False pretenses

 January 11, 2011

By  Casey Berman

Many of you have written in regarding Sunday’s New York Times article Is Law School a Losing Game.  The article discusses in depth how law schools are highly profitable, cash cow businesses.  In order to continue to attract more and more students (and more and more tuition payments), the article describes how some law schools look to prop up their US News & World Report ranking by, among other metrics, finessing and overplaying the employment rate of their graduates.  The article alleges that many law schools promise to aspiring law students a job market that just no longer exists.

A number of unhappy law students, graduates and blogs (Third Tier Reality, Shilling Me Softly, Subprime JD and Rose Colored Glasses) are profiled, many of whom lament entering law school (and incurring the corresponding student loan debt) under the false pretense that a legal education would secure them a legal job.

The ire is understandable, but really a waste of time.

You see, we can protest the way law schools pad their graduation rates, we can become angry at undelivered employment promises we felt we deserved, we can grumble at the unfulfilling job we currently occupy and we can complain about the unresponsiveness of the ABA.

But such a reaction only perpetuates the greatest mistake many of us make, day in and day out:  Refusing to realize that the legal profession is not the only arena for a licensed lawyer to create a satisfying, revenue producing life.

Let’s first attend to the question begging to be answered:  Why continue to fight in this red ocean for a dearth of legal job opportunities that most will not even enjoy to begin with?  Why expend so much effort to preserve the tired, out-dated system of receiving a paycheck to complete yet another heaping of un-enjoyable work for a committee of partners driven by nothing more than their firm’s bottom line?

Don’t continue.  Stop it.  Leave.  Leave the law, before you start (don’t apply to law school) altogether (create a new venture) or as you know it (build a new legal related business more to your liking).  Leave the bloody zero-sum game of the legal world and begin swimming in the blue ocean of an as-yet-unthought-of area of commercial need in alignment with your passions and skills.

The situation described in Is Law School a Losing Game is sad and pervasive . . . but really, so what?  You cannot let this have an effect on you.  If you’re daunted by the lack of legal job prospects or unhappy with your practice of the law, don’t keep yourself in this situation under the false pretense that there is nothing else for you to do.  There is.  Leave.

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  1. I’ve been following those same articles and I absolutely agree with you that this type of analysis is a waste of time. Blaming the establishment keeps people from honestly asking themselves the tough personal questions: who am I and what makes me happy? It wasn’t until I finally just chalked my JD up as a sunk cost that I could start asking myself these questions. I love your blog and am glad that you’re helping other recovering attorneys build happier lives.

    1. Thanks so much, Kris. Self accountability is a key part to moving on and actually (gasp) being happy!

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