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Selling law degrees

There are many businesses out there, and sometimes we forget that education and selling degrees is also a business field and it will continue whether attorneys are getting paid well or not, or whether they find jobs or not, as long as there is a demand by people to become attorneys. I read an excellent article in the New York Times, headlined, “Is Law School a Losing Game?” recently and it basically had professors of the various Law Schools admitting that the figures are manipulated.

Those figures are the most important ones – how many of their students find jobs afterwards, and what their average earnings are. For example, they admitted that as long as a law student found a job waiting tables, that counted as a job and they would then indicate to all potential law students that that is one of the people who successfully found a job after going through Law School. Of course, you can quite easily become a waiter, as I was when I was a student, without studying in the first place. On this basis they manage to now indicate that 93% of all American law graduates are working, but they are not necessarily working as lawyers. To quote the article, “Number–fudging games are pandemic, Professors and Deans say, because the fortunes of Law Schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think as Law Schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it. They are also cash cows … So much money flows into Law Schools, that Law Professors are among the highest paid in academia, and Law Schools that are part of Universities often subsidise the money-losing fields of higher education.” It never ceases to amaze me, while one in South Africa witnesses, on a yearly basis, the legal profession come under more and more threat, how the number of people studying for legal degrees only increases.

In a few years’ time, there will be a record number of lawyers chasing what is probably the smallest amount of work ever available for lawyers in this country. In England, they have now allowed supermarkets to hire lawyers and to have, if they want, a lawyer sitting in the entrance of the shop dishing out general advice, and I will not be surprised if that is the way that many, who actually get jobs in law, will work in a decade or so in South Africa also. The system is simply feeding too many lawyers into an economy and field with reducing work and at least one lawyer, who I knew who could not find sufficient work to make it in private practice, has now become a lecturer at a Law School.

Posted by Michael de Broglio on Monday 24-Jan-11

Selling law degrees


Advocate  said...
on Monday 05-Mar-12 02:16 PM
I agree with the sentiments of a market flooded with lawyers.

I just recently qualified as an advocate of the High Court. There were 54 "pupil" intern advocates in my class. The bar exams are a reflection of the "sale" of advocacy positions and sorry state of once proudly intellectual and skilful profession. Everyone passed the exams (I was horrified to see that some candidates had to sit for re-writes). 1st year university papers were more tricky- this is understandable if transformation is the aim. However, what good is a Bar Advocate that is unable to spell or pronounce the most basic of Legal verbage? My issue is that the General Council of the Bar is sacrificing quality for quantity. Churning out hundreds of new Advocates each year without thought for long-term planning. My profession has been brought into disrepute by the dilution of exacting standards. The Bar exam is supposed to be a standard measure of competence, allowing attorneys to trust that whatever advocate has written it is both competent and able. The exams that I wrote did not live up to that standard. This year, 70 odd advocates will sit the bar exams at my bar- where will they all get work from? The pieces of the pie are getting smaller and smaller. The legal profession needs to reclaim its place amongst medicine and engineering, an exacting standard of intellectual integrity.

R.Lubbe  said...
on Wednesday 16-Feb-11 04:14 PM
During my matric year way back in 1992, I decided to study law. I spoke to a few people already in the field as well as some of my parents' friends whose children had already embarked into the field. I was amazed to hear that I should rather persue an alternative field of study because it is tremendiously hard to find articles.
Needless to say, I did not take their advice seriously and proceeded with my studies.
After completion of my studies I found it extremely difficult to obtain articles and even when I did eventually found a position as a clerk, I had to be content with what was offered to me salary wise because there was just no other option at all.
It was even harder to find a decent paying job as a p.a. after completion of the articles.

I definitely agree that our profession is flooded. There is merit in the saying that there are more attorneys than street lamps in Joburg these days ( especially now with all the broken lamp poles!)
The law faculties of the universities are to blame for the situation as well as the Law Society of SA. What are they doing to protect the profession as well as the general public that make use of legal services? If they are just going to allow all and sundry to study law then the curse of tauting and excessive marketing will never be erradicated.

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