Saturday, August 25, 2018

An Open Letter to Potential Law Students: The Truth is not the Truth

Hold yer nose and check this presumptuousness:
If you’re in it for the money, the truth is that very few lawyers will see those highly coveted and published $190,000 salaries as first-year associates.
This is just one of many, many quasi-truths in a piece full of them.  Have these cretins learned nothing from our current administration?  Truth is not always truth, bub.

For this particular passage, the twist rests in the initial dependent clause - if you're in it for the money.  Newsflash, here, but no one is in the legal industry for the money.  Truth.  Some of us signed up to carry justice on our backs.  Others were more interested in defending liberty.  Still more wanted to change the world.  But money?  Bitch, please, if we wanted money, we would've gone to MBA school.

Of course, had we gone to MBA school, we wouldn't make nearly as much money as we would going to an ABA-accredited law school, which provides a $2 million premium over homelessness.  And those 190k jobs are easy to nab for the true hustlers.  But no one goes to law school for the money.  We have higher purposes and if the train's voyage involves a few old fashioneds and oral gratification from 8s and 9s here and there, so be it.

The entire "open letter" has this sheen of collected rationality that is grossly undercut by true truth.  For example, the following things are totally false even though they look true:
"[L]awyers suffer from high rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide."
"Technology continues to supplant and replace much of the legal work traditionally performed by newly hired associates."
Yawn.  The world needs good lawyers, and good lawyers don't get no mental illness. Technology can't replace a good legal mind. They'll just replace the lowest quality legal jobs, the ones that lead mediocre lawyers to alcoholism and shooting people.  Yada yada yada.

But, to be fair, the article offers some dead-on accurate statements, some true truths:
"[B]eing a lawyer is still a noble profession"
"Consider night school or a lower-tier law school that offers scholarship options so that you can pay for law school as you go and avoid debt."
"Realize that the decision to attend law school is not a choice between right and wrong: It is a choice between right and right."
God, that feels nice.  I'm going to read it again, do some blow, and give my mistress a call to discuss when the truth is the truth or not.  You? You should go to law school.  I'm drinking at home on a Friday night and you can, too!

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Celebration of Glorious Indentured Servitude

In a feelgood news story, the internet sees a good comrade, celebrates:
After Nicole Medham, an attorney based in New York City, finished paying off her $180,000 student debt, she announced the news in a [tweet]...We asked Medham, who graduated law school in 2010 with $180,000 in loans, to explain her strategy.
The tl/dr version of this Super Dave Ramsey strategy is that she went to Columbia, nabbed BigLaw, and lived at home until her mid-30s.  Going without them daily Starbucks purchases and primo cell phone plans, most law school students can effortlessly replicate this task and, most importantly, avoid the social opprobrium associated with default and shirking one's financial obligations to God and country.  Your Boomer Uncle paid his $15k loan over twenty-seven years; why can't you do the same?

On a broader level, who needs early adulthood, anyway?  Trust me, it kinda sucks.  Wouldn't you much rather have illusory financial independence with those beautiful plump zeroes staring back at you than have the actual personal independence of being a grown-up in the relative prime of life as our forebearers once had to suffer?  Building careers and families and nest eggs at age 24 like a schlub!  What's the point of earning six figures if you can't blow an extra twenty grand every year to make your credit report glisten like your life's report card while ensuring that fingers can still be pointed at student debtors everywhere?

Don't say the billions in student loan debt haven't given us anything but a generational wealth transfer while reinforcing the same inequalities they sought to eradicate. (Piffle!)  They've enhanced the neo-capitalist religion of borrowing an obscene sum of money to work like a dog, eventually paying it back and being left with nothing but a great American sense of accomplishment.  Like building a demolition car or a nuclear bomb.  You may have only a fraction of the savings that you should, may have relatively little for whatever sacrifices have been made, but by gum, it's going to feel amazing and get you all sorts of likes around the internet.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Number of Law School Applicants Increases; LSTC Goes Straight Dope Mode

The number of people applying to law school for the upcoming academic year shot up 8 percent—the only significant annual increase since 2010. The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) reported that 60,401 people applied for admission this fall, up from 55,580 the previous year.
This year’s applicant pool was not only larger, but also more qualified, council data shows. The number of applicants with LSAT scores of 175 to 180—the highest score band—increased 60 percent over the previous year. Applicants with scores of 170 to 174 were up 13 percent, while those with scores of 165 to 169 were up 27 percent.
For fuck's sake.

I gave my penchant for convoluted irony a few days off, so I'm going to put this bluntly; I apologize for offending delicate sensibilities but you all don't listen to rationality and you don't seem to grasp sarcasm: you're all a bunch of fucking stupid nutsacks, and I don't just mean the applicants.

First, the percentage of LSAT scores within a certain band and how it changes year-over-year is functionally meaningless.  It does not mean, ipso facto, more "qualified" people are applying to law school this year than last.  Read the goddamned news and take a fucking stats 101 course.  Stop enabling this shit.

Second, what the fuck are you dim naifs doing?  Cue the broken record.  The nation has too many lawyers.  The cost to become one is too high.  It's a bad investment for like 2/3 of you people.  I say this as someone gainfully employed as a lawyer who enjoys the work much of the time and as one who didn't have a bad undergrad record or LSAT score or anything like that.  Listen up: I wouldn't do it again.  The cost of the product was and is simply too high.  If being a lawyer is that important to you, find a psychiatrist or a new dream.

I say this knowing many people for whom law has been an objective and rousing success by raw economic metrics or objectively positive accomplishments.  I encourage you to develop the critical analysis skills that would be necessary in most legal careers, anyway, assuming they're even a possibility.  Also, look up cognitive biases, like optimism bias and survivorship bias.

I say this because few other first-world industrialized nations waste so much intellectual capital on lawyering as the United States.  We need smart people to do other things with their prime earning and intellectual years.  We don't any more dumb lawyers, either.

I say this nonetheless because I can do basic fucking math.

But what does it matter?  Do kids ever listen to their elders?

I do not say, categorically, to avoid law school.  We need a replenishment on some level of good, common sense attorneys, and often the salt-of-the-Earth lawyers come from relative "toilets" as opposed to the lower-end prestige peddlers.  But at least 40,000 of you fuckers are making a mistake, including many of you who think you scored well on the LSAT or can do anything with a law degree.  Many of the rest of you have profoundly stupid ideas regarding law, justice, Donald J. Trump, or the Antarctic penguin.

One of the difficulties with the "scamblog" movement, and the broader information war with respect to law school applicants, is that the skeptics, pseudo-victims, I suppose, have little incentive to stick around too long or air grievances too loudly.  Once you find a career and get a few years out, whether in the law or not, you "move on" and the fates of a bunch of young carbon-copy idiots hopping on a misleading conveyor belt of mediocrity no longer matter.  Personally, because of how the legal market works, there's no real effect on my own fortunes whether there are 100k law school applicants this year or zero.

Meanwhile, law schools have every incentive to continue dancing to the same old rhythm year-in and year-out; buy high, buy low, buy buy buy.  People like Larry Mitchell or Nick Allard show up, bang on the table, get their pie, and bail, sure, but the institutions of misinformation and exploitation remain as steadfast as the fucking sun, the relative victims not nearly powerful or instantly sympathetic enough to effectuate any real change in a hot-take, plug-and-play, meme society. It's ultimately those institutions who have a nonstop incentive - addiction, sorta - to market the fantasy - more like a mirage - whether that's the schools themselves, the insulated legal establishment, or the toady niche media.

On January 8, 2011, the New York Times published "Is Law School a Losing Game?" - a piece often seen as a breaking point for public consciousness regarding the dubious economics of this scratch-off game.  That was over seven years ago.  Many of the dolts entering law school this fall were sophomores in high school at the time.  This broad and loose campaign no doubt steered many of their peers to other life ventures, maybe well before college, and certainly it took some toll on the lower-end institutions in the long-run.  No eight percent "surge" will bring Indiana Tech back from the grave. But short of having studies that don't exist, we'll never know the exact effect of transparency, either in the volume or quality of deterrence.

But the marginal applicants today... why?  It isn't just a failure of consumer rationality - though I blame the applicants to some extent - but a failure of entire fucking support systems; strict calls of "personal responsibility" are often a denial of the reality that no behavior exists in a vacuum.  Where are the parents and guidance counselors?  Where is the media?  Where are the friends who tell you you're doing something stupid and decidedly uncool - and not like ironically uncool but straight-up dumb?  Where are the policymakers, besides going after fish in a barrel?

You can say the information's out there, but it's not enough when trusted opinion leaders who should know better either don't know better or play dumb, whether with well intent or reckless malice.  Discussing whether the transparency/"scamblog" movement has been a success or a failure misses the point entirely:  "outside" voices never should have been needed in the first place.

Consider, too, that it's actually harder to have an outsider's voice heard today as compared to five years ago.  Traffic here, at OTLSS, and broadly across the non-social media internet has steadily trended downwards, not because of shortcomings in content, but because of modes of delivery (see, e.g., this among many sources).  If your content isn't "fit" to be insta-shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., it won't be seen unless someone knows it's there, and the algos used by Google, Twitter, etc., all prioritize the institutional, the recent, and the already shared - even though these blogs are hosted on a Google product. That we've now politicized these modes of information delivery with "fake news" fake and real isn't going to help "outsider" or anonymous voices in gaining traction.

That doesn't mean these ventures are pointless or that the blogs have been ineffective (which I don't believe), but there's a finite amount that lone voices can do in this internet wilderness, nor is there any real motivation to invest in a mode of information delivery that's more friendly to how the internet has changed in the last decade.

What we can do is continue telling the truth, and I implore those of you who are in positions of any influence over potential law applicants that you give them pause and direct them to balanced literature, because Lord knows the institutional actors aren't going to do it and the information game is almost as rigged as it's always been.  It isn't enough that the information is "out there" or that the accreditation folks are going to close down the worst offenders.  We need a broader consciousness and a broader will to communicate directly to the thousands of students still making an economically unfortunate and asocial decision.