Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An update is in order

I guess I can call myself an attorney now. I don't, very often. But, I can.

Strange phrase, isn't it:


I haven't referred to myself as an "attorney" but two or three times.

And only when someone asks me, "So, what do you do?"

I say, "I'm an attorney."

And, then we talk about the weather or some shit. It's such a stumbling block. It just derails the conversation.

I have some friends from law school who use "Esq." now, in their communications, signatures, and so forth. It seems clumsy to me. So, I don't do it.

I don't know if I can say it's all that great being an attorney. I'm not surprised by the work, really. I guess I just thought my experience would be a little different than it has been. Law school was something to endure, the bar exam something to simply pass.

For what it's worth, I can knock the following off my list: (1) graduate from an accredited law school, (2) pass the bar exam, (3) get paid to do the type of work only a licensed attorney may do. Done, done, and done.

And what a long, strange trip it's been.

OK, all jokes aside. Here is where I'm at now. I am working, basically part-time, doing contract work for two different attorneys. Both of these men I knew prior to law school. And, I suppose I should also point out, both of these men have been practicing law for years and are throwing me table scraps.

The upside is I am covering my expenses, spending time with my family, and getting paid actual money to do legal work. I have current employment to list on my resume. And I have professional references that are not either law professors or people I worked for before I went to law school.

The downside is I'm pretty much working out of my house or a public library. All I require is a power source and an internet connection. The house is fine with me. It's flexible, the 'fridge is mere steps away, and I can walk around in my pajamas all day if I want to. The library is OK, but I have to actually get dressed and shave in the morning. Well, at least dressed. I'm typing this from a table in the library. I have a file in front of me which contains a police report and a bunch of other docs. I'm doing a motion to suppress, illegal search and seizure basically.

You know what occurred to me this morning that prompted this entry? Law school teaches nothing about the actual practice of law.

I know, preaching to the choir. You've all heard it already.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Strange bedfellows indeed

It may be time to post some content on this blog again. I have not written anything for publication in months. I've been keeping a file (read: pile) of notes. A few scraps or paper, really, here and there.

I am now over year out from graduation. I am not employed as an attorney. Nor, have I been at any time in the last 12 months. At least not in any sense of the word used in common conversation with normal, average, reasonable people. I was "employed" as far as my law school is concerned. And, I was employed as far as the USNWR folks are concerned.

I was a "graduate fellow." No, I don't know what it means either. Other than a rather grim view of what people will do when the opportunity to falsely represent themselves arises. And I mean the law schools, not the graduates.

You see, the magic number is nine months. Yes, what matters is what the graduate is doing nine months after graduation. If the graduate is not "employed" in the common sense of the word, working for pay, full time, in a job which requires a JD, well, such information would be damaging to a law schools ranking. So, the answer is to create, out of thin air, a "job" for this student.

Hence, the Graduate Fellowship Program. Or, GFP (Get Fucking Paid). I was offered a check for five thousand dollars ($5,000) if I agreed to volunteer my services, part time, for the remaining length of the spring semester.

I am not a proud man. I signed the contract and accepted payment.

That check sat on my counter for two months. I simply could not face it. I guess I was more proud than I originally thought.

I eventually deposited it at my bank. In a separate savings account, populated only with those funds. It is dirty money. Dirty. Fucking. Money. I may need it someday. But, for now, I can't stand the thought of co-mingling such gains with the funds that feed my children.

I wish I had the strength of character to decline the school's offer and say, "No. No, you count me as unemployed. Because that is what I am."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thinning the herd

I know a lot more about the machine which legal education now that I am standing on the far end of process with a J.D. One of the things which really surprised me at the TTTT (fourth tier toliet) I chose to attend was the brutal effects of the grading curve.

My wife went to law school a few years (and a few children) before I did. She went to a lower-ranked state school, but one with a history and a respectable reputation. I, for reasons I can barely now remember nor articulate clearly, went to a for-profit law school. It was in the same state my life was licensed in, but a different city than where we lived. So, a big move for the family, but not as big as it could have been.

I matriculated in 2008 with 174 other students. Three years later, I walked with the 89 who actually completed the program. That means 85 students were lost along the way to failure, drop-out, or transfer. That is a total loss of 48.8%. (I should say now, I am no whiz in math. I may make a mistake or two in my back-of-the-envelope calculations here today.)

My cohort lost some 70 students between 1L and 2L. That number comes from the class rank I was given in May at the end of the first year. There were 174 students on the list. Students who simply disappeared (there were a few) during 1L remained on the list of 174.

There was a 40% reduction in student body at the end of 2L. The total class was now 104.

I find that number alarming. As I understand it, from my wife's experience in school and that of others I have read, a loss of about 10% to what is commonly termed "attrition" can be expected in the first year of law school. Much of that loss is expected during the first semester.

To have forty percent of the folks who began the program vacate their seats is simply unheard of. Well, unheard of until you start reading about the Law School Scam. Some of these folks figured law wasn't for them, some transferred to a different school. But, I believe the majority of them failed out of the program.

Someone asked me once, as I described to them the number of people who failed out of the program, "Why would the school admit people who couldn't handle the work?"

It was a good question. One you would expect of any other graduate program in the country. The short answer is the law schools admit people "who can't handle the work" simply to take the money. Students were never there to "handle the work." They were there as cannon fodder. This mass of under-performers is what pays for the discounted and free tuition offered to the high LSAT / GPA folks. That keeps the all-important USNWR rankings humming along, those lives destroyed through non-dischargeable debt be damned.

The curve forced curve utilized at institutions such as my (proud) alma mater lead to an inevitable deficiency in grade point average. In short, if you give 15% of every class a grade of less than a C, you are going to fail out that same number of people.

There was a loss of an additional 15 students from 2L to 3L. I calculate (poorly) that to be a 14% reduction.

You may ask, who the hell fails out after the 2L? Just over a dozen people, apparently. Here is where it gets really ugly: All those kids have credits for courses they cannot transfer or use toward any other program of study, employment, or career. The debt they incurred for either one third or two thirds of a J.D. cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. It will never go away. And, it will be compounded at around 7% interest. They will be paying off those loans for years. Decades in many cases. I feel bad for those people. Some of them were my friends. One of them I still talk to.

They got screwed.