Don’t Go to Law School — Find Out Why

by Crane-Station

While Fred works on another post, I will share this for readers who are interested in the subject of law school and higher education.

These videos are satires that address the God-awful truth about graduating from law school into a declining economy. Many graduates, even from top-tier law schools are saddled with debt and unable to find any meaningful legal work. It is very frustrating for many who have dedicated many years to higher education, only to be forced to work in unrelated, low-paying jobs upon graduation.

There are also some unethical and predatory practices among some of the start-up law schools. I have personal interest in this subject, because my husband, who is the blog owner here, Frederick Leatherman, was enticed to teach, along with many others, at a start-up law school in this area. He became a whistle-blower on some egregious corruption that involved, among other things, the deans stealing thousands of dollars in student loan money from students. When Fred became aware of the unethical practices and counseled students to seek placement at other law schools, he was fired from his job. The school subsequently closed and filed for bankruptcy; many of Fred’s students did go on to graduate from other schools and are practicing law today. As it turns out, the situation at the school I have just described is not all that unusual.

For further reading on the subject please visit the discussion over at Professor Paul Campos’ blog Inside the Law School Scam:



64 Responses to Don’t Go to Law School — Find Out Why

  1. Brown says:

    follow thread

  2. Swamp Rabbit says:

    Reading the above, it drives home how important the career services office is at a given law school (plus alumni networking & reputation). If I were choosing between schools, I would put a lot of weight on that component of the comparison.

    My daughter is a 2L and has just gone through two weeks of on grounds interviews with over twenty firms. This is for a paying job for next summer which usually turns into the first job after graduation. Career services seems to have the process down to a science.

    Even though the job after the 1L year is usually unpaid, she had clerkship offers from two DA’s offices and two international opportunities. A clerkship with the UN is a big plus on a CV.

    Anyway, it looks like a strong career services office makes this all much easier and puts less of the burden of “hustling” on the student. They still do have to sell themselves and keep on top of the process, though.


  3. edgySF says:

    Great post…thanks for the brutal truth. I know of several lawyers out of work or underemployed.

    But…I still think a JD is valuable. Perhaps not in a law firm, though. Knowing the American legal system is a powerful tool. It can benefit people in many, many fields.

    My philosophy is to follow your heart — do and study what you love. Don’t go to law school just to get rich. You’ll be miserable. Go to law school because you’re passionate about it, and want to learn it inside out.

  4. Two sides to a story says:

    Heck, sounds like a law degree is more practical than my MA in Creative Writing, LOL!

  5. fauxmccoy says:

    hmmmmm…. now you have given me something to really think about on a personal level. i live in chico (far north california) and although there is a decent state university here, not much available for post grad work. i actually was planning on going to the small non-accredited law school here once kids are off to college. the school does have a good reputation locally, an incredibly high rate of students who pass the bar on their first attempts and i know people who have attended. the fact that they were not accredited was negligible for me because i have no real career path as a disabled person – this is just something i wanted to do for my own sweet self.

    law school was my original goal when i graduated with an anthro major with minors in both spanish and california studies and i intended to do public interest work. i supported myself through school as a returning student working in my local battered womens shelter as well as at the food co-op, mostly working with beautiful organic produce then eventually becoming the general manager. i intended to do public interest work helping migrant farm workers or battered women as that is where my passion is.

    but now, i probably need to put more thought into it. i would actually appreciate any input from any of the kindly barristers who post here regularly.

  6. Bill Taylor says:

    for years i have been telling people DONT go $200,000 in debt to go to college……2 examples, one kid i graduated high school with sent to work for the railroad as a brakeman the monday after graduation, he never moved up from that starting job BUT 30 years later at age 48 he retired with a very nice income for LIFE…another kid went to work bagging groceries at Kroger, 30 years later he retired as manager of the meat department and again has a very nice income for LIFE….

    college as has been sold to student for decades is not worth anywhere near what it costs today.

    btw i did go to college and paid my own way with athletic scholarships and later the GI bill after serving during viet nam, i am in no way knocking the concept of education as i see life itself as a long learning process, but i still say a basic college degree is NOT worth going $200,000 in debt.

    • You make a very good point here, Bill. It is incredibly ugly out there right now for new grads. Huge debt, very few job prospects, hopelessness, no stability, no benefits. Just awful. Thank you for sharing these experiences.

      • KA says:

        Crane, I am not sure if your son is still single or not or have household responsibilities, but two of my sons (not the law school ones) have been involved in AmeriCorps programs. They were in their last year of college as they are typically one year commitments. One completed his internship as a direct care counselor at a youth homeless shelter in August and started the a new full time job as a Child Treatment Counselor a few weeks later at a group home fro emotionally disadvantaged children. His year of experience gave him some certifications and a lot of experience to get the job. The program also allows deferment of all student loans, and pays 6K for additional school or to pay off loans at the end of the year. They pay room and board and give a living stipend of 12K per year that is not taxable. It is like the domestic peace corps and the positions range heavily and with his law degree, he would probably get a law oriented position assisting with something is his chosen field. Our other (non law school) son is in St Louis at an urban mission working with kids in an afternoon literacy program and food bank in his last year of school.

        Anyway, it seems the AmeriCorps experience is serving them and was able to get my one son a job immediately after his internship in his field and degree area.

        • OMG, far out! Thank you. I will pass it along. What wonderful things they are doing, you must be so proud!

        • fauxmccoy says:

          it sounds like you have raised some wonderful children – as i am sure they are not working at such programs just for selfish interests. thanks also for the great info on AmeriCorps – they are a great organization!

      • KA says:

        Oh, it also included health and dental insurance for the year…it is an amazing program. Let’s hope it survives the election 🙂 IT has typically been bipartisan and has a 17 year history, but unfortunately, it is on the chopping block in the conservatives budget. It is [quite literally] the backbone of our social/charitable system in this country.Let’s hope it stays around…

      • KA says:

        They are good kids, but the program also just makes sense for them and is really about giving to the community. Although both sons are in a school specifically designed for urban missions, the situations my one son made a huge impact on him as a person. The shelter he worked with was 40 – 50% LGBT youth from 13 – 21 that had been kicked out of their homes, many addicted, and several that had to “turn tricks” for basic living. He had not worked with that population much in his life and the empathy and advocacy he learned was really good for him. The home he works at is tough. We have a son newly adopted from there. They have a 50% disruption rate in adoptions (and I know is tough ). To my intern son, they are so much easier than the youth “street kid” population that he works with ease. AmeriCorps offered him an experience he would not have had otherwise.

        I do not think they have made a good effort with PR. There are a lot of positions with limited applicants. It is a great program for anyone in that position.

    • KA says:

      I agree with the not going into debt Bill, but I will also say I do not think getting “ground up” experience is as easy as it used to be. A college degree (at least a BA/BS) seems almost entry requirement anymore. I do think there are cheaper ways of going to school and I do not think top tier schools are needed for most positions today. Most state universities are more than adequate education anymore. Starting with community college and building up is a perfectly adequate way of getting a degree anymore for almost any bachelors level job anymore. I also think specialized PG Certs can be a first line verses getting a generic MA. I do not think generic MBAs, MAs, or top tier BAs have the weight they used to. Most top tier business schools have online programs that hold the same merit (outside of networking, of course). It has weakened the impact of the seal of the diploma I believe. It is much more common to see a MIT MBA or Harvard MBA than it used to. Sometimes, they are really not looked at anymore favorable than a person from a lower tier school that has specialization and/or experience.

      There is also AmeriCorps (provided it is not cut out with the latest proposed GOP budget) that gives living expense, housing, experience, and college money for a year of service. It has been quite helpful for our family and is a Godsend to this nation.

  7. @KA

    Just spoke to my son and got some things here. He says your son is actually in a good position to start working on this work thing now, but it is absolutely imperative that he get on it now.

    Name of game is specialty.

    Pick 2 or 3 areas of specialization that are really interesting. Make that a specialty. Do an internship, full time during school with a small firm if possible. Not just a summer internship, a during-the-year type thing. Pick courses tailored to this specialization.

    Start now. Slam the market with resumes and beg attorneys to do research with them for free. Kick ass at the work. Write articles if at all possible.

    End result: “I am the fucking man when it comes to such-and-such specific specialty of law. This is what I have wanted to do from square one, and I am an expert at it. I have written articles in this specialty with so-and-so, and here are my writing samples.”

    Government jobs, posted at USA Jobs, are almost impossible to get right now. They typically get 400 applications for each position that they intend to hire internally for anyway, but post just to cover themselves. The competition for gov’t jobs right now is roughly equivalent to winning the lottery.

    My son explains that this has been his experience. I think he also monitors CraigsList pretty closely.

    • KA says:

      I assume he is on LinkedIn? That is the new Every single recruiter contact I have had has come from LinkedIn over the past two years. There is no substitute.

      Thank you for speaking with him. My son is doing a part time internship with an immigration and civil attorney. He is a little irritated that it is unpaid, but I told him it is better than nothing and the attorney throws him a small check every once and a while. The attorney is pretty innovative in his approach on immigration and I think my son is learning a lot.

      He married his college girlfriend from Japan. She graduated here from a state university, but still had nightmare experiences with immigration that were just resolved after almost 2 years. He has a lot of passion in that area and it is an area he can do a lot of good with. I would like to see him do it if he could.

      He also loved Torts class and was very interested in the cases they studied. He also did a mock court with a armed robbery case. He ended up winning. He really just loves law school and what he is learning. I want it to work out for him.

      I understand on the government jobs. I do know the Media bureau chief of the FCC has been without a legal adviser for a while. I am not sure if he would be interested or the cause of the vacancy.

      Best of all to you and your son. If he is not on LinkedIn, he should be. I am happy to connect with him there if he needs assistance building up his LinkedIn network.

      • Yes, he is on Linkedln.

        Sounds like your son is on a very good track, and even though it is unsettling not to be getting paid, it is apparently the new norm. It sounds like possibly the immigration and civil specialties may be an excellent fit, if that is what he chooses. Also sounds as if he would be an excellent trial lawyer. Mock court is not easy to win!

        I will also copy this message and send it as well, really good stuff, thank you.

  8. EveryoneIsEntitledToTheirOpinion says:

    Let’s see if Mark O’Mara has tried other cases under her. If not, she might be good for G Zimmerman and his mulitple versions of what happen that dreadful night.

    Be careful what you ask for you might just get it….

    • KA says:

      Let’s hope the celebrating is short lived in the Z camp…I cannot imagine them getting away with filing for recusal a third time.

      • Rachael says:

        “She does not suffer fools,” said Hyde. “If you’ve got an excuse, it’d better be a good one.”

      • Rachael says:

        However, she is also the judge presiding over GZ’s wife’s case. Would that be a conflict of interest?

      • KA says:

        I saw an attorney say it was not. I suspect if it is, she will get the new judge, not GZ.

        She is also a child advocate with several awards and won the State’s Attorney Leadership Award in 2010.

        I am not sure that the Z camp should be rejoicing. I suspect she will have have motions immediately to consider as I am sure O’Mara will start filing for ruling on every decision that did not go his way.

      • KA says:

        I want what she will think when Judge Lester asked of the defense information on the Paypal account on April 27th in a hearing when he announced the money and by June 1st heard NOTHING from the defense and he acted like he was off guard when the State brought it in…

        To me that is utter incompetence on the defense to “assume” it will be forgotten. I am sure he knew the State would be looking at it.

      • Rachael says:

        @KA – She has handed down some really strict sentences and yes, is a very strong advocate for children.

        Here is some info:

      • PYorck says:

        However, she is also the judge presiding over GZ’s wife’s case. Would that be a conflict of interest?

        I don’t think so because she won’t end up on two opposing sides in the same case. Note that at least nominally both Zimmermans have the same prosecutor, too. The same defense would be much more problematic because there is a real chance that GZ, SZ and even O’Mara personally put the blame on each other explicitly or implicitly. A judge isn’t forced to take sides like that.

      • KA says:

        April 27th Judge Lester requested information on Zimmerman’s finances to determine the State’s issue.

        Judge Lester also denied a State request for a gag order.

        The Defense never delivered that. June 1st the State brought in proof that he had adequate finances in his account to cover any bail up to 1.3M.

        O’Mara acted surprised and asked for more time to review the information. Lester denied the time.

        So most decisions went the to the Defense until June 1st. The only rulings since have been around bail and conditions (in which they were not truthful).

        I cannot believe it constituted bias.

        Hopefully this judge sees the theatrics fro what they are…

  9. TM says:

    Crane-Station, Are law books constantly being updated or are laws pretty much the same now as ever. Although valued, If one is real good at it, Googling can make anyone appear to know what they are talking about, but somewhere along the way there are slip ups which can be pretty embarrassing interpretations, etc.

    • I will have to ask Fred, but from what I know, law books with case reports must be constantly updated.

      • Crane~~thanks for the interesting post. I am much too old to consider getting into law and my girls already have their chosen careers. I am very interested in the law, especially criminal law so settle for being an armchair detective. I just rely on google and stalking Vicky to keep up with the laws. The state of Florida has the most complicated laws that I have run into.

      • Rachael says:

        I can relate Mainstreamfair. Not just my age but the $$s. Sigh.

    • There are many different types of law books that are published.

      The basic set that law libraries and courts use consist of:

      1. A multi-volume set of the state statutes with annotations (i.e., list of cases that cited the particular statute under consideration and a brief summary of the holding).

      2. A multi-volume set of the federal statutes with annotations (i.e., list of cases that cited the particular statute under consideration and a brief summary of the holding).

      3. A multi-volume set of state supreme court decisions.

      4. A multi-volume set of state court of appeals decisions.

      5. A multi-volume set of U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

      6.. A multi-volume set of decisions by the applicable federal circuit court of appeals.

      Each of these sets are regularly updated.

      Statutes are updated with pocket parts containing new legislation, amendments of existing legislation, and recent cases that slide into a flap inside the rear cover of the hardback cover.

      Cases are updated by issuing paperback volumes containing new cases.

  10. KA says:

    What are your thoughts on an LLM? It seems to be significantly less money and can still work in regulatory, corporate, compliance, etc.

  11. KA says:

    Too late, I have a kid in his 2nd year. With an undergraduate in History and now in the midst of law school, there is not much he can do now.

    He has not finalized his area of law yet, I know he is looking at programs that “forgive” his student loans over a period of years for taking on a lower pay in a public role. His student loans in total for the undergrad and grad school are now at 80K with another year of school to go.

    Any suggestions on areas of law that are more advantageous in this economy than others? He is considering immigration law I know for one.

    • KA says:

      eco/conservation law for two. Outside of sports law (he has always been a fan, but realizes he is already behind and lacks the right connections for that) those are the two areas he is drawn to.

    • Vicky says:

      I would go for business, labor or corporate law, with a strong understanding of government contracts. My husband owns a business, and has need for that type of legal advise on a regular basis.

      • KA says:

        I was also thinking education as last year I had to contact an attorney last year about another’s sons IEP. It was $400 an hour and it was hard to get an appointment with 3 week waiting time.

    • If you figure anything out let me know. My son graduated and is facing the same dilemma.

      One thing that I threw out there as a suggestion, is, if a person can combine legal with health care-technical, and possibly consider study for the patent bar, go for a medical company job.

      Other things to consider, for what it’s worth: the government or the military. I know, I know. But you know. What are you gonna do?

      If the EPA still exists in the future, for example, maybe your son could try to see what they have.

    • gbrbsb says:

      Private debt, financial fraud, employment law, property law, (foreclosures), unfortunately first come to mind! (Sorry if a bit ominous but maybe its just over here things don’t look so good).

  12. hinkster4ever says:

    Whoopee it showed up here…is not showing up on the other one…titled Zimmerman update. Great job Crane! Ty for your insights into everything your input is valued and I love your articles!

    • gbrbsb says:

      Whoopee for me too as mine nestled under yours… whoopee!

      Not that I am not interested in this post Crane but do hope “Zimmerman update” works properly again soon.

      • aussie says:

        Usually when a WordPress blog breaks, it is only the one page or thread. It doesn’t affect the others. The Zimmerman Update one looks sick and probably won’t come good again, but this and future ones should be ok.

        Unfortunately, barring someone seems to be one cause (WP can’t handle re-aligning the remainders when one set of posts are scrubbed).

      • gbrbsb says:

        Thanks aussie, I can go back to leaving out name and time then.

  13. hinkster4ever says:

    My posts are not showing up 😦

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