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March 14, 2015


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Kyle McEntee

Like Jeff, I find the idea of an actual undergraduate degree intriguing. (Not the 3+3 nonsense at schools now.) My concern is transition. It's much harder to envision how we transition from what we have now system-wide to a model like that. Seems like more coordination than we can realistically expect.

John Steele

An undergrad degree in law (similar to degrees in accounting, business management, etc.) would be a great idea even if it's extremely unlikely to be accomplished, given entrenched interests. Students could get a BA (or LLB) at low cost at their state schools, could take a dozen or more courses on a variety of legal topics (both theoretical and practical), could amass little debt, could take a first job in government, corporations, or law firms, and could then decide if they wish to get a 1 or 2 year advance legal degree if they like the legal field and want to climb the ladder further. Back when Paul Caron's Tax Prof Blog was publishing suggestions for Dean Chemerinsky and UC-Irvine's new school, I fleshed out the idea a little there. (I would add a link but this post might end up in a spam trap.)



Test: Treat it like a jigsaw.


Deborah Merritt

"Staff attorneys" include a range of positions, and I'm not sure I know all of them. Firms don't talk as much about these lawyers as about partners and associates, so it can be hard to get information.

There is one category of staff attorneys that consists of associates who did not make partner, or who opted off the partnership track, but who still had value to offer their firms. Firms started keeping some of these lawyers on as "staff attorneys" although they use other names as well.

A second category consists of people hired specifically to be staff attorneys. These lawyers are often, but not always, entry level when they accept a position at the firm. In Ohio BigLaw firms, the starting salaries seem to be about $60,000, plus full benefits. I don't know if that salary holds in NY or other high cost-of-living cities. In any event, the salaries seem to be comparable or a bit higher than government work--but much lower than what associates in the same firm are paid.

Most of the staff attorneys that I know do discovery work for their firms. There are also staff attorneys doing due diligence work, and there may be some who do other types of legal tasks.

The staff attorneys in my article all fall into this second category, that is they're people who were hired as staff attorneys rather than associates who fell off the partnership track. The Class of 2010 is still a little junior for that other type of position. And most of the staff attorneys in my population are doing discovery work, although a few may be doing the other types of work I mentioned.


Professor Merritt:

May I say, I think your work is valuable and important. Moreover, I think everyone here should recognise the integrity and moral courage that it took to attach your name to this work.


Haskell Murray

John Steele, A few undergraduate schools are already offering a BA in law. University of Arizona and Western Carolina University are two I know about, but there may be more.


Dear Bracket Man: Please say that was tongue in cheek. Even if you do not mean it.


Yes, it's quite encouraging to learn that some professors actually know about legal practice and what lawyers (at firms at least) actually do.



There has been a quite concerted campaign against the small number of law professors who were willing to stick their heads above the parapet and say that there is trouble in paradise, that law schools have not been honest about student outcomes, that debt, cost and unemployment are serious issues. That campaign has, by all accounts, been directed at the professor's careers - you can see how vicious it has been with respect to Campos, Tamahama and Merritt quite easily if you look.

It shows a lot of moral courage and integrity to speak out in such circumstances. Indeed, Professor Merritt article takes direct aim at the results of the Pollyanna Simkovic and McIntyre study that is the favourite of one of the more disgraceful of the band asserting that nothing is wrong.


Hi Debbie, much appreciate the informative explanation for the staff attorney positions.


Sorry to needle you bracket man. I agree with much of what you say but doubt that any of the people you mention would view themselves a courageous. All have tenured, well paid jobs and while they annoy some people I don't think any of them gave it a second thought. Obviously, I cannot speak for them and I have seen some nasty things about Campos. Based on his most strident attackers, I'd say he should feel proud.

Former Editor

I'd have to disagree with you Carl. I think at least some of them gave it considerable thought and knew they were likely to be attacked when they started speaking out. I've personally gotten advice not to drop this handle and use my real name from one of them on account of the odds of professional reprisal against me should I do so.


And I have encountered some pretty nasty stuff including vaguely threatening emails from he who cannot be named because of he spam filter (I'm a partner in my own firm, he's an idiot) and very personal attacks by another on my recently dead father - as it happens in this forum. Yes, real efforts have been made to hurt the careers and employment of law school critics - ones in which many professors either acquiesced or indeed facilitated.

Campos, Tamahama and Merritt made a pretty dangerous career choice.


Prof. Merritt: Is it your conclusion that a recent graduate who wants to go to law school will be better off going through life with just a BA degree?

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