Thursday, July 7, 2011

WSJ FAIL: Salaries Falling for Recent Grads!

What about the rest of us?  I'm sure you've heard that the Wall Street Journal has decided to write an incomplete and half-ass story about salaries falling for recent grads.  By writing a story such as this, you're feeding the lemmings with hope that this condition will somehow change once you're not a recent grad.  Read on:
Even for the lucky members of the law school class of 2010 who found jobs, their average salaries were 10 percent lower than those of their predecessors, a new report reveals.
The numbers, to be released later today as part of the National Association for Law Placement’s report on legal employment and salaries, indicate that more graduates found jobs at smaller law firms with typically lower starting salaries than large ones. In fact, the median starting salaries for those working in private practice declined 20 percent, given that more than half of the jobs taken up by last year’s law school class were at firms with at most 50 attorneys.
Even so, the national median salary for newbie lawyers – at least for those with full-time work – still stands at $63,000, according to the report. That doesn’t sound so bad, except for the fact that only about 64% of law school graduates found full-time employment in a job requiring bar passage. The rest found non-legal or part-time work, and more than a quarter reported biding their time in temporary jobs.
Is it any wonder why the public hates us?  Oh, pansy lawyers are complaining that their salaries have gone down by 10%.  Poor them.  At least 100% of lawyers are employed--even if it's non-legal or part-time work!  Right?
Wrong, WSJ!

Here's some comments to illustrate my point:
Adolf Cheney wrote:
Undergrad degree $100,000. Law school degree 200,000. total cost about 300k. Return on investment will be 300k/60 after about 5 years. Considering most people work for 30 years, law school will be profitable after the 5th year of working. 60k still is alot higher than what these people would earn without a law degree working at a restaurant or taxi driver. (My PV calculation is utter garbage)
Okay, that was slightly tongue in cheek.  But still, I imagine many others read this article and believe that this is true.

The real story is that many of these newbie lawyers are waiting tables, stripping and working at coffee shops.  The REAL story is that lawyers who are 10 years out are doing the same.  Way to go, WSJ!  Why do they even bother with this weak ass stories that deal with the tip of the iceberg.  It's like writing a story about the people that died on the plane in 9/11--but not mentioning the people who died in the WTC.  There's so much more to this.  Here's another comment to illustrate my point:
Do not go to law school. wrote:
I have been a practicing attorney for 21 years and currently underemployed/unemployed. I have networked and sent out hundreds of resumes. My US Senator told me that for each federal attorney job, they receive over 4,000 applications. i was told that on average, that local open attorney positions receive between 400-1200 applicants for each local position. Even when you do network, guys refuse to help because they don’t want the competition. I know guys who a much more skilled and attended top ten schools will barely make $40K this year.
Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy for any attention whatsoever.  But stories like this wreak of hope and optimism.  I find it offensive.  I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the media is paid off to NOT tell the real story.  The truth must be bad for business.


  1. There IS a story there about the poor schmucks who are 10+ years out and essentially unemployable. There are a lot of 40-ish lawyers out there who won't be hired by firms or government, and thanks to the wonder of Google can't escape the scarlet "J.D." around their necks when they try to find non-lawyer jobs. It's really f-ing depressing. While many of us are better off than the newbies because our loans are paid off, we are also more likely to have children and mortgages that will not feed and/or service themselves.

    In related news, I emigrated! We arrived in our new country 2 days ago. I am looking forward to receiving health care in return for my taxes and giving birth to my November 2011 baby in a HOSPITAL, which I could not afford to do as an uninsured American.

  2. OMG! I am so happy for you! You made the leap and I'm sure you'll never look back. On another note, you're having ANOTHER baby? Woah! But wow. Props to you. Being a mom is far harder than any and all an attorney does.

  3. So every story about one aspect of an industry must now go into detail about everyone everywhere?

    The NALP data is important and interesting, but the WSJ shouldn't discuss it unless they also go out and interview 50,000 attorneys who are 10 years out to see what their salaries are like?

  4. Yes. A story on one insignificant aspect of a story is not worth publishing. When a driver wraps himself around a pole--causing the pole to fall into someone's house--what reporter would interview the homeowners and not mention the guy who died?

  5. Imagine the history major graduating who sees the story and wonders why the WSJ isn't talking about graduates of other programs. And the construction workers who are out of jobs. Why isn't this article talking about them?

    This article should be pulled until the Wall Street Journal is prepared to do a full evaluation on every degree program and industry.

    ...Come on. If NALP had this data and people weren't publicizing it, you'd be complaining it was being kept quiet.

  6. You can think what you think, but I stick by what I said. This story is incomplete and doesn't tell the whole story about the affect of the recession on the legal industry.

  7. I agree with Angel. We are looking at the collapse of an entire profession here. I have a huge amount of sympathy for recent grads (even the ones who didn't listen to me when I told them to stay the hell away from law school, for the love of God), primarily because their mortgage-sized, non-dischargeable student loan debts are far larger than the debt that we older lawyers graduated with, and will certainly ruin many of their lives. That said, the demise of the legal profession is not just a matter of a dearth of entry-level positions. What remains to be seen, I think, is whether the collapse of the mid-level (as a Biglaw alum I see that as the 3-12 years out range) has a trickle-down effect where those older lawyers are taking the remaining lower-level positions, or whether displaced mid-levels will simply be banished from the profession in favor of younger, hungrier kids who still believe that a hostile, abusive, 24/7 work environment = "paying their dues" and that they will actually receive some benefit at the end. Because the pyramid scheme that our profession has become really, really depends on those illusions.

  8. The Wall Street Journal favors anything that ensures that the job market is a buyer's market. Always remember that when you read anything on their pages or website.

    Jadz: Congratulations! Although my situation is not as desperate as yours was (not yet, anyway!), I often think about emigrating, for reasons you and others have mentioned, as well as others.

  9. I hear ya.. After 10+ years in the legal profession I decided to get out..

    Still I know equally experienced, skilled, etc. former attorneys trying to stay in.

    If you're older and don't have a book of business it's damned near impossible to get a decent legal gig.

  10. Looking at what lawyers have done to our country, good. They need no sympathy. Perhaps if they can't pay their bills they can be hacked open with a hatchet to be harvested for their organs while being videoed, so that comedy shows could be made. You all are shit, and I hope your lives get continually worse.

  11. Jadz,

    I was wondering if you could give tips on emigrating. I speak four languages but only have citizenship in the US. Is it hard to find a job as an American overseas? Is it hard to emigrate? Hard to get citizenship in another country? Any info you can give would be greatly appreciated. I, too, would love to one day receive health care and education in exchange for my taxes. Instead, after busting my butt for years working 80 hours/week and squeezing an education somewhere in to better myself, I am stuck w/ an enormous student debt load from a useless JD degree, no paid holidays or health care, and a $1000 a month job. What a great country - for a CEO!

  12. Anon. @ 7:13:

    While never enacted, I had success in arranging to teach English overseas, which I viewed as a way to move to country with a demand for educated workers for a year, earn a little money and buy some time to find a job that would sponsor my visa after the teaching contract ran out.

    I don't know how hard it would have been to find a legal or other job once I had arrived in this relative economic paradise, but the first part of the plan - getting an offer to teach - didn't prove overly difficult, and if you get placed in the right city, I have to think that it's better to be something employers don't see 100 times every day than just the next unemployed American lawyer in a city full of them already.

    I can give you a trusted recommendation if you want, and would be happy to exchange e-mails with you if you want. It's not much, but I'd be happy to do it. You can leave your e-mail here in the comments or, if you ask, I'll send mine on to Angel.

  13. @Dona Furiosa,

    I don't agree with your characterization of emigration as desperation. I'm an expat living in Canada, and although I'm not exactly proud of leaving America, I don't regret it for a minute either. Yes, I love my country, and all things being equal, I'd love to stay. But not all is equal in the world. When opportunities present themselves, you owe it to yourself and society to pursue them, wherever they may be. That's how America became great: because immigrants saw opportunities there, and pursued them. Well, the same idea works even in reverse. Remember that.

  14. I joined the military. The pay will be crap but I don't care much. After the US economy completely collapses I'll at least have a gun and a ton of co-workers that have weapons as well and all want to be paid.

    Either you pay us or we just oust everyone in DC and set up a new government. Either way, I should be okay. I can't think of a safer profession come the collapse, and it seems so likely these days.

  15. The colonization of America was a one-off event that was driven by the impulse expansion of Western civilization.

    Kind of like the pyramids in Egypt.

    Or the exact reverse of the barbarian invasions of the Roman Empire.

  16. I have news for you...salaries have been falling for most Americans. The only rising salaries are executives and CEOs (I hope to blog about that soon).

  17. Very late comment but I'll post it regardless since I see that all recent comments are presented on the side. Another commenter talked about joining the military and I wanted to add to that as I'm also doing the same thing after spending 1 year at the UH law center.

    For those in their 20s with mounds of debt and no problem deploying overseas, you should strongly consider joining the Army/Navy.

    (Cons) This is just for the Navy who other than special forces, eod, don't go to Afghanistan unless you volunteer to.
    -"Low Pay" (likely start out at $22K). This is the enlisted starting salary with a college diploma. If you're thinking of joining as an officer, know that doing so requires interviews, etc. and is very competitive.
    -"Deploy Overseas" after training for the entirety of your contract term (3-4 yrs) with only 2wks per yr to come home.

    -Army/Navy "repays up to $65K" in student loans given that they're gov't loans (stafford, perkins, etc.) I'm fairly certain they don't differentiate between undergrad/grad-school and your loans usually don't specify what you took it out for anyways.
    -Military pays for "housing/food". Of course, the housing part could be looked on as a negative since they do require you to stay on-base especially if you're not married.
    -"Lifestyle" After training, you deploy for a sea tour which means you'll be on a ship for anywhere ranging from a few weeks to a few months before docking at a port. You'll have periods of serious work and periods of little to no work; overall significantly less work and stress than a starting lawyer.

    (Summary) If you're 23-27 and either graduated or dropped out of law school with lots of debt, you can spend 3yrs in the Army/Navy and get $65K in gov't student loans paid off. Of course, the starting pay is bad ($22K) but housing/food is covered and those who choose this option (like me) probably would have made at best $40K given that we even found a job in the first place. Also life in the military is no cakewalk, you'll be told when to eat/sleep/work and need to be of at least avg. phsyical fitness, and of course will be away from home for the majority of your 3-4 yr contract. However, in the navy at least, you'll be able to travel, and the work/stress is significantly less than that of a starting lawyer.

    If you're planning on joining the army like I am, that's a different story entirely.

    If you do think about doing this, talk to your recruiter, but know that recruiter quality is very inconsistent. Some are very helpful while others have no idea what they're talking about and only care about signing you up.

    For anyone w questions, you can e-mail me at ao32115@yahoo but honestly, you'd probably be able to find any answer that I can give you simply by researching your question online.

  18. "I was wondering if you could give tips on emigrating."

    I don't understand the large percentage of the scamblogosphere who are equally obsessed with libertarian politics and emigrating to socialist countries where their tax dollars will purchase them publically provided health care and allow their babies to be born in hospitals. Here you have no politcal interests beyond tax reduction and eliminating government intervention anywhere you find it. But instead of enjoying your concealed weapons and freedom to live as a slave to Aetna and Bank of America for your health insurance and "education," you spend your waking hours trying to figure out how to sneak your worthless law degree into Canada or some other country where they won't let you starve in the street when you fail. What about stateless havens like Somalia or Arizona?

  19. 10:44,

    I never went to law school and so I'm not really a part of the scamblogosphere. I have, however, emigrated to Canada, as I said above.

    I understand that the political discourse in America has become so hyper-polarized that people are either completely for government or completely against it, with no middle ground. However, in a civilized country, this dichotomy would be a false one. I believe the more important distinction is between good forms of government intervention and bad forms. Yes, we have a choice in how we want the government to act (or, at least, we should have a choice!).

    I personally do want to see government support for education. However, I don't think student loans are the right way to provide support. In most countries (and also in the US prior to about 1980), government supports public universities directly, with direct funding. The government funding helps to keep tuition low, thereby making education accessible to the general public. Not coincidentally, the postwar decades leading up to 1980 were something of a golden age for US higher education.

    More recently, however, the trend in the US has been to decrease direct funding for public education, and instead rely increasingly on student loans. The easy availability of money for loans causes tuitions to increase (simple consequence of supply and demand). This approach hurts public affordability rather than helps. It's worse for the student and worse for the taxpayer. The only party that benefits is the lender. When a single special interest can hijack the law to the detriment of all other parties (including the taxpayer), it's a sign that the political system is fundamentally broken.

    I've seen the damage that student loans can do. I have no intention of letting my kids borrow money for education. This means I have to compete (literally) with people using Sallie Mae to pay their tuitions. It would be much better for me if the government would go back to directly funding public universities. Fortunately, I have the option of the Canadian university system, where the government (for the most part) still funds its schools.

    I'm not complaining by any means. My loans are paid off. I didn't study law (thank god) and I wasn't scammed by my school. The only reason I'm here is because I care about the integrity and health of the education system. I made my own personal choice, bet my family and career on moving to Canada, and I accept the consequences, which have been mostly good. Maybe you call that socialism, but to me it's the ultimate individual liberty: the right to choose to live in another country. I feel no obligation to stay aboard a sinking ship with the Tea Party sabotaging the crew. If that's the price to pay for the US system, then maybe socialism isn't such a bad thing after all.

  20. There's so much propaganda out there. I remember an article I read (NY Times, I think) about student loan debt which suggested that students be "educated" in how to budget their money better. Right. As though we students are somehow being "irresponsible" by taking out the loans.

    We take the loans out because, after taking responsibility by admitting we haven't the money to pay the tuition, and therefore, asking for help by filling out the financial aid forms, we're offered loans as a form of financial "aid." These loans are offered by the so-called financial aid office that knows full well that we're young and uneducated and low-income. So who's really being irresponsible?

  21. I too am interested in leaving the country. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

  22. @madbaglady 10:43,

    From reading your blog, it seems that you're poor. Nothing wrong with that, except that it makes immigration nearly impossible, at least to any first-world country. Here's how it is in Canada, where I live. In other countries the details might differ but the general outline remains the same. Note that I'm talking about permanent immigration, not temporary visits, which any American without a felony record can do anytime.

    In Canada the "normal" filing fee is $550 or more just to have them consider your application for immigration. The only exception to this fee is for refugee applications, but there is a treaty that says Americans can't apply as refugees unless they have Canadian family, existing Canadian status, or are facing the death penalty.

    In addition, unless you have a Canadian job offer in hand, there is an administrative requirement that you have $10000+ of liquid net assets both when you apply and when you arrive.

    Another potential pitfall for would-be immigrants is the medical exam. In the US, the medical exam is for making sure that you don't have any communicable diseases that would be a threat to public health, like tuberculosis or bubonic plague. In Canada, where health care is taxpayer-funded, the medical exam has a second goal: to screen for people who are likely to represent a financial burden on the health-care system. This means that conditions like diabetes or autism are grounds for exclusion. Unfortunately poor people are the ones most likely to have existing medical problems that would burden the system.

    As I said in an earlier post, it's generally a good idea to apply for immigrant status while you still have some resources, rather than waiting until you get totally desperate. If nothing else it will make the application process go more smoothly.



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