On Aug. 30, 2014, the Los Angeles Times offered insight into the marketing and business development efforts by law schools to generate new customers, most of whom will end up with HUGE student loan debts and low-paying jobs (many will also end up unemployed). Under a new initiative, community college students will receive “advising and mentoring, financial aid counseling, access to law school faculty, tutoring for entrance exams and a waiver of law school application fees.” In other words, these vulnerable community college students, many of whom appear to come from unprivileged backgrounds, will receive a heavy dose of law school propaganda, become convinced that law school is the “pathway” to a prosperous future, and the law schools will receive a steady crop of new lemmings.
A 25-year-old woman profiled in the story, Jajaira Varela, was told she wasn’t college material by friends and family, that she was “stupid, that I couldn’t do it and that I was an idiot for pursuing college.” So, she dropped out of high school to become a singer. Fast forward seven or so years later and Ms. Varela is back in school, this time in community college because she “realized I don’t want to be a pretty voice. I want to make a difference.” She is participating in the “Pathways to Law School” program. If she is in her second year of community college, she won’t complete the JD purchasing pipeline until she’s 30 at the earliest. To provide insight into Ms. Varela’s understanding of the legal market, the LA Times story offers this illustrative quote in the last paragraph:
Varela said she would like to help others as a defense attorney. She said she wants to attend Harvard Law School even though it’s not one of the schools in the program.
"Maybe it will expand," she said.
This is just another example of how law schools are making aggressive attempts to expand beyond their former core demo of high-performing college graduates to other market segments that may not be aware that a law degree is often a very poor investment that can financially cripple a person’s life.
As always, the comments to the LA Times story provide the real scoop on what this “pathway” program is all about (hint: it’s to line the law school industry’s pockets and cushion the impact of decreased enrollment). Here are some of our favorite comments:
- These days there are plenty of law schools that are happy to admit kids with pathetic LSAT scores. Even if all you can do on the test is spell your name correctly, you’re eligible for an unlimited student loan, payable directly to the school.
- Attention law school bound community college students: If you want to pay some of the highest tuition for an ABA accredited, fourth tier toilet law school with the lowest bar passage rate in California, then seriously consider enrolling at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
- If they are just trying to get minorities into dead end careers then why not have a pathway to chiropractic schools so they can be “doctors?” That way they can also have a low paying, high student loan debt career.
- UNDER $40,000 PER YEAR IS STARTING PAY FOR ANY NEW LAWYER UNLESS HE/SHE IS IN TOP 5 LAW SCHOOLS AND TOP 10% OF THE CLASS. BIG GLUT OF LAWYERS, TECHNOLOGY MAKES LAWYERS OBSOLETE SINCE FORMS ETC. ARE PREVALENT.
- The word is out that law school these days is little better than a scam. The profession is saturated. Most graduates of law schools below the very elite level (which does NOT include UCLA, USC, UC Irwin, Loyola etc.) will never find full-time permanent jobs in law that pay enough to service their student loans. So applications are way down. Law schools are having to either fill up their classes with low-scoring students many of whom will never pass the bar exam, or lose revenue by reducing class size.
Law school administrators and professors need to sign up students, because law students can get unlimited student loans — even to attend bottom-feeder schools — and those loan funds go directly to pay the scammers’ lavish salaries. This is just another crafty scheme to suck in more naive, starry-eyed kids and keep the gravy train running.
- I was pre-law initially as an undergrad. The pre-law classes such as poli-sci, social science classes, and pre-law classes per se are in essence, lots of heavy reading. Your reading comprehension and writing skills must be very good to say the least. You have to sift and parse the material carefully.
Second thing, the notion that lawyers make a middle-class or “good living” is no longer true. That ended sometime in the 1970s. It’s an oversaturated industry. There are too many people earning JDs and passing the bar recently. There aren’t enough jobs out there for new lawyers. I’m sorry, but that’s the brutal truth. You will most likely find a sub $40k/yr. job, or not find one at all. It is that UGLY.
Third, the popular notion of law school prestige, class ranking, etc. DO MATTER in this industry. If you can’t get into a tier-1 law school (Ivies, Stanford, Duke, U Chicago, and commensurate), graduate top of your class, lack the networks wrt interns, etc…..you’re screwed. This is an old boy network too. So don’t whine about favoritism. This is how the ball bounces in this culture/industry.
Law isn’t as glamorous as outsiders think. The money isn’t there neither. Most people never make partner. You should talk to those who been there and done that prior to taking the leap. I did, and changed my major my sophomore year.
- These students need to research the job market for attorneys, not just in CA, but nationwide. Big Law is downsizing, and exporting legal work overseas. Employment prospects for experienced associates are dim, never mind for inexperienced law school grad’s. Many of them are staggering under six figure school loan debt while working in jobs that don’t require a JD.
This “pathway” program is a brazen attempt by the law school industry to put more lemming butts in their high-priced seats (paid for with student loans backed by the federal government and taxpayers of course!). It’s disgusting. As Prof. Campos put in his recent excellent piece in the Atlantic, this is the capitalist’s dream: privatized profits and socialized losses.
These community college students believe the law school shills are looking out for their futures, but they are sorely mistaken and have no idea they’re walking into a trap. The law school deans and professors don’t care (maybe on a superficial level, they “care”) what happens to these students, who are demonstrating a desire to better themselves. The law school industry just want the community college students to come to their school in order to secure the hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan funds that will flow through these student loan conduits. That is the ONLY thing they’re interested in. If you want a bright future, learn an actual skill and prepare to enter an industry that’s dynamic and growing (oil & gas and technology are obvious examples). Study the BLS statistics. Disregard the propaganda and baked numbers put out by organizations that have a financial interest in the law school industry.
It’s heartbreaking to read about individuals like Ms. Varela, who doesn’t understand she’s being used as a pawn by the law school industry and who sadly thinks she’s building a positive future. If you want to be a defense lawyer in California, why not just go to the People’s College of Law? Her comment about Harvard Law School illustrates the average lemming mentality - naive special snowflakes who believe a positive attitude and a “can do” approach to life can surmount enormous macroeconomic trends. It’s like the individual suffering mental health problems who thinks he or she can out think a thinking problem. It’s simply not going to happen. Of course, the law school industry is only too happy to take advantage of her and sink their greedy teeth into this next crop of future student loan conduits.
We can all take solace in the truth that things that cannot go on forever will not go on forever, as the housing bubble demonstrated. However, in order for a proper market correction to take place, the federal government must promptly cease its practice of propping up inefficient markets like the law school industry that are predatory and destroying young people’s futures. The federal government’s illogical practice of backing loans to all ABA-accredited law schools is creating a toxic environment that produces bitter, indebted graduates with no hope of a middle class lifestyle.The education market needs to correct, but it won’t until the government enacts some sensible reforms (bankruptcy eligibility after seven years, due diligence when backing student loans, caps on tuition based on actual student job outcomes, additional oversight of schools that routinely produce indebted, jobless graduates, etc. - CFPB where are you??).
Eventually, the law school industry will run out of population segments to scam. Perhaps law schools could send teams of “marketing and communications” professionals and social media coordinators to the southern border and hand branded pamphlets, DVDs, stickers, mints, bobbleheads, bottle openers, t-shirts, thumb drives, postcards and flyers promising six-figure salaries to undocumented immigrants showing pictures of millionaire lawyers, Bugattis, models, and lavish island mansions in addition to a wide variety of ESL services that suddenly become widely available at law schools nationwide. Only when law school becomes synonymous with broke, huge debt, and horrible job opportunities and the federal government injects some sanity into its student loan policy will the market correct.