Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New scholarship: Is the "law school scam" blogging movement influencing the legal profession?

Here's a new article by John Marshall Professor Lucille A. Jewel called "You’re Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession." It can be found at 12 Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, 239 (2011). From the introduction:

In contrast with the ribald and sometimes abusive culture of the Internet, the culture of the legal profession is restrained, deferential, and committed to resolving disputes through formal legal processes. Thus, there is a potential for conflict between the culture of the Internet and the culture of the legal profession. Specifically, normative conflicts are emerging with respect to blogs where lawyers air caustic, uncensored, and highly critical views of the legal profession. This conflict is exemplified by the so-called Law School Scam Blogging Movement (“Scam Blog Movement” or “Scam Bloggers”), a populist online community calling for reform of the way that law schools market themselves to potential law students.

Using jarring visual rhetoric and public shaming techniques unique to the Internet, the Scam Bloggers argue that there is an oversupply of lawyers in the United States, that law schools are engaging in a type of fraud by purposely over-inflating post-graduation employment data in order to draw in more law students, and that, in essence, law schools and professional institutions, such as the American Bar Association (ABA), should be ashamed of themselves. Some Scam Blog sites, such as Temporary Attorney, call attention to the humiliating job experiences of attorneys who are paid by the hour to perform low-level, systemized legal tasks such as computerized coding of documents for discovery review. Others, such as Subprime J.D., emphasize the distress and anxiety of young J.D.s (Juris Doctors) who are heavily in debt but unable, after months of trying, to land a decent paying law-related job. The general theme arising from this collection of web sites is that market forces within legal education and the legal job market have produced a deeply disappointing professional experience for some lawyers.

Despite its nontraditional approach, the Scam Blogging movement has had a palpable effect on the debate of an important issue facing the legal profession. Beginning with a few independent blogs, the movement grew into a community of bloggers, all focusing on the idea of publicizing the problem of an oversupply of lawyers in the job market, the exorbitant expense of legal education, and a lack of transparency in how law schools report and publicize post-J.D. employment data. The ideas publicized by the movement reached an apex in the late summer and fall of 2010, evinced by the number of traditional media outlets covering the Law School Scam Blog story and well-regarded law professors evaluating the movement’s contentions

. . . .

In looking at the story of the Law School Scam Blogging movement, Part I of this Article explains how the technological structure of the Internet enables ideas to solidify and spread in a way that differs from the way information is expressed in traditional media formats. Part II generally describes the attributes of Internet culture, both the good and bad, and contrasts that culture with the culture of the legal profession. Part III looks at the Scam Blogging movement and argues that, when non-traditional members of the legal profession use the Internet as a forum to argue for reform, even if they do so in untoward ways, those arguments do impact the profession and should be listened to by all members of the legal profession.



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The scamblogging community has been in the know about this article since its earlier draft back in July, when it was simply about disgruntled lawyers of all stripes taking to the internet to air their grievances:


From what Nando of Third Tier Reality learned, when the mainstream press began to cover the phenomenon, the editors of the Minnesota journal in which this article has just been published determined that the piece should be reworked to focus more on scamblogging, as it was rapidly becoming a hot topic in the legal blogosphere.

The problem, of course, with the glacial speed with which law reviews are edited and published is that much of the information that Prof. Jewel relies upon is already dated, and the explosive story in the NYT from this January and its aftermath is not addressed. (www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html--and for reaction to the piece: http://www.downbylaw.org/reaction-to-nyts-is-law-school-a-losing-game-192011.html)

Nor is mention made of the fact that some scambloggers have revealed their identities and even taken to the airwaves in weekly podcasts to further spread the word about the dire situation in which so many newly-minted attorneys find themselves (http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/down-by-lawcast/id399314787).

There is more to this phenomenon and its impact than can be expressed in a law review article, and while any coverage of the plight of unemployed and underemployed attorneys is laudable, what's really needed is meaningful changes to the legal education system.

Posted by: Kimber A. Russell | Apr 5, 2011 9:02:12 PM

Consider writing an article on "Externship Fraud." Law schools save money by sending students into the field. Supposedly, this is so the students can get "practical experience." In reality, externships are a way for law schools to save money. Much easier to make students pay to work for free, than actually teach them.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 5, 2011 4:27:35 PM

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