The scam blog and law school
transparency movements have exposed the JD as a flat-out bad decision for many
(if not most) would-be law students.
That is, many graduates won’t find lawyer jobs, and those who do might not be
able to pay back the debt they had to incur to graduate. That will lead many new law grads to consider
hanging out their own shingle, i.e., self-employment. And most of these new solo practitioners will
have to take whatever work that comes through the door, which typically includes
criminal defense, juvenile, and traffic cases.
(Sorry, new solos: maritime law, sports law, space law, and
international law will be nothing more than fond law school memories.) But how lucrative is this bread-and-butter type
of work? To answer that question, I will
quote an email I recently received advertising an “advocate counsel” position
in Racine County, Wisconsin
(located between Milwaukee and Chicago
and just north of where I practice).
Here’s the scoop:
With very few lawyer jobs
available for their armies of graduates, many law schools are trying to
“innovate” and make their curriculum “practice ready” to give their new grads a
leg up in the job market. Aside from
whether today’s law schools are capable of such genuine curriculum redesign,
one prof recently wrote that law schools should simply stop such efforts, and
instead “change the conversation.” This
prof argues that attempts to innovate are essentially admissions that the
traditional law school approach — reading case law — is no longer valuable. Instead, he argues, law schools should market
/ sell / discuss what they’re good at: “teaching students how to read cases
with the requisite degree of care.” Now,
while I suspect that many of today’s practice-ready reform efforts are just
marketing campaigns designed to compete for a shrinking number of law school applicants,
the prof’s defense of the status quo also has some flaws
— though they could easily be corrected.
One day in the fall of 1997 during my first semester of law school, I was standing in my parents’ kitchen while taking a break
from reading casebooks. I was channel surfing on a small television that my mom kept in the cabinet above the
refrigerator, and stumbled upon the show that Entertainment
Weekly would soon label the best on television: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (DVDs available here.) Back
in 1997, the internet was just coming into its own, and the episode’s subtext
was a debate between the stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways school librarian Mr. Giles, and
the hip, sexy computer science teacher Ms. Calendar. Ms. Calendar was trying to convince Giles
that books were a thing of the distant past and that information shouldn’t be
bound-up, but instead should be virtual. Giles disagreed.