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Saturday, May 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Follow Your Heart

Favorite old stupid joke: Back in law school I took a class called "Accounting for Lawyers." This was a surprise because I always thought there was no accounting for lawyers.

I don't know why I like that joke. I just do.

Maybe it's because there's a grain of truth there (buried really deep). How do you account for the masses of lawyers out there and the masses of people who want to become lawyers?

It's not as if there's a crying need for legal care. It's not as if massive legal education is going to solve the nation's trade imbalance. And it's not as if most lawyers - particularly new ones - can get high-paying jobs.

In fact, just the opposite. (Check out this article from the ABA Journal.) A few months back, I noted someone's prediction that we're soon going to be seeing lawsuits against law schools for misleading students into thinking education would be helpful.

And now it's happened - to the law school where, centuries ago, I took Accounting for Lawyers. (I'm not kidding.) A group of new lawyers who have had trouble getting legal work have banded together to provide work for a bunch of other lawyers.

Four law firms are listed as plaintiffs' counsel on the proposed class action against Southwestern Law School. I'm guessing it's because they have nothing better to do since there are so many lawyers out there.

And Southwestern can now use its placement office to find lots of defense counsel.

This could be fun for lots of people.

The suit, in case you're wondering, claims the school has made two "material misrepresentations."

The first is that "about 97-98 percent of its graduates secured employment within nine months of graduation."

Unfortunately, at least according to the complaint, this included any kind of job. This may explain why your janitor is wearing a suit.

And you may soon hear the phrase, "Would you like fries or a restraining order with that?"

The other alleged misrepresentation was that the school "grossly inflates graduates' reported mean salaries" by calculating them based on the small percentage of students who actually reported their salaries.

The rest of the students were too embarrassed.

I don't know how this litigation is going to turn out, but I do have a couple of questions.

First off, what are all these law students thinking?

Students who can get into a half-decent law school ought to have a half-brain. Why haven't they noticed there are too many lawyers? Why do you borrow tens of thousands of dollars in loans and bet the money on law school when there are perfectly good racetracks to visit?

There may be an assumption of risk defense here.

The other thing I wonder about is what sort of damages the plaintiffs ought to get if they win. The suit asks for an injunction against the school's misleading claims and "partial restitution" of tuition.

That's way too modest. What this plaintiff class needs, obviously, is jobs.

I recommend offering them all jobs with Southwestern - as career counselors.

Or maybe law professors. You know, those who can't ...

Law school could become a giant pyramid scheme.

Which brings us to what's really important here: what should young people (or out-of-work people) do instead of wasting their time on law or cooking school?

Oh, sure, you could tell them to go into medicine or engineering, but not everyone is cut out for that sort of thing. Besides, we'd just end up with a glut of doctors and engineers.

I say just tell students to follow their hearts and study whatever they want.

And then expect to work pro bono.

Hearts will change.

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