Sunday, February 5, 2012

Law School vs. Clown College

I had begun to refer to law school as "clown college," but I realized that it would be an insult to clowns.

Can you imagine?  Say that you don't want to work for Ringling Bros. anymore.  You can put a tip jar out on a street corner and start juggling bowling pins.  People will watch for a few minutes and then leave you money.

 It may not be much, but that spare change adds up over a few hours.  I don't know how many attorneys were ever voluntarily paid anything, and even if accounts are settled full and proper, there is a bit of misery about it for the client, isn't there?  Oops, there went $5,000 that could have gone to buying a new car, and it's been sunk on something they'd rather have never had to pay for in a million years.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by these lawsuits that are going after schools for employment statistics. 

I think back to my own experience.  Technically, at the nine month mark, I was employed in a job that had the potential salary of $50,000+ per year.  I was hired that exact month after being unemployed since graduation.  Then, I left the job in favor of a temp job in a non-legal field, if that tells you anything.

Now, I don't recall ever answering a survey.  I don't recall if one was ever sent to me.  Maybe they did send one.  I recall some sort of email about alerting career services if you still hadn't found anything, so maybe it was a passive "we will only count the people who come forward and ask for help as unemployed and assume everyone else is employed."

Of course, if you have been trying to find a job for quite some time and saw a distinct pattern where career services wasn't working much magic, you are not very enthusiastic about telling them anything.  It's a bit like waiting by the phone for the on-again-off-again boyfriend and you've gotten to that point where you're just sort of laying low and hoping he just drifts away and becomes somebody else's problem as opposed to giving you hope that things are going to be different.

Yes, career services!  You told me a few months ago that things were different because you see that there are problems with how things were going.  Then, I didn't hear from you for several months, and now you send me an email asking me if you would like to get together because you were busy but you were still thinking about me?

Then, you look around and see that your afternoons are filled with making your innards raw from coffee and reading a grade-C novel that you picked up on a whim at the used book store, and you are so desperate for cheap entertainment that you painfully turn through each page as you stare out the window every second paragraph. 

Hmm. 

Then you think, "Maybe I should take career services back.  I swore I would never go back to them because they've been telling me this same story for two years now about how great things were going to be if I just reached out to them.  Ha!  My employed friends are tired of me showing up to their gatherings without a job and ask me about career services and what they've been up to recently.  They look at me with a mixture of pity and doubt in their eyes when I tell them that career services is trying really hard, but they are short-staffed and are obviously very busy with OCI and they'll get back to me as soon as they can.  In fact, career services told me to provide them with my class schedule in case a potential employer tried to get in contact with me but had to send them to track me down if my phone was not working and it was absolutely urgent that they speak to me right that moment because I am such an amazing candidate that they won't consider anyone else.

"But then, here I am, at the goddamn Starbucks on a Tuesday afternoon.  If I were that amazing, maybe someone else would have expressed interest.  Hmm.  Maybe career services wasn't that bad.  They did give me coffee and occasional donuts.  And cake.  Don't forget about cake.   They were always very nice.  And they had jovial font on the fliers in the hallways.  Also, have you seen what else is out there?  Craigslist?  Law Crossing?  Maybe they are simply dysfunctional and I should be the one to change.  Maybe career services needs me to be more proactive.  Maybe I am not expressing my needs adequately.  People have told me that I am poor at communicating my needs.  Maybe they were simply waiting for me to make a move all of this time, but they were shy about doing so because they didn't want to look like an obsessive freak.  Really, I am a very cold individual.  Maybe they are giving me another chance because I screwed something up and they have such strong feelings for me that they could not stay away.  You know, I should really be more attentive to the needs of others.  Here I am, blaming them for my own shortcomings when all they were doing was pining away with the desire to help me become more than what I am.  Once again, my own cynicism about people got in the way, and I couldn't recognize that I simply just let it fall apart instead of expressing my needs.  You know what?  I'm going to show them that I still care about them and let them know that I understand that they are trying in their own way."

Thus, despite having my self esteem chipped away each time I went through this, the cycle would inevitably restart.

However, on this occasion, I don't think I bothered replying to them because I was in secret celebration that I had just found a job.  Yes, I can just passively act like I never got their email and act surprised if I accidentally run into them at a school CLE event.  After all, this was now the year 2010.  Technology was so finicky that everything goes directly into the Spam box.  Plus, only old people checked their email.  It was nothing but text and Facebook, bay-bee!

Ah, but when I say that I changed jobs unexpectedly, I don't think my case was that unusual.  I think there are more than a few of my classmates that had already made job changes within two years.  This highlights the ever migratory world of legal employment.  Just like circus carnies, many will dabble in a variety of trades and employers.  Many fall off the hamster wheel they get tired enough, so it leaves this interesting picture of what true Darwinism looks like when seeing which people make it to the golden status of old geezer attorney.  Most of the people who are hired at big firms are gone within a few short years and new room is made for another round of people who think they've struck it big.

So, what they really need when measuring law school statistics is basically the equivalent to the life cycle of a star sort of diagram.

Step 1:  The non-attorney enters a ring of dark matter and is compressed for 3 years until nuclear reaction takes place.

Step 2:  The new lawyer is launched from the nursery where they are humiliated by people with high school diplomas and 20 years experience in the field they are trying to work in.

Step 3:  The new lawyer is tired of working for the jackass who is paying them nothing and keeping the rest of it for hookers and private planes.  The new lawyer decides they too can have hookers and private planes.

Step 4:  The new lawyer creates a new law firm.  They may even "go in" with someone.  Unbeknownst to new lawyer, the new partner is setting about in stealing their clients behind their back.  The new venture falls apart and moving trucks are brought in during the middle of the night to haul away case files without a Dear John letter. 

Step 5:  Bitterness and alcohol ensues.  Complaints to the state bar are made about your failure to keep the client apprised of their case.  Somewhere along the way, you may need to make a stop at the special attorney AA meetings as recommended by the State bar and have your work overseen by another attorney as you are on "probation."

Step 6:  Tort reform bills are passed.  The business base dries up, and the lawyer seeks out a last minute certification to teach high school English.  The student loans from years past are still hovering around like a goddamn horse fly that is determined as all hell to take away a yummy chunk of your arm if you would only hold still just long enough.  Oddly, even though you've paid on them for nearly 10 years at this point, they are still nearly about the same size as the day you graduated from law school thanks to deferments and low income and such.

Yes, so only if we could get attorneys to write out their full bio, then people who are thinking about law school may understand because numerical statistics just don't cut it.

8 comments:

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  3. I think your "life cycle" of lawyers is spot-on.

    I don't know which decision I made was better: the one not to go for a PhD, or the one not to go to law school!

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  4. This "profession" is GLUTTED. Anyone with any understanding of economics should know that this leads to an employer's market, i.e. they can set strict terms, knowing that they can fire your ass - and replace you by choosing among tons of desperate attorneys.

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  6. one thing is for sure, some lawyers are good with lying.

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