Saturday, April 30, 2011


I actually spend time trying to devise cutesy titles for my posTTTs. It comes from a desire for something attention grabbing and years of submitting headlines to Fark, mostly unsuccessfully.

Headlines are an art. I know a former NY Daily News headline writer and they come to him naturally. His terse e-mail responses often require a second (or third) look lest they sail over my head.

Sometimes an article's headline is so good that it needs no embellishment; it's perfect as is. Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, handed me the title for this post. His article, Served How law schools completely misrepresent their job numbers, is one more nail in the law school carTTTel's coffin.

"Served," "owned," and "pwned" all mean the same thing to me: To be obliterated in a contest, usually publically. It's a succinct description of the fate awaiting lemmings heading off to law school. Campos probably used "served" because of its legal connotation. I prefer pwned, myself.

Follwing the incendiary subtitle, Campos trods familiar ground, noting that schools claim almost all their graduates get jobs as lawyers and that US Snooze has revised its employment rate calculations to make them "somewhat less inaccurate."

He hits his stride when he begins analyzing National Association for Law Placement (NALP) data. NALP reports that 63% of graduates of ABA schools have full-time legal positions within 9 months of graduating. Campos points out that NALP does not distinguish between permanent and temporary jobs. While the latter are typically low-status, low-paid clerical and document review, he also includes state trial-level clerkships as temporary positions.

Based on a T50 he analyzed, the true 9-month employment rate is 45%; lower-ranked schools fare worse.

In other news that will surprise only Ric Romero, he notes that employment figures are self-reported and that neither the schools nor NALP audit them. Unemployed and underemployed graduates tend not to report back to the school. Campos further "found several instances of people describing themselves as employed permanently or full-time, when in fact they had temporary or part-time jobs (I found no instances of inaccuracies running in the other direction)." Even T14s game their ranking by hiring alumni temporarily.

So, life after T50 is mostly for losers? What happens to the winners? They "often accept jobs that make them miserable, featuring insane hours and unfulfilling work, but which these graduates conclude they must take in order to pay their often astronomical educational debt."

Served. Indeed.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mail Bombing

An enterprising Carbozo 3L has started a mail bombing service, Resumé Launchpad, for law students. It's a glorified contact database that allows users to do targeted e-mailings to legal employers and customize the cover letter for each recipient. Having done mail merges since the DOS-era, I believe they require more expertise than many people either have or are willing to spend the time to develop. The product eliminates drudgework and fits a need.

Its Achilles heel will be the price. The site wants 25 cents per e-mail, an unsound business model, IMHO. For starters, it targets large law firms that are unobtainable. You can resumé bomb shitlaw but will run out of money before you can realize your dream to litigate bogbites. There are numerous other vendors that provide the same service, generally at a comparatively low flat cost per month.

The entrepreneur received a cold welcome on JDU. Some sample comments.
"Coming onto a message board filled with people who have been sending their CVs into the ether for months, some times years, on end and asking them to PAY for you to do it for them? That doesn't just take balls....that takes MEDICINE BALLS!"

"I like that the website features the largest firms in the country on the main page. Nice touch."

"While I applaud your initiative, resume bombing is simply not a productive strategy anymore."

"So, you're asking people to pay *you* their money for *you* to make the already deafening signal noise in legal recruitment even worse?"

"Die in a fire"

"The idea, in this economy, of sending resumes by email, unsolicited to law firms is beyond pathetic."
I don't think Resumé Launchpad is going to fly.

MandaTTTory Pro Bono

Shilling Me Softly has guest post by David Mandell today on mandatory pro bono, a subject near and dear to my heart. When I was a newly-admitted, frequently un- and under-employed member of the NJ bar (note, member of the bar, not practicing attorney), there was NOTHING more grating.

Imagine being a temporary file clerk and having to miss two days or more of work to defend a low-life with "big problems and empty pockets," in the words of the esteemed Scott Bullock. This isn't helping them fill out forms. Instead, it's full-blown representation from start to finish, with potentially multiple court appearances. These individuals can benefit from effective assistance of counsel, particularly in family law matters, but you personally get no resources or assistance, whatsoever. Need to get an interview translated from Spanish? Good luck. This is truly shitlaw on steroids.

I have little to add to Mandell's excellent post. He already noted the various exemptions under New Jersey law, but didn't explain how many lawyers they cover. This is a state with 566 municipalities in 21 counties. The vast majority have a municipal judge, prosecutor(s), and defender(s). These typically part-time positions go to lawyers from politically-connected firms like everything else in this venal state. Want to help your associates shirk pro bono? Get them an assignment somewhere.

I'm told that volunteering with a legal aid society can get you out of mandatory pro bono. This might be a good way to go if you want to help people with tenant issues and avoid the gamier cases you'd otherwise be assigned.

Pro tip: As NJ solos are painfully aware, the state Supreme Court enthusiastically enforces the bona fide office rule. If you don't have a bona fide office, you can't practice law and ... drum roll ... can't represent pro bono clients. Capiche? Doesn't hurt to ask to be excused, though note the tendency to "not receive" your request.

When I finally threw in the towel and formally retired from the practice of law (note: I never had a paying engagement for which a JD was required), it was to avoid mandatory pro bono. Pro bono is truly a feel-good measure for our pious judiciary and bar. It allows them to tell the public what swell folks they are, even as they kick their struggling brethren in the teeth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Food stamps

There's a rumor on JDU that a T20, likely University of Minnesota, is counseling 3Ls on how to apply for food stamps. Yes, it's a rumor, but we're dealing with a "profession" that expects people to take on six-figure debt to work for minimum wage.

Tune in at 11:00

Pictured is Ric Romero a KABC-TV reporter and Fark cliché who "[r]eports the obvious, usually long after everyone else knows it's obvious." Ric made a name for himself reporting on the blogging phenomenon; his photo alone normally suffices as a response in a thread, though some will add "water is wet" to drive the point home.

Ric's protégé, Nikita Lalwani over at Yale Daily News, has a promising career ahead of her. She recently reported that law firms prefer to hire from elite law schools. Further, the law schools themselves draw from elite colleges; half the Yale class comes from either the Ivy League or Stanford and the balance comes from from selective schools like Wesleyan.
"The exclusivity of the legal profession is reinforced at top law firms, according to a study by Lauren Rivera ’00 published this year, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Rivera interviewed roughly 40 professionals involved in law firm recruitment and hiring, and found that these people give particular preference to candidates from Harvard, Yale or Stanford law schools when reviewing job applications.

Although many recruiters actually believed that graduates of non-elite law schools were more prepared for the practical aspects of being a lawyer, they still preferred to hire from super-elite schools because of the prestige associated with them."
So, 0Ls, what can we learn from Nikita? Simply, Yale or fail. Unless your goal is to work in shitlaw, you need to go to an elite school. What part of that do you not understand? Any employer worth working for cares deeply what school you attended. Your T50 law review or moot court is nice, and it's helpful that your school revamped its curriculum so you could hit the ground running, but you're still going to be an also-ran and always will be. Don't blame me; I don't make the rules. Decades after a Harvard graduates, his degree will impress people. Seton Hall, not so much.

The legal industry is comprised of prestige whores from top to bottom. That's how this blog got its name.

When you fork over $200K, you're buying a brand, not just an education. Everyone learns the same irrelevant law, generally from professors who are graduates of the same go-to schools.

Your first inkling something is amiss may come at OCI. You may also try looking on a firm's site for graduates, and find there is but one ... who graduated in 1977. You try to volunteer, but those organizations are selective, too. Like I said, I don't make the rules.

You don't want to work in biglaw, anyway? That's fine, but nowadays you're going to be rubbing shoulders with T14 grads all the way down to doc review. When push comes to shove, who do you think is going to get the job?

Don't take my word for it. Ask Nikita.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

You will respect my authoriTTTah!

Pictured is Kenneth Nunn, a presTTTigious "Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Race Relations and the Law, Police Brutality, Race and the Criminal Process, and Law and Cultural Studies" professor at the University of Florida, whose faculty he joined in 1990. The former "Professor of the Year" has also taught unspecified courses at Makerere University Faculty of Law in Kampala, Uganda. I'm trying to leave race out of this, but the guy is a walking cliché. Keepin' it real.

Professor Nunn's greatest didactic accomplishment and legacy happened outside his own classroom, recently. It teaches us how the legal academy REALLY works.

From the Gainesville Sun:
The incident happened Dec. 10 when Nunn's class of about 100 students was scheduled to take an exam in the Holland Law Center.

Nunn mistakenly thought the class was assigned to three rooms, including a room where about six other students were taking a tax exam, according to the investigation. Nunn's students interrupted the other class until one of the tax students placed a trash can in front of the classroom with a sign that read "exam."

The tax student, who was not identified in the report, later told Nunn "it was atrocious how you handled that." The student told an investigator Nunn then got in his face and pushed him full force using both hands, before saying, "I'm a law professor and deserve respect." A witness confirmed Nunn pushed the student.
He received a one week suspension. With pay. Another blog noted that the March 7-13 suspension corresponded with Spring Break.

UF warned him that a second incident might result in his termination. Salma Hayek just warned me that she might come over unannounced and ... sorry, Nando.

To summarize, a faculty member with a chip on his shoulder committed criminal battery against a student, which was witnessed, and received a one-week paid vacation. To quote Robin Williams, the school effectively told him, "Stop! Or, I'll say, 'Stop!' again."

Let's read between the lines. University of Florida has a top-ranked tax program. There were six tax students taking an exam. I'm guessing the shovee was a nerdy, white LLM. I'll give the school the benefit of a doubt and trust that it would have handled the incident the same no matter what the student's and professor's races (or gender, religion, color, creed, origin, and sexual orientation) were.

Professor Nunn's lesson for us is that law schools look out for their own, never for the students.

Society's lesson, which has eluded Nunn, is that respect must be earned.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Convergence of Suck

Hat tip to The Jobless Juris Doctor for publicizing a New York Law School (no, not NYU) press release. Seems this venerable diploma mill has combined forces with Solo Practice University to give a handful of its unmarketable graduates Special High-Intensity Training.

NYLS is an overpriced cesspool currently ranked #135 by US Snooze. Its 25th percentile applicants have 151 LSATs. To its credit, one of my high school classmates is an alumnus, made big law, and is currently CEO at a mid-size company. My former employer had at least two NYLS graduates, one the top legal officer, albeit with a crappy title, the other an HR benefit manager. All graduated years ago.

The current crop hasn't fared as well. Hence, now that they've thrown $200K down the drain and wasted three years of their life, the school is giving 10 of them scholarships for on-line training at SPU and washing its hands of them.

There's nothing I can say about SPU that hasn't been better said by Scott Bullock. He refers to schools like SPU as "after-scammers." They prey on graduates of toilets like NYLS, figuring the students are gullible enough to bite twice. Bullock's piece is a classic.

New York Law School is First to Launch Solo Practice University’s ® “Bridges” Online Education Program
“Building Bridges to Professional Independence” Will Help NYLS Students Prepare for Practice
New York, NY (Vocus/PRWEB) April 13, 2011

New York Law School (NYLS) announced today that it will provide scholarships to attend Solo Practice University (SPU) to 10 of its third-year students. SPU provides online classes, tools, and other services to help lawyers succeed in today’s marketplace. The scholarship winners will attend SPU while in law school. In addition, NYLS will work with SPU to make discounted access available to recent graduates and alumni.

“We are committed to helping our students and alumni become effective practitioners. SPU offers wonderful resources, especially for those who will open their own offices or join small firms,” said Richard A. Matasar, Dean and President of New York Law School. “We urge all of our students to take an active role in networking with practitioners and learning about aspects of law practice that aren’t always covered in traditional law school courses. This initiative will expand their opportunities to do just that.”

Susan Cartier Liebel, Founder and CEO of Solo Practice University, said, “I commend New York Law School for its innovative approach to legal education. There already are a number of NYLS alumni active at SPU. I know they will reach out to help the next generation of practitioners.”

Access to this pilot program will be available for free, beginning next fall, to 10 students who qualify by writing about their professional plans and goals and who agree to use SPU resources actively and participate in an evaluation survey at the end of the year. Internally, NYLS will also be offering a new course on starting and running a law firm, and some of the students who elect to take the course will be expected to participate in the online pilot program.

The SPU pilot program is among several new initiatives that will be announced by Dean Matasar at the concluding session of the Future Ed Conference on April 16, 2011. The conference is co-hosted by Harvard Law School and New York Law School and brings together educators, lawyers, clients, regulators, and legal entrepreneurs to design and test potential innovations in the law school curriculum, teaching methods, and the use of technology. See for more information.

About New York Law School
Founded in 1891, New York Law School is an independent law school located in lower Manhattan near the city’s centers of law, government, and finance. New York Law School’s renowned faculty of prolific scholars has built the School’s strength in such areas as constitutional law, civil and human rights, labor and employment law, media and information law, urban legal studies, international and comparative law, and a number of interdisciplinary fields. The School is noted for its nine academic centers: Center on Business Law & Policy, Center on Financial Services Law, Center for International Law, Center for New York City Law, Center for Professional Values and Practice, Center for Real Estate Studies, Diane Abbey Law Center for Children and Families, Institute for Information Law & Policy, and Justice Action Center. New York Law School has more than 13,000 graduates and enrolls some 1,500 students in its full- and part-time J.D. program and its four advanced degree programs in financial services law, real estate, tax, and mental disability law studies.

About Solo Practice University
Founded in 2009, Solo Practice University® is the #1 online educational and professional networking community for lawyers and law students. Comprised of more than 560 online individual classes presented by more than 45 faculty, Solo Practice University ® provides access to expert advice, mentorship, tools, information, and the professional network lawyers need to succeed in the current marketplace. The essence of Solo Practice University ® is collaboration. Experienced lawyers from a variety of practice areas teach the nuts and bolts of actual practice. Business experts in law office management, client attraction and retention, technology, social media, billing, accounting, marketing, and more, serve as instructors and mentors to those opening their own practice.
# # #

This is originally by Scott Bullock and is currently available at Down By Law. Bullock's work has disappeared into the ether at least once so I feel safer including it here.

From Wikipedia’s “Frauds” article:

Scammers recognize that the victim who has just been scammed is more likely to fall for scamming attempts than a random person. Often after a scam, the victim is contacted again by the scammer, representing himself as a law enforcement officer. The victim is informed that a group of criminals has been arrested and that they have recovered his money. To get the money back, the victim must pay a fee for processing or insurance purposes. Even after the victim has realized that he has been scammed, this follow up scam can be successful as the scammer represents himself as a totally different party yet knows details about the transactions. The realization that he has lost a large sum of money and the chance he might get it back often leads to the victim transferring even more money to the same scammer.

Brilliant, no? After all, each orchard of morons always has a few low-hanging fruit just ripe for the picking. The “perennial” suckers, if you will. As our former president George W. Bush so eloquently put it: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice- uh, well, uh, uh- it’s not nice to fool people again!”

Consider the typical, hapless TTT law school grad: First she invested 100 K in a worthless undergrad degree like English Lit or Poli-Sci, then compounded this initial mistake by piling on 120 K or more in non-dischargeable law school loans, bought hook, line and sinker the materially fraudulent salary stats of her law school, endured the BarBri blather-thons, walked the hot coal hazing ritual of the bar’zam, and now finds herself coping with $1500 a month loan payments and a total lack of job opportunities. It’s a familar disaster. Like the Mountain Climber game on The Price is Right, she yodeled her way up the debt mountain and has now fallen off the cliff. Yo-da-le-hee-hoo! Thanks for playing! Even document review, the perennial “parting gift” of the law school also-ran, has now been shipped off to India like those factory jobs of yore. As Springsteen sang in “My Hometown”:

They’re closing down the textile mill ‘cross the railroad track

Foreman says these jobs are going, boys

And they ain’t a comin back

That said, we recently learned here at Big Debt that a new genus of parasite has mutated within the infectious Petri-dish of the law. This nascent strain of law school “after-scammers” are breeding like salmonella in lukewarm mayonnaise.  Our friend & fellow blogger Tom the Temp dubs this new (and apparently, now viral) bug the “Solo Practice Cheerleader Crew” (see Tom’s thoughts on these pathogens here):

The solo practice pipedream is nothing new to us here at Big Debt, having wreaked its way through our document review projects for the better part of this decade. All us old time coders remember the so-called “solos” on project who were “just having a slow month” and ended up in the doc review gulag “for a short while.” Curiously, those “slow months” stretched into years as these folks popped up again and again on projects like those old character actors from the 1940s gangster movies. Like bad pennies, they were always back in Biglaw’s pocket sooner rather than later. It wasn’t by choice, either.

 Armed with a flimsy stack of Vista-Print business cards and a “prestigious” midtown Manhattan mail-drop address, these usual suspects were always “open for business,” such as it were. You’d sometimes hear them on the phone in the vestibules, bickering over some rinky-dink traffic ticket or small-claims case. One particular guy nicknamed “ShitFingers” liked to operate his side practice via cellphone while dropping heat in the restroom stall, giving “toilet law” a literal dimension.  His clients must have thought one of those Civil War re-enactments was going on while he discussed the retainer.

Later, you’d go to wipe and find he’d captioned draft briefs on the Charmin and hidden a stapler under the toilet tank. I often wondered why he didn’t just tape his law degree up in there alongside the stall’s graffiti. No one would’ve cared. This was, of course, in the SullCrom basement, down amid the boxes. Those were the days, young grasshoppers.

As mentioned supra, these “solos” had little more to show for their 7 year education than those pathetic Vista-Print cards. They were curious spectacles in themselves, these cards, featuring the obligatory “Esq” after the last name, coupled with the redundant “Attorney & Counsellor at Law” directly beneath in bold font. Sometimes they’d even slug it “The Law Office of Mr. Loser Solo, Esq, Attorney & Counsellor at Law, JD, LLM” and other such nonsense, as if listing every permutation of their “title” would somehow confer respect.

It didn’t. When the bowel movement was over and the business cards put away, he went back to being Temp. Coder #670934, like Superman doffing his cape and becoming Clark Kent. On payday, he drew the same $21 an hour as the rest of the losers.

But again, we think there really was something to these business cards, something quite profound. A fire within, perhaps? Like the tiny American flag that John McCain & his cellmates stitched while inside the “Hanoi Hilton”, the cards represented pride and honor and-dare we write-loyalty to a system. A system that (like McCain & his cellmates) had ruthlessly screwed and exploited them, but a system for which they harbored latent pride nonetheless. We often wondered what pleasure was drawn from seeing one’s own name followed by “Esq.” as opposed to Temp. Coder #670934, or prison inmate, or midget porn director? Of what did these coders dream? Did they stare into the alkalide glow of the monitor and see not a Global Broker Dealer Sub-Agreement but instead  a plush corner office, complete with mahogany desk, silk drapes, and Cartier fountain pens? The law school sheepskins proudly framed on the walls? Were the images real and concrete, or lacy and vague at the edges like a sitcom’s dream sequence?

We’d rather not know. Here at Big Debt, we find these “solo law practice” pipedreams rather comical, and somewhat akin to delusions. To paraphrase Nietzsche, “if you stare too deeply into the monitor, the monitor will stare into you.” So it goes. As the SullCrom partner once told a peskily querying coder “We’re not paying you guys to think. Just click, and click fast. There’s too much fucking around down here.” Right after that, some old coder farted.

But we digress. Our first snowfall in NYC was just last week, yet shitlaw firms have been reporting severe, isolated blizzards since the 4th of July. This often culminates in the phenomenon known as a “white-out.” A white-out occurs when the quantity of incoming resumes exceeds the toner capacity of the fax machine.

Like hurricanes, scientists are studying the “life cycle” of the typical NYC whiteout. Its root causes, if you will. The “chain of events.” They tell us it all starts with a craigslist ad, calling for some no-fault/landlord tenant/personal injury/_________(insert shitlaw practice area here) associate, with 0-2 years experience. Usually the salary offered will be south of 40 K, but much “experience” is promised in lieu of monetary remuneration. Court appearances and depositions are often mentioned, as well as “motions.”

Upon pressing the “post” button and placing the ad online, the white-out phenomenon unfolds. Within seconds, the telltale ring of the fax machine sounds thru the office as the resumes start shooting in. Building slowly, like a dynamo whirring up to speed, the ring soon blares into a continuous, screeching din like a submarine’s “torpedo” alarms in those old WWII movies. Upwards of 75 resumes a minute have been reported, and often the hapless secretaries are dispatched to find milk crates, empty wastebaskets, and other vessels to absorb this incoming resume avalanche.

But there’s no taming this feral beast. As the toner bleeds dry, the print becomes fainter and fainter, until the boldfaced “Cardozo Sports Law Journal” and “Top 46%” boldfaced type dissolves from a scream to a faint whisper. By the ten-minute mark, the fax machine pages emerge blank and unblemished, the shitlaw credentials unprinted. The toner is empty. Yet onward the onslaught continues, page upon  empty page pouring into a vortex of abject nothingness. This heart of darkness is pure white.

(A nostalgic digression: Our old NYC personal injury firm was notoriously cheap, and bought those knockoff Canal Street toners that left your motions looking like a charcoal briquette had been rubbed across them. A judge once charitably compared them to cave paintings, and asked if I’d scrubbed a chimney with them).

But let’s get back on track: Below is the website link to the new “Solo Practice University”, complete with ringing customer endorsements:

God, I haven’t laughed this hard since George Carlin kicked the bucket. Is Carlton Sheets this huckster’s uncle? Don’t laugh. I can easily see these solo-practice shysters taking to late night TV to hawk this useless drivel. You know, like those investment scam “informericals”…..

Imagine Susan Carter Liebel, CEO of Solo Practice University, reclined on a beachfront patio in Miami, the jade green waters over her shoulder and the shills facing west. Perhaps a dwarf or two, fanning her with palm fronds.  Everyone sports a tan. Sunshine, smiles & sunglasses abound:

SCL: “Tell us about your experience with Solo Practice University, Shill #1”

Shill: “Susan, I can’t thank you enough for these wonderful Solo Practice Univesity materials. Two years ago I was sweating in the Paul Weiss cockroach basement coding documents for $21 an hour. That’s right Susan, a LICENSED NY ATTORNEY making $21 an hour.

“Dear God, surely you jest, Mister Shill?”

“I wish I was kidding, Susan, I really do. Sadly, that’s the going rate for doc review in NYC.”

“But at some point, that changed, didn’t it? Tell our audience here what happened?”

“Well Susan, after getting home from Paul Weiss at 2 am with my eyes weeping blood, I switched on my 13 inch TV to watch Gilligan’s Island when I caught the end of your program here.”

“You mean “Solo Practice University”?

“Yes, and it was a moment that changed my life. Like a revelation, a God coming down to Moses, it all fit suddenly together.  Everything was made clear, the solutions to all my problems and the answer to all my prayers. The “Ten Commandments” of Solo Practice U” touched my soul!

“What happened next, pray tell, Mister Shill?”

“First, my neighbor started screaming about the extension cord I’d strung across the fire escape to steal his electricity, since mine had long since been cut off for non-payment. After he settled down, I had my roommate hold the rabbit ear antenna while I took down the toll-free number for Solo Practice University! After a few minutes I thought, “Gee whiz, why have I been reviewing those Global Bi-Lateral Broker-Dealer Sub Agreements for Paul Weiss at $21 an hour, when I can do it just as well myself for $950 an hour?

“And tell us, Mister Shill, how things have worked out since that call?”

“Susan, I’m just so happy I’m almost speechless. These tears are the tears of sheer ecstasy, by God. I swear I haven’t wept like this since chopping a bushel of onions at my old Gray’s Paypaya side job. Now, thanks to Solo Practice University, I have my own solo boutique doing Sarb-Ox compliance and multi-international securities work, and my biggest decision is choosing what color Ferrari I want next.  Me and the Goldman Sachs gang, who are now clients of mine, are partying balls out with Derek Jeter & some hookers in a couple hours. And Susan, you see this watch? See it? This watch cost more than a year’s tuition at Seton Hall. That’s who I am, and these loser coders I worked with are still nothing.” 

Cue the toll-free number. So it goes, beachcombers. You can almost smell the Coronas.

Note that none of the solo-practice cheerleaders actually practice law themselves, just as Carlton Sheets never sold real estate and Ron Popeil never ate a rotisserie chicken injected with chunks of raw garlic. Instead, they peddle the idea of solo practice as a kind of elixir, a “snake oil” or tonic if you will. Like the patent medicines of the 19th century, they’re palliative treatments for the JD pox, not cures. They make outrageous claims and far-out promises knowing full well they can’t deliver. And shit, why not? As we wrote in the intro, someone gullible enough to waste 100 K+  on a TTT law school surely won’t mind parting with another $595 to learn the “inside secrets” of Solo Practice U! The typical TTT grad blows more than that a semester on Rule Against Perpetuities study-aid puzzles and other accessories of the lawschool scam machine.

But the truth soon sets in. Like the Wizard of Oz, the curtain has long since been pulled back on the charade of solo shitlaw by consumer-friendly websites like Legalzoom. The public know full well what a worthless “product” most shitlawyers peddle, and the jig is now up. It sure don’t take 7 years of schoolin’ to cut n’ paste some janitor’s Last Will & Testament together or grovel before some lowlife traffic court judge for a point reduction. Anyone who can read can now pretty much solve their own legal problems by downloading a few boilerplate forms, doing some quick Googling, and pulling the old cut n’ paste. They surely couldn’t be any more incompetent than the typical recent law grad, unless of course their case involved a “fertile octagenarian” or other bar exam trivia. Opening a solo shitlaw office in 2010 is like opening a typewriter repair store in 1993- your product is already obsolete. And no, we don’t want to hear about your uncle/neighbor/dad’s college roommate who made millions in the 1980s on whiplash cases. That horse has long since limped off to the glue factory. Maybe Grandpa Kettle made a living shoeing horses, but that doesn’t mean my spiffy new blacksmith shop on the NJ Turnpike will become a going concern. Times have changed.

Funny too how the “solo university” hucksters have mimicked the TTT law school website template. It features all the lame, hackneyed buzzwords like “networking” and “professional connections,” the usual “success story” shills, and even a spiffy section of “faculty” bios (btw, the faculty member on the upper right corner looks of Solo U like he just swallowed a quart of bong water). Funniest of all is the “virtual law office” faculty chick- (she’s second from the right, bottom row). Does this virtual practice come with virtual clients and a virtual paycheck? To be fair, many lawyers do practice in a virtual way, but the problems is that these “lawyers” are located in Mumbai, Bangalore, and other Third World sweatshops and charge $25 a week to churn the same cut n’ paste shitpaper as Joe Schmoe Esq. down on Main Street USA. All with the American Biglaw Association (ABA’s) full blessing to boot. Let’s sing the “ABA Outsourcing Theme Song” to the old Gilligan’s Island tune:

 “No dues, no exams, no background checks, not a single CLE, like Robison Crusoe, it’s primitive as can be.”

And like Quinnipiac Law School (Susan C. Liebel’s former employer) you’ll be pleased to know that Solo Practice University’s entrance standards are “virtually” nonexistent! She has indeed learned well. Just fork over your credit card number and $595 later you’re on your way to Solo Practice nirvana. And away we go!

Doc review will look like a night on the town once you get a few “rubber check retainers” for some serial drunkard’s 4th DWI, or sit in some kerosene-reeking trailer park signing up an SSI disability scammer with bulging spinal discs, or chew No-Doz until 4 am filling out the 84,578 pages of HUD-1 dreck and title work toilet paper for some $300 fee residential real estate closing.

We found especially amusing the personal injury practice “negotiation” video, because we here at Big Debt are old veterans of the NYC plaintiff sewer. Save your $595, because Professor Law is 4 Losers can tell you everything you need to know about personal injury work in about 12 sentences:

First off, w/out a 7 figure ad budget you aren’t going to have any decent cases, so class is dismissed. Go have a beer. Second, if you do get a fender-bender whiplash case, the “negotiation’ with Allstate or State Farm will go something like this:

Shitlaw Solo: “Hi, I represent Mister Brokedick with a bulging lumbar disc and want to settle the case.”

Allstate: “We have it marked no pay. We will force you to trial and make 12,459 motions a day to bury you in paperwork. If the client had chicken pox in 1st grade we will make discovery motions for the HIPPA authorization for that and also seek authorizations for every other sniffle, sneeze or fart this bastard has squeezed since 1965. If the facilities don’t provide them, we’ll just make the motion over and over and over again until you give up. We have a team of lawyers we pay $5 an hour just to do this from Touro Law School. We know damn well you’re a solo and can’t afford to pay the treating doctor 5 K to testify if it gets that far. And even if you do and you win the trial, it’s only a 25 K policy, so you’ll have made nothing after expenses. By the way, go fuck yourself mister attorney. I am a high-school dropout claims adjuster and make 65 K a year with health benefits and you are a scrounging solo ambulance chaser buried up to your ass in debt!”

Really kids, where are you going to get the $210 it costs to buy an index number, the $95 to buy an RJI (request for judicial intervention), the $500 in photocopying fees to get the medical reports,/MRI films/X-rays, the $200 for deposition fees/transcripts, the $45 for each motion and (if you go to trial) the $5,000 a Board Certified Orthopedist gets for a morning of testimony? Just a handful of fender-bender cases and you’re looking at thousands of dollars in “fronting” expenses just to churn the files. Remember, this is on top of your student loans.

Oh, you’ll have the client pay expenses upfront? Good luck. Most personal injury victims are clumsy, illterate basket cases that don’t have a pot to piss in, but what they lack in $$$ they make up for in street smarts. Ask them for money and they’ll be changing lawyers inside of 30 seconds, probably to a big mill that has the juice to get them a 1-800-Lawcash loan shark advance too.

Wake up. This is the real fucking world kids, not some Erin Brokovich fairy tale. We at Big Debt write of the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. We’re dead serious when we warn you away from the solo practice pipedream. Not only does solo practice shitlaw offer lower hourly wages than mowing lawns and less job satisfaction than stocking shelves at Wal-Mart, it also features another fun thing called the “order to show cause to withdraw.” In law, when clients don’t pay, judges don’t care. You need to formally get the court’s permission to part ways with the non-paying, bellicose, and obstinate scum that constitute the “clients” of most shitlaw offices In the words of one wag, “they have big problems and empty pockets.”

Solo practice university, as we here at Big Debt well know, is little more than a modern-day recycling of the old “snipe hunt” prank. These jokers send the newbies forth in search of non-existent “clients” and wax poetic on the notions of “justice” and “making a difference” while laughing hysterically behind the poor sucker’s backs. I’d bet a week’s worth of food stamps that half these “professors” of solo shitlaw U have an uncle who was claims manager of an insurance company or some other family connection that 99% of the incoming suckers could only dream of. It takes serious money to start a law practice, and don’t let the Solo U cheerleaders convince you otherwise. They’re just salesman out to score a quick buck. 

Take this under advisement: A law practice isn’t a shoeshine stand, crack deal, or hot dog cart. You’ve gotta pay bar dues, CLE fees, malpractice insurance, court filing fees, your own health insurance, and a host of other expenses too numerous to list. Student loans are beyond crushing. It’s very easy to get in over your head, and a couple bounced retainer checks will have Access Group’s goons “accessing” your bank account. Short of dropping off $150,000 of seed money on your doorstep, there’s nothing Solo Practice U can do to help you. As the old saw goes, “wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.”

Like all good salesman, the solo practice cheerleader’s purpose is not to teach you the “practice of law” or “how to network” or any other Oprah-esque, self esteem junkie nonsense.  Our society’s nonstop doses of ”feel good” syrup and “you’re very special” candy canes have rotted our collective teeth out already.  Most people graduating from law school aren’t special, and aren’t going to amount to a pint of cold piss in this devilish farce of a “profession.” Forty years go, no accredited law school would’ve even accepted the majority of the mouth-breathers enrolled today, and rightly so. Fact is, the ”solo cheerleaders” only want to make a sale, and the #1 key to making a sale is overcoming objections.  Consider this snippet:

Solo U Website: “The common preconception among law students is that starting a solo practice is unwise, if not downright impossible. Conventional wisdom says you should work for someone else for a few years to learn the ropes.”

Law is 4 Losers Translation: The common perception is wrong. YOU can succeed where others failed. YOU can beat the odds, YOU can defy the convention wisdom, etc. All you need to do is fork over $595 and the secrets of Solo Practice U will have you minting so much money you’ll need a Brinks truck to escort it to the bank while you follow in your Bentley sniffing blow off the dashboard.

It’s no different than the law school scam itself. These hucksters are so slick it’s as though they were the Valvoline Dean’s own understudies. When kids (and their parents) object to paying a 2nd tier boiler room “school” like Seton Hall $44,000 a year in tuition, the old “Valvoline Dean” Pat Hobbs just grins and points to the “average starting salary” of $125,000 listed in the brochure and extends a shiny pen.

“Dear God”, say the kids, “that’s only the “starting salary!” “Just imagine how well I’ll do 5 years out!” Hobbs flashes his soulless, oil-can grin and in three years the kids aren’t lunching at Sardi’s but instead sucking glue off their food stamps. The snack bar’s been relocated to the shithouse.

Kids, the sad truth is that a JD/law license is nothing special. Any mouth-breathing moron can drool on the LSAT, get admitted to a TTT, sleep thru the so-called “classes,” take BarBri, and get admitted. If the standards for medicine were as low as for law, the typical US life expectancy would be about age 6.  Cutting my Inspector Gadget Fan Club membership off the back of the Coco-Puffs box was more of an accomplishment than passing the NY/NJ bars. You might as well frame your driver’s license as hang a J.D. on the wall. It’s as watered-down a credential as there is and getting exponentially worse by the day. You don’t make tomato soup by squirting ketchup into a swimming pool, but that’s about as weak as this “profession’s” flavor is today, thanks to our pals at the ABA (American Biglaw Association), who just accredited 4 new law schools on Dec 5.

For a real laugh to ring in the new year, feature this: Solo Practice U now offers gift certificates for that “special” loser in your life. I’m not making this up:

We’ve had many requests from non-lawyer spouses, parents, girlfriends and boyfriends and even lawyers themselves who have wanted the option to purchase the ‘gift of education’ for the lawyer or law student in their life. Now you can do so and just in time for the holidays or even a ‘passed the bar exam’ present or simply because you want to help someone kick start their career in solo practice.  They are good for any occasion and available year-round.

Wow. Talk about a lump of coal in the old Xmas stocking. Maybe a better gift would be a tighter-fitting garage door so the carbon monoxide doesn’t escape while your resident loser-lawyer does himself in. Hell, would you rather be dispatched with the quick choke of exhaust fumes or the slow strangulation of starting a shitlaw “practice” with Sallie Mae riding shotgun? And you really have to chuckle (or wretch) at the “requests from spouses, parents and girlfriends” pouring into good old Solo Practice U. Like Al-Anon families, these folks are collateral damage in the law school bloodbath. It’s hard for laypeople to comprehend just how utterly hopeless and abysmal this industry has lately become, especially with noxious drivel like Boston Legal flooding the airwaves 24-7. Let’s be perfectly clear: For most, a law degree confers nothing but a lifetime of non-dischargble debt, sporadic and miserable employment, stress, bitter disappointment, and wages well south (after loans are deducted) than that of a truck driver, garbage man, or bricklayer. These “loser” grads aren’t just statistics, lest we forget. They’re real people-our friends from law school, from projects, from practice.

 Here’s a fact: law school salary numbers aren’t exaggerated or puffed or coiffed or stretched. They’re outright lies. I’ve been in this game 5 years and can’t name a single attorney I know making more than 60 K. Not one. This is in NY City. Almost everyone I know is either unemployed or working in some doc review boiler room for embarrassingly low wages and no health insurance.  Most are already so jaded and ground-down by this perpetual misery that they just plain want out. Who can blame them? Only a true sociopath could take any satisfaction or pride from the mind-numbing boredom, vapid make-work, elitist pricks, gutter wages, crushing stress, and complete ethical cesspool that is the “practice of law” in our time. It’s nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme with a tiny handful of “winners” and rapidly growing hordes of very pissed-off “losers.” 

Rather than piss $595 away on a worthless Solo U pipedream, I suggest that all shitlawyers send their families the link to our blog (as well as others in our blogroll at right).  Encourage them to read the many horror stories and shattered dreams posted in the comments section and elsewhere. You are not alone. Unlike Solo Practice U, we charge no tuition and make no false promises. We’ve rubbed the law school lamp too, and no genie was released. Our only goal here is to kick the oinking snouts of the law school pigs who grow forever fatter at the federally-backed tuition loan trough. These swine squeal and bleat about pro-bono work while collecting their six-digit paychecks and jacking up tuition at 5 times the rate of inflation like the hypocritical limousine liberals that they are. We here at Big Debt would like to wish all the absolute worst on them, their families, and their health for 2010. It’s past time these shysters reap some of the misery they’ve sown.

The only surefire cure for the “disease” of a J.D. is to run fast and far from this swirling sewer of an industry before you are sucked down the toilet with the other “solo” rabbit turds. If you’re on unemployment in NJ, you qualify for free tuition at any of the community college tech schools. Our advice here at Big Debt is to roll up your sleeves and load up your toolbox. Thanks to a generation of propogandist “college for everyone” drivel, there’s an acute shortage of HVAC repair techs, plumbers, electricians, and other skilled tradesman. Don’t believe us? Call a plumber and a lawyer and see who can get there first. By the way, ask the plumber if he’s willing to install your faucets “pro bono” because you have no money. After all, running water is surely as important as your legal problems (and plumbers are VERY expensive), so just tell him he should do it for free in the public interest. Try the same thing with your auto mechanic, roofer, HVAC guy, and electrician. You’ll quickly find that only the “law” is so fixated on the merits of giving expensive professional services away to deadbeats for free. Here at Big Debt we’ve long argued against any and all pro bono work. Why? Because by so doing, one reinforces in the public’s mind that the service provided is worthless. This is especially true when rendering an “intangible” product like law, one that looks to a layperson like nothing more than a stack of very boring paperwork. (Imagine that!)

In summation, starting a “solo practice” in 2010 is like selling saltwater on a lifeboat: people are already surrounded by an infinite quantity of this worthless and unpalatable resource.  Drinking that saline-soaked Kool Aid will kill you faster than thrist.  Just open up your hometown Yellow Pages and count the 500 or so pages of desperate solo shitlawyers begging for DWI, real estate, personal injury, and other “common folk” law. When you’ve finished that assignment, we recommend a “bonus tour” of craigslist’s  legal services section, where the truly desperate bottom feeders hang out. Like catfish, these barristers subsist on a steady diet of legal excrement, the carrion every other lawyer has already turned down. Some of these “craigslisters” will even shovel your snow or clean your gutters during your free 7-hour consultation. When you’ve completed this “lawyer-counting” assignment, ask yourselves how many lawyers you (and your family) have needed in your life and divide this by the number of lawyers you’ve counted in your area. Lawyers aren’t much for arithmetic, but this is what’s known as “doing the math.” And unlike Solo Practice U, these numbers don’t lie.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

MasTTTers in TTTaxation

A lawyer who represents herself has a fool for a client. Actually, I think we just have a fool, period. The short story is husband cashes out a life insurance policy, doesn't report the substantial gain, wife litigates the matter, and tax court agrees with the IRS that it's taxable. The money shot is here:
And, finally, the Browns’ experience, knowledge, and education weigh against them: both are licensed attorneys, and one has a master of laws degree (LL.M.) in taxation.
I couldn't find where Ms. Brown got her LLM, but her JD is from a solid school. Another blogger described it as "The perils of too much education."

Opinion is here:


My beloved alma mater has emphasized racial diversity since the glory days of rioting, the 1960s. I thought this was a good idea, despite the school taking the idea too far. For instance, it sets aside law review seats. Its URM alumni have mostly done well, and better than me in any event.

"Diversity" is a code word for "straight, white males need not apply." Guided by the AMA and ADA -- whatever they do, do the opposite -- the ABA wants the US Snooze rankings to incorporate diversity. Basically, enshrine the concept that "diverse" students benefit a law school more than, uh, non-"diverse" ones. Black student from Chicago, good. White student who emigrated from Serbia, bad. Diversity, good. Merit, bad.

This letter could have been written by Lewis Carroll. We're talking about a so-called professional organization, the ABA, which is controlled by large firms whose equity partners are nearly lily white. Sure, they employ "diverse" graduates, as non-partnership-track staff attorneys, contract attorneys, and coders. See Tom the Temp's blog.

To its credit, USNWR has so far resisted this effort to torture its rankings to appease the ABA. Seems measuring "diversity," and how much "diversity" to include in the ranking, is problematic.

Want diversity? Go to Cooley.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

No surprises

Knut at First Tier Toilet has a good write-up of today's panel. I'm sure Kimber Russell will have a fulsome post shortly.

I had a number of distractions while trying to listen, but did take some notes.

Everyone stood their ground. The deans said they pander to USNWR to get a good ranking that attracts students, and then admitted that the matriculating students weren't necessarily their priority. None of them knew, or at least would admit to knowing, what the total educational debt is in the U.S. ($900B). They emphasized law school is an investment in a 30-year career; one insisted most of his students get legal jobs while another bemoaned how they borrow instead of working their way through school.

Nando pulled out his numbers and quotes, including noting Baltimore Law had raised its tuition 77% in 7 years and had spent $100 million for a new building instead of scholarships. The dean told him he was being simplistic

I think the next time they have one of these panels, I'll sit it out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Get 'em, Nando

Nando of Third Tier Reality will be part of a discussion to be held and broadcast tomorrow. Given both his ability to marshal statistics and the unrelenting bad news for the legal industry, I expect him to represent the law school scam community well. See All Education Matters and Shilling Me Softly for more info. Please sign up at the link below.

Join two law school deans, two law professors, and a frequent blogger on law school news in a lively discussion on the value of a JD in today’s economy. The recession and social media explosion has given law schools more attention in legal news. Sites and blogs like JD Underground, Above the Law, and Third Tier Reality have warned prospective students of the risks of attending law school in today’s economy. Some law school deans have recognized these concerns but maintain that a JD is worthwhile because of its respectability, versatility, and career longevity.

What are the concerns driving the recent anti-law school sentiment? How are law schools responding to this and the current market demands?

Future students, law students, recent graduates, and practicing attorneys should all tune in to hear the latest dialog.

This session will cover three main areas:
1. The current legal economy for JDs
2. Cost of law school vs. worth of law school
3. The curriculum: the theoretical and the practical.

Practice Areas: Career Development, Career Development, Education Law
Online Media Type: Audio
Production Date: 04/07/2011 12:00 PM EDT
Level: Intermediate
Category: Standard
Duration: 1 Hours, 0 Minutes
Online Format: Live

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The "profession" that oozes presTTTige

Had a bunch of things I wanted to write about today, but let's start with the best and save the rest. A shout out to Shit Law Jobs.

Date: 2011-04-04, 4:24PM EDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]


Associate attorney needed at boutique matrimonial firm across from Grand Central. Must have 2+ years matrimonial law experience during law school or after graduation. Excellent computer skills including Excel, Word and WordPerfect are an absolute necessity. All resumes must be accompanied by law school transcript. Top 15% of class only. Position will entail primarily secretarial and paralegal tasks with opportunity for increased responsibilities.

Compensation: Negotiable
Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.
Please, no phone calls about this job!
Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

PostingID: 2305235981
Yes, TLS denizens, this is a fake ad created by a bitter JDU loser. For everyone else, let me summarize.
  • Requires two years experience, though this can be while clerking.
  • Transcript to verify above, because you can't be too careful.
  • Presumably, NY bar admission.
  • Expertise with WordPerfect, software whose heyday was the DOS-era.
  • Despite the above requirements, the position is secretarial.
The sad thing is that the poster's mailbox will overflow with serious applicants. They don't actually care what your class rank is, but need a way to winnow the resumes they get.

They're probably not going to get many ex-biglaw types -- matrimonial is shitlaw territory -- but top-15% is a solid candidate for whom the world should be her oyster.

If you want to be a secretary this badly, then go to secretarial school. You get the same prestige without the six-figure debt and seven wasted years of your life. Thanks, ABA!

The only thing that would make this ad more special is if it were an unpaid internship. Next week.

Monday, April 4, 2011


D.C. Superior Court judge declares mistrial over attorney’s competence in murder case

A presTTTTigious (note four Ts) Touro alumnus got in over his head at a D.C. murder trial. The judge declared a mistrial and dismissed the attorney, Joseph Rakofsky, basically for incompetence.
Judge William Jackson told attorney Joseph Rakofsky during a hearing Friday that he was “astonished” at his performance and at his “not having a good grasp of legal procedures” before dismissing him.
Guided by the principle, "If you're going to lose, lose big," Rakofsky picked capital murder as his very first case. His frustrated client asked the judge to replace him.

Rakofsky was admitted to the NJ bar in 2010. Not sure how his D.C. client found an unqualified NJ attorney to represent him, but here's a guess.

Look forward to a bunch of TTTyros coming soon to a courthouse near you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Well, hit me with a 2x4

A recent presTTTigious panel concluded that law school tuition will continue to rise. The proposed solutions, which will surely mollify both Senator Boxer and Nando, are as follows:
  1. Make education loans dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  2. Base government loans on each institution's default rate.
  3. Strip the ABA of accreditation authority.
  4. Mandate minimum LSAT scores.
  5. Allow professors to teach more classes.
  6. Close all but the top-100 law schools.
  7. Shared faculty appointments, facilities and technology.
From the article:
One example Haddon cites is students' work on a leadership journal published jointly by Santa Clara Law and the University of Maryland School of Law that culminated in the Leadership Education Roundtable at Santa Clara last weekend.
Seriously, this is the legal academy's answer to the mismatch between what it charges students and the opportunities it affords them. A fucking leadership roundtable organized by students who didn't have the chops for law review? Employers will be so impressed. The legal education industry is truly composed of visionaries whose only goal in life is to train the next generation of lawyers in the best manner possible.

This article could scarcely have been more daft if it were published April 1. We're talking about institutions that have a "fax machine for student use, at no charge if directly related to job searching." Will they share a fax machine? Or, will they just split rolls of fax paper?

Until the federal teat is turned off, every day will be April Fools.