Our Responsibility

A new post by my contributing blogger and colleague, Joe Perry:

The bloggers have declared war.

I found law school to be a mostly nasty place, so it’s hardly surprising to me that law school administrations—nefarious collectives charged with reducing once-beautiful human beings to soulless, precedent-regurgitating automatons—are capable of fudging numbers.  For many, however, this bending, manipulating and outright fabrication of employment figures has been the equivalent of the legal education system crossing the Rubicon.  And in response, the internet is now littered with websites exposing and lambasting the “law school admissions scam.”[1]

Several years ago, like so many others, I took my marching orders from U.S. News and World Report.  With two distinct options on the table, I selected the law school highest on the list without so much as a second thought.  And I made that selection without knowing that the numbers that got my school that ranking may or may not have been massaged.

Now, that doesn’t make me mad enough to start a protest website, but there’s good reason I’m not bitter.  Had I gone for option #2, I would have gone to school in a different part of the country, and would have never met my wife.  In essence, I paid six figures for the chance to bump into the woman of my dreams at a nightclub.  I’d do it all again, of course—even if I knew my choice was being made on fabricated employment data, but that’s one expensive first date.

And that’s partly the point.  Where to attend law school is an expensive decision, and the fact that applicants’ money might be extracted under false pretenses serves to justify all the rage against the machine currently found online.  For those bloggers and discontents truly devoted to changing the system and preventing others from making ill-informed choices, I have a serious respect.  They are shining a spotlight, and it would be foolish to believe that the spotlight hasn’t helped motivate change.[2]

But there’s even more to it than the money angle.  The same institutions that are being accused of taking money under false pretenses are also the ones charged with educating future lawyers about ethics.  This is a lot like your mother scolding you to stay away from sweets while she shovels cupcakes into her mouth.

Such hypocrisy—even the perception of such hypocrisy—creates a serious obligation for any attorney aware of the problem, regardless of whether they have ever personally felt wronged by the system.  Every day, there are newly-minted lawyers out there desperately searching for employment and/or trapped in employment they despise.  And many might rightfully feel bamboozled by the system, having paid particular attention to employment statistics when applying to law school just a few years before.

For those of us who have been in the trenches for a few years now, it is our job to pick up the ball where our legal education institutions have dropped it.  We are obligated to impress upon the newest members of our community that while it appears some law schools can have their cake and eat it too, we cannot.

No matter how rough it gets out there, we need to convey to new attorneys that our conduct is governed by ethics rules and codes.  We need to convey this message even when some of the very people charged with teaching those rules are making a mockery of them.

If law schools are dropping the ball, we, as mentors, are all that’s left.

Joe Perry is a Senior Staff Attorney with the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel.  He can be contacted at perryj@dcobc.org.


[2]           See, e.g., Sloan, K., ABA gives ground on law schools’ graduate jobs data reporting, http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202534457162&slreturn=1 (detailing changes in the manner the ABA will collect graduate data in the future)


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Looking for a step in the right direction? Check out MSBA’s Legal Career Center, or this recent article by Pat Yevics: Legal Career Building Tips. Both are great tools at any level of your career.

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