No room at the bench

C150J

Well-Known Member
#1
Sound familiar?


http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-greenbaum8-2010jan08,0,4457698.story?track=rss

Opinion

No more room at the bench

The American Bar Assn. allows unneeded new law schools to open and refuses to regulate them. The government should consider taking steps to stop the flow of attorneys into a saturated marketplace.

By Mark Greenbaum

January 8, 2010


Remember the old joke about 20,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea being "a good start"? Well, in an interesting twist, thousands of lawyers now find themselves drowning in the unemployment line as the legal sector is being badly saturated with attorneys.



Part of 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.

From 2004 through 2008, the field grew less than 1% per year on average, going from 735,000 people making a living as attorneys to just 760,000, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics postulating that the field will grow at the same rate through 2016. Taking into account retirements, deaths and that the bureau's data is pre-recession, the number of new positions is likely to be fewer than 30,000 per year. That is far fewer than what's needed to accommodate the 45,000 juris doctors graduating from U.S. law schools each year.

This jobs gap is even more problematic given the rising cost of tuition. In 2008, the median tuition at state schools for nonresidents was $26,000 a year, and $34,000 for private schools -- and much higher in some states, such as California. Students racked up an average loan debt in 2007-08 of $59,000 for students from public law schools and $92,000 for those from private schools, according to the ABA, and a recent Law School Survey of Student Engagement found that nearly one-third of respondents said they would owe about $120,000.

Such debt would be manageable if a world of lucrative jobs awaited the newly minted attorneys, but this is not the case. A recent working paper by Herwig Schlunk of Vanderbilt Law School contends that with the exception of some of those at the best schools, going for a law degree is a bad investment and that most students will be "unlikely ever to dig themselves out from" under their debt. This problem is exacerbated by the existing law school system.



Despite the tough job market, new schools continue to sprout like weeds. Today there are 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S., with more on the way, as many have been awarded provisional accreditation. In California alone, there are 21 law schools that are either accredited or provisionally accredited, including the new one at UC Irvine.





The ABA cites antitrust concerns in refusing to block new schools, taking a weak approach to regulation. For example, in 2008 the ABA created an accreditation task force to study the need for changes, but saddled it with a narrow charter. In the end, it proposed only cosmetic changes and rejected out of hand the possibility of giving up control over accreditation, calling the idea not viable and "draconian."



The task force also raised the possibility that if the ABA gave up its accreditation authority, the Federalist Society, a conservative-leaning interest group, could take over that job. This is an intellectually dishonest red herring, likely injected to divert attention from the idea's merits. The Federalist Society would have no reason to do this because the technical, expensive accrediting process does not gibe with its mission, nor would the Department of Education be likely to give it such authority.

The ABA has also refused to create and oversee an independent method of reporting graduate data. Postgraduate employment information generally provides the most useful facts for prospective students to study in deciding whether to go to law school.



In many cases, the data that schools now furnish are based on self-reported information, skewing the results because unemployed and low-paying grads are less likely to report back. Law schools do this because they want the rosiest picture possible for the influential rankings given by U.S. News & World Report. Despite its ample resources, the ABA has rebuffed calls to monitor the schools to get more accurate data, calling the existing framework an effective "honor system."





Based on what happened with the accreditation task force, the ABA is not likely to force change; it is too intertwined with the law schools. ABA groups -- such as the task force, which was chaired by a former dean -- are stacked with school officials who have no incentive to change the status quo. This is why the ABA should get out of the accreditation business completely.





Unlike other professional fields such as medicine and public health, whose preeminent professional organizations do not have control over the accreditation of schools and programs, the ABA exercises unfettered power over the accreditation of law schools.



The American Dental Assn., the nation's leading dental group, offers a model for the ABA to follow. It accredits schools but assiduously guards the profession and has allowed respected dental schools such as the ones at Emory, Georgetown and Northwestern to close for economic reasons and to prevent market saturation. Such a move by the bar association would be unprecedented. Dental schools go even further to protect the profession's integrity by collectively boycotting the U.S. News rankings.



The U.S. Department of Education should strip the ABA of its accreditor status and give the authority to an organization that is free of conflicts of interest, such as the Assn. of American Law Schools or a new group. Although the AALS is made up of law schools, it is an independent, nonprofit, academic -- not professional -- group, which could be expected to maintain the viability and status of the profession, properly regulate law schools, curtail the opening of new programs and perhaps even shut down unneeded schools. The AALS has cast a very skeptical eye on for-profit schools, compared with the ABA's weak hands-off accreditation policies.



Although these would be unprecedented moves, they are necessary. The legal profession must be saved from itself.

Mark Greenbaum is an attorney and writer in Washington. E-mail: markgreenbaum@gmail.com


Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
#3
Not really sure how to gauge this, to be honest. Part of me thinks that there are attorneys out there that are angry that they've gone from making $400,000 a year to $350,000 a year and blame lower tiered schools for their depressed wages.

Only in the same breath, they say that students popping out of lower tier schools are worthless and will never get a job as attorneys, so the ABA should shut down those lower tier schools so only the "best and the brightest" at the "most elite schools" can take the best jobs. The elitism that goes on in the legal world is ridiculous, and if you don't pop out of a top 14 school, and in the top 10% of those classes, to some people you're lower than dirt and your degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Others don't get wrapped up in that load of crap, but I think the loudest voices are proponents of it. Basically I think some attorneys are pissed that "stupid people" are "stealing their jobs," and instead of looking at why attorneys coming out of lower tier schools are doing well, they're doing everything they can to shore up their positions and use class envy at every turn if possible to attempt to do so.

Additionally, there has been a shift recently in how graduates are placed. It used to be that if you were in the top 10% of a class, you were funneled into high paying, big firm positions. Now? Not so much, and I think people are angry that you have to network yourself into a job.

The simple fact of the matter is that, just like getting your commercial pilots license, or 1,000 hours, or 1,000 hours of TPIC or whatever the metric of the day is, graduating with a J.D. and a good GPA will do nothing for you. Jobs, like in all parts of the economy, go to those who know people. Graduating in the middle of your class, while being incredibly well networked, might be a much better position to be in today than it was a few years ago.

Some people don't like this, and believe that a strong showing in law school entitles them to a job.

Sound familiar?

Different game, same rules; nobody owes you anything, you will get your job through networking, working hard isn't good enough and people need to like you. Don't like those rules? Well, sorry kid, life's tough and I had to go through the same struggles trying to find jobs flying airplanes as I will finding a job as an attorney.

Personally, I'm not too worried. I think I've got the formula figured out, and I'm not going to be complaining that I can't afford a Bentley 2 years after graduating from law school.
 

Cactus_Cutter

Well-Known Member
#4
Maybe the ABA can prop up the industry by promoting more White Trash TV Court programs much like H&G TV propped up the real estate industry...
 

kellwolf

Piece of Trash
#5
=

Different game, same rules
Certainly sounds like it. What next? Lawyer U? Courtroom Brief Professionals (CBP)? Come to our website! Tour our facilities! With our fast track program, we'll have you going from no experience to tackling trailer park property line disputes in less than 6 months!!!11!!1
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
#8
Certainly sounds like it. What next? Lawyer U? Courtroom Brief Professionals (CBP)? Come to our website! Tour our facilities! With our fast track program, we'll have you going from no experience to tackling trailer park property line disputes in less than 6 months!!!11!!1
Actually...they do kind of have you tackling trailer park property line disputes in less than 4 months, we covered that the first semester of property. We read no less than 3 cases about various things to do with trailer parks. I mean the issue was the property, but trailers happened to live on the property.
 

wheelsup

Well-Known Member
#9
This is just a natural cycle with what is going on in America. There are significantly more educated people in our country and job growth has been stagnant for the most part. Too bad the AMA has such a strangle hold on medical schools...

That being said I highly doubt newly minted lawyers are making $15k-$20k/yr like CFI's do and start @ $20k-ish per year as a new hire at a new job like many commuter pilots do.

I would bet most would be shocked to even make 3x that amount, and have to drive a 3 year old Honda.

As a high school student I would be thinking about some trades, such as HVAC, maybe a heavy diesel mechanic, possibly something to do drilling for water and oil, that is where you will see good employment in the future IMO. Everyone wants to "get my masters" (direct quote from my sister who thinks it is her answer to her prayers) and we increasing want to hire out work. I just bought a $250 car w/ a seized engine so I can learn to swap motors, I bet only one guy in my neighborhood has ever done such a thing and he's got an old vette in his driveway.
 

jtrain609

I'm a carnal, organic anagram.
#10
This is just a natural cycle with what is going on in America. There are significantly more educated people in our country and job growth has been stagnant for the most part. Too bad the AMA has such a strangle hold on medical schools...

That being said I highly doubt newly minted lawyers are making $15k-$20k/yr like CFI's do and start @ $20k-ish per year as a new hire at a new job like many commuter pilots do.
Law clerks make around $25,000 a year.

I would bet most would be shocked to even make 3x that amount, and have to drive a 3 year old Honda.
Depends on the school, I think where I'm going the average salary for a public interest attorney is $40,000 a year, and the average for private practice is something like $50,000 a year.

As a high school student I would be thinking about some trades, such as HVAC, maybe a heavy diesel mechanic, possibly something to do drilling for water and oil, that is where you will see good employment in the future IMO. Everyone wants to "get my masters" (direct quote from my sister who thinks it is her answer to her prayers) and we increasing want to hire out work. I just bought a $250 car w/ a seized engine so I can learn to swap motors, I bet only one guy in my neighborhood has ever done such a thing and he's got an old vette in his driveway.
 
#11
If Judge Judy opens a law school, I'm in!

Agree with the above statement: More educated people, less jobs. Technology and outsourcing replaces those jobs, and drives up the competition for what's available.
 

ppragman

Direct Yeska
#13
If Judge Judy opens a law school, I'm in!

Agree with the above statement: More educated people, less jobs. Technology and outsourcing replaces those jobs, and drives up the competition for what's available.
Price of progress amigo, maybe one day we'll realize that not everyone on earth can live the American lifestyle, and that really it was a short lived sham.

Education is a good thing, in fact, we need more education for everybody, but, the more people who are trained to do a given job, the less those jobs will pay. Problem is, if you get a BS in BS, what do you really bring to the workplace, there's no readily apparent practical application, and employers know that. Trades make money, so do degrees in mathematics, engineering, and technology. The degree in english or anthropology (what I'm switching to, because I'm interested in it) won't get you a job, it will broaden your horizons, it could make you a better person, but don't count on making money with your outdoor studies major unless you've got some skills to back it up.

I think we need to stray away from the idea that going to college makes you money, it doesn't, getting a job makes you money. Without education, your job prospects can be limited, but collegiate education should be for the purpose of creating critical thinkers, and expanding the horizons of interested adults, not for a job. First and foremost we want to create renaissance men and women, not employees.
 

Rudabega

Well-Known Member
#14
I just bought a $250 car w/ a seized engine so I can learn to swap motors, I bet only one guy in my neighborhood has ever done such a thing and he's got an old vette in his driveway.
Swaps are easy, the hard part is taking it apart and putting it back together with no left-overs.
 
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