Tag Archives: Law School

Spontaneous Exclamations: Plan C, sue 100 law schools?

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, commercial finance, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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Last blog post, we expected that some disgruntled law students and recent graduates would sue their law school over the blatantly misleading employment statistics you find in almost every admissions booklet from almost every law school.  Well, almost every school may or may not be an exaggeration, but you get the gist of it.  Law school admissions statistics are frequently ambiguous in that the definition of “employed” within a year of graduation includes positions like coffee barista, zamboni driver, professional underwater synchronized scuba ballerina, and various other occupations that do not require a J.D. degree.  (See https://h20cooler.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/spontaneous-exclamations-plan-b-sue-law-school/).  Many of you have responded to me along the lines of: “Adam, caveat emptor— these students graduating within the last year or two entered law school after the start of the worst legal job recession in recent memory.  It’s their fault for going to law school knowing there’d be no jobs when they came out!”  In certain situations, this is could be a valid argument.  However, in addition to my points in the last article, shouldn’t law schools, which are tasked with teaching ethics and professionalism to the very students they enroll, refrain from purposefully publishing misleading and/or vague employment data?

Yet this just in: It appears that Plan B, “sue your law school,” was just bypassed for Plan C, “sue 100 law schools!”  According to Above the Law, and an interview conducted by Bloomberg Law, the attorneys behind the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law class action and suits against 11 other law schools, have at least 20 additional suits planned.  Furthermore, Chicago Crain’s reported that these attorneys plan on suing as many schools as possible in 2012— 20 to 25 new suits every few months.  If this is true, this may be a shocking year for universities across the nation, that is, if any courts actually allow these cases to proceed.

As reported in Chicago Crain’s, Dean John Corkery of The John Marshall Law School stated that the attorneys intended to file suit even before even having any students or graduates to constitute a class.  Without addressing these attorneys’ questionable ethics for filing class actions potentially (but not necessarily) for their own personal gain (and are these ethics different from those underlying a significant proportion of class action lawsuits?), we now need to question whether the plaintiffs constituting the classes are generally miffed students and new attorneys or whether they may have been influenced to join the classes by the potential to recoup tuition and get back at the institutions that saddled them with so much debt and no job.

If this is the case, to all of the lovely commentators who expressed their lack of sympathy for recent graduates, perhaps these disgruntled young lawyers aren’t fully to blame.  Either: (1) they are whole-heartedly regretful for attending law school and seek payback (in which case your argument has some validity); or maybe, just maybe, (2) they were drawn in by the attorneys filing the class actions and aren’t the eloquent phrases conspicuously analogous to the word “brat” that a number of readers have claimed these law students to be (we’re lawyers, we hide behind ominous walls of words).  If No. 2 is true, while ethically ambiguous, is it really that bad?  In truth, should law schools really be intentionally reporting misleading statistics?  Perhaps these class actions are the only viable way to stand up to a heavily entrenched and ethically-borderline practice by a powerful industry.  Considering the news coverage these class actions have received, the class’ attorneys have already got your attention.

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Spontaneous Exclamations: Plan B, sue law school

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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Everyone knew this would happen eventually, it was just a matter of when.   At the beginning of the month, the remarkable, yet expected, class action complaint was filed in the Cook County Circuit Court.  You guessed it, a group of recent IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law graduates and a student opted for Plan B.  Upon discovering that Plan A was unavailable— that there were no jobs available for recent graduates— a 2009 graduate, two 2011 graduates, and a soon-to-be 2012 graduate filed the class action against IIT Chicago-Kent.  The complaint against IIT Chicago-Kent is based on claims of fraud and dissemination of information to third parties in connection with the law school’s reporting of employment and salary statistics of graduates.

The complaint can be found at the following link on the plaintiffs’ attorney’s website: http://www.anziskalaw.com/uploads/Filed_Chicago-Kent

In my past blog posts, I have advocated for a change of the way law schools report employment statistics, though I have also described the careful balancing act.  Reporting non-misleading a/k/a “accurate” statistics would almost certainly be self-destructive to law schools because potential applicants would grasp the direness of the job market right now.  As a result, most of these potential applicants would simply not apply to law school and class sizes across the nation would plummet.  This is why law schools should not adjust their statistics reporting from a business standpoint.  However, from an ethical and, if this law suit is successful, legal standpoint, law schools should accurately report graduate employment statistics in order to save these students over a $100,000 worth of onerous debt.  Conversely, when times are good, the accurate reporting of 97 percent employment upon graduation and the first-year big law salary increase from $160,000 to $960,000 in New York, law school applications will flourish again.

Which leads us back to the crux of the matter: Law school tuition is so high that students who can’t find jobs and have been saddled with crushing debt at extraordinary interest rates have resorted to filing a class action lawsuit against their alma matter.  Whether or not the plaintiffs seek the return of their tuition payments, at the very least, they are applying firm pressure to compel schools to change their statistics reporting policy.  Also, bridges are ferociously burning.

Did the plaintiffs make the right decision?  Perhaps most practicing attorneys would say no.  These attorneys would claim that the plaintiffs are burning their bridges with law schools and law firms alike and will never find a legitimate job in the legal field ever.  Furthermore, these attorneys would assert that the plaintiffs brought this trouble upon themselves by attending law school during one of the worst legal recessions in recent memory.  Lastly they’d say that anybody with a shred of common sense could figure out that the law school’s statistics are blatantly distorted.  Boy!  These hypothetical attorneys are harsh!

On the other hand, what’s the downside?  The plaintiffs feel swindled by their schools and seek changes to the way the statistics are reported.  Perhaps they also hope for a return of their tuition and the chance at a debt-free life.  They might not even want to work in the legal industry.   Arguably, the plaintiffs are burning their bridges for the benefit of future law students.  Nobody said changing the behavior of powerful and moneyed forces on this planet was easy.

So what’s the solution?  Should law schools choose the high road and report accurate statistics and potentially decimate their application volume?  Or should law schools keep calm and carry on?  Again, like in many of my blogs, we can reach deep to the underlying problem: the student loan industry.  If tuition and lending terms were more reasonable to students, would people care at all about obviously skewed employment statistics, much less file a class action?

The art of professionalism – Four simple steps to help you transition from student to practitioner

Desiree Moore is the president and founder of Greenhorn Legal LLC. Greenhorn Legal offers intensive practical skills training programs for law students and new lawyers as they transition from law school into their legal practices. Moore is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and was an associate at the law firm of K&L Gates. She can be found on Twitter at @greenhornlegal.

Law school is, by definition, a professional school.  Still, if you are like me, you spent much of law school lounging around in sweatpants and socializing with law school classmates (and studying, obviously!).  As you transition from law school into your legal practice, you will be expected to have mastered professionalism and to project professionalism in all instances.  More importantly, your ability to act in a professional manner early in your career will define you – and will define the impressions you leave on the people around you.

Whether you are interviewing for a legal position or you have begun your legal practice, here are four easy things you can do to ensure that you are perceived as a true professional:

1. Dress like a professional.  As simple as it may seem, your attire is an exceedingly important aspect of your professionalism.  This is the very first impression you make, before anything else.  For interviews, without exception, you must wear a suit.  Several days in advance of your interview, be sure your suit is clean and pressed (and that it fits you!).  Likewise, if your workplace observes a “business” dress code, or for any formal business occasions (for example, client meetings, court hearings, depositions, etc.), wear a suit.

If your office observes a “business casual” dress code, this calls for something slightly less formal than a suit.  Still, your attire should be traditional and conservative.  Flashy, quirky or otherwise inappropriate attire is never well received in a professional environment.  Also, wear your clothes well.  Avoid wrinkles and tuck in your shirt.

If you dress the part of a lawyer and a professional, you will make meaningful first impressions and build your credibility from day one.

2. Be mindful of your demeanor. Much like attire, mastering the proper demeanor in a professional environment will be central to your success.  In interviews and in your practice, take care to act in a formal, professional manner.  With this said, you also want to approach your office interactions in a relaxed, natural way.  Your demeanor should reflect that you are serious about your work but that you are also an open, friendly person.  If you can demonstrate by your demeanor that you are both of these things, your colleagues in the legal profession will respect you and want to get to know you.  Finally, as a new lawyer, you will be well served by expressing enthusiasm at the prospect of working on any case, deal or project that comes across your desk.  Enthusiastic lawyers are more pleasant to work with, and in turn get more work!

3. Hone your interpersonal skills. Finding success in a professional environment depends in large part on capitalizing on our own personal strengths and minimizing our weak areas.  In a legal environment, in particular, where you are expected to work closely with colleagues and clients, honing your interpersonal skills is a must.  While not everyone has the same interpersonal qualities, there are a few rules to live by.  In all instances, be reasonable and even.  Do not display extreme emotions and do not take frustrations out on anyone (this includes your administrative assistant – the best way to get in trouble as a new lawyer is to treat staff in a disrespectful manner).  Ask your colleagues about their work and their interests.  Steer clear of office gossip or any office dynamics that you are not comfortable with.  Keep your personal drama out of the workplace, too.

4. Master your practice. Finally, in an effort to demonstrate professionalism in a legal environment, it is important to master your legal practice.  Now, this is not something you can do right away, or all at once, but you should be working toward this every day.  As a recent law school graduate (and after having studied for the bar), your knowledge of the black letter law will never be better.  Capitalize on this and build on it.  Make yourself marketable (if interviewing) or indispensable (if you have already secured a job) in the early years of your practice by staying on top of the technical aspects of your job and showing growth from month to month and year to year.

Follow these guidelines and – even if you have to work at it at first – you will project professionalism to your peers and superiors.  Over time, it will become second nature.  (And don’t worry – those sweatpants can get plenty of use on the weekends.)

Spontaneous Exclamations: Congratulations, everybody’s watching

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

Join the Spontaneous Exclamations Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/289553997756538/

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The first day you step into law school, you’re under a microscope. Any action or inaction can have lasting, significant, and occasionally preposterous consequences on a person’s legal career.  To you law students: Got too many speeding tickets?  Reported to the bar examiners.  Cited for jaywalking?  Reported to the bar examiners.  And most frequently, arrested for any sort of drunk misconduct in public?  Definitely reported to the bar examiners.  Even worse, the first day on the job as an attorney, you’re under a much more powerful electron microscope.  You have to watch your back, your reputation, and your Facebook.

Every summer and particularly around the firm holiday party season, stories appear in the news perhaps about how this law student jumped in the Chicago River for a quick swim after a firm baseball game outing. Or maybe how this attorney, in full Black Swan Halloween costume, blacked out after drinking a bottle of something awful, got arrested for blocking traffic doing pirouettes on Division Street and starting a bar fight.  These stories keep getting more ridiculous.

While it’s certainly OK to drink if you choose to, once you reach law school, you must also use your head.  Bar examiners are notoriously bad sports about misdemeanors and are especially crusty on felonies.  When things begin to get rowdy at your law school’s “Bar Review” bar crawl, stop for a second to think about how stealing the bar’s giant neon sign might be a good idea after 10 beers, but an unnecessary risk the next morning when you have a giant neon sign sitting in your living room.  Maybe you should have just stuck to the dance floor or watched the game like your original plan.

Firm attorneys, your holiday party or retreat, awkward as they may feel at times, is not a good place to black out and take a swim in the hotel’s fountain (happens more than you think).  Despite the open bar and the appearance of the firm’s leadership letting loose for a night, you are still at a work event and will thus be judged.  Random flirting and general scene-making does not help you build your reputation as an intelligent lawyer who makes smart decisions when it’s all on the line.  To sum it up, save the excessive drinking for your own time.  Retain your manners. Firm events are better for demonstrating your charm, getting to know your co-workers, and making your way up the company ladder.

No matter what you think, somebody is always watching, especially your clients.  Keep your wits about your or you might end up watching yourself on the news blocking traffic on Division Street in a Black Swan costume.

Overcoming fear of rejection

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business professionals. Nick is experienced in law, business, entertainment, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ agency model. Nick enjoys sharing career growth, strategy and experience with legal job seekers and attorneys in transition.

Something about law school changes our attitudes as we turn into lawyers. We often maintain a need to take a position and zealously defend it, regardless of its weight. This can cause us to work extra hard to avoid losing. We can learn how to take calculated risks and accept “no” without imputing failure; the lawyer might otherwise avoid potentially losing positions and might miss a great opportunity.

There are a few confidence situations where we need to remember to bring our “A” game:

Job Hunting – you can’t say the wrong thing if you’re honest.
Do you really want to work somewhere you have to lie about your values or belief systems? Why would you agree or disagree with an interviewer just to get a job? Smart lawyers recognize pandering and it serves no one well. If the job is not a match, keep hunting. It is OK not to fit with everyone.

Networking – if you are a friend first you make an easier referral.
People do business with others they know, like and trust. Spend time getting to know people at networking events as friends first. Likeable people are more likely to receive follow up phone calls. Balance your time in networking conversations between what you do and who you are and vice versa.

Volunteering – even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you still win.
Don’t shy away from volunteer and pro bono opportunities simply because you don’t have a mastery of the subject matter. If organizers expected perfection they would have hired experts. Volunteer experience also allows us to break away from our daily roles, which creates a good environment to meet others and get to know them in a neutral atmosphere.

Collaboration – none of us knows everything so roundtable your issues.
The smartest person is often the one who asks the most questions. The best lawyers know the limits of their knowledge and experience. We all benefit from floating ideas around and hearing some fresh input. By including others and seeking collective intelligence you will always come out on top.

Personality – help people remember you among the competition.
You don’t have to be dry, even despite your practice area. Some of the most dynamic attorneys work in otherwise stale practice areas. The dynamic person makes their work seem interesting. People with passion for their work get noticed. So much of life as a lawyer is a confidence game.

Spontaneous Exclamations: The loan repayment situation (Part Two)

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

Examining the Yale Professors’ Solutions to the Law School Loan Repayment Problem  

Last week, we took a look at the Nov. 18 Slate.com article written by two Yale Law School professors proposing significant changes to how students pay for law school.  Specifically, we examined the professors’ first proposal: that the law schools should give applicants detailed and disaggregated reports on how many graduates passed the bar exam upon graduation and their annual salaries for the first 10 years after graduation.  This week we will explore the professors’ second proposal: that law schools rebate half of the year’s tuition of any law student who decides to drop out after their first year.

In summary, the law school returns half of the quitting student’s tuition or gives the student a rebate applicable towards government loans.  Any student who returns to a law school within five years or so would have to repay the rebate.  The underlying theory is that if both the student AND the law school have “skin in the game,” law schools would potentially select their incoming classes more carefully to maximize admittance of students who will graduate.  On a side note, I will not discuss the economic aspect of refunding tuition because, as far as I can tell, many law schools possess bottomless pits of money while tuition creeps upward.

Now, I like this idea.  It makes sense to me because these days it seems law school admissions offices focus too much on raising their rankings on various publications’ lists and not on choosing applicants who will become the finest attorneys.  Just as I wrote in the last column, a large number of law students choose to go to law school simply because: (i) they don’t know what else to do with their lives; (ii) they heard that lawyers get paid well; and (iii) they love “Law & Order. ” These are typically not the serious students that become serious attorneys.  The rebate may offer these students a way out after their first year when they realize law school isn’t “Legally Blonde” and being an attorney isn’t always as glamorous as Matthew McConaughey makes it out to be.  Students like this are admitted to top law schools because many achieved high college GPAs and performed well on the LSAT.

On a positive note, other than those who were legitimately interested in law school and changed their minds and those who did not get good grades, the lackadaisical students are probably the kinds of students who will take the rebate.  However, these are not the students law schools should be targeting.  If law schools execute the rebate plan, they should also incorporate serious interviews into the admissions process.  Even a simple interview could identify the types of students who don’t really want to go to law school or become a lawyer.  On second, thought shouldn’t law schools be doing this now?  Too many applicants with excellent potential fall through the cracks because a few lackadaisical applicants scored a point or two higher on the LSAT.  Then again, what school would want to take a hit to their ranking calculated by a for-profit publication employing suspect statistical methods that differ each year?

Spontaneous Exclamations: The loan repayment situation (Part One)

Examining the Yale Professors’ Solutions to the Law School Loan Repayment Problem 

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on this post are welcome!

Just before Thanksgiving, on Friday, Nov. 18, slate.com posted a remarkable article proposing significant changes to how students pay for law school written by two unlikely authors.

Two Yale Law School professors proposed, among other items, that law schools should report bar-passage, employment, and salary data that doesn’t mislead students.  Also, law schools should dangle a fat carrot in law students’ faces and offer the less interested students money to quit after their first year.  When I read this article a week after it was posted, I nearly spit out my most recent bites of delicious turkey and mashed potatoes in surprise.  Such intriguing proposals about fiercely debated topics— law school loans and tuition— require some blog-worthy analysis!

This week we’ll examine the proposal about curbing the misleading graduate data.  Next week we will examine the proposal to dangle that fat carrot.

The authors propose that law schools give applicants detailed reports on how many graduates passed the bar exam upon graduation and their annual salaries for the first 10 years after graduation.  The authors suggest that law schools disaggregate the data to prevent misleading figures.  This feat of statistics would be accomplished by requiring all students who took federal loans to report the same.

I imagine that almost everyone with a heart agrees that, in an ideal world, not misleading applicants is a good thing.  When applying to law schools in the past decade, how many of you recall the figures indicating employment of near 100 percent of the class upon graduation?   For those of you graduating in 2007 or later, did you believe those numbers?  In an ideal world, supplying the proposed statistics to applicants would be wonderful.  I would be delighted if each law school’s statistics were transparent and comprehensive.  However, at countless law schools, and good ones at that, I fear reporting such statistics would decimate the number of worthy applications coming in because, if the rumors are correct, large proportions of 2Ls and 3Ls do not have law jobs and collective hope is low on finding positions.  Smart and able students would avoid such schools or law school all together.  Now, is this a good thing?

Pushing people away from law school who perhaps have genuine talent and desire to become an attorney?  Not necessarily, but perhaps there is a happy medium in which law schools can report certain accurate data that will turn away the students who go to law school because they don’t know what else to do while still keeping the serious applicants. Additionally, the schools would convey the message that taking on hefty debt is no small matter. Because, really, who would go to any graduate school that costs over $150,000 in loan principal and interest with few positions available upon graduation?  Only those applicants who truly want to be attorneys and understand the monetary burden?  Would reporting such data in turn lead to classes containing significantly less lower income individuals while increasing the concentration of students who can pay tuition out of their bank accounts?

Then again, other than for tuition being so outrageously expensive, did anyone really care about these statistics when the economy was booming?  In an ideal world, the cyclical economy will cycle on back to the boom times when jobs are plentiful and I wonder if so many people will care about these statistics.  However, does it make sense that these questions all lead to a root of the problem: the incredible expense of law school and the ridiculous interest rates on student loans that cannot be discharged after bankruptcy?  I’d like to say we wouldn’t be asking these questions about any graduate school if tuition were reasonable and loan interest rates weren’t at times reaching a flabbergasting 8 percent.