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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Law Grad Hunger Strike

Ethan Haines is a law school graduate who blogs at unemployedJD.com, a website devoted to the plight of law students who graduate with loads of student loan debt and few job prospects.

Glenn Reynolds has written of the higher education bubble in general, and law student employment problems in particular.

Ethan has issued a press release (and kindly e-mailed me) announcing that he is starting a hunger strike directed at 10 law schools:

On August 5, 2010, Ethan Haines, self-designated J.D. Class Representative, emailed an Official Notice of Hunger Strike to administrators of ten randomly selected law schools ranked in the Top 100 of the 2010 U.S. News & World Report's annual rankings. These schools were selected because they stand to gain the most from keeping the current rankings structure in place.

Ethan intends to bring awareness to the concerns of law students and recent law graduates by having them addressed by law school administrators. Their primary concerns are inaccurate employment statistics, ineffective career counseling, and rising tuition costs.

The strike was motivated by a recent American Bar Association (ABA) investigate Report, which concluded that educational leaders are unable to timely combat the adverse affects of U.S. News' rankings on legal education.

The Notice sets forth two conditions that administrators can satisfy to end Ethan's hunger strike. One condition is to provide written confirmation of their intent to cooperate with the Law School Transparency (LST) organization's information request regarding employment statistics. Ethan is not affiliated with LST, but is an avid supporter of the cause and intends to forward the compliance statements to the organization.

Ethan has more on his motivations and goals at his website.

Look, I am completely sympathetic to the plight of law school students and graduates like Ethan.

But I'm not sure Ethan will get much sympathy apart from people in his situation -- and perhaps some enlightened law professors with big mouths blogs.

But, if it calls attention to the issue, maybe Ethan will achieve his real goal.

Update 8-8-2010: Glenn Reynolds' new column, Further thoughts on the higher education bubble.

Related Posts:
Six Reasons Liberal Law Students Are So Sad
A Formula For Destroying Law Schools? Surely You Jest!
Should Law Professors Really Be Running The Government?

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  1. I do feel for law students. I actually thought about law school, once. Then I talked to some lawyers and found out what exactly it is ya'll do. Cured my curiosity very quickly.

    I find Glenn's article very interesting as well. I'm a Religious Studies major myself (Rel. Studies / Poli. Sci. double) but I got myself an Islam certificate and used the school to develop fungible skills: namely, the ability to read/speak Arabic, Persian, and Pashto. If you're developing yourself into a marketable commodity, any degree can pay off for you. It's really just the difference between obtaining a degree, which is nice, and obtaining skills AND a degree, which is much more likely to earn you a job offer.

  2. If he was my child I would discuss with him very rationally that there are other ways to deal with his unemployment and then if that didn't work I would do what other parents in this world would do with this nonsense...Did he not know the state of the legal profession since the economic disaster two years ago? I nor my husband ever gained employment in the legal field through our respective law schools. That being said, the vast majority of law graudates never made enough money at their first job to pay for their student loans, rent and food in the first place even during economic boom times. Welcome to the real world Ethan.

  3. Good luck...!

    Hunger strikes are not nearly as easy as many people think! ;-)

  4. maybe he should have gone to med school?

  5. I have yet to see a poor lawyer.

    Or one that I really would not like to murder.

    (Sorry, Professor! :) )

  6. I really hope things change by next year.

  7. When I got out of law school years ago the job market was bad too. I took the very first job I was offered, and it was no high dollar employment, let me tell you. Gotta take what you can and work up.

  8. There is always a need for market adjustment especially when a given field reaches saturation level. It is all a matter of supply and demand. What normally happens is that there might be a shortage for a while which helps to increase the "price" for the skills obtained from getting a degree... as a result more students begin to study law.... and the cycle continues through boom to bust....

    This happened to me when I graduated with my Economics and Commerce degree. It was right in the middle of a downturn in the economy and nobody was hiring Commerce graduates.... I could not get a job in the field....

    What should happen is that the schools that offer these degrees should be more in tune with the requirements of the labour market... when there is a demand then places need to increase to meet the demand. When there is saturation the places should be reduced.

    However, that is the ideal situation, and unfortunately with G interfering in the placement policies of universities and colleges it is understandable that there is an oversupply of law graduates.

    I think that this is probably the point that Ethan wants to make, but I am not sure that a hunger strike is the way to make that point.

  9. Independent Patriot, 2 years makes no difference for the previous few classes. Most law students are not smart enough to go to medical school, so once they are sucked in, they have no option but to finish.

    And, I also disgree with you about not being able to pay off your loans from a first job. When the market was good, as it was when I entered law school in 2007, it was widely assumed that if you went to a decent law school, finished ranked high in your class (10% or higher, depending on your law school), with journal experience, you would get a big law job, which clearly pays the bills. However, when half of those jobs have disappeared, people got screwed. So, for people like that, you have to feel sorry for.

    It's those people who went to tier 2-4 law schools, or took on loans and did not finish even in the top 50% of their classes, that it's hard to have sympathy for.

    The problem now is that people do have loans, there are really very few jobs (and for anyone that failed the bar who just graduated, they are really screwed - and let me tell you, the NY bar was pretty hard this year), and the law schools are completely unhelpful.

  10. I'm not really sure what he thinks his audience is, and, if he finds an audience, what's the desired response that will further his concern, employment? If he was in the theatrical arts, hunger strike and news release, well, maybe, but in law?

    Wouldn't it have been more effective to take tax return of a "typical" law firm, point out how taxes paid = positions not created? Instant and sympathetic audience for that, good economics, some points for analysis rather than emotion.

  11. I have long wondered why people who protest via hunger strike think it's in any way persuasive.

  12. Never condone people taking out loans to go to an expensive school. The last time I checked, in 2003 when my daughter was entering college, I discovered a well kept secret: there is at least one good state college/university in each of the 50 states.

    My daughter obtained her BS in computer science from U of Illinois in 2007, and is currently making $110,000 a year. I paid about $10,000 to $15,000 a year college costs for four years. A friend of mine is paying $59,000 a year for her girl to go to U of Washington in St. Louise for her degree in physical therapy. There is a very good pgm in U of Illinois. But she wants a posh college. I told my friend that it's stupid to waste their retirement funds. Each of the parents makes less than $100,000 a year.

  13. There is and always has been a shortage of good jobs for new law grads. I graduated in the 70's, yes, the decade of Jimmy Carter's malaise. Then as now there were good jobs for the top third of the class or so, and slim to none for the rest. Even some of the top law grads get sidelined as their carrers progress. And they were the exceptional students, working harder and more meticulously than the rest.

    The fact is, the world doesn't love lawyers. We are not productive in the usual sense. We are hired only when necessary, and then the client has some sort critical need and wants the best. In many arenas in which we appear, second place doesn't count. Sad to say, that reality will always doom the "average" lawyer to disappointment in his or her career.

    My daughter thought about law school. I said, no no, not on my dime. today she is a CPA and only has to worry about keeping the books straight.

  14. I think I might go on a hunger strike until my clients start paying me more.

  15. @Milcus, your comment is a mixed bag. I'm not sure what you mean by "a decent law school" [top 100? what?] but you think that 10% of them getting a job on graduation that will pay their law school bills is a good return? Thank God you're not advising any of my students.

    And what about all those who get sucked into TTTs? What are the odds they'll be able to pay the bills.

    [I should note that one of my former students told me she was amazed at how many attending her 90-100 rated school were from families of lawyers and weren't borrowing to pay the tuition and had a job waiting. They also weren't {she said} apparently worried about doing more than it took to pass. She told me her connections told her this was even more so at TTTs.]

    There's something rotten out there, and it's really beginning to smell.

  16. Bobby Sands can tell you how effective hunger strikes are.

  17. If you honestly believe that the medical profession is fairing better, you have not witnessed Ob-Gyn advertisements for breast implants, or oral surgeons advertising facelifts.

  18. The hunger strike is voluntary, right?

  19. I can't think of a single good reason to care about these students' problems. :(

  20. Let's hope it calls at least a little attention to the misleading employment statistics that law schools put out every year.

    Lord knows the ABA has ignored this issue for years.

  21. JorgXMcKie, a decent law school is one of the top 100 law schools. However, while I dont think that only 10% of students at some of those schools should be guaranteed the big firm jobs (in a normal economy), most people know that is the case when they come to law school. Most people know that if they are not ranked high in the class, graduate with honors, and with law review or journal experience, they will not be guaranteed to get a great job.

    That is just the facts of life in a normal economy. The problem, of course, is that the normal way things work was destroyed. OCI recruiting was cut in half, very few firms offered 100% offers to their summers, etc.. That filtered into more applicants for clerkships, which resulted in way too many qualified lawyers graduating without jobs. And those people will effect everyone else because they are going to get priority treatment for mid-sized firms, etc.. when bar results come out in November.

    As for TTT's (assuming we are not using the abovethelaw definition, where everything past Virginia is a TTT), people went there by choice. They will all pay off their bills, it will just take them longer because of a much lower starting salary.

    Finally, as to students with jobs lined up. The jobs are probably not at elite Vault top 100 firms, because its really hard to get into those firms without the grades.

    So, the problem is not the regular model (aside from the fact that there are too many law schools, and law school is a year too long), the problem is that the economy has destroyed the model for the people in my year, 2009, and 2011. And, as a result, there are way too many lawyers who need to pass the bar in November to get a job who have very good credentials, and who in most other years would have graduated with offers to join Vault 100 firms.