The Great Law School and Law Firm Scam

Disregard Anything Positive I’ve Ever Said About Contract Attorney Work – I’ve Finally Come To My Senses

It has been over a year since I posted here and much has happened. For one thing, I’m no longer a contract attorney. In fact, I’m not even practicing law anymore, although I’ve held onto my two existing bar memberships, paying the annual dues for old times sake – perhaps just so I can continue to call myself a lawyer (for whatever it’s worth).

Since then, I’ve moved onto other lines of work – most notably I’ve started several online businesses – and have found the Internet to be quite a treasure trove of money making opportunities. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve managed to do quite well online.

For my fellow contract attorneys and tempers still working the salt mines of click-click land, my advice is to get out while you still can. Times are bleak, pay is low, and working hours are getting shorter by the minute – but the legal working situation for temp attorneys is also not going to get any better anytime soon. Contract attorney work is not only a dead end job career wise – but it’ll suck out your soul, pummel your pride, and leave you financially depleted years from now. If you can, try to strike it out on your own as a full fledge attorney. I know it’s incredibly difficult to compete in a market that’s super saturated and getting worse every day, but you must try – for sanity sake. I continue to curse the law school system to this day and continuously pray for numerous plagues to afflict the overrated law firms that choke our social system – but at some point, it’s time to move on to greener (or in my case, less-brownish) pastures.

And read Tom The Temp‘s blog regularly – he’s a morbid dose of social pessimissm and legal comedy for contract attorneys all rolled into one. He’ll bring you down and pick you up at the same time. Misery always loves company and there’s plenty of misery to go around.

30 Responses to “The Great Law School and Law Firm Scam”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    Most excellent post, Joe. Glad (and completely not surprised) to hear that you’re finding success with your online ventures!

  2. SF Says:

    Hey there.

    I must say. I stumbled on your blog when doing some research into whether or not I should apply to law school. I’ve enjoyed the archives and was pleasantly surprised to see you have a new post.

    Here is the cool part, you described on one of your posts this environment of computers, contracts, and people shopping online – and it hit me. All these people are shopping online. So what did I do instead of law school?

    Turns out the same thing you did.

    I’d love to hear more about your online ventures, as I have begun diving in myself. I’m in DC. dupont.

    Best.

  3. DirtyLAWndry Says:

    Good luck with your ventures! I’ll miss your posts.

  4. john Says:

    please explain further. your site has been one of the only sites i have read that stated this was a decent field. i was considering moving down to DC after school to temp for a while. please explain further, e.g., pay, hours, whatever it is that has changed your mind. thanks.

  5. Teamster Says:

    Aren’t flat rates for temp jobs illegal according to US Labor laws??

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/uscode05/usc_sec_05_00005542—-000-.html

    § 5542. Overtime rates; computation
    (a) For full-time, part-time and intermittent tours of duty, hours of work officially ordered or approved in excess of 40 hours in an administrative workweek, or (with the exception of an employee engaged in professional or technical engineering or scientific activities for whom the first 40 hours of duty in an administrative workweek is the basic workweek and an employee whose basic pay exceeds the minimum rate for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law) for whom the first 40 hours of duty in an administrative workweek is the basic workweek) in excess of 8 hours in a day, performed by an employee are overtime work and shall be paid for, except as otherwise provided by this subchapter, at the following rates:
    (1) For an employee whose basic pay is at a rate which does not exceed the minimum rate of basic pay for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law), the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to one and one-half times the hourly rate of basic pay of the employee, and all that amount is premium pay.
    (2) For an employee whose basic pay is at a rate which exceeds the minimum rate of basic pay for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law), the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to the greater of one and one-half times the hourly rate of the minimum rate of basic pay for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law) or the hourly rate of basic pay of the employee, and all that amount is premium pay.
    (3) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2) of this subsection for an employee of the Department of Transportation who occupies a nonmanagerial position in GS–14 or under and, as determined by the Secretary of Transportation,
    (A) the duties of which are critical to the immediate daily operation of the air traffic control system, directly affect aviation safety, and involve physical or mental strain or hardship;
    (B) in which overtime work is therefore unusually taxing; and
    (C) in which operating requirements cannot be met without substantial overtime work;
    the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to one and one-half times the hourly rate of basic pay of the employee, and all that amount is premium pay.
    (4) Notwithstanding paragraph (2) of this subsection, for an employee who is a law enforcement officer, and whose basic pay is at a rate which exceeds the minimum rate of basic pay for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law), the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to the greater of—
    (A) one and one-half times the minimum hourly rate of basic pay for GS–10 (including any applicable locality-based comparability payment under section 5304 or similar provision of law and any applicable special rate of pay under section 5305 or similar provision of law); or
    (B) the hourly rate of basic pay of the employee,
    and all that amount is premium pay.
    (5) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), for an employee of the Department of the Interior or the United States Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture engaged in emergency wildland fire suppression activities, the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to one and one-half times the hourly rate of basic pay of the employee, and all that amount is premium pay.
    (b) For the purpose of this subchapter—
    (1) unscheduled overtime work performed by an employee on a day when work was not scheduled for him, or for which he is required to return to his place of employment, is deemed at least 2 hours in duration; and
    (2) time spent in a travel status away from the official-duty station of an employee is not hours of employment unless—
    (A) the time spent is within the days and hours of the regularly scheduled administrative workweek of the employee, including regularly scheduled overtime hours; or
    (B) the travel
    (i) involves the performance of work while traveling,
    (ii) is incident to travel that involves the performance of work while traveling,
    (iii) is carried out under arduous conditions, or
    (iv) results from an event which could not be scheduled or controlled administratively, including travel by an employee to such an event and the return of such employee from such event to his or her official-duty station.
    (c) Subsection (a) shall not apply to an employee who is subject to the overtime pay provisions of section 7 of the Fair labor [1] Standards Act of 1938. In the case of an employee who would, were it not for the preceding sentence, be subject to this section, the Office of Personnel Management shall by regulation prescribe what hours shall be deemed to be hours of work and what hours of work shall be deemed to be overtime hours for the purpose of such section 7 so as to ensure that no employee receives less pay by reason of the preceding sentence.
    (d) In applying subsection (a) of this section with respect to any criminal investigator who is paid availability pay under section 5545a—
    (1) such investigator shall be compensated under such subsection (a), at the rates there provided, for overtime work which is scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek—
    (A) in excess of 10 hours on a day during such investigator’s basic 40 hour workweek; or
    (B) on a day outside such investigator’s basic 40 hour workweek; and
    (2) such investigator shall be compensated for all other overtime work under section 5545a.
    (e) Notwithstanding subsection (d)(1) of this section, all hours of overtime work scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek shall be compensated under subsection (a) if that work involves duties as authorized by section 3056 (a) of title 18 or section 37(a)(3) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, and if the investigator performs, on that same day, at least 2 hours of overtime work not scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek.
    (f) In applying subsection (a) of this section with respect to a firefighter who is subject to section 5545b—
    (1) such subsection shall be deemed to apply to hours of work officially ordered or approved in excess of 106 hours in a biweekly pay period, or, if the agency establishes a weekly basis for overtime pay computation, in excess of 53 hours in an administrative workweek; and
    (2) the overtime hourly rate of pay is an amount equal to one and one-half times the hourly rate of basic pay under section 5545b (b)(1)(A) or (c)(1)(B), as applicable, and such overtime hourly rate of pay may not be less than such hourly rate of basic pay in applying the limitation on the overtime rate provided in paragraph (2) of such subsection (a).

  6. James H Says:

    What kind of online ventures have made you money?

  7. drfullet87 Says:

    what law school did you go to?

  8. temphottie Says:

    Great blog. Thanks for the post and that’s awesome you found something. As a fellow attorney who’s done much doc reviewing, I’m so curious–you mentioned the low pay, hours, etc. etc. but what was the final straw that made you say, I’ve gotta get out of this?

  9. Daniel Says:

    I hired Lisa Goddard and Gikas AN ATTORNEY AT Georgetown Texas on July 2008, signed a contract and at that time she asked for a retainer of thousands of dollars
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas after reviewing the documents, she made all types of promises
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas time went by, and she started to not show up for the appointments we had, refuse to answer the phone calls, and simply, all her promises were not done
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas breach of duty to her clients, breach of ethics, simply did not dod any work
    The mistake to hire Lisa Goddard and Gikas, and after over a year, cost me dearly, the loss of my property, the loss of my rights, the loss of my son,
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas is a truly deceptive attorney, who makes promises, charges money and does not do any work.
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas has failed to reply or send bills, simply stolen the money sent to her
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas never took any action, never did any work, and simply took the money
    Lisa Goddard and Gikas will permanently harm your life if you decide to hire her, BEWARE.

  10. joblesslawyer Says:

    Joblesslawyer.com, just released a cartoon I think your readers might relate to. Its title “Document Review Monkeys.” It was based off of a situation described in a Tome the Temp Post. But anyone who has done temp work before will get a good chuckle:
    http://joblesslawyer.com/cartoons/101209-humor-print-1-document-review-monkeys/

  11. James Says:

    I’m lucky I didn’t fall victim to this. I am an aspiring attorney, I’m in the process of applying to grad school right now, and this stuff scares me. This article has some pretty cool information on the subject of attorneys if there is anyone out there in my position who is looking for such information.
    /www.life123.com/career-money/careers/lawyers/how-much-do-attorneys-get-paid.shtml

  12. lawgal Says:

    Oh boy oh boy! Law School = Biggest Mistake Ever!! Do not go believe me it is not worth the anguish, money, foregone income you could have been making. Law school is a scam and the government needs to step in and do something.

  13. Rockon Says:

    Thanks for the post and that’s awesome you found something. As a fellow attorney who’s done much doc reviewing, I’m so curious–you mentioned the low pay, hours, etc. etc. but what was the final straw that made you say, I’ve gotta get out of this?

  14. Flounder Gambini Says:

    As a doc reviewer of four years, I realized long ago I should never have gone to law school.

  15. Siarlys Jenkins Says:

    OK. but let’s try to infuse your boring old profession with some meaning, however limited in remuneration. Suppose instead of some corporate client, you find in your office a part-time freelance writer, who took on several exciting articles in an area of environmental science from a reputable publisher. Then suppose the publisher was bought up by a much larger and less reputable conglomerate. Suppose the new masters of the company wanted to change the terms that were (a) offered in writing, although not in a formal contract, and (b) were subsequently written into a contract, albeit most of the deadlines for content submission had already passed. Then, suppose after all content was submitted, and the time payment should have been made (when the work went into production) had passed, another contract was offered, which proposed to pay 18 months later, when the final work was published, and to have the new contract governed by the law of another state entirely. Suppose the amount at issue was under $2000.

    Now, this might stir the heartstrings of an attorney who thought they were getting into the profession to represent truth, justice and the American way. But, the chances of the attorney making money would depend on obtaining “reasonable fees and costs” from the responsible corporation, since it would take a good $2000 or more of attorney work product to nail such a defendant. Or, maybe the whole thing is just hopeless. Or, maybe a single letter from an attorney, on letterhead, would bring the company to its senses.

    I’m just wondering how one or several dozen situations such as this might change your perspective on the value or satisfaction of practicing law, or, whether the financial and procedural hurdles just add to your general cynicism.

  16. Patentlife Says:

    Yes, law school is a scam. It was a scam 20 years ago also. I am glad that there are now websites and blogs like this that are increasingly exposing the scam. I went to a 60ish ranked law school, graduated at the top with law review and did fine for most of the last 16 years as a patent lawyer. It is only because I had a science background that I could get a job in 1993. However, now there is a big glut of patent lawyers. I have stopped keeping track of former colleagues who are not working in the field of patent law anymore, even once partners who have been run out of lawyering firms. The anguish I hear on these boards from young lawyers unable to find a job should be further supplemented. EVEN IF YOU GET A JOB, THE CHANCES OF YOU KEEPING IT FOR MANY YEARS ARE VERY VERY LOW. The vast majority of legal jobs that exist are not stable at all ! YOU ARE NEVER SECURE AS A LAWYER.

  17. Victorianne Maxwell Says:

    Before hanging my shingle I dabbed with doc review and i would say that the current situation was not what it was in the past. Well life is what you make of it i guess! great post

  18. Scott Says:

    I would have to agree that contract work is not the way to go. At least it didn’t work out for me. Fortunately I had a way out. Not an easy way out, but a way out.. thanks for the post.

  19. Sean Fyresite Says:

    Good Luck with your new business ventures, too bad we won’t be able to read you attorney updates anymore!

  20. Keywords Says:

    Before hanging my shingle I dabbed with doc review and i would say that the current situation was not what it was in the past. Well life is what you make of it i guess! great post

  21. Eric Says:

    I’m sorry to hear that things haven’t worked out for you as a contract attorney. But I’m very interested to know how you’ve made your money online.

  22. ERW Says:

    It just gets worse and worse. It was pretty bad 30 years ago when I graduated. I graduated from a fouth tier school, and it has been a struggle from day one. Your options are limited no decent paying jobs you either hang out a shingle or work like a slave for some unethical shark, who makes tons of money and treats you like dirt. When I told prospective law students my expierence I was labelled a “loser” or your too negitive. The entire system from the scam law schools to the politically connected judiciary needs to be reformed. We really can do better but I don’t think anything will change there is too much easy money at stake. The prospective law student needs to spend time in court and time in a law office, not just gloss over the stats. Meanwhile wake up and smell the coffe , it can happen to you too.

  23. cpascal Says:

    At one time, I was considering law school, but so far, I haven’t gotten past my bachelor’s. There seems to be more and more awareness these days that college doesn’t guarantee a middle class life. Still, I am surprised to hear the same about law school.

  24. Able Truth Says:

    What the attorneys et al share is so true…I worked for a large “mill” type law firm. They hired attorneys in droves and many shared with me lack of work and student debt some upwards of 200k that they admittedly will pay until they reach the grave. Reading this makes me feel like I’m talking to my old atty friends. The attys were mostly fresh out of law school dreams crushed and forced to be taking a job paying <40k.

  25. Untouchable Attorney Says:

    I concur with the prior poster PatentLife. I’m a patent attorney who worked in mid-law for two years before getting trounced onto the curb. Since that time, I’ve spent the last 5 years doing document review. I also know many patent attorneys that have washed out of the profession, even with many years of experience. The patent gravy train has left the station. There are still IP jobs, but my feeling is that it will never get back to the days of late 90′s, early 00′s where IP jobs were much more plentiful. As a patent attorney, once you start getting to the 6-8 year mark, unless you make partner, it’s hard to land elsewhere because firms want portable work. A firm will view you as overpriced if you don’t have clients and they’ll just as easily find a cheaper, younger attorney to handle the work. Having now done document review for the past 5 years, I have a scarlet letter on my pressed shirt that screams “unemployable.” Nevertheless, I still owe slightly over $100,000 in student loan debt and I am currently unemployed and am having a rough time even finding contract positions. Kids – legal jobs are being shipped out to India. Do yourself a favor and find another profession. You might think in the worst case you’ll just open up your own shop if you can’t find a job. Well that sounds good and all, but have you seriously thought about how much money it costs to launch a solo practice with some probability of success? For starters, think about paying AT LEAST $500 per month for rent. That’s a low figure by the way and will depend on where you are located. Add in all the other stuff and you easily looking at over $1000 per month just to keep the lights on. Now add in your student loans and your living expenses. Got kids? Pony up some more money. Generally, it takes 2-3 years before a law practice can be deemed profitable. It’s an uphill battle and unless you have family support, i.e., a spouse with a good job with benefits, it will be a tough row to hoe and you’ll run for the next doc review position that crops up. I graduated from LS nearly 10 years ago. At that time, my law school charged $20,000. Not even a decade later, the bill comes to $40,000 per year. Add on your undergrad loans and basically you’re pretty much SOL, particularly in this economy where legal jobs are declining in a big way. So do yourself a favor, and find another profession. Seriously, I would have been better off just getting a paralegal certificate.

  26. dave Says:

    WARNING its the worst in Jacksonville FL

  27. Jay Says:

    You probably are no loner monitoring this page, but as a 53-year-old attorney who just got laid off from my firm and am trying to figure out what to do next (and considering contract work as a stopgap) I’d be curious as to what types of internet ventures you’ve had success with. I’m looking for ideas! And I’m in San Francisco so probably would not be competing with you (even if I tried to do the same thing you’re doing, which I probably wouldn’t; just trying to get ideas).

  28. KF Law Says:

    The entire system from the scam law schools to the politically connected judiciary needs to be reformed. We really can do better but I don’t think anything will change there is too much easy money at stake.

  29. Wage garnishment Says:

    Nowadays with attorney unemployment being so high. Contract work is all that they can do (if they can get past the requirement of xx years of doc review experience required)

  30. Rick Terrana Says:

    There are still jobs available for Temporary Attorney on contractual basis, but you need regular search on internet regarding this. As most of the company also appoint their legal adviser on contractual basis too.

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