Climbing Debt Mountain

     “State Bar officials maintain that the proposal will better prepare law school graduates to compete in a dismal job market that has lost thousands of positions in recent years. Many also face mountains of debt after graduation.”
     The quote is from a report in the latest issue of the California Bar Journal on recommendations of a 22-member State Bar Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform that spent more than a year agonizing over this job market problem.
     And what did this group come up with? If you don’t know already, try guessing. I’ll wait here while you think about it …
     Have you got it?
     That’s right. Apparently, the way to help kids beat the dismal job market and avoid student debt is to increase their course requirements and make them work for free.
     I’m guessing there weren’t any new lawyers or law students on this task force.
     I don’t make this stuff up. Read the task force report yourself. It’s very odd. It comes up with the problems and recommendations and then manages to ignore them.
     Example: There’s a section (page 14) titled “How can we promote greater participation by practitioners and judges in the training of new lawyers?”
     See if you can find the answer.
     The closest it comes is this statement: “We recommend that the Bar develop expanded rules for MCLE credit designed to incent lawyers to engage in these activities.”
     Expanded rules? Are they too thin now?
     And how does one incent a lawyer other than paying him or her a lot of money?
     Cookies, perhaps?
     There’s no guidance here.
     OK, the general ideas aren’t all that bad. Practical experience and do-gooding for free are good things. I’m not going to knock them. Law schools already should have been doing this sort of thing.
     But does it address the “dismal job market”?
     I’m pretty sure working for free won’t help with the mountains of debt, and there is no crying social need for more lawyers. There seem to be enough of them out there.
     If the mission of this task force was to help students launch careers, it may have missed the mark just a tad. If there’s a glut of lawyers, educating more of them properly won’t unglut them.
     Fortunately, I have some suggestions.
     Change the target. Keep the task force’s recommendations – but use them on old lawyers instead of new ones.
     Geezer lawyers are the ones who should be required to take courses and work pro bono.
     Think about it from the point of view of all those potential pro bono clients. Do they really need – or want – help from students with no experience?
     If you can’t afford a lawyer, we’ll provide you with someone who isn’t one, and probably doesn’t have malpractice insurance. Surely, their “mentors” will be happy to cover for their mistakes.
     Clearly, geezers with experience and without mountains of debt are better equipped to do pro bono work. They’ll just be grumpier about it.
     (Another cynical aside: Imagine how thrilled courts will be to have a flood of new pro bono cases.)
     Geezer lawyers also are the ones who need the extra course work. The task force goes on at some length about technology changing the practice of law. Is it the kids or the geezers who might need help with computers?
     If you make the requirements tough enough, a lot of geezers will retire and reduce the lawyer glut.
     Scare them straight. Require law schools to inform students about their future mountains of debt and the dismal job market.
     Then there will be fewer students to worry about.
     Go extreme – in the other direction. The only reason students are faced with those debt mountains is because we require them to go to school. The obvious solution is to do away with all educational requirements and prohibit new lawyers from doing pro bono work.
     If they want to make a living, they’ll have to learn how to do something right.

%d bloggers like this: