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The Law School Implosion

on February 6th, 2013 by admin

I had an eight year career in the legal field as a transactional law paralegal.  My career began in 2002, I wanted to go to law school.  As with any issue I always do my research.  After much thought I realized that: 1) I did not want to spend 3 years in a classroom, and 2) I did not want to apply for any more student loans.  Instead I applied and was accepted to a post-graduate paralegal program at my alma mater, Loyola University Chicago.  I finished in a year and a half.  I no longer, nor do I want to work in the legal profession.  I have reached my professional plateau.  I’m done, and good riddance.

Unfortunately, many individuals did not consider the totality of the situation in the legal profession, nor how it will impact their own lives.  Even I didn’t realize the extent to which the legal profession is going through a painful restructuring.  My layoff was directly related to the 2008 financial crisis.  From 2009-2010 I worked the document review circuit.  BORING!!  It was at this time I met plenty of newly minted lawyers.  This was their first legal job-reviewing documents in moldy boxes.  I had more experience, and a lot less debt than they did.  It was only after I visited the law school scam blogger sites did I realize there is a serious problem with the legal field.

Brian Tamanaha, a professor of law at Washington University School of Law shines a light on the disaster that has become of law schools.  His book titled Failing Law Schools, details the looming crisis that has become the legal profession.  I have to give Professor Tamanaha credit.  It has to take a lot of courage and integrity to call out his profession on their malpractice.

Starting with the structural aspects of legal education, the author states that at the turn of the 20th century legal education changed focus from an apprenticeship approach to learning the profession to the requirement of a bachelor’s degree and 3 years of law school.   This was due to plain old xenophobia/racism.  To keep Eastern Europeans, Jews, and other recent immigrant groups out of the legal field, a medieval style guild was created.

Flash forward to the 21st century, this structure to legal education is inherently unsustainable as Tamanaha rightly points out.  Laws schools have eschewed REAL legal education for a research based method.  I’m trying to figure out what these law faculties are researching?  Maybe how too much law is strangling the country economically?  Or how too many lawyers in Congress undermine our republic?  From my experience with working with lawyers I can attest to some of their lack of basic legal writing and researching skills.  The paralegal program I graduated from we were taught the basics of the legal profession from contracts to intellectual property.  In fact, while working as a clerk at the university law library, I had to show one of my colleagues, who was an 1L how to do proper legal research.  She had no clue.  I am not exaggerating!

Tamanaha also discusses the top heavy law schools with professors making exorbitant salaries with light teaching loads.  The debt students take on pays for this.  But what makes this even more pernicious is the dishonest methods used by law schools to attract students.  The main issue is the employment numbers which are totally inaccurate.  Even my school, Loyola Chicago is guilty of being less than truthful about their salary claims.

The ABA can choose to ignore this by opening more unnecessary law schools and sanctioning laws schools outrageous tuitions and justify students becoming financially ruined.  Sometimes I look forward to the day when the chicken’s have come home to roost.  But then I look at how dysfunctional our legal system has become.  Here in Cook County, Illinois alone, so many individuals, the majority of whom are poor minorities, have been released from prison after spending their 20’s and 30’s (their formative years) on death row for crimes they never committed.  If these men could have afforded competent legal services would they have been convicted?

Or the disgraceful Lance Armstrong using the court system to systematically destroy his accusers-who in the end were right all along about his doping.  And let us not forget the Duke University Lacrosse team who were vilified and humiliated by prosecutoral misconduct for a crime of rape that never occurred.  The list is endless.  Who is to say that any one of us could be caught up in this corrupt legal system.  I know I wouldn’t be able to afford the type of representation Armstrong was able to afford from his fraudulent earnings.  If I were caught up in some legal issue I would have to rely on a court appointed attorney.

I honestly don’t know what will happen in the long run to law schools.  I’m hoping the majority of them will close.  It looks like many are getting the message about the economic disaster of going to law school.  I’m happy to see a massive drop in law school attendance.  However, a kind of see no evil, here no evil remains.  Evasion has become a cultural hallmark today in America.  I never want to undermine a person’s dreams.  But they have to be armed with Professor Tamanaha’s book or even the scam bloggers sites to make the decision as to whether to attend law school.  All I have to say is good luck, and you’ve been warned.

Bookish Babe


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