Lawyers earning $10/hr????????

Discussion in 'Economics' started by misterno, Feb 2, 2011.


    If there is ever a class in how to remain calm while trapped beneath $250,000 in loans, Michael Wallerstein ought to teach it.

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    Here he is, sitting one afternoon at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a tall, sandy-haired, 27-year-old radiating a kind of surfer-dude serenity. His secret, if that's the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash.

    "And I don't open the e-mail alerts with my credit score," he adds. "I can't look at my credit score any more."

    Mr. Wallerstein, who can't afford to pay down interest and thus watches the outstanding loan balance grow, is in roughly the same financial hell as people who bought more home than they could afford during the real estate boom. But creditors can't foreclose on him because he didn't spend the money on a house.

    He spent it on a law degree. And from every angle, this now looks like a catastrophic investment.

    [See the 20 Worst-Paying College Degrees]

    Well, every angle except one: the view from law schools. To judge from data that law schools collect, and which is published in the closely parsed U.S. News and World Report annual rankings, the prospects of young doctors of jurisprudence are downright rosy.

    In reality, and based on every other source of information, Mr. Wallerstein and a generation of J.D.'s face the grimmest job market in decades. Since 2008, some 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have vanished, according to a Northwestern Law study. Associates have been laid off, partners nudged out the door and recruitment programs have been scaled back or eliminated.

    And with corporations scrutinizing their legal expenses as never before, more entry-level legal work is now outsourced to contract temporary employees, both in the United States and in countries like India. It's common to hear lawyers fret about the sort of tectonic shift that crushed the domestic steel industry decades ago.

    But improbably enough, law schools have concluded that life for newly minted grads is getting sweeter, at least by one crucial measure. In 1997, when U.S. News first published a statistic called "graduates known to be employed nine months after graduation," law schools reported an average employment rate of 84 percent. In the most recent U.S. News rankings, 93 percent of grads were working — nearly a 10-point jump.

    In the Wonderland of these statistics, a remarkable number of law school grads are not just busy — they are raking it in. Many schools, even those that have failed to break into the U.S. News top 40, state that the median starting salary of graduates in the private sector is $160,000. That seems highly unlikely, given that Harvard and Yale, at the top of the pile, list the exact same figure.

    How do law schools depict a feast amid so much famine?

    "Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm," says William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves. "Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty."

    IT is an open secret, Professor Henderson and others say, that schools finesse survey information in dozens of ways. And the survey's guidelines, which are established not by U.S. News but by the American Bar Association, in conjunction with an organization called the National Association for Law Placement, all but invite trimming.

    A law grad, for instance, counts as "employed after nine months" even if he or she has a job that doesn't require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee's? You're employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You're working, too.

    Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it.

    They are also cash cows.

    Tuition at even mediocre law schools can cost up to $43,000 a year. Those huge lecture-hall classes — remember "The Paper Chase"? — keep teaching costs down. There are no labs or expensive equipment to maintain. So much money flows into law schools that law professors are among the highest paid in academia, and law schools that are part of universities often subsidize the money-losing fields of higher education.

    [See How One College Student Beat Tuition Costs]

    "If you're a law school and you add 25 kids to your class, that's a million dollars, and you don't even have to hire another teacher," says Allen Tanenbaum, a lawyer in Atlanta who led the American Bar Association's commission on the impact of the economic crisis on the profession and legal needs. "That additional income goes straight to the bottom line."

    There were fewer complaints about fudging and subsidizing when legal jobs were plentiful. But student loans have always been the financial equivalent of chronic illnesses because there is no legal way to shake them. So the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses. You can sample their rage, and their admonitions, on what are known as law school scam blogs, with names like Shilling Me Softly, Subprime JD and Rose Colored Glasses.

    "Avoid this overpriced sewer pit as if your life depended on it," writes the anonymous author of the blog Third Tier Reality — a reference to the second-to-bottom tier of the U.S. News rankings — in a typically scatological review. "Unless, of course, you think that you will be better off with $110k-$190k in NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt for a degree that qualifies you to wait tables at the Battery Park Bar and Lounge."

    [See Digging Out of Student Debt]

    But so far, the warnings have been unheeded. Job openings for lawyers have plunged, but law schools are not dialing back enrollment. About 43,000 J.D.'s were handed out in 2009, 11 percent more than a decade earlier, and the number of law schools keeps rising — nine new ones in the last 10 years, and five more seeking approval to open in the future.
  2. All he needs to do is start practicing law. Start his OWN practice instead of looking to work for some firm. Set up an office or work from home.
    Go start doing Personal Injury or Bankruptcy/Foreclosure work, Tax Consulting, Real Estate....pick an area of law you like and start practicing.
    The dude got a law degree but he isn't a go getter.
  3. feng456


    exactly...too many nowadays expect to go to school and have a job handed to them on a silver platter.
  4. BSAM


    Lawyers suck.
  5. S2007S


    This has to be the 98th forum post I have read about someone spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to school to come out and only find themselves in a position making near minimum wage...

    I have been hearing a lot about people going back to school to retrain themselves to do something new because maybe the job they had just 5 years ago doesn't exist today. The problem with that is that we hear what fields are good to go into, but by the time you spend your money to get your degree over the next 3-5 years those jobs either become slowly filled or there is no longer a need for that position. The days where you could start a job at 18 and retire by 62 in the same position doesn't happen anymore. Those days are over, there is NO such thing as job security. Dont let the fools tell you there is because there isn't.
  6. Americans have become soft. with the helicopter parenting the little leagues that have no score and kids who have to be pampered all their lives because parents are weak.

    America is becoming soft.
  7. Part of that is the fault of the schools. I don't know if you have any Art schools advertising in your area, but this has always been a problem. Sell calls that people want to talk on the vague hope that it will lead to a dream career. This has become a growing problem with recent advancement of for-profit higher education.

    Part of the problem is the US higher education funding mechanism. When things were primarily funded by grants and scholarships, the payor had a strong incentive to qualify the student and the school. Also businesses donate money to schools where they were getting good research results and well-fitting recruits.

    The new US higher education model is non-dischargeable debt. The payor gets the money from the fed one way or another, and makes a stink until they get their money back. The system is designed for the student, who is taking the risk, to make good, realistic decisions about what they are capable of doing and what school will provide the best educational return. Since 18-year old have a well-documented lack of good judgment, this is the same farce as giving your employees a 401K menu with only high-fee items. Deniable, economic exploitation.

    Part of the problem is the economy. It simply isn't producing jobs.

    Part of the problem is social. People are looking the white-collar version of the manufacturing line-worker. Can you say, "How may I help you?" in Hindi? I can't.

    Part of the problem is with the culture. I was and am a go-getter. Very few of the kids in my community are interested in working. Celebrity, fame, riches, for sure.

    If you really tell a college-bound high-school grad, to skip that degree in political science and get a job. Do you think that anyone will thank you? Party!

    Higher education has, for many, become just another scam which our families and kids are happy to ignore.
  8. clacy


    I'm fine with the lawyer bubble pop'ing. the last thing we need in the country are more over-paid, ambulance chasers. Anyone who has ever owned their own business understands what a drain our legal system is on companies. So much time and money is spent in the effort to prevent frivolous law suits. This of course is passed on to all consumers.

    About 85% of the legal profession is just a worthless wealth transfer.
  9. pupu



    The Us is producing something else beside dollars!

    Bright new future here we come!
  10. You have to chase ambulances to pay those debts off. If I owed $250k on law school, I would go out and buy a portable police scanner for a hundred bucks, and everytime I heard an accident had happened, I would rush to the scene before the ambulance even got there.

    Every auto accident a lawyer generally gets about $5k or so from the insurance settlement if its a not so bad accident. Just do that 500 times and you've paid for law school. 2 a day for a year. Heck, I knew someone who got hit by a car and she had to have a major operation. She got a settlement for $160k and the lawyer got $50k out of that.

    There are about 3 people injured in car accidents every day in a city of 100,000 people and 1 death every 2 weeks in the same town.

    If you get even 2% of all that business, you will make over $100k per year.
    #10     Feb 2, 2011