Friday, August 19, 2011

Criticism of Need for Indiana Tech Law School Continues; Those Considering Law School Should Not Buy the Phony Argument Legal Education Opens the Door to Non-Legal Jobs

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette has an excellent update on Indiana Tech's plan for a new law school.  Here is just a portion of that story:
As soon as Indiana Tech announced its decision, critics pounced.

Staff writer Jennifer Nelson of, for example, noted that a recent study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., a group that tracks employment statistics, seemed to suggest that Indiana does not have enough legal jobs for the recent law school graduates it already has.

According to the group’s study, Indiana will have about 399 jobs open in the legal field each year through 2015, while about 600 people will pass the bar each year.

“Tell me why then Indiana Tech thinks it’s a good idea to open up a law school?” Nelson wrote. “They claim their research tells them Indiana is actually underserved when it comes to lawyers.”

Most who follow employment trends in the legal industry agree it’s a rough time to be a law school graduate.

The Association for Legal Career Professionals, which tracks employment data, said the class of 2010 faced the toughest job market since 1996, and predicts the class of 2011 will have an even harder time landing legal jobs.

“There’s no shortage of attorneys in Indiana,” said Indiana University law professor William Henderson, who writes about law school education. “We do have too many law school students.”

In addition to worrying about job prospects, some critics are worried about the kind of debt Indiana Tech students will accumulate – and what effect that debt will have on their future.

Students without other financial resources, for example, would need to take out $85,500 in loans and likely more for living expenses.

Snyder acknowledges it’s unlikely that Indiana Tech students will go on to earn six-figure salaries. According to the school’s own feasibility study, most beginning lawyers in Indiana can expect to make between $35,000 and $65,000. [Editor's note, $35,000, without more than token benefits, is the more realistic estimate.  $65,000 is a pipe dream unless you land at one of the biggest firms.  Worse still many new attorneys are commission only...they don't receive any salary.]
With that salary, paying off student loans can be a challenge.

Above the Law, a national law blog that follows industry news, was also critical of Indiana Tech’s law school plans.

“Does somebody have to die? Does somebody have to commit suicide? Does somebody have to leave a suicide note that reads, ‘I just couldn’t go on paying off the debts I incurred from going to this law school.’ What is it going to take before somebody, some organization, some kind of regulatory authority steps in and prevents universities from opening up debt-generation shops under the guise of providing legal education?” Above the Law blogger Elie Mystal wrote in May.

“You’re not supposed to lead prospective students to financial ruin just because they’re stupid enough to follow you.”
A big selling point for Indiana Tech is that even though legal jobs will not be available for its law school graduates, a law degree opens your door up to many non-legal jobs.  That couldn't be more wrong. What a legal education does is pigeonhole you as an attorney and closes doors to non-lawyer jobs.

I ran across a blog titled "Rose Covered Glasses," an attorney who writes about her experience looking for non-lawyer jobs:
But perhaps I can turn this into a job-search journal. I have been applying for non-legal jobs for three weeks now. In that time I have had two interviews. (Two and a half if you count a phone interview that lasted about a minute.) Perhaps I will post more about those later, but the real take-away from all three is what I (along with many others) have been saying all along. A law degree is NOT an asset in any field but law. The law degree scares people away. A position that you are fully qualified for and could perform well in will be out of reach because the employer will be scared that you will leave for a "$100,000 law job."

Plenty of people go to law school not knowing what the practice of law entails, and therefore not knowing that they might not like it. That is bad enough, but what really pains me is to hear about people who plan on getting a law degree *knowing* that they have no desire to practice, thinking that they can "do anything" with a law degree. The employers I spoke with beg to differ.
That is exactly my experience.  One of the reasons I went to law school was that I thought it would open up doors to non-legal jobs.   What I found is that it actually closed doors.  While it is true a legal education is useful for the world of business, for example,  the fact is you are never going to get a chance to get the job. The employer will pigeonhole you as a lawyer who will leave the company the minute that six figure attorney job comes open. (People outside of law still believe all lawyers have six figure salaries awaiting them after law school.)  At one point, I even took my legal education off my resume so I could get interviews for non-legal jobs.

To Indiana Tech's credit one thing that is outlined in the Journal-Gazette article is that the school will look at a better way to educate lawyers-to-be.  That though is an argument for reforming how the state's current four law schools operate their schools.  It does not give Indiana Tech a pass for taking nearly $80,000 in tuition to train students for jobs that don't exist and for an education that will close out the chances those students will have of getting many non-legal jobs.

NOTE:  In a previous post on Indiana Tech I misidentified the school as a for profit institution.  Actually it is a non-profit.  Of course, regular readers of this blog note that I don't see much of a distinction between for profit and not-for-profit corporations.  Instead of paying out profits, non-profits simply disguise those profits as salaries and benefits to directors, managers and employees.

NOTE 2:  Just ran across the blog "Restoring Dignity to the Law" blog that takes apart piece by piece the phony argument Indiana Tech is using for the supposed need for a new law school. I may blog on it later.


Nicolas Martin said...

Only a cartel could purport to know exactly how many jobs it will need to fill in the coming year.

In a free market, the needs and wants of consumers can be predicted but not known, but there is nothing like a free market in law. If the cartel status of the law profession were undone and legal costs thereby reduced, consumers would likely consume far more legal services. The ABA is the Council of High Priests of the Church of Law, and the enemy of freedom and justice. Mr. Ogden's superficial commitment to economic freedom is readily belied by his unbending allegiance to the cartelization of his own profession.

The most pressing free market reforms needed in America are the abolitions of the medical and legal cartels.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Of course, Nicolas, you miss the fact that law schools are lying to people considering the legal profession about employment in the legal profession and salaries they will earn. That's FRAUD and no the free market doesn't somehow take care of that.

I'm all for lower legal fees, which I think are outrageous. But obviously the saturation of the legal job market has not done that. What you have are associates willing to work for very low salaries or nothign at all while partners, especially at the big firms, get wealthy.

Nicolas Martin said...

Without a free market in legal services, it is impossible to know if the job market is saturated. All we know is that there are enough people to fill the jobs made available by the cartel. The truth is that many of the people working for low salaries might have better options if they were not flunkies at the bottom of the cartel hierarchy.

Yes, the free market is the solution to the law school fraud you describe. Opportunity and income are limited by initiative and ingenuity in free markets. The law schools are as integral to the legal cartel as medical and education colleges are to their respective cartels. As in any occupational cartel, the opportunities for new entrants are limited by the existing cartel members. It is the very purpose of a cartel to limit competition and keep prices high.

You can claim to be "all for lower legal fees," but I doubt very much that you support abolition of state regulation of legal practice. Many non-lawyers have tried to offer consumers lower cost legal assistance, but they have been persecuted and driven out of business by lawyers. When you say that you are for a free market in legal services, then I will believe that you genuinely believe in competition and opportunity.

The fall-back for lawyers and many other cartelists is that licensing protects consumers. This is invoked by licensed groups as diverse as taxi cab owners, beauticians, and dentists. But economists have thoroughly debunked this fable. Occupational licensing is profoundly anti-consumer. It does not improve quality, it raises costs, and it limits access to services. Economists agree on few things as uniformly as they agree on that.

To quote from The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

A careful analysis of licensing's effects across a broad range of occupations reveals some striking, and strikingly negative, similarities. Occupational regulation has limited consumer choice, raised consumer costs, increased practitioner income, limited practitioner mobility, and deprived the poor of adequate services—all without demonstrated improvements in the quality or safety of the licensed activities.

Paul K. Ogden said...


If a free market, then legal fees would be a lot lower given the saturation of attorneys. Yet legal fees have not fallen one bit and they have in fact gone up. Meanwhile, most associates are still working for $35,000 a year with no benefits, about what they were earning 20 years ago. Worse now, many new attorneys take jobs for commission only, getting paid a portion fo the attorney's fees they receive.

I don't agree, and I don't think you addressed, the fact fraud is used to get these kids to go to law school based on phony employment and salary number. These are people racking up six figure debt to find there are no jobs or if they get jobs it will be less than they got paid at other jobs before going to law school. If you were lied to to go to school to get a degree, and amassed six figure debt based on those lies, wouldn't you be pissed to find out you can't get a decent job with that degree?

Actually I do think there are a lot of legal tasks that can be done by non-lawyers. Drafting a will for example can be done often via decent software. As far as your claim that non-lawyers have been run out of doing legal work, well not in Indiana. We have paralegals doing a ton of legal work. I worked in the security field for awhile. They have non-lawyers doing legal compliance jobs, jobs that involve advising people about the law and representign people at hearings. I think you're talking about other states, not Indiana, if you're talking about cracking down on the unauthroized practice of law.

And, yes, I do think legal fees are ridiculous. Partners at big law firms charging $500 an hour...I guarantee you their work is not better than a $150 an attorney with a smaller firm. Unless that big firm partner has some sort of expertise in an area that other attorneys don't have then there is no reason to pay that kind of hourly fee.

Unfortunately, one of the reasons why those rates are so high is that they fleece government who doesn't monitor or question attorney's bills. Also they fleece big companies which do not know that they could get as good of a legal representation with someone else for much less.

I'm sorry, but when I see people lied to over and over again, encouraged to amass a $100,000 in nondischargable student loan debt, to get an education that won't give them a decent paying job, I'm going to say something. It's called FRAUD.

Nicolas Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas Martin said...

It is entirely self-serving of you to blame the law school while benefitting from your membership in the legal cartel. Not a word of what you have written acknowledges that there is a legal cartel, that it distorts the economics of law services, and that both consumers and newer members of the cartel are exploited by licensing.

Young lawyers (especially) are exploited the same way and for the same reason as young doctors ("interns") and young plumbers ('apprentices"). They are force to give their services below market value to established members of their cartels. You do not denounce this system; you are part of the system. You denounce a law school whose students are victimized by the system. That, Mr. Attorney, is hypocrisy.

Nicolas Martin said...

Lawyers lie? Unimaginable. A strong case could be made that all law schools are unethical, but I'll leave that for another time.

You repeat that the legal job market is "saturated," and I will repeat that few economists would agree. In a state-controlled and regulated system it is impossible to know how many lawyers are needed, just as it was possible to know how many pairs of shoes to manufacture in the Soviet Union. We know that the average American cannot, in most circumstances, afford to consult a lawyer except in cases of necessity. We know that consumers are not free to decide who to consult for legal advice, anymore than Soviet serfs could buy whatever shoes they wanted.

I have spoken to several Indiana paralegals who are intensely reticent to discuss limitations the cartel puts on the services they provide.

The lack of opportunity in the legal profession is the fault of the national and local bar associations (of which you are a member?), not of this law school. You are not willing to denounce those associations, nor to advocate a free market in legal practice.

To find a case of non-lawyers in Indiana being hauled into court by the bar association you can look to STATE OF INDIANA EX REL. INDIANA STATE BAR ASSOCIATION v. GARY L. NORTHOUSE AND MICHAEL E. RAMER.

In 2006 a unanimous Indiana Supreme Court agreed that the defendants were guilty of the unlicensed practice of law.

"Northouse engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he: (1) not being admitted to practice law in Indiana or any other state, consulted with one of his insurance clients and provided legal advice regarding the client’s need for a will, a living trust, and a power of attorney; (2) directed Ramer to prepare such legal documents for the client; (3) obtained the client’s signature on those documents without having them reviewed or approved by an attorney; and (4) had other clients sign similar documents. The petition alleged Ramer engaged in the unauthorized practice of law when he, not being admitted to practice law in Indiana, prepared the aforementioned documents for Northouse’s clients, among other things.

Indiana has an Unlicensed Practice of Law committee like every other state, and the ABA directory of those committees is here:
The executive secretary of the Indiana UPL committee is Donald R. Lundberg, partner and deputy general council of Barnes and Thornburg. Of course he is just trying to protect us poor old consumers. And who protects us from the legal predators like Lundberg? (What do you suppose his income was last year?)

Non-Lawyers Find It Hard Avoid Breaking Bar's Vague Rules

...Small firms aren’t the only ones running afoul of their local bar association. LegalZoom, a nationwide provider of incorporation documents, divorce papers, wills and other legal forms, has been investigated in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and other states. It’s being sued by lawyers in Missouri who want to form a class action on behalf of consumers statewide, even though there are no consumer complaints referenced in the case...

All 50 states have rules and laws prohibiting the unauthorized practice of law, ostensibly to protect consumers. Defenders of these laws make the analogy to doctors: You wouldn’t want an unlicensed doctor to remove your appendix, would you? But the analogy isn’t precise. While it’s true an unlicensed person can’t perform surgery or prescribe medicine, the American Medical Association doesn’t have the power to fine, say, a massage therapist who advises a client to take St. John’s Wort instead of Paxil. When it comes to the law, the bar associations of many states have the power not only to identify people who are violating their rules, but haul them into court...

One is either for economic freedom or against it. There is no in between.

J.Richmore said...

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