Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chat room devoted to law school bashing asks how grads from "Tier 2" and lower law schools fared

And lo and behold, lots of them are actually doing quite well (as someone reading Simkovic & McIntyre would have expected--economic/professional success isn't really measured nine months after graduation).  Thanks to a colleague elsewhere for forwarding this remarkable thread:

 
shikes (Apr 19, 2014 - 7:01 pm)
1. I was top 3rd in grades. 2. My networking was 100% cold emails. My family have likely never spoken to anyone in the legal profession (except for me). I literally emailed every single alum in the market and asked to meet for coffee. I even emailed some non-alums out of desperation just to see if they would meet with a new attorney and give some advice. We're talking like 400 emails. About 40 agreed to meet with me, Like 30 were completely useless (Just mass mail biglaw and you're gonna have a job by the end of the month-type), 5 were very aware of the market and said they would try to help but never responded to my follow-ups, and then the last 5 were very open to helping out, kept in touch with me after we met and gave me some leads that ultimately led to my job (I got an email from one guy I met a month before saying he heard of a firm hiring and I should apply for the position and send my stuff to his friend, etc.). "Info interviews" as a grad is pretty pathetic and feels uncomfortable, but by the 5th meeting its all the same. Same questions, same jokes, you're just on autopilot. At worst, I got some free lunches at some fairly expensive restaurants. 97% of the time they will pay for you if they were nice enough to meet with you in the first place. 3. My undergrad is a joke that most everyday people have never heard of. 4. I have a history degree...so yeah, nothing there. 5. Nothing IP related at all.
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actionbronson (Apr 21, 2014 - 8:19 pm)
I think some degree of luck definitely had to do with where I ended up.  I was in the right place at the right time, but I definitely took the right steps to get there. I was dealt a fairly crappy hand but I played it very well.
The problem is that a lot of posters here erroneously think that a graduate of an average (or downright terrible) law school cannot possibly have landed a real legal job without some major advantage they aren't fully disclosing. They think dudes like me were really lucky, or their uncle owns the law firm, or their dad is in state government, or they are very smart and in another era would have inevitably ended up in BigLaw. Nope. In my case, I'm a regular guy with an average GPA from an average law school who had to work for free for a few months before getting an offer.  Bottom line is, my employers (though at the time they were more like my slave masters) liked my work product enough to start processing me through the morass that is the state hiring process. The tone of the questions these "T2 Success Stories" have been getting have a tinge of resentment behind them.
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tobeornottobe (Apr 21, 2014 - 11:17 pm)
Lots of myopia on this thread. People tend to wrongly extrapolate from their own circumstances in almost any context, but especially when it comes to jobs it seems. Those who have jobs despite the long odds claim they succeeded because they "hustled." The snarkily imply that anyone who doesn't isn't trying hard enough, didn't network, and of course isn't "hustling."
I am 48. I had a good job as the legislative counsel for an association in DC. It only paid about $55K, but that was enough for me. I am single and have no children. But I had to quit to care for a dying parent, my father, who had so many health problems the list would stretch from your wrist to your elbow. I had previously cared for my mother, a WWII victim, who died a few years earlier. My elder sister was a violent drunk for many years, and then refused to provide any help to me to care for our father.
Dad died in 2008. At that time I had been working part time for another association, but that job ran out at the end of the year. The employer I had quit gave me $10K worth of consulting work a year. So I set about to find a new job, and did the following:
Went on over 100 informational interviews with alumni from my undergraduate and law schools, and with local lawyers. Joined a bar association, and went to many of their networking events. Joined three job search clubs. Spent $3,500 to take adult and continuing education classes in real estate, HIPAA, ERISA, government contracts, tax, human resources, employee benefits, and grant writing. Did volunteer work for two food banks and a kidney foundation. Joined a Chamber of Commerce. Volunteered for their legislative committee, had a two part article in my area published in their newsletter, and gave free presentations to their members and other business groups. Self published and marketed my book to book bloggers all over the world. The book was received rave reviews, although it isn't earning any money. Applied for hundreds of jobs, legal and non legal, including jobs at fast food restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, and big box retailers. Offered to volunteer, but was turned down, because they had too many other lawyers trying to do the same thing. Could not even get a single document review assignment, either in DC or Richmond. Too much competition.
And yet I still have to listen to condescending, patronizing, insulting lectures that I am not "trying hard enough" and not "hustling." It's still my responsibility to find a job, despite the discrimination against the long term unemployed and anyone over 40 practiced by employers. But accusations that I need to try harder are bullshit. And my "area"? It's unemployment compensation. The real unemployment rate is the U-6, which the government says is about 12.7%. I know many people who think it's closer to 20%.
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gribble (Apr 22, 2014 - 11:48 am)
I've been avoiding this site because it's overly negative, but there is also a need to be objectively honest.
The truth is everyone hustles, and everyone works hard, and everyone is pretty smart. Well fine, not "everyone" but the people you are competing with. Sure there are some junkies and failures about, but that's not the majority of your competition, it never was and never will be.
Society couldn't be built any other way really. There really aren't that many geniuses, and the IQ stratification isn't really that extreme. Most people can do most jobs, but it just depends completely on if they will be given those opportunities. You can't make a system where things don't work that way, because it's too hard to match people up and then create a society where people can do things based on intelligence (i.e., if only 15% of the population could drive, or use a smartphone, etc.).
So what it comes down to is usually luck. Luck in what family you're born into, where you're born, when, and then things happening as you live your life, in terms of schooling, testing (how you feel that day, how the grader feels, etc.) and the broad state of the economy. There are so many things happening all the time that people don't pick up on.
So ultimately all anyone can do is put effort in, and live their lives the way the chips fall. And most people in this economy will find their lives aren't what they were led to believe they'd be for putting that effort in. That's probably why the government's estimates were 90% off on IBR LOL.
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livingthedream (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:20 pm)
Setting aside the age discrimination which absolutely exist, I'd be curious to know how you come across during an interview. Often times people are their own worst enemies. People think they are great at interviewing but are bad. If you can get the interview you've done the hustling part but that isn't enough obliviously. You need to close the deal. Many people can't close the deal. Often times they can't close the deal due to personality, demeanor, or attitude. Contrary to what most would have you believe outside of biglaw the pedigree and credentials matter very little. Most people hiring don't know the difference in ranking between UTexas and Oregon. And if you are talking to a guy chances are he'll know more about their NCAA rankings in various sports than their newsweek rankings. A person can EASILY overcome a degree from [insert T4 school here]if you are charming and engaging at the interview.
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mississippilawyer (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:25 pm)
been in practice for 7 years. I was able to pay off my loan debt quickly, so I guess I am lucky (compared to what people say here). I have done o.k. I have had a few good fees on some cases, but I have also taken some colossal losses too. My income varies wildly from year to year. I am primarily a plaintiff attorney who actually litigates cases (not refers, settles, ect). This is an extremely competitive business, and it is extremely expensive and risky. My vocation is gambling. I accept cases based on risk analysis with no guarantee of earning one penny. I have won big, and I have lost big. The name of the game is not to spend money like you are going to earn a big fee every year. The steady players spend money as if they will have their worst year every year. In the end, defense attorneys who make equity partner probably make the same amount of money as their counterparts over the long run. Most people are misled when they hear that lawyer X got a $1million fee on a case. That may be the only fee like that he ever gets (and probably is).
In the final analysis, success is really what you make it to be. If you want to make a ton of money on lawyer fees, then you will have to give up your life to do that. Contrary to popular belief here, you can make a lot of money practicing law if you are willing to sacrifice your soul and spare time. After doing this for a little while, I define success as having a practice that is simple, and allows me to experience life outside of the office. Do not let your vocation define you, or you will end up a miserable human being, and have many regrets on your deathbed. Life is short. Live it while you can.
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Of course, encouraging anecdotes do not tell us much about the long-term career outcomes of gradautes of low-ranked law schools.  But the critics of law schools have nothing more than discouraging anecdotes about the long-term career outcomes either.

UPDATE:  Professor Simkovic writes:

FYI, After the JD does have outcome data for graduates of Tier 3 (100-150) and Tier 4 (150 to 200) law schools from the class of 2000/2001. 

AJD II (6  years out) shows average incomes of around $83K-$92K among those working full-time in 2006 (inflation adjusted, this would be around $97K-$108K today).

http://www.law.du.edu/documents/directory/publications/sterling/AJD2.pdf

ADJIII (~10 years out) should be released soon.  Of course, these figures are only:

1) Bar Passers

and

2) Those working full time (whether or not as lawyers)

Frank and I include non-bar passers and those working part time or unemployed.

ANOTHER:  The proprietor of "JD Underground" tells me the original thread, above, came from that website. 

 

 

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2014/04/chat-room-devoted-to-law-school-bashing-asks-how-grads-from-tier-2-and-lower-law-schools-fared.html

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