Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Re: Jobs At Biglaw Limited - So Why Is This News?

In "Jobs At Biglaw Limited - So Why Is This News?," here, Carolyn Elefant of the "My Shingle" Blog offers the observation that the recent WSJ article, describing how prospective law students misunderstand their future salary prospects, in part, because of misleading marketing by law schools, can be read "not as a caution to law students who attend lower tier schools but as a scare tactic to remind lawyers that as much as they hate their 80 hour billable weeks, life could be much, much worse"

Here's my comment:

Your take on the WSJ story is interesting. I think there are a few factors that played into the timing of the story. People have been complaining about misleading law school marketing for years. I know I started complaining about it, with many of my fellow students, during my second year of law school in 2004, and over the last year I have since written several blog pieces, and a letter to AG Cuomo. And many people have been voicing their complaints for at least as long, and often with more diligence.

One factor is the job market: it is getting worse. Another is the financial aid scandal, which led people to question the assumed integrity of institutions of higher education. A third factor is the big firm salary wars, and I think your "conspiracy theory" plays into that factor. For the past several months there has been a great deal of press coverage discussing BigLaw first year associate salaries, and many 1st year associates at large firms, despite making multiple times what their slightly lower-ranked classmates earn, legitimately feel that they are underpaid. Large mega-firms appear to simply have money to burn, so why not give it to the new associates. In fact, many new associates whose firms have raised to 145 or 150 but are still below the top firms salaries, feel that they are underpaid.
In that respect, the WSJ -- which is one of the newspapers that provided the most coverage to the salary wars -- was providing much needed scope to its coverage of the legal job market, and making amends for its role in proliferating the myth that a law degree is a license to print money.

One startling fact, however, is that -- unlike the financial aid crisis -- there has been little response to this issue other than increased traffic in the blogosphere. To my knowledge, none of the law schools named in the article have made any statements on the issue, and no public investigations have ensued.

The only somewhat related ameliorative measure is the government's new student aid package. Government financial aid, however, is a scam, even if well intentioned. Students do not borrow from the government; rather, the government subsidizes financial institutions who lend to students at a discount. The effect of this system is that higher education institutions raise tuition in response to easy money, the financial institutions push as much debt on the students as possible under the guize that there is a low interest rate. In the end, the private schools and the financial institutions are huge winners, while any benefit the students gained by low interest rates is negated by the increased debt load and the tax payers overall are hurt.
If nothing else, although it does not directly address the misleading marketing issue, a better system would be for the federal government to institute a direct lending program that is funded through a special bond release subsidized with a tax on high-tuition private schools. That would help unravel the tangled web of conflicting interests that have hampered higher education oversight.

Another step would be for consumer lawyers to start going after law schools for misleading marketing practices, but what self-respecting lawyer wants to sue a law school?

No comments:

Post a Comment