Monday, January 14, 2013
Expanding on an idea he raised in a comment to my prior post, Diamond: Law School Is Not a 'Scam': Stephen Diamond (Santa Clara), Beyond the “Scam” Debate About Law Schools: Lawyers for America – A Modest Proposal:
The debate over whether or not law school is a “scam” would seem to be largely over. Court after court has dismissed cases against law schools for charges of misleading employment statistics. ... But leaving aside the failed litigation strategy of the “scam” crowd and the unsurprising impact that falling application rates is having on resolving the “failing law school” crowd’s arguments, we are left with one very important problem: the thousands of successful law school graduates who passed the bar but have not been able to find jobs as lawyers or to find appropriate non-lawyer occupations and thus are facing a mountain of debt. I do not know the exact numbers but I think it is large enough to be considered an important problem for society as a whole not just lawyers and law schools. As a society, we should not be allowing these young people to waste the years of training we have invested in them.
I believe a proposal should be developed to solve the problem. It would work like Teach for America and I call it Lawyers for America. It would offer young unemployed or underemployed lawyers the chance to practice law serving an underserved community under the supervision of existing lawyers. One example: there are many thousands of small businesses in our poor and immigrant communities, including cleaning, housekeeping, gardening, construction and other services. Many of these could be organized as LLCs thus shielding their owners from personal liability. This requires legal help. These entities could use other legal advice as well. A legal service organization would be established in major urban areas that could provide these services.
The supervising lawyers could earn CLE or pro bono credit for their time. The law students would be provided a stipend for living expenses and more importantly would earn credits for debt relief. Every year of full time service would earn them 20% cancellation of their outstanding debt. ...
A program like this that ran for perhaps five to ten years would allow an entire generation of young lawyers to learn their craft, relieve their debt, and contribute significantly to the wider society. They would emerge at the end of the program with either a genuinely sustainable reduced debt load or in some cases no debt at all. They would have skills and experience and perhaps new relationships that would make them employable as lawyers in what we all hope is a much healthier economy.