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Anti-American sentiments


From a reader:

Dear Professor Campos,

I saw your intermittent postings about American University, and you are a tad off the mark. It is worse there than you think.

I am a rising 3L at American. Just for context: 90th percentile LSAT/3.9 UG GPA. Worst mistake of my life. When I was applying in 2011, I had a bunch of personal crises explode in my face, and had less access to resources, like the web, than most. That aside, my decision to attend this garbage trap school is my own, and the guilt from making such a horrific decision has essentially destroyed the entirety of my self worth. My job prospects, coupled with severe personal losses, have driven me to the brink of suicide and I even had to [redacted] to ward off the temptation. It is awful. I am in the top 25% of my class.

I will probably be a debt slave for the rest of my life. Period. I still plan to try to escape this awful conundrum through thrifty living and securing something that will allow me to make some sort of non-IBR payment. The only thing that might help me is fluency in [redacted] but I doubt it. The next year is going to suck hard.

So on to the school’s failings. The professors are pushing to reduce class size, but Dean Grossman is willing to sacrifice what little reputation our school has left by reducing admissions standards. Many students are not only unable to secure post-graduate employment, but even summer employment where they work for free. I have met one person who works for the school who actually gives a damn about helping students find employment, and s/he does not work in OCPD.

OCPD and the Registrar are fully incompetent. One time they even managed to screw up their class rankings and did not catch the mistake for a couple of months, well into the summer. In all seriousness, how hard is it to set up a bell curve? Let me answer the question, a middle school student could do it. OCPD simply does not care. Everybody there thinks they are doing a swimming job (except for maybe the profs, who seem to exhibit guilt).

Some change might be on the way. Dean Grossman is on his way out. This is well deserved. He had the nerve to tell an entire class of unemployed graduates how valuable their degrees were, and that they would pay off in the long run. He also had the nerve to yell at and blame a group of 2Ls and 1Ls who found out about the new ABA employment statistics.

From what I understand admissions will be cut when Dean Grossman leaves. But they still have not figured out the finances (haha just like me when I decided to attend). American experienced a precipitous drop in its rankings once the ABA reporting standards were reworked, however what kills me is that nobody cared about the employment statistics beforehand. It is behind only UDC in terms of employment prospects in the DC metro area.

Oh, and most people in OCPD from my 1L year still have their jobs. It seems like you cannot get fired from that school unless you shoot somebody. As a final kicker, yes American is selling IBR as a way out- and even had a nifty PowerPoint that exclaimed: “Everybody can qualify for IBR!”

. . . Please never give up. I promise I won’t give up trying to repay the taxpayer.


American is perhaps the prime example of a relatively highly ranked law school (currently 56th out of 202 ABA schools, although dropping due to atrocious employment statistics and plunging entrance requirements) that has priced itself completely out of any reasonable relationship to the value of what it offers graduates.

Washington DC is probably the worst entry-level market for attorneys in the country. People in the top third of their classes at Harvard, Columbia etc., who have their pick of jobs in NYC, routinely struggle to get comparable offers in DC. As for the local schools, American is light years behind GULC and George Washington in the race for jobs — which says something, given that GW put nearly a quarter of its 2012 graduating class into school-funded $15 per hour year-long “jobs,” to avoid reporting facially horrendous employment outcomes.

American’s class of 2012, on the other hand, featured a 61% un-and-underemployment rate, if full employment is defined as an actual legal job. Let me repeat that: at present, more than three out of every five American graduates are failing to get legal jobs within nine months of graduation.

American is also one of the most expensive law schools in the country to attend, with a current nine-month estimated cost of attendance of $71,000. On top of this the school gives out very little in the way of tuition discounts, with the result that that 2012 class ended up with an average of nearly $180,000 in law school debt when their first loan payments came due in November.

The school recently broke ground on an enormous new building.

In short, American is a paradigm example of a law school that prices itself as if it were Columbia, when in fact in terms of outcomes for its graduates it’s far more comparable to Thomas Jefferson. As a new paper from Bernie Burk emphasizes, the marked contraction in the market for entry-level legal jobs is mostly a product of the disappearance of several thousand big firm associate positions per year. Those are the only jobs that make the concept of a law school with a $70,000 annual cost of attendance even vaguely economically rational, and there are only enough such jobs to rationalize the existence of perhaps a dozen such schools, at most. (“Rationalize” does not, of course, mean justify. There is no reason any law school should be charging what American charges, unless enriching universities and their most favored employees counts as a reason).

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  • blowback

    to avoid reporting facially horrendous employment outcomes

    Perhaps you mean farcically though your usage has its charms?

    • Mike

      No, I think he means facially.

      • DocAmazing

        They’re paying through the nose, after all.

    • Linnaeus

      “Facially” as in prima facie, i.e., at first appearance, “on the face of it”.

      • Davis X. Machina

        It’s a lawyer word. I’ve only heard lawyers use it.

        • J R in WV

          He uses the acronym OCPD over and over. To me that stands for Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, what does it mean to a law school student?

          • Anonymous

            It’s prolly “office of career and professional development” or some similar construction

  • Peter Hovde

    I decided not to apply to American when I read about their unusually high, non-refundable application fee and thought “Who do you think you are, Harvard?”

    • Peter Hovde

      And this was way back when.

  • LeeEsq

    I went to American U as an undergrad and applied to their law school. Luckily, I did not get in.

  • Linnaeus

    I will probably be a debt slave for the rest of my life.

    Me too. I’ve pretty much accepted this to the point where I hardly think about it now.

    • Gregor Sansa

      You could probably become a debt refugee instead. Given a choice, I’d choose refugee; in fact, because of my wife’s migration issues, I basically already have.

      • Linnaeus

        A thought. Not sure where I’d go, but…

      • Tom Petty

        You see, you don’t have to live like a refugee.

        Somewhere, somehow, somebody
        Must have kicked you around some
        Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
        Tied up, taken away and held for ransom

  • My $0.02

    90% LSAT score means a 164. That’s probably the worst possible law school candidate — smart enough to succeed doing something else, but not smart enough to get into the handful of schools where the name (plus not-crappy performance in law school) signals “this person is really smart and is going to be a good lawyer.” I mean, I could see why someone a bit less smart — say in the high 150s — would go to law school. It’s probably that or Starbucks. But the people in between roughly average intelligence and the super-duper smart ones? Don’t go to law school.

    • djw

      Doesn’t this presume a much tighter correlation between ‘capacity to succeed at law or other intellectually challenging jobs’ and test scores? I know the SATs are pretty useless at predicting future success in college course work, let alone anything else. Is there reason to believe the LSAT is appreciably better?

      • James E. Powell

        An LSAT score is not appreciably better than an SAT score, but it is the only number they have. And it’s not helpful to talk GPA without reference to school, major, etc.

    • LeeEsq

      Are people who get 164 on the LSATs really smart enough to be doing something else? The main criticism with the “don’t go to law school” or “don’t get a PhD in the humanities or arts” school of thought is that what do these people otherwise do with their lives.

      A lot of people go to law school because they want to make serious money but can’t really see any other job giving them that option. They may be right. A lot of the other professions that allow a person to rake in the cash like being a doctor, an architect, an engineer or some other form of STEM profession require a skill set that people who go to law school don’t have. I’m smart and was able to go through law school and pass the bar on the first shot. I don’t think that my skills or intelligence lean in the direction of medicine, science, engineering, or architecture. My grades in math and science were decent but not great.

      The only other options for would be teaching or some sort of corporate or civil servant job than. Most likely, I would not end up earning the type of salary I want on these jobs. This made law the only available option as a profession that would potentially allow me to earn serious money, which is one but not the only reason why I picked it.

      • BoredJD

        The median LSAT score at Ivies is usually around the mid 160s. These people may not necessarily be “smart enough” to do something else, but they certainly have the credential to break into the few white collar jobs for humanities grads that might lead to a successful career.

      • BlueLoom

        teaching or some sort of corporate or civil servant job

        Back in the day (early 1960s) when I was in grad school and my husband was in law school, many of the law students (and this was Yale) very honorably looked forward to civil service or political service (fed, state, local) jobs. No one in our circle of friends was interested in the white-shoe law firms.

        I find it very, very sad that bright, talented young people disdain government work. Listen up, kids: it’s a very honorable profession. Finish law school, then get yourself a nice GS-12 or GS-13 starting position in an interesting federal agency. Your country needs your good brain. You don’t need a Beemer, a home with a swimming pool and 6 or 7 bathrooms, and private school for your kids right away.

        • Paul Campos

          It’s far harder for a new law graduate to get a GS-12 job in an interesting federal agency than it is to get a job with a big law firm. There are vastly fewer such jobs (like 5%-10% as many) and the competition for them is ferocious.

          • Strong Thermos

            Law school was also way less expensive back then. If I went to school for cheap, if probably take a state or local government job. But kids who owe Uncle Sam 200k? IBR is also oversold-it’s reckless and irresponsible the way some people talk about it. Yale itself has a great loan repayment program (different from IBR, this is via the institution) but not every school is Yale. Also, I have to wonder, especially in the 60s, how many people at Yale came from money.

            I’d take a state or local government job if I could afford it. State AG or DA’s office is what I originally wanted to do. But these days it’s incredibly competitive and you make a shit salary on top of your loans.

            The only legal civil service jobs worth taking are federal and those are stupid competitive. The people who get DOJ Honors are people like Orin Kerr. If you can’t get a BigLaw job, you will definitely not get DOJ Honors. I knew people who summered at V10 firms who didn’t get DOJ Honors.

            And lateraling into a federal job? Like say you want to be an AUSA? Yeah they recruit those people from BigLaw.

          • Strong Thermos

            Interesting federal jobs? In this economy, you’d better be a Yale Law Journal editor to cop an attitude like that. If I were graduating I’d fight tooth and nail for *any* federal job.

          • (the other) Davis

            Just to add to what Paul says, it’s absolutely not the case that “talented young people disdain government work.” There were plenty of brilliant folks at Harvard interested in this kind of position—many government lawyer jobs are still considered high-prestige (more so DOJ than IRS, but I assume that’s always been the case). But even there it’s incredibly difficult to land one of them, and in recent years it’s been especially bad due to federal hiring slowdowns and freezes.

          • cpinva

            “It’s far harder for a new law graduate to get a GS-12 job in an interesting federal agency than it is to get a job with a big law firm. There are vastly fewer such jobs (like 5%-10% as many) and the competition for them is ferocious.”

            i’m not there are any legal jobs, in the GS series, that start at GS-12 level, all those i’m aware of start as a GS-11. as well, you’re expected to have some actual background, in the area you’ll be working in, not just a general JD, with a BA in history. in my nearly 30 years, I’ve only ever met one or two attorneys who were hired, right from law school, the rest all had big/regional law experience first.

          • ichninosan

            Let me expand on what “ferocious” competition for federal government lawyer (0905) jobs means in 2013. Every job opening gets, at minimum, 300 applications. Most agencies in the federal government could, at this point, choose to only hire only graduates of HYS with 3 years of work experience at a “white shoe” law firm. The exceptions are jobs with Defense Department at its outlying bases.

          • cornelius mccracken

            You’re justly ignoring non-lawyer federal jobs in the context of “is a law degree worth it?” However as a law grad that question is no longer relevant for me. Search USAJobs for job category 1102. There are tons of jobs there. It is one of the few categories spared from the hiring freeze. I am currently a GS-12 and stand a good chance of making a 13 in the coming year. There are about 400 1102s in my office. There are now three of us with law degrees. The vast majority of people come from the local multi-direction state university with a BA in business. (Those people get to be GS-12s quickly, too, without the 3 years and six figures of debt. But again for the JD or near-JD, that’s not relevant). New law grads with the willingness to forgo being a lawyer stand a pretty good chance.

        • Linnaeus

          Not a law student, but I’d love to have a government job. Thing is, they ain’t easy to get, at any level.

          Not saying they should be, mind you, but one does not just walk into Washington, DC….

        • Philip Arlington

          I find it amazing that even on this blog there are members of the older generation who are so completely clueless about the nature of the America they are leaving behind for younger generations.

          Ivy League graduates of the post-war years were the most privileged generation that has ever existed in any country in world history. These times are different.

          And of course it is the likes of those Ivy League graduates, with their bungling mismangement of every sector of American life, who have created these times, in which the same level of opportunity and freedom of choice as they enjoyed simply doesn’t exist.

        • I say, do you have any Grey Poupon? That’s a good chap….

        • BH

          I don’t think young people at YLS and HLS disdain work in the public sector. Both schools, especially HLS, continuously sell public service as the way to go. Our professors at HLS were on this all the time, not realizing that many of us had to go to work at firms to help pay back loans.

      • PSP

        Word of mouth is that baby architects are screwed even worse than baby lawyers.

        • annon

          it is so bad that a baby architect went to law school cause he couldn’t get an architect job. then he found out he couldn’t get a legal job either.

          • Flipsyd

            A phd/psyd in psychology also makes you a debt slave the rest of your life. And universities have been opening up psyd programs like crazy. Students come out with between 100k and 200k in debt for five years of school and can expect to get a 30-40k post doc position and top out between 60k and 80k for the rest of their lives. Nice salary, but not with that kind of debt the rest of your life. Buying a house, having kids (cost of student loan pretty much means you’ll have to work and then pay daycare costs) all will be delayed.

            • Nathanael

              The debt slavery situation is one of the time bombs which is going to destroy this country as we know it.

    • Strong Thermos

      That’s kind of dubious on the “smart.” It’s not that difficult to raise your LSAT a few points. A lot of people I knew were too lazy to put in the work. Work as in, a dozen practice tests and intimacy with the powerscore books. I honestly think that anyone of above average intelligence (well maybe not anyone) can break 170 of they put in the work. A lot of work.

    • manual

      Oh god. Test score booster, eh? If you think you capacity to succeed in life is based upon a test, 1/4 of which is made up of stupid puzzle games, you have a lot to learn. The LSAT is just a screening device because law school lack any other metric to measure all studens (GPA varies so much school to school).

      It is pretty meaningless.

      • Warren Terra

        Screening devices like this have one certain merit: how willing the candidate is to conform to expectations. See the above suggestion that prepping for the test can boost your score 10%; obviously, you’re not 10% smarter for having prepped, but you now shine brighter in their eyes for having performed obeisance. Don’t discount this factor: to the extent it reflects meaning, success on the test speaks not only to ability, but also to conformity – and the testers want both.

        • (the other) Davis


          One way to subvert this expectation: If you pursue the right sort of academic background beforehand (preferably something heavily logic-focused), you can excel at the LSAT with a minimum of preparation. Worked for me.

  • Mudge

    You have given many examples of egregious behavior, greed, and bad performance by law schools. I was wondering if any (other than the elite) have been able to maintain, let’s say, tuition in the bottom third (probably still too high, but comparatively low) and reasonable employment success for graduates (top third). What, if hypotheticals like this exist, they are doing right?

    • Paul Campos

      To the extent self-reported employment stats can be trusted, a school like Alabama seems to be doing a fairly decent job of keeping costs in line with outcomes, for state residents. About 70% of their grads are getting jobs as lawyers, and they charge less than $20,000 per year in tuition for residents.

      I don’t know how much subsidization, if any, the law school gets from the university, so it’s hard to say how they’ve kept costs down (note that in inflation-adjusted terms Harvard was charging $20,000 per year in tuition in the mid-1980s, so it’s not like there’s any practical question of how one can run a first-rate law school on $20,000 per year tuition).

      As for job outcomes, the caveat here is that Alabama is by reputation a very insular legal market, where job opportunities for new lawyers are fairly decent for people with strong connections to the area in general, and especially to the local legal community. Somebody without such connections is much more likely to struggle.

      To the extent it’s going to remain reasonable for anyone to attend a non-elite law school, it will require strong regional law schools to keep down or reduce the cost of attendance, in areas where the legal market isn’t already hyper-saturated.

      • Mudge

        Thanks. I do enjoy this “series”, especially the law school dean ego issues.

    • BoredJD

      To the extent that this occurs, it is usually, like LawProf pointed out, southern and western public schools.

      For example, I’d venture to say CUNY (13K tuition) would have much better employment numbers without NYLS, Touro, Pace and Hofstra taking some of the NYC area jobs. It’s still by far the best deal of the five.

      RUN and RUC, without competition from the aforementioned schools, Seton Hall, and the Philly TTTs like Drexel, would probably have much better numbers too.

  • Chim Richalds

    Boy am I glad to be at GW. Rising 3L, only summer job I could find was at a non-manhattan NYC DA’s office (not a bad experience though).

    Thankfully, I did well enough to keep my scholarship so I’ll only be about about 120k in the hole instead of about 225.

    Don’t know what I’m going to do. If I can’t find a job I’ll go back to tending bar. Doc review’s a dead end.

    • (the other) Davis

      Doc review’s a dead end.

      It’s not as miserable as some folks make it out to be. I have a friend who’s a contract attorney doing doc review full-time, and he loves that (a) it pays pretty well, and (b) it’s basically a 9-to-5 job, unlike regular attorney gigs.

      As a young associate who’s done a goodly chunk of doc review, I don’t think that kind of work is all that bad, though I could see it getting boring in the long-term. If you can find a steady doc review gig that pays better than other options, you might want to consider sticking with it long enough to pay off a good chunk of your loans.

      • (the other) Davis

        Oops, self-correction:

        As a young new associate

        I may be naive and inexperienced, but I ain’t all that young.

      • Strong Thermos

        Hold on now though. Doing doc review as a full time employee at a firm and a contract attorney are very different. Even if the work is very similar. At a firm you have resources, a good résumé line and contacts, a chance to develop as an attorney, plus other intangibles including psychological health that I think are important. It’s mildly disingenuous to say its not that bad because you’ve “done the work”-you’ve done the work as a salaried employee at full time gig in a nice environment. And, baggage of being a “failed” lawyer aside, contract work can be soul-crushing.

        Much as I dislike reading the scamblogger stuff, they’re right sometimes. Wages for doc review gigs can be solid (around $30 an hour in New York) but wages have been suppressed given the glut of new jobless lawyers, and I think they’ll only continue to go down.

        One of my old classmates did doc review gigs (and they really are gigs, it’s contract work, sometimes competitive to get) to fund an unpaid internship at a local DA’s office. Which eventually led to a full-time job. But man, think about all the fucking hoops just to get a job in the field he was educated in. One guy got a job with a shady PI solo who’s a Kurt Vonnegut doppelgänger. He went back to doc review. Not many of my classmates who went down that road have been able to get real legal jobs.

        I’d say do doc review to the extent your mental health permits you. If you can’t parlay it into legal career in 1 or 2 years I say cut your losses.

        • (the other) Davis

          Hold on now though. Doing doc review as a full time employee at a firm and a contract attorney are very different.

          I realize that—as I mentioned, my friend is doing it as a contractor (and he’s pretty happy doing it, but he’s also not expecting to parlay it into something else). My point is not that it’s desirable, or that it’s going to lead to a better job. The point I was trying to make is that it’s not a terrible job if you can get it, and it could be worth sticking around long enough to put a dent in your loans before quitting law.

          around $30 an hour in New York

          Interesting, I’m pretty sure my friend is doing quite a bit better than that here in SF. Not sure if he got lucky, or if these gigs pay more out here.

          • Strong Thermos

            That’s word of mouth. Anyway I hear tell from reliable sources that doc review pay is waaaayyy down from where it was a few years ago, like maybe 2008. Like I’m talking 50ish to 30ish. This is hearsay of course, and it could be bullshit.

            Yeah I came on too strong. I’m sure the work itself is fine, but I believe people when they tell me that doing it with dozens of other “failed” lawyers, and the type of negative -and bitter personality types (can’t blame them) combined with a feeling of hopelessness career wise is crushing.

            I would tell a prospective law student to choose a less elitist profession, but I don’t know what that might be. My father turned down an Ivy League undergraduate education and Ivy League medical school acceptance to go to state college and med school, and he does very well in private practice. I get the impression that in medicine pedigree is, like anywhere else, important for academia but not regular jobs like lawyers. But that’s an industry I only know as an outsider.

            • Strong Thermos

              Actually I’m sure that the prestigious residencies and hospitals are competitive like BigLaw. The point being you don’t need to go to a highly ranked school or do a mayo clinic residency or work at a prestigious hospital to make a lot of money as a surgeon. That’s a stark contrast to the legal profession.

            • (the other) Davis

              Yeah I came on too strong. I’m sure the work itself is fine, but I believe people when they tell me that doing it with dozens of other “failed” lawyers, and the type of negative -and bitter personality types (can’t blame them) combined with a feeling of hopelessness career wise is crushing.

              Yeah, I don’t doubt that I’d feel the same way if I had planned on a different career path for myself. I think my friend just has a particularly good attitude about it—he gets paid well enough to be comfortable, he values work-life balance too much to want to do Big Law, and he had at least one negative experience doing public interest/civil rights law. Feeling like you’ve chosen that job, rather than gotten stuck in it, is probably key to not being miserable.

  • Jay

    I’m curious why it’s so bad in DC. The combined effect of the biglaw collapse with federal hiring freeze? Anyway, I guess I should appreciate what I have, as a 30 year old lawyer in DC who enjoys his job.

    • The Dark Avenger

      “Some may have and some may not
      God I’m grateful for what I got
      With our backs turned, looking down the path”

  • Strong Thermos

    This seems to encourage recklessness doesn’t it? The old thinking being that law school is where you learn how to “think” like a lawyer (lol) and the firm you work for trains you. How many kids are going to strike out on their own and royally fuck something up? I can’t say I blame them, people without Latin honors gotta eat too. But are there any stats on increased malpractice clams or other indicia of new lawyer incompetence in areas with dogshit law schools?

  • matt

    The email was written by yet another person who is either lying or mentally unstable and unable to think. He attacks the career services staff’s competence when its obvious there is nothing they can do. They can’t create jobs out of thin air, the problem is that people just don’t want to hire AU grads. He also, as is common for the letter writers Campos quotes, discusses being driven to the brink of suicide. This really is ridiculous for anyone who is not already mentally unbalanced. As has been extensively discussed, there are gov’t programs that help borrowers pay back their gov’t loans. What if this poster was foolish enough to take out private loans? One of the first things you learn in law school is that it doesn’t make any sense to sue people with no money.

    • manual

      At least your empathetic. Yeah, what has this intelligent student got to complain about – he’s only 160k or so in debt without a job after probably suceeding his whole life and having his law school lie to him about his future prospect. I agree that OCPD cannot change the situation at this point, but for him/her to be despondent is totally reasonable.

    • J R in WV

      I’m kind of depressed by the casual throw away “mentally unbalanced” term for someone who talks of considering suicide. How long will it take to educate people about the actual disease caused by poorly functioning processes in people’s brains?

      Depression is not “mentally unbalanced” – it’s a disease with physical/chemical causes that are fairly well understood. We don’t have the tools to repair the chemical problems that cause it yet, and treatments are a little scattergun compared to well targeted bullseye medicines. But still…

      Come on, live in the 21st century, not the 19th!

      rant over.

    • Waingro

      “As has been extensively discussed, there are gov’t programs that help borrowers pay back their gov’t loans.”

      It’s also been extensively discussed that those programs are kind of bullshit half-measures. (I’d call them quarter-measure, but whatever). A borrower could still end up paying $500-1,000 a month, depending on their salary and debt load. Not a whole left over for saving for retirement, raising kids, or buying a house.

      Also, dismissing someone’s mental anguish is really kind of shitty.

    • DrS

      Feelings of being trapped and hopeless are markers of depression.

      Gee, why could this person feel this way? Wouldn’t have anything to do with the extreme debt load and shit job market.

      Nope, it’s all this persons fault as he or she is “mentally unbalanced”. No thought about why they might be that way.

      Or to put it more bluntly, you’re a dick with a severe lack of empathy emblematic of the major problems of our society. Barbarian shitheels like you should be drummed out.

    • notanyuse

      Actually, suicide is eminently rational, when in the position of a failed lawyer or failed prospective lawyer.

      If a corporation took out 80K in loans to get started, based on erroneous projections of the market for its proposed services, then never had the revenue to service those loans, bankruptcy/restructuring would be the obvious choice. If bankruptcy was unavailable for the type of debt, then the next most obvious choice would be dissolution — end your existence, distribute the remaining assets.

      I took out 80K in loans, never had the income to service the debt, and now am in 208K of debt. There’s no way out, bankruptcy is not an option. Dissolution makes sense.

      The only reasons to not kill myself are entirely sentimental, and therefore, irrational: husband, cat, family would all be disappointed. So I’m sticking around for now, but, the fact is: Suicide is a rational choice for me. It’s the only way out.

      • Nathanael

        Naw. You could still do a lot of useful things. You are not a corporation.

        Hell, with nothing left to lose in money terms, you’re exactly the sort of person who might be able to run really dangerous anti-government protests. Become a political prisoner. Et cetera — you can probably think of even more dangerous socially useful things which you could do.

        What do you have to lose? What’s the worst they can do — kill you?

  • dybbuk

    Rank law schools by percentage of 2012 grads who obtained, within nine months of graduation, bar-required, full-time, long-term (one year or more incl. clerkships and fellowships), nonsolo and non-school funded jobs. Then compare that ranking to the US ranking.

    Here are the schools which, using that measure, are the most overrated by US News:


    What is remarkable is the how many schools on the list are feeders into the DC market. (i.e. schools located in DC, Virginia, or Maryland).

    The three most overrated law schools are: American, Catholic, and Washington and Lee– two DC schools and a Virginia school.

    Other schools with a US News rank at least 25 places above its employment rank, calculated as described, include: George Mason, University of Maryland, William and Mary, George Washington, and the University of Richmond. Also, it is notable that Georgetown’s placement rank of 32nd was (by far) the worst among the T14.

    Now DC is the lawyer capital of the world. Once upon a time, when government jobs were practically consolation prizes for young law grads from good schools, attending one of these schools was probably a shrewd move.

    Now, however, attending a DC area school probably puts one at a competitive disadvantage. Government jobs have become extremely desirable due to comparative job security over private sector law jobs, and accelerated debt forgiveness under IBR. In addition, the supply of such jobs for entry-level lawyers is drying up due to public sector austerity has taken on a cast of permanence.

    • cpinva

      wow, i’m surprised (and depressed) to see both William & Mary, and UR on that list. both of them have always had good reputations, for their law schools. at least, I thought they did.

  • Paul Campos

    (1) That career services can do very little for people doesn’t preclude them from making things even worse if they’re staffed by incompetents who give terrible advice. It’s routine for OCS offices to be full of people with zero background in career services. Apparently they’re qualified to be doing what they’re doing because of the versatility of a law degree.

    (2) Speaking of not being able to create jobs, government loan programs don’t. Carrying crushing debt loads that continually get bigger while struggling to find employment to pay the rent is psychologically debilitating to plenty of people with no pre-existing psychological issues. In addition, people who go to law school and can’t jobs as lawyers internalize this failure, because they’re encouraged to do so by the culture in general and the legal culture in particular.

    • James E. Powell

      people who go to law school and can’t [get] jobs as lawyers internalize this failure, because they’re encouraged to do so by the culture in general and the legal culture in particular.

      Do you believe that things are any different for people other than law students?

      If I understand you correctly, it’s the large debt that makes such people especially worthy of our concern. Is there anything else?

      Because who in our country isn’t bullshitted about his/her prospects of success? Who isn’t encouraged to take on debt? Who isn’t regarded with contempt and derision when he doesn’t realize his aspirations? Who isn’t regarded as a hapless loser when her life doesn’t turn out like she hoped?

      • Philip Arlington

        Here is a radical idea: How about the older generation starts behaving responsibly towards ALL young people. Or would that be un-American?

      • Paul Campos

        I write about this because it’s what I know about and see every day. I realize law schools are just a part of a larger increasingly dysfunctional higher education system, and that the problems of young people trying to enter the legal profession aren’t unique to law either. In fact the scamsters in legal academia love to point out that kids these days are pretty much screwed no matter what they do. Apparently this counts as some sort of justification for their behavior in their eyes. (Not attributing this line of argument to you of course).

        • James E. Powell

          Well, the large debt required for most law schools is not a trivial matter. But a very large number of students are taking on a very large debt without dicey chances of retiring it on time and without suffering.

          I teach high school. The official line is that they must go to college. Need to borrow? Just do it! Go to college. You must.

          To the extent that I have been able to keep track of my former students, it is not good, not good at all.

          • Nathanael

            I have been telling high school students that they should absolutely not go to college unless they can pay cash. Debt slavery is never worth the risk.

  • Peter Hovde

    But Abraham Lincoln University School of Law (whose ad is currently displaying to me on this page)? Totally worth it, I have no doubt.

    • Philip Arlington

      Get Adblock Plus, or one of its rivals.

  • There are a number of so-so (or even oh-no) universities that charge through the nose for being in interesting cities. DC has two of them GW and AU. Think NYU in New York or BU in Boston. This extends to law schools evidently.

    • NYU is a so-so school? It’s ranked quite high overall in several world rankings. I certainly don’t place BU in the GW or AU space, remotely.

    • Law Spider

      As an middle-aged NYU Law alum who won’t donate a dime to that school, in part because of the ridiculous salaries/perks given to the faculty and admin there, I will lukewarmly defend that school. It depends on your definition of “so-so”, I suppose. But NYU has been safely ensconced in the Top-10 for the past 20 years and, even now, 90% are appropriately JD-employed (if recent stats are to be trusted, FWIW). Almost nowhere, other than H/Y/S, is doing better, I suspect. I’m not claiming that the ridiculous tuition is worth the money, however.

  • Dude w/o Qualities

    This isn’t even that new. I know that the FTC got 200+ applications for a GS-13/14 antitrust attorney position in DC in 2009. (Hired a non-H/Y-Ivy grad recommended by a DC BigLaw luminary.)

    And an earlier anecdote I’ve related before: at least one prestigious-but-not-SG office at DOJ did indeed interview only H/Y (not S!) grads for a lateral (lateral!) opening in roughly 2006. I imagine they’ll do that again next time.

  • matt

    The SEC generally doesn’t care where you went to law school provided you were an associate at a top law firm. In fact one office refuses to hire anyone straight out of law school.

  • Dude w/o Qualities

    matt: One cheer for the SEC. Slaving for corporations for a few years can cleanse the taint of your law school. (Or could “top firm” include a plaintiffs’ boutique?)

  • Anonymous

    “The email was written by yet another person who is either lying or mentally unstable and unable to think. He attacks the career services staff’s competence when its obvious there is nothing they can do. They can’t create jobs out of thin air, the problem is that people just don’t want to hire AU grads. He also, as is common for the letter writers Campos quotes, discusses being driven to the brink of suicide. This really is ridiculous for anyone who is not already mentally unbalanced.”

    what a douche. Typical lawyer. Enough reason to stay away from this dirt bag profession.

  • HappyLawStudent

    I am a rising 2L who got into GULC with a 156/3.73 (from NYU), plus about 12 years of work experience. I don’t regret my decision for a second. I want to do public interest law only and GULC has an excellent LRAP and IBR program. I have had no trouble getting internships (with funding through Equal Justice Foundation), as well as research assistant jobs.

    I think everyone should take time off and get some work experience before going to law school. After some time, you will know if you really want to study the law. If you want to study the law and are passionate about it, you should do it. You should be willing to do anything that you are fairly certain will make you happy.

  • Avi Yuval

    STOP complaining like a b*tch, and get a job. Youre pathetic and you make me sick.

    YOU took the lsat, YOU applied to law school, YOU completed 3 years, YOU played with yourself, and now YOU expect others to get YOU a job?


    • Strong Thermos

      Indeed! Just get a job! He should strap on his job helmet and squeeze into a job cannon and fire off into Jobland, where jobs grow on Jobees.

      • Joan King


    • Douglas C. Niedermeyer

      “You’re all worthless and weak!”

  • Nathanael

    Remember, it’s not just American, and it’s not just law schools.

    The majority of colleges in the US are this bad. Giant new cathedrals and pyramids, sky-high prices, poor employment opportunities after graduation. Tickets to debt slavery.

    I’ve started recommending to high schoolers that they absolutely not go to college unless they can pay cash.

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  • I rarely write comments, but i did a few searching and wound up here Anti-American sentiments – Lawyers,
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    Is it only me or does it give the impression like some of
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