#Law Grad learns: No guarantee that attending #lawschool will result in a job – Consider alternatives

The above tweet references an article about a law school graduate who sued a law school on the grounds that the school misrepresented the employment prospects.

The article included:

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A jury found Thursday that a San Diego law school did not mislead a graduate who sued on the grounds she was lured to the school by false promises that her degree would land her a job after graduating.

The San Diego Superior Court jury rejected Anna Alaburda’s claim against the Thomas Jefferson School of Law on a 9-3 vote that was reached after about four hours of deliberations over two days.

While more than a dozen similar lawsuits have been filed in courts across the country, the case is believed to be the first of its kind to go to trial.

Alaburda, who filed her lawsuit in 2011, argued that Thomas Jefferson used inflated data to bolster the success rate of its job-seeking graduates. The 37-year-old woman graduated near the top of her class in 2008 and says she has been unable to find a full-time job as a lawyer. Meanwhile, she said has been saddled with $170,000 in student debt. She sought $125,000 in damages.

The trial came amid growing debate over such promises by schools competing to recruit students. The lawsuit was among more than a dozen similar ones filed in recent years against law schools, including Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and the University of San Francisco School of Law. Though most of the lawsuits have been dismissed, critics say they point to a need for greater regulation and transparency for law schools, so prospective students know their employment prospects, the debt they will incur and their chances of successfully passing the bar.

Michael Sullivan, an attorney for the law school, acknowledged “isolated mistakes” and “clerical errors” in data collection but said there was no evidence that the school lied. He said the verdict set no precedent but may send a signal to other students who sue. “Having an opportunity where it’s fully litigated, and depositions and documents examined, to see the hype, the chatter about that did not prove to be the truth, as found by a jury, I think that’s a helpful message,” Sullivan told reporters after the verdict.

Is the problem the law schools or the market for lawyers?

My impression is that there are least two trends at work:

Trend 1. The work traditionally done by lawyers is now being done by other kinds of professionals

Example 1: Last month I attending a conference in Toronto. For the most part the conference was attended by licensed lawyers and accountants. I met a conference participant who was neither a licensed lawyer NOT a licensed accountant. This person had a Masters degree in taxation. There is NO QUESTION that she was employable by law and accounting firms. She is doing the work of accountants and lawyers. Yet she does NOT have a license to practise law.

For example, consider the following description of the LL.M. in taxation from Queen Mary in London.

Example 2: In many jurisdictions (including the Province of Ontario) “Paralegals” are now doing the work traditionally done by lawyers. In fact the scope of work done by paralegals is so great, that it includes the type of work done by “General Practitioner Lawyers”. Why would someone hire a lawyer do do work that can be done by a paralegal less expensively (and quite possibly) more efficiently.

Example 3: Consider the “Society of Trust and Estate Practioners“.

Their Canadian site includes:

Canadian membership of STEP is both diverse and highly specialized, with accredited professionals from all facets of the trust and estate planning industries including legal, accountancy, corporate, trust, banking and insurance.

STEP’s Canadian members are experts in their field, having earned the profession’s most respected and recognized designation, the Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP). These senior-level practitioners are involved in the planning, creation, management of and accounting for trusts, estates and taxation of individuals and families.

Notice that there are many different kinds of professionals who do this kind of work.

Trend 2. Clients are less discerning about whether the work is done by lawyers or other kinds of legal professionals = less demand for lawyers

See the articles referenced in the following tweets:

It’s too early to predict the end of lawyers, but …

The post referenced in the above tweet includes:

The conclusion, more or less, was that there will always be a place for some lawyers and the subject is an interesting discipline in itself, but that the profession has probably passed its high point and things will never be the same again. He also made the point that new lawyers are entering an uncertain profession and many law students should be prepared to use their law degree for something other than practising as a lawyer.

For those who are “dead set” on becoming lawyers, consider …

1. The possibility of becoming a lawyer through a legal apprenticeship

2. The two year J.D.