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:

cheapbrass (Apr 18, 2014 - 2:53 pm)
If you are a tier 2 or below grad...and are somewhat successful ($100k+ salary) post here.  how far out of school you are and your firm size, or if you are a solo, partner, or associate
Me first:  Tier 3, 10+ years out, firm size 5-10, forever associate.
tttnoregrets (Apr 18, 2014 - 3:49 pm)
It takes a salary of over 100K to be considered somewhat successful? Shit
reasonable_man (Apr 18, 2014 - 4:42 pm)
Fourth tier Law school.  5 years out.  Salary is over 100k.  Firm size is over 100 but not biglaw.  Associate.
suzyq (Apr 18, 2014 - 5:06 pm)
An attorney I know well is a Cooley grad, solo practice, and earns WELL over $100K as a criminal defense attorney. He started out as a prosecutor then joined a small firm then went into practice for himself, which he's had for about 6 years.
adamb (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:25 pm)
What region?  That is rare for a criminal defense solo.
suzyq (Apr 21, 2014 - 7:44 pm)
South Carolina. Small town. He represents a lot of drug dealers.
bigcitywannabe (Apr 18, 2014 - 5:36 pm)
2002 grad of 4th tier school - 100K+ gov't job (since 2002)
adamb (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:26 pm)
raskolnikov (Apr 18, 2014 - 5:39 pm)
2011 grad, T2, eat what you kill arrangement in a two attorney firm with a senior attorney.  Netted around $120k last year.
adamb (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:27 pm)
What area of practice?
shtlawaspiration (Apr 18, 2014 - 6:46 pm)
Boss is a T4 grad in a small market, he's been out roughly 10 years and manages a 5 person firm. Last year it appears he paid himself a salary of around $130-150k. Not bad in small town america.
actionbronson (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:04 pm)
T3. 1 year out. $70k salary. Gov't jerb.
adamb (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:28 pm)
How? Where?  What type of job?
actionbronson (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:43 pm)
Civil litigation. State government. I interned there during law school, then went back there and worked for free for a few months. I got offered a full-time, paid position not long after my bar results came in.
Interestingly enough, my office routinely hires new members of the bar and experience attorneys. Most people just don't bother applying because they forget it exists.
suzyq (Apr 21, 2014 - 7:45 pm)
Help me, actionbronson. I'm blonde. Government job that's civil lit?
actionbronson (Apr 21, 2014 - 8:08 pm)
Yes. I defend a certain state entity when lawsuits are filed against it.
top5 (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:06 pm)
2009 Grad, T4, 4 years with Govt as attorney, 100K+ (household income $310K)
lefty (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:17 pm)
2009, T2 grad.  4 lawyer firm.  ~$120k total comp.  Have never billed over  1200 hours in a year. Boss wants me to take over firm in 5-7 years so he can retire.
adamb (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:29 pm)
How did you swing that?
josephine (Apr 18, 2014 - 7:31 pm)
Pre-2000, $180k+ in 2013, Brooklyn Law School.  Loans are a distant memory.
wateryplanet (Apr 18, 2014 - 11:23 pm)
Class of 2007, T2 grad, top 30%. Background in engineering. Started at $160k at an IP boutique, 2 years later lateraled to biglaw, 2 years later took a client away from biglaw and now partner at a small firm making $500k+.
helloladies21 (Apr 19, 2014 - 1:02 am)
This was great to read. I wish we could do more of this.
kansas (Apr 19, 2014 - 1:21 am)
I know some folks who are making 70K solid net who are about 10 years out, solo.  They all do PI.  They had someone supporting them for a while though.  Probably will continue to make more and more, they aren't unrealistic and do a lot of small cases and getting better and better referrals.  I also know some folks who used to make 180K who are older, who do work comp now, and are crying all the time, evidently that doesn't pay anymore.  Most folks I know who do tax don't make too much, though a few tax lawyers I know with bank clients do way better, mostly they took them with from biglaw gigs.
mrlollipop (Apr 19, 2014 - 4:15 am)
Thomas Jefferson grad, class of 2008, doing entertainment law in LA, now partner of a boutique firm, representing several hollywood big names now. Pulled 600k first year as a partner
murdock (Apr 19, 2014 - 4:43 pm)
How many times has TJ asked if they can put you in their brochure?
trollfeeder (Apr 19, 2014 - 3:56 pm)
T4 grad, $65k state gubmint job, with a good bit of growth potential.
shikes (Apr 19, 2014 - 5:29 pm)
I pull in 85K as a first year associate who graduated jobless out of a T2. Got the job through, you guessed it, networking.
fmllawyer (Apr 19, 2014 - 6:39 pm)
what was your GPA? did you network through family connections? did you get the job because of your undergrad? was your undergrad degree from a prestigious institution? do you have an IP-friendly undergrad major?
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.
suzyq (Apr 21, 2014 - 7:49 pm)
You're a genius. Seriously. I'm impressed. Way to go!
lqclamar (Apr 19, 2014 - 5:54 pm)
2009 T3 grad, associate at 250+ attorney firm making around 110k total comp
siezetheday (Apr 19, 2014 - 7:01 pm)
2011 T2 grad - Compliance - 120k total comp for 2013...(Note:2 years worth of paid compliance internships in LS)
livingthedream (Apr 19, 2014 - 11:06 pm)
Graduated from T4 in a small market. Graduated middle of the pack. Moved east to a city with no ties and no real alumni network. Applied for jobs the entire time I was studying for the bar and got a job the December of the year I graduated. Speaking foreign language and being charming/funny where the difference makers in getting the job. Small firm doing plaintiff side lit. salary was 45k at start with no bennies. 3 years later 89k no bennies. wife covers insurance through her job. love my job and ive had numerous offers at bigger firms but im staying put.
fwiw love this thread- to much negativity generally
wanka (Apr 20, 2014 - 10:29 pm)
There are a ton of lower tier success stories. But ask about lower tier and bad grades, success stories,and then make a call
baquilae (Apr 21, 2014 - 10:59 am)
+1. Just about all T2 schools (and beyond) regularly place a small but still sizable chunk (5%-10%) into biglaw, by virtue of grades and OCI.
spaghetti (Apr 21, 2014 - 2:19 am)
T30 school with worse employment prospects than plenty of other lower-ranked schools. I graduated barely above median in 2011. I work at a preftigious govt agency. Pay is good, especially with my school's LRAP.
I got my job through a judge I interned for. I got really, really lucky, so I don't know if I can call it a success story.
elitttist (Apr 22, 2014 - 2:16 pm)
Similar. T30 trap school with inflated numbers and pretty bad employment prospects. Graduated near the bottom of the class. On track to pull in $85k this year doing contracts administration. 40-50 hour work week, every week. Five years out.
reasonable_man (Apr 21, 2014 - 7:43 am)
If we are discounting luck, the thread would be empty. Anyone posting here (myself included) has to admit that some manner of luck plays into success from a lower tiered school. Sure I worked very hard and really made things happen for myself (hell I killed myself to get where I am), but I'm not stupid enough to think that luck didn't play some role in it too.
livingthedream (Apr 21, 2014 - 4:44 pm)
Yeah I disagree re luck. Are employed individuals who graduated from T2-T4 schools fortunate if to be working? Sure. But it's fortunate in the same way that I'm fortunate to have been born in the U.S. and not Mali. I think the difference maker is "hustle". The reason I have my job is hustle. The reason my friends have jobs is because they hustled. The job fairy never once visited them after law school. People who hustle will always have work. People who bitch and moan about how bad things are will always struggle regardless of pedigree.
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.
nowayjose (Apr 21, 2014 - 8:24 pm)
Agreed. Granted, there aren't enough jobs for ALL law grads to land an entry-level position. But it's not all about luck, it's a combination of hustle, work-product, networking and how well you did in whatever school you went to.
livingthedream (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:11 pm)
I don't see any benefit in looking at the numbers from that perspective. All that an individual needs is one job. That should be the focus imho.
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%.
jd1997 (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:15 am)
If the unemployment rate was calculated the same way it was calculated before 1994 it would be over 22% today:
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.
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.
jd1997 (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:40 pm)
Where will this person be interviewing where the interviewer will be completely uninformed about law schools and their ranking.  Is this for a Starbucks or Home Depot Associate position or one the too many to count imaginary JD Advantage positions. 
There is going to be very little demand for any attorney with more than 10 years experience without portables or significant connections.  Sadly, do not think a Polly-Anna-ish or Little Orphan Annie outlook on life will help much.
nowayjose (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:56 pm)
shouldalearnedmath (Apr 21, 2014 - 8:40 am)
2010 Grad from a tier 2.  Did doc review for awhlie then a temp job for a year.  Then got a job in banking compliance for 1.5 years around 70k. Just started a job in-house for a Fortune 100.  Total comp is just over 100.
fmllawyer (Apr 21, 2014 - 11:55 am)
How did you get the banking compliance job? Where did you learn of the opportunity?
shouldalearnedmath (Apr 21, 2014 - 12:05 pm)
I was able to spin my temp job to sound a bit compliancy.  I also had a relevant internship in law school.  I saw the compliance job on linkedin.  It was actually with a large retailer on the credit card program, and not a bank.
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.
nowayjose (Apr 22, 2014 - 12:58 pm)
This is nice to hear, thanks.
3rdamendmentscholar (Apr 22, 2014 - 2:28 pm)
T2 (borderline Tri-T), Class of 2009, Top 25%.  Have gone from "paid" (barely) internship -> solo screamer associate -> midlaw associate. Live in a low-COL area in the South.  ~$80K for hours that are hardly brutal and let me spend a lot of time with my kids.  Still buried in debt but there's hope.
shillelaghlaw (Apr 22, 2014 - 4:31 pm)
I'll throw my hat into this one, some positivity is a nice break.  Class of '08 from a lower T2 school.  Right in the middle of the pack grades.  STEM ugrad.  Small firm for three years in New England, now inhouse at a Fortune 500 in the southern states.  ~200k.
1sttimepasser (Apr 22, 2014 - 5:06 pm)
T2, class of 2011.  Small firm, 4 lawyers.  110k salary, no benefits (have through spouse).
daveykleinfeld (Apr 22, 2014 - 5:33 pm)
T3, graduated almost 7 years ago...did not pass bar exam for years.....now making around 150k with base and bonus in "Quasi" Legal position...work about 45-50 hrs a week.


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).


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

1) Bar Passers


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. 



Posted by Brian Leiter on April 24, 2014 in Legal Profession | Permalink

April 18, 2014

Not the kind of law school trustee who builds good will

At NYU, but the Law School is defending the students.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 18, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 17, 2014

Signs of the times, Oregon edition

A dispute at Oregon about whether to eliminate faculty raises, in order to use the money in other ways (appraently, to bolster the school's falling US New.com rank by funding more jobs for grads) has burst into public.  I'm sure similarly unpleasant fights over scarce resources are going on at other schools.  Although some sites linking to this are using it as an opportunity to attack Prof. Illig, there is no doubt he articulates concerns that many others probably share.  (University of Oregon is chronically underfunded, and its salaries also lag that of other AAU schools, so that's part of the background here.)

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 17, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 16, 2014

Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow opine in yesterday's NY Times...

...that things aren't as awful as the various charlatans and other law-school haters claim, and, predictably (given the social psychology), the charlatans and haters go crazy.  I won't link to the hysterical reactions (they are easy enough to find with Google), but they boil down to one complaint:  Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow cited NALP data without treating it as bogus (e.g., that JD Advantage jobs are really jobs [actually many of them are, but never mind]).  That's true, they linked to the NALP data, but they didn't spend the rest of their piece debunking that data based on speculation, skepticism, and occasionally other actual evidence.  This has certainly been a standing problem in the debate about American legal education, as when serious data analysis showed that legal education was a sound economic investment for the vast majority of students, and critics refused to believe that was true, though without any contrary evidence or analysis.  So we can all agree that we should be more careful about how we present data and its import. 

That being said, my main disagreement with Chemerinsky & Menkel-Meadow is about the necessity of three years of legal education, as I've said before:  two years could work, and work very well for many students.  In reality, the biggest obstacle to reducing costs in legal education, however, is unnoted in their op-ed:  it remains the lax tenure standards and the unwillingness of universities to terminate tenured faculty for cause, i.e., when they manifestly do not do their job. 

Imagine, for example, a law school that pays a six figure salary (closing in on 200K) to someone with almost no legal experience and an M.A. in literature who teaches the same couple of substantive courses year in and year out, courses in which he has no experience, whose teaching evaluations are consistently below average, who hasn't written any serious legal scholarship in years, who is regarded as a joke by his colleagues at his own school and in the academy at large, and who mostly spends his time insulting, defaming, and blackmailing colleagues who do their jobs.  It endangers the institution of tenure when universities do not initiate proceedings to terminate malevolent charlatans like this.  Many law schools, as we've noted before, are offering financial inducements to "buy out" senior faculty, most of whom are not charlatans.  Real cost reduction, however, will require universities to move against the charlatans and the de facto retired in their midst, even those who have tried to insulate themselves from termination for cause by setting up frivolous retaliation claims.

UPDATE:  More thoughts on reforming legal education from Michael Madison (Pitt).

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 16, 2014 in Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

April 10, 2014

Lots of students are applying to law school late in the season

Anyone following Al Brophy's reports on the LSAC data will notice that, while applications are still down from last year, they are down a bit less with each subsequent report.  That's consistent with anecdotal reports from colleagues who teach undergraduates who report being asked to write letters of recommendation later and later in the season than just a few years ago.  One surmises that at least part of what is happening is that (1) students waivering about going to law school are realizing that they don't have other tangible professional plans, (2) students are realizing their chances of getting good admissions offers--either in terms of the caliber of the school and/or the cost--are much better this year than just a few years ago.  Along with this indicator, I suspect the decline in applications is about to bottom out.  It will still take a couple more years, though, for most law schools to begin hiring new faculty again given the dramatic decline in applications and enrollments of the last few years.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 10, 2014 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Legal Profession, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink

April 07, 2014

Lawyers, law professors and depression

A bracing series of posts by Charlotte Law's Brian Clarke:  this is the third in the series, with links back to the earlier ones.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 7, 2014 in Faculty News, Legal Profession | Permalink

April 03, 2014

More signs of the times: 15% cut in tuition sticker price at Brooklyn

Story here.  Whether that will represent an actual cut depends on how much discounting took place in the past, which we don't know.

Posted by Brian Leiter on April 3, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

April 02, 2014

The law clerk hiring process: an interview with Judge Ambro of the 3rd Circuit


Posted by Brian Leiter on April 2, 2014 in Legal Profession, Professional Advice, Student Advice | Permalink

March 25, 2014

Dean Rodriguez (Northwestern) on hysteria about law schools

He is obviously right.  What is worse, in this instance, is that the "story" about Denver is complete fiction, but since "Above the Law" has no regard for facts, it's hardly surprising they would report such fiction as though it were factual.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 25, 2014 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

March 21, 2014

More signs of the times

Appalachian cutting faculty.  In addition, I recently spoke to a colleague at another law school--a strong, regional school but with a faculty with a national scholarly reputation--who reported the teaching load has been raised from 10 hours per year per faculty member to 12 hours.  Twenty years ago, 12 hours was the norm at most law schools, except for the very top ones.  Over the last twenty years, 10 hours/3 courses became increasingly common.  For a school of this caliber to make the move back to 12 suggests that other schools are following or will soon follow suit.

Posted by Brian Leiter on March 21, 2014 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink