Unlike new-found inquiries into the source of Jimmy Page’s guitar chords, there’s no question about the common progressions two lawyers strummed this month. Decrying their decisions to attend law school, their observations underline how when it comes to law school, the stairway leads to the other place — not to heaven.
The two lawyers, neither currently practicing law, wrote respective commentaries that caught my notice. The first was Steven Waechter, a 2009 Drake Law School grad who quit lawyering after just a few years. He is an inactive member of the Iowa Bar and currently works in consumer goods manufacturing.
On his Linkedin page, Waechter states, “I consider my sojourn into the law to be a false-start career.” When he left Drake 7 years ago, it was the middle of the ‘Great Recession.’ The scam blogger movement was in mid-boil. And coincidentally, 2009 was also the year another Drake grad began vitriolically venting a NSFW blog called Third Tier Reality.
For those unfamiliar with the term,“scam bloggers” describes a community of woefully indebted law school student and graduate bloggers. Some 10 years ago, they began making mostly anonymous online allegations about how law schools were scamming students with inflated post-graduation employment statistics. Also see Noam Scheiber’s story in Sunday’s New York Times, “The Law School Bust.”
A 2012 law review article described the movement’s context this way:
“While there have always been economic and financial pressures
around the margins of law, law practice, and law school, these marginalia
are becoming the new text. Approximately half of all students attending law
school today will not get jobs requiring a J.D. Even a large percentage of
those with law jobs will be underemployed, and a startling number will not
see a meaningful return on the approximately $150,000 investment in their
legal education. Law school debt has skyrocketed, and many recipients will
live poverty-level lives while struggling to cover their debt service obligations.
Others will descend into a hopeless spiral of nondischargeable student
loans, wrecked credit scores, and miserable low-end jobs.”
However, Waechter is not a scamblogger. But he is an engaging and passionate commentator. In fact, in 2014 he authored the op-ed, “Law School is Broken” where he opined, “American law schools take bright, ambitious young people and leave them broke, humiliated, deeply indebted and disaffected.”
Two years later, Waechter’s opinions haven’t moderated. This month he followed up with “If You MUST Go to Law School.” In this commentary, he echoed many of the arguments of the scam bloggers and warned the still undeterred against law school calling it“pointless financial suicide.” It’s worth sharing with anyone who despite all contrary evidence still contemplates law school. Surely, that would confirm the exception that proves the fool.
These days, there aren’t as many scambloggers as before. This is largely a function of there being only so much spleen to vent. Eventually, even anger comes to something resembling an end. Still others believe the work of the coal miner’s canary has mostly been done. And in any event, the law school industrial complex no longer escapes scrutiny or accountability. Indeed, I’m hard pressed to believe there are many college students left who despite a belief in their special snowflake status, haven’t heard the alarms about choosing law as a respectably remunerative career.
The second lawyer riffing a similar melody authored a pointed commentary in The Minneapolis Star Tribune. Attorney turned business analyst Bob Larson underscores that while the scamblogging movement might only be simmering now, the angry and embittered remain.
Larson like Waechter no longer practices law. His heartfelt opinion piece is likewise worth reading. He wrote it in response to receiving repeated alumni fundraising appeals from his law school. Entitled, “Law school fundraising: Solicitations will be bitterly denied,” the subhead asks, “What have you ever done for me? And what makes you think you made me wealthy?”
Larson wrote about having received a 50-percent scholarship to attend his law school. All the same, he left law school $170,000 in debt. “It feels like a grave insult every time you request a donation,” he wrote.
“At every turn, you’ve done me a disservice. You’ve taken so much from me, and given precious little. My life is worse for having known you. I have paid and will continue to pay for that mistake. But you don’t care; you’re just a bloated glutton, constantly demanding more.
“So, in light of that, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say, “Go to hell, you parasite.”
There’s not much to say after that — except I think they’ll still ask him for money.
Photo credit: “Animation of a sweep picking played on electric guitar,” by Punkettaro at Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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