isn't admitted to the bar. That's it. I hear and read about law school graduates who think passing the bar is the golden key to a great legal job. It isn't. Wiser graduates like Mike at Barely Legal (btw, he started blogging again last month after a long hiatus. Welcome back!) decided to save his money and not take the exam.

People will have different opinions on this but I think the bar exam in this economy is a waste of money and time, especially for third tier graduates who never had a chance at finding a good job in a recession. If you end up finding a great law firm job, let them pay for the exam instead. Don't take out another loan from Sallie Mae or Access Group to take the exam. If you fail, consider it a blessing or buy used Barbri books off of Craigslist if you decide to take it again. You have to ask yourself whether more torture and money down the drain is worth it if you're in a state that has a high unemployment rate and little opportunity to find a good paying legal job. I'm curious to know if any of the graduates in the video found jobs after passing the bar.

What I said in April about last year's bar exam takers remains true today for this year's bar exam takers. Here are some important additional thoughts and statistics provided by Scammed Hard who first reported on the 2010 Minnesota Lawyer's "special report" covering the Minnesota bar exam:
Given that the four law schools in this small market spew out 1,000 new grads every year, things must be especially tough for TTT grads trying to find work. Despite its relatively small population, Minnesota boasts the 12th highest lawyer per capita ratio in the Union, with 11.2 lawyers for every 10,000 people. When even your local T-25, the University of Minnesota, graduates more than half of its Class of 2010 without jobs, one can only imagine how much more awful thing must be down in the TTTs, or especially at the local TTTT, Hambone University School of Law.

How long are these people going to allow themselves to be scammed? After suffering through three years and tens of thousands of dollars' worth of hell, just to end up unemployed, it must feel great to be plunking down for bar review and the exam without having the slightest idea about where you will eventually find work. These folks from the lower tiers are, sadly, especially likely to never find work as lawyers. Nando has already given us a trio of excellent exposés about the dismal employment prospects offered by these law school puppy mills. I must grudgingly admire the irrational optimism that these grads display in continuing on the road toward lawyerdom, but as a scamblogger, I know what awaits them. We've had a smattering of commenters from these schools show up on the scamblogs in the past few months, and none of them paints a rosy picture of their class' employment. In fact, they all agree that most of their former classmates are unemployed, indebted, and desperate. Yet the charlatans and book-cookers who run these institutions are still busy tallying the seat deposits and packing the next 1L class in time for the fall semester.
Yes, how long will thousands of students in over-saturated legal markets allow themselves to be scammed out of thousands of dollars for nothing more than the illusion of prestige of having a JD and passing the bar exam? And why aren't mainstream legal news publications like the Minnesota Lawyer asking serious questions about the employment rates of these recent graduates instead of vapid questions like what they had for breakfast or what time they went to bed the night before? What?!? The real question everyone is dying to know is, have you found a job yet? And, how much money in student loans did you borrow on top of the $150k you borrowed for three years of law school to take the BARBRI course?!? If Minnesota Lawyer actually did their job, maybe more 0Ls and law students would think twice before plopping down another $5,000 for no good reason whatsoever. Or they would start asking their law schools questions as to why three years and $150k still isn't enough to prepare students for the bar exam.


  1. Glad to see your take on this article. It's really pathetic that "legal journalism" largely ignores the most massive, pressing, and important issue in the profession (oversupply of lawyers & the law school scam), in favor of ticking off boring stories about the bar and other "rites of passage" that happen to be the same thing EVERY YEAR.

    How any publication dedicated to covering the legal industry can overlook this gigantic, debt-laden elephant in the room and go on reporting cutesy stories about "stressed bar exam takers" is beyond me.

  2. A bigger unreported story is the stack of background affidavits to prove your "fitness," including references from every place you've ever lived, every employer you've ever worked for, etc. Many newspaper writers are aspiring sportswriters or dramatists, so they like the drama of the exam, and the story can be copied and pasted each year with new names. Alas they find the deeper stories too "complicated," whether it's misleading employment statistics or the credit crisis etc. The people who had the endurance to read through such complicated stuff went to law school instead of journalism school, and look where it got us.

  3. Well, it might be that the journalists aren't able to get anyone to speak with them except random anonymous people on blogs whom they can't confirm exist, or, if they exist, can't confirm whether it's really just one or two people using different names.

    I'm not saying that's the case, I'm just saying that the journalists can't either confirm or disprove it when people won't talk with real names.

    I gather this is what happened with the NJ news reporter who tried to get people to talk about Seton Hall and other NJ schools. It seems nobody was willing to talk to him/her on a real name basis. I might be wrong, but it's been about a month or so since she asked for people on both here and JDU. I don't know how much turnaround time a news story takes, but I would've expected some news about that by now if it was greenlit.

    So, instead, you'll get fluff pieces because happy people or optimistic people seem to be the only ones willing to speak on the record.

  4. @ArchAngel - good point, just like the endless happy stories about lottery winners and what they plan to do with their winnings, without ever interviewing the many more people who lost the lottery and what they plan to do now, even though the latter group are the real story.

  5. ArchAngel,

    I think that's probably right. If I were a Seton Hall grad looking for a job, I wouldn't want my name splatted in any publication complaining about my school. That will pretty much seal your fate for either legal or non-legal employment.

    But that doesn't excuse the journalists. They can still run stories about these folks that lack identifying information. They'll interview illegal immigrants that give only their first names and run the stories; I don't see why this should be different.

  6. @11:56

    I think that's a good point. What I think is that there is some kind of journalistic ethics line in the sand regarding anonymous sources. For example, many news reporters cite inside sources like "someone in BP's upper management has confirmed that CEO Tony will resign effective October" but is allowed to stay anonymous.

    Not being a journalist, I don't know where that line is. But I know that there is one. Meaning, sometimes they can do anonymous, sometimes they can't. My best guess would be that it would have to have an immediate effect on your status quo. So, for example, outing an illegal alien or outing a BP higher up would get them deported or fired, negatively affecting their status quo position. However, maybe they can't use anonymous if it's merely embarassing or might someday affect future prospect. So, if someone's not working for BP right now, and says "well, i don't want to go on record, I might work for BP in the future." then that's not enough. Total speculation though.



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