The Clarion-Ledger ran this Jimmy Gates commercial article about law school on Monday. The article quotes Ole Miss Law dean Deborah Bell and MC Law dean Wendy Scott.

Here are some of their comments:

Deborah Bell, interim dean of the University of Mississippi Law School, says the legal job market is certainly not what it was a decade ago — but there will always be a need for high quality legal work.

Translation:

No one is hiring now. But top shelf lawyers with 20+ years experience might get hired on a case.

“And a law degree is not just a path to law practice — some students leave law school to work in business, real estate, higher education or other professions where a law degree gives them an advantage,” Bell says.

Translation:

There are no legal jobs for graduates.

Scott says despite talk of a lawyer glut, there remains a shortage of lawyers in Mississippi, which means that too many people in Mississippi are without access to legal services.

Translation:

Welcome to MC Law’s Crazy Talk, with Dean Wendy Scott. In fairness, Bell made a similar comment. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this line either. But it’s extremely misleading when it does not include the disclaimer that they are talking about people who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer.

“Other studies suggest that not only are there unserved legal needs among our poor citizens, the justice gap is wide for working and middle class citizens as well,” Scott said. “Small business owners, people planning to start a business, working families facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, parents in jeopardy of losing their children — these are just a few examples of the kinds of legal needs that go unmet every day.”

Translation:

You can get plenty of legal work. You just won’t get paid.

Do the law schools understand that those legal needs go unmet because lawyers can’t work for free anymore than plumbers or law school professors?

You can read about this problem on the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission’s website. I don’t think you’ll read on it that the solution to the problem is more law school graduates.

Meanwhile, over at the Law 21 blog, ‘Debbie Downer’ Jordan Furlong has this post titled: The Obsolete Associate. Here’s a snippet:

Layoffs and hiring freezes at many law firms, occurring both in the immediate financial crisis and during the malaise that followed, contributed to a growing pool of unemployed and under-employed young lawyers and recent law graduates….

…All of this helps explain the stubbornly high levels of unemployment experienced by US law graduates over the past several years, numbers that have mostly held steady despite an historic drop in the number of law school applications…

Translation:

It’s not just a Mississippi problem.

Summary:

I love MC’s new strategy: “there aren’t too many lawyers–there are too few.” Brilliant. Best line since “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Overall, I thought the deans’ comments were measured if you know how to interpret them. They were negative without sounding negative. There’s plenty of legal work for those who don’t need to get paid to do it. By the way, those clients will also need you to come out of pocket to cover case expenses.

My criticism of the article was that it did not quote any recent law school graduates. Those are the people who are in the best position to comment on the current value of a law degree.

Asking the deans of the law schools is like asking the salesman at the Ford dealership if Fords are good cars. They have to say yes. Law school deans sell law degrees. What are they going to say? Don’t go to law school?

  • RodNGun37

    Calling the two deans disingenuous in their statements is giving them way too much credit.

    I really like the bright eyed bushy tailed idealist that wants to work towards “equal access to justice” so she wants to become a . . . prosecutor? Someone tell Jessica she might be prosecutin’ some po’ folks in the District Attorney’s office. It seems dysfunctional, moronic, self importance is still pretty prevalent in law school.

    • Jessica

      Hey. Jessica here. I wouldn’t call myself bright eyed or bushy tailed nor idealist. But thanks I’ll take it as a compliment.

      I’m pretty realistic in my view of law school and life after. And I also know the world doesn’t revolve around me. But I also know that unless I, myself, try to get out in the world and make a difference. I’m just as useless as this online comment.

      Change takes work, I’m willing to do it. Are you able to say the same?

  • Guest

    “There’s plenty of legal work for those who don’t need to get paid to do it. By the way, those clients will also need you to come out of pocket to cover case expenses.”

    This is preaching to all small firm lawyers. Not only do the clients want you to work for free, they also want you to front the litigation and case expenses.

    I am seeing cases settle for half the value they used to settle for. I am seeing lawyers accept representation for felonies for $500 up front. This is a race to the bottom. Sadly, we arent at the bottom yet.

  • Pieter T

    Not sure why the Clarion-Ledger thought this was a news story as it’s certainly not a “new” story. The deans are in a tough situation, and the students an even tougher situation. But, the public is the real loser.

    Guest makes sense. Years ago I would let the PI and litigation practice cover the costs of a chancery and miscellaneous practice that clients could not afford, e.g. The client received $3-4,000 in chancery work for the $5-600 the client could pay. A combination of tort reform and advertising lawyers has eliminated the ability to practice this way for many small lawyers. Throw in 30 years of cuts to legal services and is it any wonder that folks living paycheck to paycheck go without legal representation?

    Hate to quote Bill Clinton (or was it H.W. Bush ?), but “it’s the [legal] economy, stupid.” Sad times for our profession.

  • Mediumlaw attorney

    This has gone on too long. The idea that a law degree opens doors to other jobs is incredibly misleading. There is no point in incurring massive student loans to get a job you could have gotten without a law degree.

    As for actual lawyer jobs, the article could have at least mentioned that MC charges $33k+ a year, yet has a truly shocking 22.3% employment at graduation rate (http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/mississippi-college-03087).

  • Mediumlaw attorney
    • RodNGun37

      I think “blistering” is the word I used when I sent it to friends of mine, haha. And it needed to be said.