However, when I was discussing this matter with a colleague, he made some comments that caused me to contemplate the nature of evil with regard to law school attendance. Sounds kind of strange, doesn't it? More after the fold.
More specifically, I had a colleague recently express this thought to me - although it frankly made me feel a little ill and guilty. His thought was that with all the law students going to law school right now, if you are a lawyer in an established practice, this might be the most profitable time in your life. Sure, clients are demanding a fee cut, but you are really seeing maybe a 0-10% decrease. Conversely, starting lawyer salaries (and salaries make up the bulk of the firm's overhead) have already declined 10% and may decline 25% - or 50% - as this article proclaims. If that happens, your internal margin will improve and profitability will increase - for the firm's owners, not for the new lawyers and associates.
Thus, according to this lawyer, we should be encouraging more law students to attend law school in order to further drive down the cost of their labor. He followed it up with something like, "Just think about how much we could be pulling in if we could drive salaries down to 40K!"
When I mentioned how this would really, really put new lawyers in a bind because of the massive increases in law school tuition and debt - and that this would probably put them in a position where they would never be able to pay off their loans, much less have a house and a middle class lifestyle, his response was immediate and blunt: "That's not my problem. It's not our fault that they got themselves into that mess. If they are willing to work for that little, then the market has spoken. The rest of it is their problem."
Wow. It felt like a sock in the gut. However, I tried to see it from his point of view - that few people worry about doing right by lawyers - that we as lawyers are at the mercy of our clients and at the mercy of the economy with regard to what we can bill them. No one is going to feel sorry for the lawyers if the client fees are cut in half - which results in our compensation being cut in half. In fact, the media might even gleefully rejoice because they might see a vision of "the rich" being "taken down a peg" (although this is not accurate, of course).
This caused me to reflect on the nature of evil. Why did the behavior feel so wrong when applied toward law students, but just kind of sad and disappointing when applied to lawyers? Here are a few of the factors that occurred to me:
- The plan suggested by the lawyer takes advantage of the fact that potential law students don't have adequate information to judge the situation themselves,
- The plan misrepresents the situation to the potential law students.
- This misrepresentation would be to the benefit of the lawyer and the detriment of the law student.
- The potential law students are very susceptible to this misrepresentation because it conforms to the erroneous information that the media has been sending to them for years.
- Because we are aware that the students most likely have erroneous information, don't we have some sort of obligation to correct it - or at least to not further disadvantage them?
- The impact of the plan on the lives of the potential law students is huge. Basically the rest of their lives.
- Shouldn't we have some sort of responsibility to protect our young? Not that the potential law students are kids, exactly - and not that we have any fiduciary duty to them, but still - they are certainly very, very naive and apparently have difficulty making harsh rational decisions.
- Don't we have some sort of responsibility as lawyers to do the right thing? Sure, the practice of law has been a business rather than a profession now for decades - but still, don't you at least feel the intermittent echo of nobility and rectitude in this country founded by lawyers and protected by lawyers for 200+ years?
I guess at root evil is in the eye of the beholder. Further, maybe even categorizing the plan as "good" or "evil" is irrelevant. All I know is that I disagree strongly with the lawyer's plan, I don't think that it is right, and I will not participate or be associated with it. In fact, I view this blog as the exact opposite of the lawyer's plan. I am just trying to get the information out and to do the right thing. What do you think?