Professor Campos:I have a feeling you get a lot of e-mail messages like this, and you probably do not have time to respond to them all, but I thought I would give it a shot. I will try to give you an abbreviated version.I graduated from [elite university] with a B.A. in [social science major] in 1994. I was on scholarship, so I managed to graduate with no debt. Not that these things matter 20 years after the fact, but I had a 3.6 GPA and a 178 LSAT. I worked for [politician] between college and law school. I graduated from [top ten law school] in 2000. My GPA was a 3.5, which was well above the mean but not good enough for law review. I clerked for a federal district court judge from 2000-2002, during which time my law school loans were in forbearance. My point is that, although my resume wasn’t printed with gold ink when I began my legal career, my credentials were good.After my clerkship, I went into private practice. I have taken more than 200 depositions, argued motions in court more than 100 times, conducted several multi-day trials, propounded and answered more discovery than I care to think about, and drafted countless briefs, motions, and pleadings. Most of my work has been in business and real estate law, so I have also drafted stock and asset sale documents, employment and non-compete agreements, employee manuals, sexual harassment policies, commercial leases, finance leases, business formation documents, company minutes, trademark applications, loan documents, and deeds. In other words, unlike a recent law school grad, I’ve been around the block a couple of times, I have some experience, and I know how to do some things.I was laid off in late 2010, and I have been out of work ever since. There were no accusations of misconduct, no complaints about my work. The law firm was downsizing, and that was that.I’m 41 years old, I’ve been out of law school for 13 years, and I do not have a book of business, so evidently, my career as a lawyer is over. I have a wife and 2 kids who need me to work, but I don’t know how to do anything other than practice law. Instead, my wife works, and I am a de facto stay-at-home dad. It’s not that I don’t love being a dad (of course I do), but my family needs my income, and I need to work outside the home.As depressing as my situation is, I know it is so much worse for so many people. I have read their stories on your blog and in the comments. At least I had 8 productive years as a working attorney. I paid my student loans down from $120,000 to the current balance of $23,000. As long as my wife has a job, we won’t starve. And our kids are wonderful. Knowing how much worse it is for so many people, I feel guilty complaining about my situation.For most of my career I have wondered, and occasionally asked out loud, “What happens to all the lawyers?” Just based on my own personal observation, I could see how few lawyers actually made partner. So where do they go? Oh sure a few go in house, some end up working for the government, etc., but just based on what I could see and the lawyers I knew, the numbers didn’t add up. Lawyers just seemed to disappear, like entrepreneurs in Atlas Shrugged. And then, of course, I disappeared.Since I was laid off, I have floundered around, applying for jobs, representing a few clients as a solo practitioner (not that that has been lucrative – think very low five figures per year), and trying to figure out “What happens to all of the lawyers?” Finally, a few weeks ago, a Google search landed me on a scamblog (I don’t remember which one anymore). That scamblog led me to another, then another, and another, and then your YouTube videos of your interview with Blooomberg Law and your presentation at Stanford Law School. Then Google searches for “Paul Campos” led me to your blogs, and then I learned who Brian Tamanaha is, and then I read his book.Yes, believe it or not, I had no idea about the scamblogs until just a few weeks ago. It seems hard to believe now, but why would I? I graduated from law school a long time ago now – before law schools produced most of the glut of lawyers. Times were good when I was looking for a job in 1999 and the early 2000s. I have been busy – practicing law, having a family, then dealing with my own unemployment (for which I have blamed myself). And after I was laid off, I have had very little contact with lawyers, and I haven’t had contact with law school students or recent law school grads in years. On the rare occasion that I do talk to a law school classmate or contemporary, no one ever acknowledges any problems – everyone claims to be on top of the world, knocking the ball out of the park. Now, thanks to the scamblogs, I know that some (many?) of my classmates have to have ended up like me.Of course the scamblogs, your YouTube videos, and Tamanaha’s book are no comfort. Actually, they’re terrifying. But now, finally, I have some idea about “What happens to all the lawyers?” At least now I am dealing with reality. Before I was trying to solve a problem (my unemployment) with bad information. Now, at least, I know.It is tempting to let myself focus on my anger about the injustice of the macro situation and my sadness about the hopelessness of my personal situation. It infuriates me that my alma mater and the other law schools have essentially ruined many of their alumni’s careers by actions they took after we graduated. Yet my alma mater still relentlessly solicits me to “give back” – as if I owe them something. You will not be surprised to learn that my alma mater has never taken any interest in my career – or even bothered to find out if I have one. As for my specific situation, I feel like it’s hopeless, and I think I am a failure. I literally have no idea what to do.My wife has not been especially understanding about my situation. I think her thinking has been that of course someone with my resume can easily find a job, and since I haven’t, the problem must be that I am not trying very hard, which she resents. That all changed, however, when I showed her this. I had printed it out on paper, along with all of the comments that had been posted in the first 12 hours. It was about 100 pages long. Someone with better credentials than I is living in his father’s basement and has sent out 700+ resumes with no results. Somehow it was comforting and made us sick to our stomachs at the same time. Then there were your comments about how little information there is about long-term career outcomes and your question about what happens after the top law school and the big law firm – yes, FINALLY, someone else is asking “What happens to all the lawyers?”! Then the comments. So many comments. So many lawyers out of work, in debt, with no hope. The stack of paper alone was enough to bring tears to my wife’s eyes. When I told her that all of the comments had been posted since 5:58 a.m. that morning, she broke down and cried.So, my efforts to keep this brief have failed, but perhaps I can pull it all together with two points. First, thank you for what you are doing. It has mattered to me and my family. And I am sure it matters to many others. Second, do you have any advice, any at all, for someone in my situation? I am not like a recent law grad who laments that he/she can’t get a job and doesn’t know how to practice law. My problem is the other way around: I can’t get a job, and I don’t know how to do anything except practice law. I cannot hide my J.D. or the 13 years since I graduated law school. I am a real, live lawyer with a J.D., a license, and years of experience. But no one will pay me to practice law anymore, and I don’t know how to do anything else. Yes, of course, big changes are coming to law schools and the legal profession, many reforms need to be implemented, and prospective law students need to be warned. It’s not that I am not interested in those things, but I have more immediate problems to solve. I have 2 kids, a mortgage, and 25 more years to work – I can’t waste time being angry at my alma mater, wallowing in my sadness, or pontificating about law schools and my profession. I need to find a way to earn some money SOON. Do you have any suggestions for someone like me?
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
As I've mentioned before, probably the most crucial knowledge gap that needs to be filled by people pursuing legal academic reforms is in regard to medium and long-term (as opposed to short-term) career outcomes for law graduates. Here's a letter that drives that point home with special force. It ends with a request for suggestions as to options -- one which I hope some readers can answer more usefully than I can: