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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Bitter 3L responds, still bitter

Our regular blog readers may remember a commenter using the name "Bitter 3L" who told us he/she that was a third-year student at the University of Minnesota Law School who could not find a post-graduation job. Some of you responded to 3L's post, offering such comments as law students have no right to expect their school to provide them with a job, and they should not anticipate landing a six-figure salary upon graduation.

After a hiatus, Bitter 3L has responded to some of those earlier comments. Since you may not be in the habit of going back and checking old posts for comments, I have excerpted 3L's response and provide it below. (You can find the comments 3L is responding to and his/her full response by clicking here.)

Never in my post did I mention that I expected to start off with a six
figure salary. I took out 100k grand in student debt to attend law school. Part
of my decision to attend the University of Minnesota Law School was based on its
employment statistics. When you publish 99% employment, in spite of the truth
being very different, as a student I have the right to be bitter.Most of my
classmates have comparable debt loads. You simply can't pay off that much debt
in ten years on a 45k salary. It can't be done. Education costs have been rising
in this country at a rate far higher than inflation. …

I have been searching [for] a job, any job for over a year. I have applied at jobs throughout the country. So have many of my classmates. I don't expect the University to get me a job. I do expect though that it will promote itself properly. Outside of the Upper Midwest, employers don't even realize that an incoming class as the U is academically comparable to Vanderbilt. That's the law school's fault.


If the University published honest career statistics, I know many
of my classmates would never have attended. I can't understand why people feel
that anger at the law school system is unjustified. When you blatantly lie to
your prospective consumers, and they destroy their lives as a result, you
deserve anger.

22 comments:

Peter said...

Not having read the original post, I wonder what the _real_ statistics are. Is it 75%? 50%? Apart from the alleged puffery in the placement statistics (is there another law school that puts forth more accurate placement numbers?), we all have to look in the mirror and decide whether all of those employers who did not hire us were on to something.

Bitter 3l, now bitterly unemployed said...

Why should University of Minnesota be allowed to publish dishonest career statistics?

They have large tax exemptions. If they are going to operate as a for profit business. Inducing prospective students with dishonest figures, they should be treated as any other for profit agency.

Peter:
I guess a significant portion of my law class are morons, that's why we all can't find jobs. Nothing to do with the fact that the University has done nothing to build up a national brand, in spite of having an extremely selective student class every year.

Bitter 3l, now bitterly unemployed said...

Once a month this blog should publish a story about the life of a contract attorney in Minnesota, or an attorney who does document review, or an attorney who moonlights as a cab driver. Maybe even a yearly profile.

At the end of it, post the "career stats" from the attorney's alma mater

Since this blog bills itself as Minnesota Lawyer, it would be nice to read the occasional article about the day to day reality for the average attorney in Minnesota. Not the facade that is this website.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone besides me starting to see why Bitter might be having trouble finding gainful employment? One can only imagine how Bitter comes across in a job interview. Based on the postings Bitter has put here, I wouldn't offer Bitter a job working checkout at a Target, let alone working with clients.

Perhaps, in the words of Shakespeare, "The fault, my dear Bitter, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

Bitter 3l said...

Anonymous

If it was just me who was unemployed, you might have a point. Its not, its a significant portion of my class.

m said...

Bitter 3L is right. Law cchools really do appear to lie about their placement numbers.

I work for a state agency that is laying off lawyers. The lawyers who just got hired within the past year-and-a-half will be gone soon. They are making $50,000 a year and they feel lucky to have had a job at all. They have told me that the vast majority of their classmates are still not employed as lawyers nearly two years after graduation.

I do think the schools should be held responsible for their deceit. Prospective students rely on that information when deciding whether, and where. to go to law school. I would sure like someone to do a story on this and see how many law school graduates are "placed" simply because they are employed at all. I am looking for a house and I met a nice, smart, young woman who graduated from law school last May, but is working as a realtor because she can not find a job in her profession.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Minnesota Lawyer ran an article on the challenges some young lawyers face finding a job -- ”Help Not Wanted” -- last October.

Anonymous said...

There's an old saying - beggars can't be choosers. I graduated 6 years ago, the year of lay-offs and offer rescissions. I took a job at a small firm, because it was the only one offered. I had good grades, good extra-curriculars (law review & moot court, and their governing boards). The pay was awful - the lowest on the school's annual survey.

BUT - I got GREAT experience that can't be beat. I've since moved up to new places, new experiences, and a better salary.

Those loans that Bitter was talking about - well, they can be deferred depending on your salary. They can also be extended over the course of 25 years. And believe it or not, there are forgiveness programs out there for public service work that Bitter could be doing.

Rather than ranting and raving in the comments section of a blog, perhaps it would be more productive for Bitter to come up with solutions that may not include a 6-figure income, but could include gainful employment in the field that can provide valuable experience for future opportunities and higher pay.

Of course, on the other hand, Bitter could just go into business for Bitter's self - and keep on playing the blame game to success.... Good luck with that.

Bitter said...

Anonymous

Its not just me, its a significant portion of my class. If it was just one isolated person, you would have a point.

Again nowhere in my post did I mention a six figure starting salary.

Do you honestly think the graduating class at the U, is made up of lazy individuals?

Why can't we get jobs?

Why is the ABA, which is supposed to serve the interests of lawyers, continually accrediting new law schools? Are they totally unaware of the situation for most lawyers today.

I want a direct answer

Do you think Universities should be required to publish honest career statistics?

Mark

One article a year doesn't cut it. This is the most important issues for lawyers in my generation and it should be covered every day. Instead the vast majority of your publication is devoted to a small segment of the legal community that is doing well.

Bitter said...

I'm tired of people telling me to shut up on this blog.

Throughout law school, the dean continually lie to students who are considering dropping out, telling them they'll get a job.

The second we graduate were pushed in the corner and forgotten, and told it is all your fault you don't have a full time job.

This blog is Minnesota Lawyer. Not the 20% of Minnesota Lawyers who have jobs. The rest of us have the right to speak.

Another recent 3L said...

Thanks for sticking up for us, Bitter. I worked 20-25 hours/week this year in a legal position to beef up my experience. I've been looking for jobs all year. I'm trying. I don't consider myself lazy. I'm willing to take a low-paying, entry-level, experience-giving job, if I could find one. Just because I'm not in the Top 20% doesn't mean I'm stupid. There's nothing like spending three years in a top-ranked law school to destroy your self-esteem and warp your perception. I'm worthless and lazy because I'm not the very top of a competitive program? I guess bring on the insults for my post, but thanks Bitter.

another recent 3L said...

Also, judging by the Mark's most recent post about the budget cuts, looks like there is even less of a chance of me getting one of those low-paying, high-experience jobs that are my key to success.

Anonymous said...

I responded to the first original post, and I cannot remember whether this topic was raised: solo practice. I graduated in 2004. I did not graduate from the top tier law school in the State. Some of my classmates decided to start their own practice. Actually, one of my classmates left a firm to start his/her own practice. Those that I still keep in touch with are successful, really love what they are doing, and seem to have plenty of work.

Bitter 3L has plenty of passion. That same passion might help Bitter 3L launch a successful solo practice.

Anonymous said...

I suspect they fudge the statistics. "Employment" can cover a lot of things and, if greeteer at Wal-Mart and Customer Service Representatives at Taco Bell count, they probably do hit 99%.

The only jobs that should count for survey purposes are jobs that require a JD as a condition of employment (or a similar professional qualification, I would count working for a CPA firm as legal employment).

Peter said...

I write this comment from my second job, a Reserve Army JAG Corps lawyer currently in Iraq.

Times were bad in the early 90s, when I was a 1L. Thankfully they got better. The dot com boom and then the war made recruiting harder, but we still managed to be selective.

As a former recruiter, I can repeat the advice I gave to prospective JAGs: If you want to be a JAG but don't make the cut, enlist as a paralegal on the delayed entry program. That shows the next JAG accession board that you really are interested.

Too old or otherwise unfit for the military? The same idea applies to civilian jobs. Show your willingness to do paralegal work, which will get your foot in the door.

Anonymous said...

Being a graduate of another law school in Minnesota (not the U of M), I have to think that Bitter3L (or any other attorney having trouble finding a job in Minnesota) has to expand their search radius.
I doubt anyone would disagree with the statement that four law schools in the Twin Cities has saturated a market that little room for additional attorneys. Look around. The jobs are out there if you dig for them.

As for brand management, a lot of that falls on your own shoulders. I networked like a machine during law school knowing that it is personal connections that open doors for jobs, not just mailing a resume.

On the ABA accrediting schools: I'm not sure that preventing new law schools from being added is the right thing to do. Of course, if you are already a lawyer, that would help your job security. If you look at the number of schools accredited per year, it is relatively steady (http://www.abanet.org/legaled/approvedlawschools/year.html). I don't think that has an overall effect for one person. It may have an effect on an area (i.e. approving a fourth law school in a metro area where there are already three within 10 miles of each other).

Puffery with employment statistics is a necessary evil these days. These employment numbers are bolstered by the value people give to the USN&WR rankings. I did plenty of research on employment rates and average starting salaries before starting school so I had a good idea of where I might be after I graduated.

The stories about the struggles of attorneys are out there. Watch abovethelaw and WSJ. There are also bloggers out there documenting it.

Anonymous said...

Previous anonymous poster here -
I had mentioned the six-figure salary again, and after re-reading Bitter's post, I will concede that Bitter did not mention the requirement of a six figure salary. But Bitter did say that you can't pay off the debt with a $45k salary. I disagree. I gave Bitter some solutions - deferrment, extended repayment schedule, loan forgiveness programs for public service. Bitter just threw it back at me, continuing to complain about how it was the school's fault.

Clearly, Bitter doesn't want an answer or a job, but rather a forum to discuss what s/he believes to be an injustice.

Unfortunately, I just can't believe that the statistics are in Bitter's favor. Bitter mentions (repeatedly) that a "significant portion" of the law school class is unemployed. Does that mean they have no job? Or does that mean they don't have an offer for after the bar? What is a significant portion? And when was the law school's survey conducted - after graduation (which is likely where Bitter is), after the bar, or after the results of the bar?

Just for curiousity's sake, and because I know Bitter will respond, what is Bitter's evidence that the statistics are false? Did Bitter run a counter survey of the recent grads?

I would continue, but I think it just gives Bitter more fodder, when I think Bitter would be better served pumping up the resume and getting some volunteer experience. And while I agree, recent graduates are probably struggling more these days than in the "good ol' days", the rest of us made it and Bitter will too.

Bitter said...

Anonymous wrote

"Being a graduate of another law school in Minnesota (not the U of M), I have to think that Bitter3L (or any other attorney having trouble finding a job in Minnesota) has to expand their search radius."

Me and many of my classmates haven't limited themselves to Minnesota.This is a nationwide problem.

Also, while this isn't a problem for me, many of classmates can't leave the Twin Cities. One example,some have children from a previous marriage who live in the area, and have to stay here if they want to stay involved in their kids lives.

Anonymous wrote:
"I doubt anyone would disagree with the statement that four law schools in the Twin Cities has saturated a market that little room for additional attorneys."

The result of accrediting was predictable St. Thomas (Side Note: to be clear I'm not attacking graduates of that school), so why did the ABA do this. Do they even think about the employment consequences for graduates?

Anonymous Wrote
"Look around. The jobs are out there if you dig for them."

Me and many of my classmates disagree with you. "Recent 3l" described his situation, and I doubt he is the only one in this situation.

Repeating this myth, doesn't make it any true.

Anonymous wrote
"As for brand management, a lot of that falls on your own shoulders."

Not really. Managing the law school's reputation is the job of the law school. I can't bring law firms to the U, nor can I make sure firms are aware of the fact that the U is one of the most selective law schools in the country.

Their failure at this task is why the CSO is having a new director. One example, a classmate at a summer job (medium size law firm) outside of the upper midwest was told that it was a mistake for her to attend the U, because it wasn't even a top 100 law school.

That's the law school's fault.

Anonymous wrote
"I networked like a machine during law school knowing that it is personal connections that open doors for jobs, not just mailing a resume."

You don't think me and my classmates have done this. There are no full time jobs.

Anonymous wrote:
"On the ABA accrediting schools: I'm not sure that preventing new law schools from being added is the right thing to do."

So you don't think the number of new lawyers turned out yearly will impact the employment situation for lawyers?

Anonymous wrote:
"Of course, if you are already a lawyer, that would help your job security."

True, and would also ensure the fact that their are more jobs out there. By limiting the number of law schools, you limit the supply of lawyers, thus you increase the demand.

Anonymous wrote:
"If you look at the number of schools accredited per year, it is relatively steady (http://www.abanet.org/legaled/approvedlawschools/year.html)."

No one disputes the fact that they have steadily increased the number of law schools. What is in dispute, is whether this is a good idea.

The AMA has resisted the urge to accredit new medical schools because they actually protect the interests of doctors.

Anonymous wrote:
"I don't think that has an overall effect for one person."

Increasing the number of applicants has a clear impact on your employment situation. In an over saturated market, Salaries and benefits will go down for the few jobs that are available.

Anonymous wrote:
"It may have an effect on an area (i.e. approving a fourth law school in a metro area where there are already three within 10 miles of each other)."

Yes, and that area is called the United States of America.

Anonymous wrote:
"Puffery with employment statistics is a necessary evil these days."

No, its not. Blatantly deceiving customers into taking out a second mortgage doesn't qualify as a necessary evil.

Anonymous wrote:
"These employment numbers are bolstered by the value people give to the USN&WR rankings."

The US rankings are based, in part, on employment statistics. Prospective students give them value, because they are supposed to provide an accurate representation of the employment situation.

Anonymous wrote:
"I did plenty of research on employment rates and average starting salaries before starting school so I had a good idea of where I might be after I graduated."

I doubt you found information that about 40% of a top 20 law school was unemployed. If you did, and still went, your far less risk adverse than I am.

Anonymous wrote:
"The stories about the struggles of attorneys are out there. Watch abovethelaw and WSJ. There are also bloggers out there documenting it."

For every one story about the reality of the legal profession (what a joke of a term anyway, this hasn't been a profession in years), there are 80 other deceptive stories about the value of a legal degree in the United States.

Also, that one story is only published because of complaints from individuals like myself. If Minnesota Lawyer had its way it would never cover this story.

Anonymous said...

Bitter: nobody made you go to law school. I'm sorry you're so unhappy with your choice. But don't you have something better to be doing (i.e., studying for the bar?) with your time than spreading your bitterness on the Minnesota Lawyer Blog?

By the way, as far as "brand management" and networking goes, the number of those of us who recently attended those other area law schools that aren't as selective as Vanderbilt and aren't in the top 100 of the US News rankings, but still have jobs (even well-paying and fulfilling ones, at that!) belies your claim.

Peter said...

Hey Bitter,

You were on 60 Minutes this weekend!

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/08/60minutes/main3475200.shtml

Anonymous said...

As an admitted student beginning at the U this fall, the posts are obviously concerning. Any lawyer I've spoken with regarding law school and the profession has done everything he/she can to remove the rosy lenses US News and university websites create.

I've heard the horror stories, but I still have to ask. How much do you feel class rank plays in the process? Previous professional experience? Ongoing personal networking? Quality of interview? Current economy? I'm not suggesting anything of your background, just that it seems there must be more to unemployment than a law school's lack of marketing and fudging of statistics (one's a shame, and one's to be expected).

Please. I'd much rather begin all this with a clear picture.

Bitter said...

"I've heard the horror stories, but I still have to ask. How much do you feel class rank plays in the process?"

If your in the 1st quartile you should do okay, anything below that and your in big trouble

Previous professional experience?

Other than having a science background, previous experience doesn't amount to much. Too many of my peers have had great professional experience and are still unemployed.

Ongoing personal networking?

Everyone networks that I know. In the end it doesn't do much

Quality of interview?

There are so many unemployed graduates, for it to be a problem with interviewing skills

Current economy?

In fairness to the U, this has played a role.

"I'm not suggesting anything of your background, just that it seems there must be more to unemployment than a law school's lack of marketing and fudging of statistics (one's a shame, and one's to be expected).

Please. I'd much rather begin all this with a clear picture."

Good luck, next year, I hope you do well.