Law grads are angry

They say that law schools and banks are running a scam. “Dishonest” law schools report misleading employment data, which lures prospective students into the profession like “hapless lemmings” to their death. The “greedy” banks happily give the students oppressive loans to pay for the exorbitant tuition fees. And then the students graduate to discover that the high-paying salaries and jobs are just not there.

“It’s really just a ponzi scheme,” Scott Bullock told the New Jersey Star-Ledger in August. “They’re just cranking kids out for $45,000 a year.”

Bullock was, until recently, one of a dozen or more law school scam bloggers. The 2005 graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law stopped his blog soon after the Star-Ledger story revealed his identity, but not before thousands of readers visited his site.

And his was not the most popular. Shilling Me Softly, a blog by Kimber Russell, a 2008 graduate from DePaul University College of Law, has attracted almost 30,000 visitors in just over three months. Third Tier Reality is the most visited site to date, with more than 100,000 visitors since it launched more than a year ago.

“There are elements of fraud and misrepresentation,” said Fernando Rodriguez, who authors the blog. “The cost is the biggest thing that upsets us. If tuition was more reasonable, it would not be such a scam.”

Rodriguez, who graduated from Drake University Law School in 2008, said his goal, and the goal of most scam bloggers, is to warn prospective students of the dangers of an overpriced legal education. He says it is one of the only things disgruntled recent graduates can do to fight the problem.

While some have referred to these critics as a “deeply unhappy” minority, William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law, said the anger and frustration is real.

“The new math of legal education is grim reading for the large number of today’s law students and new lawyers earning less than they need to meet their loan payments,” Henderson wrote in a recent article. “Prospective law students need better information about the legal marketplace. Law school brochures are filled with glossy pictures of alumni at large law firms. Many law schools fail to provide the complete picture of what their graduates do and how much they earn.”

 

Last year two Vanderbilt law students started an effort — Law School Transparency — to collect more accurate employment data from law schools. The students, Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee, unveiled their plans to schools this summer. In August, another recent graduate, Zenovia Evans, waged a nearly month-long hunger strike to support their cause. While her strike was ridiculed even by some of the scam bloggers, her action shows just how deep the anger and frustration has grown. 

The jury is out on whether Law School Transparency’s efforts will succeed. But most agree that it has added to an overall conversation among professors and deans on the matter.

In August, Brian Tamanaha, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis wrote a wake-up call to his peers (read it on page 6).

“Law professors know there is a problem,” Tamanaha said. “We see students. We know about the heavy debt burdens. I am just the guy who wrote about this one afternoon to prompt some collective conversation.”

The conversation may be making some progress. The American Bar Association accreditation committee has announced that as part of an overall review of its standards, it will look closely at employment data.

But the scam bloggers say the ABA is unlikely to make substantial change.

“If they really feel the pressure they may institute some change,” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t think it would be long term. More of a band-aid approach to make it look like there is real change when there is not."

Read the full story in the 2010 October issue of The National Jurist

 

By Jack Crittenden, published in the 2010 October issue of The National Jurist.

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