Law School Industrial Complex: Not Enough Jobs For Students
An online movement spearhead by "scambloggers" calls out unfair practices by law schools
Once ignored and harshly criticized by some respondents as only representing a handful of unhappy, unemployed law graduates, an online blogging movement, known as the “scambloggers,” can no longer be written off by the law school institutions law schools and law professors that the group seeks to condemn. The name itself was ascribed to the group several years ago. Although the bloggers themselves didn’t choose the name, they embraced it. They still draw a lot of criticism, but they also have a lot of support. Moreover, more bloggers, some who are not part of the legal community, are joining them in their efforts to expose the high levels of debt that individuals accrue to obtain professional degrees.
This loosely connected crew of ex-law students argues that universities deliberately fudge employment numbers of graduating law students and therefore are involved in a troubling form of fraudulent activity. Many of the scambloggers also argue that law schools are churning out far too many grads in a brittle economy, and are doing so to merely line their own pockets. In so doing, law schools are turning grads into indentured educated Americans. Regardless of how they are perceived, these bloggers have proven something powerful: when using the pen as a weapon – especially when implemented collectively and on the Internet – one’s foes better watch out.
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The scambloggers are well equipped to go after the schools and instructors. Having been trained to debate and argue in law school, the scambloggers have, quite cleverly, turned academic civility on its head. Furthermore, their claims are based upon data and exhaustive research. But the way in which they deliver the facts is far from traditional. For instance, the author of Third Tier Reality, who goes by the moniker Nando, “flushes” professors and law schools down commodes on a regular basis. These blog posts are oftentimes accompanied with pictures of filthy toilets or feces. Of course not all the scambloggers use toilets and images of fetid waste to denounce the “law school scam” – that is Nando’s specialty. To be sure, each one of them has a unique and peculiar style. For instance, The Law School Tuition Bubble (LSTB), written by Matt Leicher, offers a different type of approach than Nando’s Third Their Reality. The evidence and analysis, however, is just as damning. Esquire Painting, on the other hand, is personalized and creative in a literary sense, i.e., the writer of this – John Koch – includes poetry and songs. These are just a few examples out of a growning number of scambloggers’ sites. In addition, this group was not the first to launch the movement.
So when exactly did the scamblogging movement start? Since these scambloggers aren’t the first ‘generation’ of disgruntled law grads, who inspired them to launch their own blogs and get involved with this online, populist community?
The beginnings, according to Nando, go back to 2008. In an email interview, he said, “The first scamblogger was Scott Bullock, a.k.a. L4L (Law is 4 Losers), a graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He started blogging, sometime in 2008. He first made waves in a Wall Street Journal article, from September 24, 2007, entitled "Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers." That piece is sometimes referred to as the shot heard around the legal world, by disgruntled attorneys and law students.”
Bullock no longer blogs, but his entries were archived. According to Nando, the next significant blog was launched in June of 2009. Nando explained, “The second scamblogger was unperson, at Exposing the Law School Scam. His blog is still active, but new entries are pretty infrequent. This blog was pretty much the first to rely on charts, graphs, BLS data and industry sources - in order to makes its case that the legal job market is a crap shoot.”
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Bullock and unperson inspired Nando to create Third Tier Reality, a blog that is now enormously popular and frequently referenced, even by law professors. Nando’s first entry was published on August 20, 2009, just a few months after he began following unperson’s work. Nando was part of a new wave of scambloggers. Around the same time, Leicher launched LSTB. When asked why he turned to blogging, Leicher said in an email interview:
I started the LSTB after being unemployed for nearly a year since graduating in 2009. I'd finished my dual-degree in law and international affairs with the goal of being a drone in a think tank. Thankfully, my financial situation is secure. I didn't know how much longer I'd be unemployed, and I knew that I wasn't going to accomplish anything in life by listening to garage rock and playing Tetris all day. Part of it is that I was afraid of fading away into structural unemployment statistics like so many other Americans are, educated or otherwise. So instead, I decided to become a troublemaker, which is a pity because I would've made such a good drone.
Do they believe they’ve made a difference in exposing the harsh realities of life after law school? Well, the answer depends upon who you ask in the group. One scamblogger, who goes by the name of Knut and is the author of First Tier Toilet, expressed continued dismay about the current situation.
On February 2nd, he wrote:
The schools are still ripping people off. The situation for graduates is still abysmal. Just because we have made ‘law school scam’ well-known does not mean that the problem has been solved.
I have posted less frequently because I feel that my job has been done. I started this blog to get the word, to let the world know that the ‘scam’ was affecting students from ‘top tier’ schools. I succeeded.
Please do not think that the underlying issue has been resolved. It has not. It has only become more apparent.
While the student lending crisis worsens, and policymakers are doing little to help struggling graduates, the scambloggers continue to inspire others. In fact, new activist-bloggers continue to join in their efforts. If anything, the movement is growing and attracting more attention. That means, more people are discovering that law school, and what happens to your finances once you graduate, isn’t what it is cracked up to be.