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December 16, 2015


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Matthew Bruckner

Our faculty is preparing a 3 credit commercial law overview with an emphasis on Sales and Secured Transactions. I've done some analysis of which bar exams test commercial law subjects and how other law schools are teaching these subjects (credit hours, coverage, case books, etc.). I'd be glad to share my work with the working group. My emails is available through the Howard Law website or by clicking on my name associated with his post.

Bob Lawless

The best argument against this is exactly what Al says -- it might be profitably applied in a lot of areas. In other words, it proves too much. If the point is that many upper-level law-school subjects could be taught in two hours, that is hard to argue against. Students should still be exposed to in-depth study in some subjects to have a sense of the knowledge and work it takes to master a subject. We don't want a profession of dilettantes. What courses should be selected to give students some in-depth study? I don't have a better system than the current one. Offer them, and let the students decide.

The other issue I have is that I don't see the mission of legal education as training students for a general civil practice. Many of our students are successful in landing jobs specifically because they made a commitment to an in-depth study of a particular area. This is particularly true as one moves down the grade distribution as the commitment makes a student stand out in terms of courses, papers, and extracurricular activities.

Sy Ablelman

It's unfortunate to read that. Even a dumpy solo attorney who mostly represents innocent paramour beaters, DUI's, bar fighters with knives and truckers losing their CDL's needs some grounding in this area. It is especially useful at going after slimy car dealerships. I had an elderly client who cleaned out his remaining retirement savings to purchase a moth mobile five year old Buick Le Sabre for 18K. I represented a 22 year old lady with four kids leasing a two year old Cadillac Escalade at $750.00 per month plus life insurance. After not making the fifth payment, she wanted out. You boys need to teach this stuff. This is where the rubber hits the road.


The nature of "Sy"'s posts leads one to believe that the "his" goal is to ridicule and undermine those who argue that law schools should focus on preparation for the practice of law. (There are other such aliases, clearly going for this conclusion.)

"His" comments are always designed to imply that all practitioners are bottom feeders, involved in a grimy business with shady cases. Foul mouthed low lifes dealing with the dregs of society for peanuts.

As such, we can only conclude that "Sy" is a law professor. For only a true law professor would know so little about the practice of law, or, alternatively, would be so motivated to ridicule and disparage practitioners.

Then, take the next step. Bear in mind that "Sy" has identified "his" milieu as Chicago. And, that "Sy" is a particularly rude and demeaning speaker, with a low opinion of others.

Starting to add up for anyone else?

Sy Ablelman

Yup. You got it. What you call "dregs" are my clients and their "peanuts" are the way I make my shitty Bronze Level Obama Care Plan and IBR student loan payments. You are right, I am a loud mouth...I am a lefty version of Archie Bunker. I maybe offensive, but I can get my case called on a Saturday afternoon at Central Bond Court and get my client out of jail after appearing before a hard nosed law and order judge. I tremendously respect my colleagues that do this work. Name me one law dean or professor that can do that? You law professors need to teach that and double down on Ethics and client funds. There are a lot of newbies jammed up like this.


It does certainly seem like a contrived persona. Or at a minimum, an artificial and extremely biased (in a statistical sense) representation of actual practice.

Sy Ablelman

Don't ever call me a law professor. Them are fighting words. Actually, I am happy with my lot as a big mouthed dumpy solo attorney. Kinda fun actually.


I find Sy's posts entertaining and actually pretty accurate.

There is more in common with small-law and big-ticket-law than you'd think. A general counsel or business lawyer needs to know about payment systems, secured transactions and sales - and also may need to know about these systems (at least at a basic level) not just in their jurisdiction, but where their client or company might have a problem. A lot of law is about practical solutions to problems; a tlot of BigLaw and law professors run into trouble because they don't think in practical terms.

[AB -- I've deleted a paragraph here that goes off topic.]


Sy seems to have been around a while and makes the rounds of Above the Law and other blogs in addition to being here.

I'm a practitioner who I think has a fair assessment of the market for new graduates (I have interns from all the area law schools) and at least in my area it's nowhere near as dire as Sy suggests. It's not the feast it was 10 years ago but it's not famine either. I can't speak for other legal markets, but in this city with multiple law schools an overwhelming majority of graduates are securing employment they are happy with (that is NOT going out on their own for lack of other options) within a couple months of passing the bar. Certainly fewer are getting big money big firm jobs-- but most are getting something they find acceptable and that pays a wage in line with their loans/living expenses. Within 2-3 years of graduation, most seem to be "where they wanted to be" when they went to law school. Networking and developing real skills are key in a way that was not true when I went to law school. Who you know and who you can make a connection with IS important.

I have mentored students for years after they were no longer my interns. All have ended up with great jobs even if it took a few years at a less-desirable job before they could move up. Their classmates, largely, have jobs they are happy with. There are a handful of graduates from all the schools who have limited/no prospects-- but that was true even at my highly-ranked law school a decade ago. I think that will always be the case. But on the whole, at least here, the market is nowhere near as dire as Sy describes.

Camilla Highwater

To DifferentAnon:

Seriously-intended questions. What counts as an "overwhelming majority? 60%? 95%? And where are they finding all these jobs that are not "big firm jobs" but nonetheless pay "a wage in line with their loans/living expenses"?

Deborah Merritt

Anon, criminal defense lawyers are not "bottom feeders." I have been teaching criminal prosecution and defense clinics for about seven years now and I'm amazed at the breadth of crimes that are charged today--and the many people who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Be thankful that there are lawyers around who might represent you when you drive after one drink too many, when your kid is arrested for something stupid that (if the charge sticks) will endanger her college loans, or when a "friend" flashes your ID after they've been caught shoplifting (seriously, we've represented 3 different cases like that).

I'm also surprised by how complex this work is, the heavy caseloads that both prosecutors and defense lawyers carry, and the low wages on both sides of the aisle.

I haven't read all of Sy's posts, but the ones I've seen give a pretty accurate depiction of criminal defense work in the two courts where my clinics practice.

Sy, I'm happy to say that I do teach students how to bond someone out of jail, as well as the different types of bonds available--and how unfairly this works against poorer defendants.


Deborah, I stand by my comment, 100%:

""His" comments are always designed to imply that all practitioners are bottom feeders, involved in a grimy business with shady cases. Foul mouthed low lifes dealing with the dregs of society for peanuts."

Sorry you misread my comment to mean that "criminal defense lawyers are bottom feeders." "Sy" does post about criminal defense (among other things) but, as I said, I don't think this persona is real, or as well-motivated as you think "he" is. The "point" of every post by "Sy" is to PORTRAY practitioners exactly as I earlier observed.



You evidently have not spent much time around litigators... perhaps a few more years practice before heading for law school would have been beneficial. You might for example have learned not to take yourself very seriously, to consider the ironies often inherent in the practice of law, the tendency towards "gallows humour," and the painful economic realities of private practice (including getting clients to pay for their representation) which afflicts every level of practice.

Sy puts you off - maybe you need to "get over yourself."


I don't know that I can give a percentage because I haven't done any sort of survey. I work with a dozen or so 2L/3L students a semester. I stay in touch with them over the years. I always ask how their classmates are doing after graduation. Typically they can name a couple people who aren't in a good spot and everyone else is either in a job that is at least working for them or, after 2-3 years out, they start telling me that most of their classmates have moved on to jobs they really enjoy.

Many of them seem to find jobs in small/medium firms. But they're not doing DUIs and the sort of cases Sy is describing. They are reputible local shops that do family law, employment discrimination, torts, insurance defense, commercial law, business law, etc. General civil practice but not the "dregs." Another large chunk go into government work in one form or another. Staff attorneys, term and permanent clerks, and other positions-- mainly in state court but some in federal. A lot end up at the defenders or the DA's office-- mainly in the suburbs where the cost of living and competition for jobs is diminished. A few end up at big firms. A few end up in federal clerskips. A few end up in the federal government/honors program/working as a special agent or in another capacity for an agency. There seem to be jobs out there in betwen the two ends op the spectrum-- bigcitybiglawbigmoney or grubbing for domestic violence cases out in front of the courthouse on your own. I really think it's not that dire in this market. I've passed along resumes and helped students and there do generally seem to be positions out there. Especially if you're living where the cost of living is lower and you didn't pay full ticket for law school (as is the case for at least some of these students I see).



"DUIs and the sort of cases Sy is describing" are a surprising proportion of legal practice, and frankly calling them the "dregs" is both snobbish, elitist and offensive - and my practice is, by your standards "upper crust." Indeed overtime I hear expressions like dregs, "shit law" etc. from a law professor I think about the irony that such a jackass is teaching new lawyers. Who do you think represents the vast bulk of those who end up before the courts but lawyers who are "grubbing for [for them] out in front of the courthouse." What an insufferable snob you are!

Do you really think there is a huge difference between "grubbing ... in front of the court house" and grovelling to an insurance company to be on their "panel." Do you think that pay-or-play to get a utility or state's bond work is more moral? Who the **** do you think represents both sides in domestic violence cases?

How many of your students do you think would tell a preachy prig the realities of their practice lives. Good grief, you are a walking cliché - you really ought to be ashamed - think about that the next time you patronise your former students.


To be clear I do not consider any kind of litigation to be "dregs." That is how I read Sy's characterization. That work is important even if not glamorous. He posits that most new law grads are stuck doing undesirable, low paying, bottom feeding work. I'm not weighing in on what work is worthwhile or not--- simply stating that in my market graduates don't seem to largely being stuck at all.


And some of my former interns are doing the type of work Sy


--cut off--

Some former interns are doing the work Sy describes but not because they have no other options. I don't mean to make any normative statement about the worthiness of any job-- just that at least in this market gradutaes are not all stuck doing something they dislike for lack of better option. The market doesn't seriously to be like that in my area.


"General civil practice but not the 'dregs'". - your words. So what are these "dregs" as opposed to "general civil practice." A bunch of academic pseuds who can drop the veil of snobbery and then pretend they did not mean it?

You said it, not me...


Mack, I can't tell if you're being obtuse just because you want to argue or if you really don't understand.

Sy has repeatedly been pejorative about the practice of taking DUI and similar criminal work. He is the one who refers to this type of work (and now I am directly quoting him) as being a "dumpy solo attorney" "simpleton schmoo solo attorney" and "schlepper solo" who refers to his clients as "mope[s]" and "gangbanger dope dealer[s]" from whom he can "hustle" fees. He is the one who seems to judge this type of work by how much he earns and whether he can pay for his "Bronze Level Obama Care Plan." He is the one arguing how much it sucks being a solo practitioner doing this kind of work, not making enough money, and implying that he's only doing it because it's the only option. That is the character he is playing here and elsewhere.

I was paraphrasing him in by 2:59pm post when I called that the "dregs" (and note that I used quotation marks in my post-- and note that anon at 11:01am also used that term because that is how Sy characterizes it) because that's how Sy has been spinning it-- not because that's what I actually think of that type of work. Plenty of people have a satisfying career doing criminal work as solo practitioners but that's not the story Sy is telling. He's not saying "I do this because I enjoy helping underserved clients who otherwise would have no help and I am happy with my career even if I could earn more doing something different." He's complaining about it, mostly because he thinks it doesn't pay enough and the market is so bad he can't find something else. You want to quibble with someone who thinks criminal defense work is for "schmoos," pick your fight with Sy, not me.

I simply posted originally to say that in MY market it is not as bad as Sy makes it out to be. There are options. New graduates are not stuck doing something they hate because it is the only option, as Sy suggests. He is the one suggesting this is not worthwhile or is somehow lesser to have that sort of practice.

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