Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why prospective law students will never get the message.

Recently on JD Underground, someone posed the question as to when or whether prospective law students would ever learn the truth about the legal job market and stop applying to law school in mass.

My answer is, No.  I don't think word will trickle down to enough people.  There will probably always be a perception among some people that becoming a lawyer will guarantee you an at least solid middle class quality of life and offer an excellent chance of attaining an upper middle class income, at least amongst enough people to fill the law schools.

Perhaps students from middle class and upper middle class families will get the message from their sisters, brothers, and cousins, but legions of students from poor and minority families who think that just gaining admission to a for-profit college is a huge achievement will continue to believe that going to law school is a golden ticket (just as they think that higher education in general and especially graduate degrees will guarantee a ride on the gravy train).  If the students from middle class and upper middle class families stop coming, the law schools will simply lower their admissions standards rather than deprive themselves of tasty tuition dollars, and students from lower class backgrounds will eagerly break down the doors, starry-eyed and giddy at the thought that they could become the first lawyer or professional in their families.

Our society has been indoctrinating people about the value of higher education for decades and people from poor and minority backgrounds are especially susceptible to that message because they often don't have any family members who can tell them otherwise.  As evidence, I cite the hordes of people who have no business going to college who are flooding into the community colleges and for-profit schools.  This notion that higher education is a guarantor of at least a solid middle class lifestyle is deeply, deeply entrenched in the American psyche and exactly zero voices are saying otherwise on a public scale.  (Little guys like you and me who gripe on blogs and specialized forums don't count. I want to see Oprah or the President or Brian Williams spread the message.)

Read this article about "Professor X" who teaches at a "College of Last Resort" to get a better sense of what I'm talking about.  Hordes of people, including people who have no business going to college, feel desperate to go, believing that higher education will give them a golden ticket on the gravy train.  Also watch the Frontline program College, Inc. and read the New York Times article about how well-intentioned people are being suckered into for-profit college debt.

Thus, even if a great many undergraduates learn the truth, a great many will still continue to succumb to the propaganda put out by the ABA, NALP, the LSAC, the law schools, Hollywood, politicians, pundits, and society in general.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I am also a professor at a college of last resort and taught at a major state school. The writer wrote it more eloquently than I could have. Everyday I see students that should not be in college, even at the state flagship, all the under-qualified students are just a heartbeat and a check-book for a few semesters before they are weeded out, with less money and broken ambition.

Nando said...

My sister-in-law teaches at the omnipresent University of Phoenix. The school is a piece of trash, and everybody knows it. Yet, it has the largest enrollment of any school in the country - unless another turd such as Stevens-Henager has replaced it.

The point is people are DESPERATE, and they are constantly told that they need to further their education "to get ahead." Sadly, too many people fall for this trap and succumb to the "common wisdom."

This is why my goal is modest, i.e. inform people and hopefully we can prevent at least some people from committing financial suicide.

Anonymous said...

It is understandable why legions of people will still consider going to a third tier toilet law school,for example, and perhaps other schools as well. Any politician you can name makes blanket statements, in reaction to questions regarding our economic quagmire, to the effect that "education is the key", or, "education is the solution", etc.

But we have to ask, WHAT education? More poli-sci, English or communications degrees, with the usual attempts to correct course by attending law school as a "fall back"? all too many have been misled by what a college education can achieve. With the exception of a very few majors, tending to be in the sciences or engineering, it is heavily overrated for the average unconnected person.

Anonymous said...

So if Law school or even undergrad is not the golden ticket to Middle/Upper Class what is the ticket or the path? Is your argument that the ticket is not golden, but it is still a path or that its a dead end?

Frank the Underemployed Professional said...

I would say that other than going to Medical School, there no longer are any golden tickets. There may be a path, but it meanders through the woods and the forest has encroached on it to the point where parts of the path have disappeared and you have to trudge over fallen logs and through bushes and thick trees to find the next part of the path.

I guess my advice to people is to obtain a solid bachelors degree in a (relatively) marketable field while taking on as little student loan debt as possible. What fields people should go into, I don't know. It seems like the number of good fields is shrinking all the time. My next blog post will highlight one of those shrinking fields (pharmacy).

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