Law School is a Scam

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ivankasta

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Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:24 pm

I love being a student at my school. The professors are amazing and my classmates are some of the smartest and most talented people I've ever met. The school has a great reputation which makes the job hunt easy. In spite of all of this, I think my school is a giant scam.

I'm very fortunate to be graduating debt-free, but many of my classmates will start off their career more than $200k in debt. And the school has the audacity to ask the graduating class for a "class gift" as if we owe something to them? Look, I get that a lot of us will go out and make a lot of money, but you charge ~$65k per year for tuition and still ask for more? It's absolutely shocking to me that each graduating class has a ~70% participation in the class gift. I think more people need to recognize how these schools are abusing their position and to let the administration know.

If you graduate from a top law school and land an amazing job, don't let your school fool you into thinking that they got you there. You were already smart and hard-working before you stepped foot on campus. Legal reading and writing is something that can be taught very cheaply and can even be self-taught pretty effectively. If your school has a great reputation, it's because they only let great students in to begin with. They add nothing you couldn't have gotten on your own.

These schools are just legally protected gate-keepers to the bar that abuse their position to stake a claim on the future earnings of talented young people. The administration and student services are obviously bloated to the extreme, but the administrative decision-makers simply don't have proper incentives. If they fire people and give out pay-cuts, their colleagues will hate them. If they don't, literally nothing will happen since federal loans isolate the universities from market consequences.

The effect of this is that the main function of law school has become saddling talented young attorneys with debt in order to support a bloated administration of free-riders. Let's stop acting like we have to love our law school. Love your professors and your classmates, but don't let the administrators fool you into thinking their on our side. They can take away my money, but they can't take away my sweet, sweet contempt.

/rant

nixy

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby nixy » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:28 pm

There are a lot of ways in which law schools are a scam, but asking for a class gift is wayyyyy down on the list.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:29 pm

...ok...

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ivankasta

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:31 pm

nixy wrote:There are a lot of ways in which law schools are a scam, but asking for a class gift is wayyyyy down on the list.


Sure. I'm not saying that asking for a class gift is their big crime. I just found it funny that they have the audacity to solicit donations in light of how irresponsible they are with their finances. Seeing the list of names on the "class gift" poster is what made me want to write this.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:37 pm

ivankasta wrote:
nixy wrote:There are a lot of ways in which law schools are a scam, but asking for a class gift is wayyyyy down on the list.


Sure. I'm not saying that asking for a class gift is their big crime. I just found it funny that they have the audacity to solicit donations in light of how irresponsible they are with their finances. Seeing the list of names on the "class gift" poster is what made me want to write this.


I mean, you said you liked your professors, right? And I assume the school also hosted a ton of special events for students to get exposure to high-level professionals in different fields? And a number of your peers may be depending on LRAP, right? And even though many of your peers pay full tuition, don't a lot of them also get scholarships?

Assuming you're graduating into a biglaw job, maybe stop and think about how few people get that opportunity outside of your school. And how many fewer students would have the same opportunity if the scholarship funds dried up.

Tuition costs are ridiculous, and legal education--as a whole--is bloated to the point that a large number of graduates are just fucked. But a top school asking you to donate a sliver of your exorbitant paycheck, which was made possible by virtue of you going to that school, is not part of the problem. You're lucky as hell. Pay it forward.

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ivankasta

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 8:58 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:I mean, you said you liked your professors, right? And I assume the school also hosted a ton of special events for students to get exposure to high-level professionals in different fields? And a number of your peers may be depending on LRAP, right? And even though many of your peers pay full tuition, don't a lot of them also get scholarships?


Yes, yes, and yes. My school does have its positives, but the finances are so grossly irresponsible and damaging that it overshadows everything in my opinion.

cavalier1138 wrote:Assuming you're graduating into a biglaw job, maybe stop and think about how few people get that opportunity outside of your school. And how many fewer students would have the same opportunity if the scholarship funds dried up.


My school did not create those jobs. Those jobs would still exist if legal education took on a very different form. I'm absolutely grateful for all of the privileges I've had to get me to where I am and I have no illusions that I did it on my own. However, I think the law school mostly just serves to give me a certificate showing I did well in undergrad and on the LSAT while providing me with the same educational material that I'd get at an unranked night law school.

cavalier1138 wrote:Tuition costs are ridiculous, and legal education--as a whole--is bloated to the point that a large number of graduates are just fucked. But a top school asking you to donate a sliver of your exorbitant paycheck, which was made possible by virtue of you going to that school, is not part of the problem. You're lucky as hell. Pay it forward.


I am lucky as hell. But it's not as if the school did me some amazing favor. They're a gatekeeper between talented young people and jobs. I'd be happy to donate to them if I felt that they would use the money responsibly. But with the current state of affairs, I would just be enabling their downright despicable practices.

My donations will go much much farther given to a proper charity than to my law school.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby Johnnybgoode92 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:34 pm

Who gets paid more? A prof who may or may not ever had time at a firm or an administrator in career services helping you to get a job? Who is financially benefitting more/getting paid more by hour?

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby albanach » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:48 pm

Johnnybgoode92 wrote:Who gets paid more? A prof who may or may not ever had time at a firm or an administrator in career services helping you to get a job? Who is financially benefitting more/getting paid more by hour?


We had very few profs who didn't have firm experience. Our careers service folk were decently well paid, headed by a former firm partner, and did a great job getting folk into work.

How exactly do folk people recruiting quality faculty, given your competing against firms and in-house positions that pay substantially more? At some point that pay gap is going to make recruitment impossible.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby albanach » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:52 pm

ivankasta wrote:These schools are just legally protected gate-keepers to the bar that abuse their position to stake a claim on the future earnings of talented young people. The administration and student services are obviously bloated to the extreme, but the administrative decision-makers simply don't have proper incentives. If they fire people and give out pay-cuts, their colleagues will hate them. If they don't, literally nothing will happen since federal loans isolate the universities from market consequences.

The effect of this is that the main function of law school has become saddling talented young attorneys with debt in order to support a bloated administration of free-riders. Let's stop acting like we have to love our law school. Love your professors and your classmates, but don't let the administrators fool you into thinking their on our side. They can take away my money, but they can't take away my sweet, sweet contempt.

/rant


Your profile says you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy. How many of your philosophy class are about to enter jobs that pay $200k? Presumably most of them, since they weren't encumbered by gatekeepers?

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ivankasta

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 9:59 pm

albanach wrote:Your profile says you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy. How many of your philosophy class are about to enter jobs that pay $200k? Presumably most of them, since they weren't encumbered by gatekeepers?


Oh I lied in my profile. I got a physics degree.

To your point. It's true students at the top schools can afford the debt, but here's the thing, if a wealthy person gets held up on the street and has $200 stolen, they can afford it. It doesn't change the fact that they were robbed.

The schools could provide a comparable service for a fraction of the cost, so they are robbing students for that differential in my opinion.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby Johnnybgoode92 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:04 pm

ivankasta wrote:
albanach wrote:Your profile says you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy. How many of your philosophy class are about to enter jobs that pay $200k? Presumably most of them, since they weren't encumbered by gatekeepers?


Oh I lied in my profile. I got a physics degree.

To your point. It's true students at the top schools can afford the debt, but here's the thing, if a wealthy person gets held up on the street and has $200 stolen, they can afford it. It doesn't change the fact that they were robbed.

The schools could provide a comparable service for a fraction of the cost, so they are robbing students for that differential in my opinion.


It's a market transaction. It was worth the costt for those who took the opportunity.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:12 pm

Johnnybgoode92 wrote:
It's a market transaction. It was worth the costt for those who took the opportunity.


Imagine if on top of passing the bar you needed to buy a specific ring to be a practicing attorney. The ring costs $20k, but without it you cannot practice anywhere. I'd buy it. You would too.

But it only has value because there's no viable alternative. It's still in your interest to buy it, but only because of the gatekeeping aspect of it. It's "worth the cost" in that sense, but it's still a stupid system and people would be much better off if it was changed.

Like I said, I don't regret going to law school. I will be in a better position afterwards than I was before. But it makes me mad because I know it didn't have to be as expensive as it was. Just look at historic law school prices.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby Johnnybgoode92 » Thu Apr 11, 2019 10:17 pm

Ok but with less money how could the schools have been as good then to educate lawyers? And at that point why not just make a jD a one year program

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby ivankasta » Thu Apr 11, 2019 11:17 pm

Johnnybgoode92 wrote:Ok but with less money how could the schools have been as good then to educate lawyers? And at that point why not just make a jD a one year program


Just as a case study, let's look at Harvard Law the year that Justice Souter started school there. Tuition was $10,200 per year, adjusted for inflation. Today it is ~$65,000.

Also important to note, Harvard as a whole (undergrad + grad programs) made a profit of more than $2.9 billion in FY 2018 alone. This brings their net assets from $44b to almost $47b.

You can do the same with my school, Columbia. When RBG went there, tuition was less than $10k adjusted for inflation. Today it's $69k. Last year the university made a greater than $1billion profit.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby dabigchina » Fri Apr 12, 2019 12:14 am

people need to chill out. OP is right. if you are paying sticker (or even 50%), and you voluntarily give the school more money, you are a sucker.

edit: lol how did i know you went to columbia, OP. columbia is really aggressive about soliciting for the class gift, too.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby cavalier1138 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:05 am

We get it. Tuition is high. It's high everywhere. But you know how Scalia always wrote those opinions saying "Congress should do something about [x]," and how Congress never did anything? That's what this is like.

You're talking about a massive failure in the system, but you're bitching about the part of law school funding that has the least to do with that failure.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby albanach » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:10 am

ivankasta wrote:
albanach wrote:Your profile says you have an undergraduate degree in philosophy. How many of your philosophy class are about to enter jobs that pay $200k? Presumably most of them, since they weren't encumbered by gatekeepers?


Oh I lied in my profile. I got a physics degree.

To your point. It's true students at the top schools can afford the debt, but here's the thing, if a wealthy person gets held up on the street and has $200 stolen, they can afford it. It doesn't change the fact that they were robbed.

The schools could provide a comparable service for a fraction of the cost, so they are robbing students for that differential in my opinion.


Ok, so your profile was off. But you likely have classmates with philosophy degrees. I'd it with it to them? Maybe you just made a poor choice to enter law when the cost of entry is high and your earning potential was already substantial. (Though you should factor in the time cost of a PhD that you might otherwise have to pursue, or the fees for a taught Masters course).

But how, exactly, do you propose saving all this money? The biggest expense at law schools is staff. Do you cut courses? Cut the library? Get rid of full time faculty and replace them with adjuncts from local law firms? Stop recruiting the most qualified candidates (who could easily pick up high paying jobs with firms)?

At least at UVA, even those paying sticker were subsidized by the endowment. Certainly the school want short of cash, but the extravagant stuff like having a keg in the courtyard every week is miniscule when compared to staffing costs.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby nixy » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:18 am

I have OP a hard time over the class gift thing and I can’t get too worked up over gatekeepong, but they’re completely right that tuition costs are ridiculous and it’s absolutely not because it’s needer to cover the costs of education. At many universities the law school is a cash generator for the university as a whole. Educating lawyers is also not that expensive (not like med school or STEM). Tuition costs what it does because federal loans are widely available, not because a school “needs” $65k/year (or even $35k/year) to educate you.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby cavalier1138 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 7:36 am

nixy wrote:I have OP a hard time over the class gift thing and I can’t get too worked up over gatekeepong, but they’re completely right that tuition costs are ridiculous and it’s absolutely not because it’s needer to cover the costs of education. At many universities the law school is a cash generator for the university as a whole. Educating lawyers is also not that expensive (not like med school or STEM). Tuition costs what it does because federal loans are widely available, not because a school “needs” $65k/year (or even $35k/year) to educate you.


Right. And I think part of the tuition scam is that schools sell students on the idea that "lawyer" is code for "$200k a year starting salary." That would probably be less of an issue if we eliminated half the schools currently operating. But that would be some more gatekeeping, and I know we don't want this profession to only be filled with competent lawyers. That would take all the fun out of it.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby albanach » Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:28 am

cavalier1138 wrote:
nixy wrote:I have OP a hard time over the class gift thing and I can’t get too worked up over gatekeepong, but they’re completely right that tuition costs are ridiculous and it’s absolutely not because it’s needer to cover the costs of education. At many universities the law school is a cash generator for the university as a whole. Educating lawyers is also not that expensive (not like med school or STEM). Tuition costs what it does because federal loans are widely available, not because a school “needs” $65k/year (or even $35k/year) to educate you.


Right. And I think part of the tuition scam is that schools sell students on the idea that "lawyer" is code for "$200k a year starting salary." That would probably be less of an issue if we eliminated half the schools currently operating. But that would be some more gatekeeping, and I know we don't want this profession to only be filled with competent lawyers. That would take all the fun out of it.


The trouble is that, graduating from a top school is code for $200k. Which means faculty cost that per year too.

To cut the cost of law school, you need to cut the cost of faculty. There's no easy way to reduce salaries, so that means either increasing class size (difficult to run classes of 300 and keep using the Socratic method) or cutting depth (no more admiralty law).

That or change the entire model. In the UK, law school can be an undergraduate course or single year postgraduate, but that's followed by a couple of years of professional training before you fully qualify. How would folk feel about cutting law school to one year with just the core subjects, but salaries for the first couple of years at big firms are more like $70k?

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby nixy » Fri Apr 12, 2019 10:43 am

Faculty make a lot less in law school than they do In private practice, though, so it’s not like you’re paying partner-level salaries. Do you have actual evidence that the cost of law school has increased with the cost of faculty, or that there’s even any relationship between the two? That’s contrary to everything I’ve ever heard about law school costs and finances. Again, law school tuition frequently underwrites programs in the rest of a school - it absolutely doesn’t all go directly to faculty salaries, and faculty salaries have not increased in past years at the same pace as tuition.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby objctnyrhnr » Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:07 am

I think OP’s points are clear, true, and valid.

Good job OP.

Still, I donate the minimum to my t20 school every year.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby Johnnybgoode92 » Fri Apr 12, 2019 11:13 am

I make just one big donation every year. Always on April 15. It's called taxes, no need to give more 8)

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby LSATWiz.com » Sat Apr 13, 2019 11:47 am

I think it's a valid point. Even if you want to give charity, there is a question as to whether donating to your law school is the best charity. It's probably more noble to make sure starving children get bread and water than to make sure attendees of a conference on M&A law get steak as opposed to burgers. On the other hand, donating to alma matters is a major thing for millions of alumni so there is obviously a counterargument. One thing to note is that as expensive as law schools are, they probably anticipate receiving a certain amount of donations every year and budget based on meeting such figures. As crazy as it sounds, tuition may be even more expensive if nobody donated.

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Re: Law School is a Scam

Postby jc9812 » Sat Apr 13, 2019 2:05 pm

I'll donate to my school once I pay off the loans I took out to attend it. Maybe. Probably not, actually.

Anyway OP I largely agree with you but this isn't exactly late breaking news. There's a blog from like 2009 where an insane guy posts various pictures of feces alongside poorly written excoriations of 'the law school scam.' Wouldn't recommend it.



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