Sunday, June 5, 2011

5 step plan to fix the Legal Profession

I recently found out about the class action lawsuit filed against Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego by Anna Alaburda and recent graduates of TJLS. I think this is just the beginning, and eventually many more law schools will be sued by their graduates for fraudulent misrepresentation of material facts and NIED. These schools gave out false employment statistics and misled their graduates into thinking they would get jobs paying $70,000 + starting with a 80-90% placement rate.

Many of these graduates are now doing document review, part time jobs, or have no way to pay back their loans. Many prospective law students and graduates have e mailed me about the myths of the legal profession. They read the scam blogs, they read the New York Times article, but this should really open their eyes..Law school graduate can't find a job

Eventually many third and fourth tier law schools will likely face class action lawsuits by misleading their graduates with false promises of jobs, high starting salaries, and lucrative career opportunities.

A lot of changes will eventually impact the legal education industry.

I have come up with my own way of fixing the legal profession.



1.)   Every law school needs to lower enrollment by 1/3.

Every year we have 45,000 + law school graduates and only 30,000 jobs that require a JD. This will lead to law schools having fewer students and less funding, but they should just lay off greedy faculty members and hire more part time professors.

2.)   Require at least 2 years of full time work experience  as a prerequisite to attending law school. So many English, History and Political science majors go to law school by default. They have no idea of what to do after college. MBA programs require several years of experience for their applicants, and so should law schools! They should get more work experience and at least have some idea of the real world before they commit 3 years of their life to law school and the financial burden it requires.

3.)   Eliminate all NON ABA approved law schools and paralegal programs. All these CBA schools in California need to be shut down. These scam diploma mills aren't worth the paper they are printed on! All these online paralegal programs are full of shit. They need to have only ABA approved programs, and all legal employers should not hire anyone who doesn't graduate from an accredited program.

4.)  Make every law school student attend a seminar on financial counseling as a part of the application process to law school. This should be done BEFORE they even take the LSAT exam. This should be an intensive 1-2 day course  and it should give potential students the straight facts of the cost of a legal education, employment prospects and  give them a "reality check" on their ability to repay loans.

5.)  Enable a third party market research company that is NOT affiliated with law schools to provide accurate information in regards to employment statistics, salary information and such.

This is my 5 step plan to fix the legal education system. I think it would be a great idea of these steps were taken to fix the legal profession. I applaud Anna Alaburda for being such a brave and courageous woman to be the first law student to fight back against the law school scam.

To all you law school graduates who are struggling, hopefully things will get better in the near future!

-The Poor Paralegal


  1. As always, a great Post, and from a mature mind.

  2. Love this post. I'm surprised no one has done this before. Here are my additions to what I hope is a lengthy list before all is said and done:

    6. To the extent that federal monies will continue to pour out of the faucet, restrict colleges from raising annual tuitions by a certain percentage, e.g., 3%, adjusted to inflation or some other calculated basis, otherwise the students will not be able to take out loans for that particular school. Schools will either have to toe the line on tuition increases or die ... or take cash only from wealthy students that wouldn't need student loans anyway.

    7. To the extent that No. 1 is not feasible, then shut down the 4th Tier (whatever it is called these days) schools.

    8. Mandate that law schools provide truthful and complete post-graduation employment statistics or else risk losing ABA accreditation.

    9. Ban foreign outsourcing (ok - this is not related to the "education" industry, but it should be included. Maybe rename your list "how to Fix the Legal Industry," which includes other recommendations other than law schools.

    That's all for now.

  3. Let's round out these great points with number 10--

    10. Have the Department of Education actually regulate student loans. Have them monitor the number of students who default on their student loans and when that number reaches a certain percent, cut off the ability of students to that school to take out student loans. I believe this is done for some of the more abusive trucking/beauty schools. Alternatively, make the school disclose to its prospective students seeking loans the number of graduates in default.

  4. Poor paralegal, I really love your blog! You always have a very insightful, witty and practical way of addressing legal and economic issues. Keep up the great posts.

  5. By what means do you propose to compel law schools, law students, or anyone else to do any of these things? These are the wishes of a child: "Every law school needs to lower enrollment by 1/3." The Poor Paralegal has decided this must be done so do it. Require this...and eliminate that...and every law student must...what drivel. Thankfully, the Poor Paralegal is not a monarch and cannot enact wishes by fiat. Powerful financial and political interests will oppose each of these proposals in the unlikely event that any of them gets the slightest bit of traction. Why not wish for world peace too; you know, as long as we're wishing for things that will never happen. In the meantime, please keeping making payments on those student loans or bear the consequences.

  6. Something tells me that 4:06 is a law professor or dean of a TTTT law school.

    Of course this is a wish list dumb ass, but give this guy credit—his list makes sense. If the ABA would actually follow some of these suggestions, at least it would be in the step in the right direction in putting the US legal profession back on track. There is a glut of attorneys right now in the US. Never mind the outrageous student debt problem (which affects all of us in the long run), take a hard look at today’s legal profession.

    Do you have any idea how many calls I receive from incompetent attorneys who do not know what forms to file when they are in court? How about receiving a telephone call from an attorney demanding documentation from your client with no written demand served? You do realize that these attorneys from TTTT schools also charge an arm and leg for their incompetence do you? How about hiring a firm to represent you, but the information you provide to them in confidence is outsourced somewhere in Mumbai for doc review? These are the very harsh realities facing the US legal field. There's a much bigger picture here than a generation of kids who are sacked with great debt before they graduate. You do realize one of the reasons why legal services are so expensive is due to attorneys having to pay off their damn six figure student loans? The US legal profession is in shambles thanks to the ABA. At least give credit to these Scam Bloggers in pointing out the ABA’s shortcomings to the public.

    As far as your sarcastic and mocking tone, the government is finally taking notice of the student debt problem and lack of quality in higher education thanks in part to the Scam Bloggers. If everyone was like you, this country would have yet another generation who would be saddled with debt. These Scam Bloggers at least are quoted in the NY Times and even caught the attention of a certain CA Congresswoman who has made it her priority to take on the ABA. What have you done lately other than log onto your computer and type drivel?

  7. @4:06 - go back to your little academic office and write more law review articles that no one will ever read. Better yet, why don't YOU provide some specific examples of how the legal industry can be improved for all, not just the elite. Then again, you probably don't see that there is a problem in the first place because you are likely benefiting from the system as it currently exists.

  8. The wailing of those at the bottom of the legal profession will always fall on deaf ears. Freshly minted lawyers with tons of debt and few job prospects, self-proclaimed victims all; yelping at the top of their lungs that (now that they have their law degrees) law schools must be closed. The public mind has little sympathy for them and politicians follow the public mind. Too, in a world brimming with information about the truly abysmal employment picture for lawyers, there are plenty more fresh grads on the way - virtually every law school is filled to capacity. And none of the new grads are to blame for anything. If only all of these college graduates had been forced to take a "seminar on financial counseling" before law school everything would have been different. No amount of special treatment will ever save the dopes at the bottom of the pyramid from their ignorant selves. Everyone is free to fail in America.

  9. First, in the spirit of full disclosure, I'm the author of the post at June 6, 2011 8:04 AM.

    I suspect someone is trolling this board. That said, the points are still valid and can be distilled to "This is America. We let people seek opportunity, which includes the right to borrow money and take risks." Generally, I agree with that.

    Let me tell you a story. When I was a newly minted attorney, I represented auto dealers being sued under TILA and FCRA. I was shocked at the terms of sub-prime auto loans. People with poor credit were being give 18% and 21% loans to buy new cars. My first impulse was "Somebody should stop them!" Which brings us to the point-- this is America, we have the freedom to enter into contracts.

    Which is true, but some contracts are more, shall we say, "binding" than others. Specifically, non-dischargeable student loans. So while, yes, a student should be able to fund their future, that doesn't mean that the American economy should be a game of three-card monte. Unfortunately, that is where we've been. What's going on in the finance industry is no different than what happened in the food industry in the late 19th Century before the FDA was created. Yes, we should have freedom to choose. But we should also have regulation-- real regulation, not red tape and barriers to entry, but real regulation that protects people from toxic Law Access loans, Nelnet charges, etc. Anyway, good discussion

  10. I continue to be astounded by the fact that even the bottom tier law schools are filled with people willing to pay a ton of money for the chance to become an employed attorney. The web is full of info on how bad the market is for attorneys so all of these people are assuming the obvious risk of unemployment - perhaps most just don't think it will happen to them. And for those who take on debt, they are fully aware that it is not dischargeable. So go ahead and take your chances but those who fail shouldn't expect others to bail them out later.

  11. I agree with much of your post, especially decreasing enrollment and requiring work experience prior to law school. Here's where we disagree:

    Paralegal programs are not accredited by the ABA. Some just have the ABA's stamp of approval. There is only one online program that has the ABA's "gold stamp." That's a shame because the hybrid program I completed through a Minnesota-based "for-profit" business school is among the best in the state with a much stronger program than the certificate programs that have received ABA's stamp of approval.

    Of much more importance is AAFPE recognition. If a school is not recognized or affiliated with AAFPE, don't waste your money.

    Just as all brick and mortar programs are not created equally, neither are all online programs. Online does not = poor program. There are many strong online programs.

    Finally, even the terms second and third-tier can be misleading. For example, the University of Cincinnati, from which my father graduated in 1960, has become (in large part due to some of the class of 1960 graduates) a well-respected second-tier school. It was third-tier at best in 1960, probably fourth-tier, but many graduates, my father among them, had successful and financially lucrative careers.

    Edweek has run some interesting articles lately regarding rethinking the philosophy that has been foisted upon Americans for half a century now: Does everyone really need to go to college? Higher ed is the next bubble waiting to burst...and it will be a sticky mess.

  12. I agree with much of your post, Poor Paralegal. The legal profession needs reform in a bad way. The big thing stopping that reform is that the legal profession itself is 1.) powerful, and 2.) entrenched in tradition and the "old" way of doing things. I would like to see many of the reforms you mentioned implemented.

    That said...I have to think that anyone just going to law school TODAY, can't legitimately claim "I had no idea!" when they graduate with a large amount of debt, and are unable to find suitable employment. Anyone smart enough to get into law school in the first place, should be smart enough to do their research prior to entering, and should understand that the prospects for most new law graduates simply aren't that good. Heck, a good friend of mine just graduated from Cornell (a top law school, of course), and she told me that about half of her classmates don't have employment lined up. If that's the case for a top school like Cornell, I can only imagine what it must be like for someone graduating from a lesser-regarded school.

    I think part of the problem is that most new law school students think, "Well yeah, I know many people are having problems. But that won't happen to ME, because I'M smart!"

    But ultimately, it's a numbers game. It has little to do with whether you're smart or not. Most law school students are "smart" enough. That's how they got into law school in the first place. There simply aren't enough jobs to absorb the number of people graduating.

    Of course, there is always employment outside the practice of law. But then, you're often seen as "over-qualified". Especially if you're fresh out of school, most non-legal employers won't hire you for fear that as soon as you DO get an attorney're going to split.

    I went to paralegal school myself, worked a few years, learned Contract Administration, and then got an MBA. I now make good money (about $85K with my annual bonus) in a corporate legal department managing contracts. I like the work, it pays well, and my career prospects are good. And while at times I've considered going back to school for a law degree, I honestly think I'd be worse off financially for doing so.

  13. Simplest solution of all: end government student loans.

    They will end eventually, since our federal government is bankrupt. Then we'll see which schools can stay alive.

  14. You stated 'all legal employers should not hire anyone who doesn't graduate from an accredited program.' What about those of us who have been working long before there was any widely available ABA accredited paralegal 'certificate' programs? Moreover, many graduates of these programs acknowledge that their value is questionable. Fortunately here in New Jersey, the Bar decided not to require paralegals to have specific coursework, but employers continue to look favorably upon it.