Monday, October 18, 2010

So You Were Pre-Med and Got a C in Organic Chemistry?

My little brother is thinking about going to law school. This pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.


With that said, I hope he comes to Boalt.

42 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psh, whatever. This is not that funny.

10/18/2010 11:17 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wow 11:17, do you also hate puppies?

Fav line: "I do not like my blackberry. I want to torture it until it begs me to kill it."

10/18/2010 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Went on too long. Could have been way better.

10/19/2010 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's what she said?

10/19/2010 10:39 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Win!

10/19/2010 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess an important premise is that organic chemistry is difficult. Making that assumption, yeah, it is kinda funny.

10/19/2010 10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the important premise is that people go into Law School thinking that both school and the profession will be much different than they actually are, and further that it is almost impossible to convince prospective law students that that is the case.

10/19/2010 11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that last point is a real problem. why did apps and enrollments soar? the usual answer is that when reasonably bright ug's don't see jobs waiting for them, they head off to grad school, take on debt, and assume that the economy will be better when they graduate.

with the big structural change in hiring at the top end of the law market that strategy seems to have very different expected outcomes, but we see the apps come flooding in. how do we align the actors with the right incentives? law schools and lenders have very little downside in stuffing the channel.

10/19/2010 2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

225k in the hole and will be lucky to find a job earning 40k a year.

I don't get how people apply to law school still even when a top 10 school is a 50/50 shot at the poorhouse.

10/19/2010 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh boy do I feel your pain 2:37. There are a lot of us in this position. Wasn't Berkeley supposed to be cheaper or something?

10/19/2010 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Dean Edley said last year, most of us will be making 160k and easily be able to pay off these loans, Oh wait...

10/19/2010 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Christopher Edley
DEAN (SCHOOL/COLLEGE)-EXEC
UC BERKELEY
Job Title
2009: DEAN (SCHOOL/COLLEGE)-EXEC
2008: DEAN (SCHOOL/COLLEGE)-EXEC
2007: DEAN (SCHOOL/COLLEGE)-EXEC
2009 Pay - Total pay: $336,510.51
2008 Pay - Total pay: $306,999.96
2007 Pay - Base pay: $297,550.00"

I am sure from his perspective, the economy is doing just fine. 3.2% increase, followed by 9.6%. Maybe this year he will get a 28.8% increase!!

P.S. I call dibs on being Dean Edley's personal servant in exchange for loan repayment. Back off.

10/19/2010 4:55 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I'm having a bit of a tough time following some of the more critical comments. But just as an initial matter, I think this post by Brian Tamanaha of the Balkinization Blog is worth exploring. The charts paint an interesting picture, but Boalt's numbers (except for LLM and transfers) have remained steady. So we're ok there.

The problem area then is the number of available jobs declining. Well yes, but (a) isn't that true of all sectors of the economy? (b) hasn't that been true in years past of the legal market?

With respect to (a), I'm not sure why a dean of a law school is at fault for a crumbling economy that's affecting all job prospects. Compared to the base line you are still better off than without your law degree because you now have a marketable skill (we are ignoring the debt load to get that degree for the moment). As for (b), one thing that's becoming crystal clear to me is the complete lack of institutional memory. Just from personal interaction, it seems to me that very few of the current law students are even aware of recent cycles in the legal market, in particular the Bay Area legal market. In years past, particularly 2003, there was a downturn that substantially reduced the employment prospect of 2L/3L candidates that year (hint: Room 105 is named for a firm that no longer exists).

So by process of elimination, we are left with increase in fees as the true sore spot. Judging by the comments, it appears the criticism is aimed at raising fees while predicting that most students would land legal jobs paying six figures. As I have hopefully shown though, the legal market has never been a sure thing and the entire economy is down, except now you have a marketable skill. On the flip side, the reason for raising fees was DE's accurate prediction that the school cannot rely on the state for financial support. Raise your hand if you think Boalt can reliably count on the Legislature to fund your education. So DE accurately predicts fiscal disaster out of Sacramento, and may be marginally off about job prospects (though I think there's certainly room for debate on that). And it's HIS fault?

Help me out here. Explain it like I'm a four-year old.

10/19/2010 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's no problem, no fault, no need to finger point -- if law schools are candid with applicants and students. there are very few products you can sell in the US for $120,000 while fudging and fibbing and concealing and lying. usually when you do that, you get sued real quick. law schools game the numbers in ways that would make even shady CEOs think twice.

10/19/2010 5:26 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Yes, that must be it -- we're victims!

10/19/2010 5:27 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

5:26, that ties in VERY nicely with my point about institutional memory. Back before it was hip to have a shtick as a commenter on Above the Law, there was a commenter "Loyola 2L" whose shtick was to complain about law schools disguising students' job prospects.

10/19/2010 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armen,

so is it your positions that schools are honest with their stats? or not? for now, let's see if we agree on that one issue.

10/19/2010 5:37 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

I think we can agree that the % employed after graduation statistic is misleading to the extent it does not include those who have given up on job searches, and a few other categories of individuals. But that's reaaaaaaaaaaaaally old news. So, really, what IS your complaint? I'm still not getting it.

10/19/2010 5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if the argument is, "they deceive, but that doesn't matter because they have been doing it for a while now," then i guess we've reached our point of disagreement.

10/19/2010 5:55 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Well if putting words in my mouth, creating strawmen, and refusing to articulate a recognizable position are your ideas of stating an argument, then yes, there's probably not much we'd agree on.

More accurately though, I think it's naive and indefensible to base a decision to attend law school based on employment numbers reported by US News. I didn't do that, and that was when the economy was only kind of, sort of crappy. If I sold you a rock claiming it keeps away tigers, and you get mauled by a tiger, who's to blame here really?

10/19/2010 6:00 PM  
Blogger McTwo said...

I could be wrong, but I think that Berkeley Law also includes those employment statistics in their own promotional materials. (Page 31 of http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Viewbook_2010_29MB.pdf)

10/19/2010 6:54 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

OK...

Why don't we take a copyright approach and assume that once the numbers are published, whether in promotional material or by US News, they are published? Now what?

Monthly unemployment numbers are even more misleading. So what? What's the point here? I'm still struggling and so far can't seem to get a straight, simple explanation of what (or where?) the beef is.

10/19/2010 7:09 PM  
Blogger James said...

Armen, don't you understand!!!!? When I came to Berkeley I was promised a guaranteed 6 figure job with car service and I was also promised that I would PAY NEXT TO NOTHING FOR IT! Law school is the only way I figured I could print money because I can't stand the sight of blood and didn't want to work my way up in the business world. WTF MAN.

10/19/2010 7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typically, more than two-thirds of our graduates go to highpowered,
high-paying jobs in large private law firms in New York,
Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and
throughout the country. Many pursue public interest or public
sector employment, helped in large measure by our very generous
Loan Repayment Assistance Program. Virtually all of our graduates
are employed or are furthering their education as full-time
graduate students.

LOL

10/19/2010 7:15 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

James, :D.

7:15...explain it like I'm a 4-year old.

10/19/2010 7:19 PM  
Blogger McTwo said...

4 year-old version:

P1. Law school says that 2/3 of graduates make biglaw money, and the rest are otherwise gainfully employed.

P2. Law students in fact struggle greatly to find a job of any sort, let alone one with a high salary.

C1. The information provided is not true. (P1, P2)

P3. This information encourages students to attend Berkeley Law.

P4. It is fraud to entice someone to do something based upon false information.

C2. The law school engages in fraud. (P3, P4, C1)

P5. The law school cites the same information to justify increasing tuition by thousands of dollars.

C3. The law school relies on fraud to justify tuition increases. (C2, P5)

P6. Fraud cannot justify policy.

C4. The law school fails to justify increasing tuition when Dean Edley relies on fraud to do so. (C3, P6)


This does not deal with the practical benefit of divorcing the school from the California State Legislature.

10/19/2010 10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what 4 year olds are you hanging out with, McTwo?

10/19/2010 11:49 PM  
Blogger McTwo said...

Precocious ones I suppose.

10/20/2010 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did McTwo really label his sentences "premises" and "conclusion"? Oh, Jesus H. Christ. What a pretentious fucking douche-bag.

Did he think it would be helpful, maybe because he believed us readers would be skimming along muttering to ourselves, "Where is the major premises? Where is the minor?" Or, did he think"OooOOOOoo, maybe I can show people how clever and smart and cool I am"?

McTwo, law is fundamentally a people profession and I can tell you now: you're going to drown. Go back to your undergrad philosophy program. Nurse your Mountain Dew and get back into the swing of your Dungeons and Dragons campaigns.

I am being a dick, but this is still good advice: go away and don't come back until you've been laid.

10/20/2010 12:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

*casts Glyph of Warding spell on 12:05*

10/20/2010 9:02 AM  
Blogger James said...

12:05, law is fundamentally a people profession and I can tell you now: you're going to drown.

Go back to your delusions of being cool and the GQ magazines that tell you what sort of drink you should get a bar in order to look "manly." I know you breezed through your Econ program in Undergrad and I'm sure your Frat was great, but this is the real world, where individuals will behave differently than your fucked up ideal.

I am being a dick, but this is still good advice: go away and don't come back.

10/20/2010 9:45 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I must say, this is a good insult-off. 12:05, I fart in your general direction.

10/20/2010 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MAGIC MISSILE!

10/20/2010 10:59 AM  
Blogger McTwo said...

I am sorry you feel that way 12:05.

10/20/2010 10:59 AM  
Blogger McTwo said...

On a separate note, I did not mean to sound pretentious. I just thought mapping out the problem being discussed clearly would be helpful. I took Armen's request to explain it like he was a 4 year old to mean to clearly explain the issue and all of the steps to get to the end point. So I did that. If using labels to make things clearer makes it pretentious, then I guess we're all entering a pretty pretentious profession.

10/20/2010 11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand you guys do not like the negativity towards the school and all, but can you blame us for being nervous about likely unemployment and a giant 200k monkey on our backs? I don't care who caused this situation, I'm just freaked out as hell.

10/20/2010 11:23 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

Pretension aside, the argument is ineffective because it's precisely the opposite of simple, it is inaccurate and probably disingenuous (to be charitable), and well, yeah it is pretentious to the extent it assumes that anyone would be impressed by cute labels.

Taking this one at a time, I think you could have simply said: Information put forth by the school creates the impression that everyone finds the job that they seek, which in the past year or two has not been the case. Students took on massive debt loads based on those impressions, and now they are stuck between a rock and a construction zone. Such simplicity would avoid dabbling in such complicated matters as "fraud" (which actually ties nicely with the disingenuous part).

You make multiple unwarranted assumptions and disguise anything contrary to your preconceived conclusion. Just for starters, how do you go from a backward looking statement about "typical" results--a statement that is true--to the concluding that the statement is false as it applies to forward-looking potential results? So what's the real deal? Did you assume that typical results would carry over during large massive economic downturns? I think glossing over that is particularly disingenuous from you since you should know that the whole recruiting process can be unjust and a crap shoot, and certainly by no means a "shoe in." Simply ignoring it doesn't make it go away.

To the extent the argument is that impression created by the school is misleading, even though the statement itself may be accurate, then I really don't have much sympathy. You are entering a professional program where you are expected to weigh information, analyze the data that's available, and make an informed decision. And when you applied, there were no guarantees of getting into Boalt. Did you consider what would happen if you got into a lower ranked private school where the prospects of looming unemployment are present regardless of economic cycles? In fact, by admitting more transfers, Boalt is--probably inadvertently--screwing over neighboring schools that are lower ranked in the totem pole because now firms don't need to go to those schools to get the best of the best, they'll just poach transfers that Boalt has nicely pre-screened for them. Did you imagine yourself paying private tuition with even worse job prospects? If not, why not? Did you assume that the legal profession, despite massive layoffs, firms imploding, transactional deals disappearing along with vanishing credit from banks, the real estate market collapsing, governments and non-profits struggling to meet tightening budgets, etc. that you'd be a shoe-in for a job upon graduation? Really?

Or is it the case that the economy sucks, in fact that may be why you even came to law school to begin with, you knew the road isn't paved with gold, but when actually seeing the numbers you're now questioning the wisdom of the decision. And DE makes an easy target for your frustrations. I think 11:23 confirms my suspicion. To the extent this is the case, I and other readers of this blog definitely appreciate the anxiety and generally try to answer questions and allay fears whenever possible. But that's different than accusing the school of fraud!

10/20/2010 11:39 AM  
Blogger McTwo said...

To be clear, I am happy to be at Boalt, and I feel like I made a fully informed choice to attend (my brother had, after all, just been through law school before I began). The video in this post, and much of the content on Above the Law (where I originally saw the video posted), is aimed at people who are not entering law school fully informed.

While I did not know that Boalt's tuition would increase as dramatically as it did, as I admit at the bottom of the outlined argument I think that it has practical benefits since the CA legislature is so dysfunctional. But on your point about students making informed decisions, tuition rates are part of that decision making process, and entering students were not aware of an $8500 increase after their first year.

Your point that the marketing materials are making a backward looking statement about how students have done in the past is well taken, and I apologize for misrepresenting them. However, Dean Edley made the forward looking comment that the students incurring the higher debt load would be able to pay the loans back due to their high salaries. It certainly hits a sore spot with the current students who cannot find a job to have the Dean say our employment rates have been fine, so no big deal, stop worrying.

I agree calling it fraud was a mistake, although it was not intentional so I do not think it is disingenuous. I should have omitted P3, C2 and modified the remaining statements to refer to misinformation rather than fraud.

Also, as I said above, the labels were not meant to impress people. Had I known people would respond negatively to letters and numbers, I would have just used numbers. Or no designation at all.

My goal was to show how a student could rationally be unhappy with one of Dean Edley's stated justifications for fee increases. Sorry if I confused the issue!

10/20/2010 12:29 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

However, Dean Edley made the forward looking comment that the students incurring the higher debt load would be able to pay the loans back due to their high salaries. It certainly hits a sore spot with the current students who cannot find a job to have the Dean say our employment rates have been fine, so no big deal, stop worrying.

Fair point, and I don't think I disagree.

But on your point about students making informed decisions, tuition rates are part of that decision making process, and entering students were not aware of an $8500 increase after their first year.

This I am afraid I vehemently disagree with. The argument took place last year as well when the present 2Ls complained about the fee hikes then. You can read the whole thing here. Long story short, this is a long-term strategy that has been written about in the press. So the information is certainly out there. If the issue is that the school did not forewarn, well the last time the University said anything about fees, it was sued (which you all are paying for btw). Additionally, there are not guarantees until the Regents and the Legislature actually approve a budget. So that explains the lack of a heads up.

10/20/2010 12:39 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I'm bored. Can we talk about this now? Who's getting one?

10/20/2010 12:41 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Matt, keep the cult communique to a minimum please. Or just email Patrick directly and get it over with.

10/20/2010 12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the brochure says that typically 2/3 get Biglaw jobs. It means that 1/3 does not (while there are people who choose not to, there must be people who just don't).
Based on talking to firms during the OCIP hiring numbers are on their way back up.
So how do we know how many 2Ls did not get offers and whether it actually is more than the typical 1/3 (and if so, how much more)?

10/20/2010 11:33 PM  

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