Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Book Review - The Destruction of Young Lawyers

Several weeks ago, I posted some thoughts (not positive!) about The Destruction of Young Lawyers, by Douglas Litowitz, which had gotten some play on the blogs of several well-regarded professors, including Legal Ethics Forum, Leiter's Law School Reports and Balkinization. I have since written, and now posted on SSRN, a more fulsome review of the book, summarized by this abstract:

This is a review of The Destruction of Young Lawyers: Beyond One L by Douglas Litowitz (Akron: University of Akron Press, 2006).

While the book may be a credible (if tiresome) account of Mr. Litowitz's own unhappiness as a law student and large firm new associate, and evidence of the fact there are unhappy lawyers in the world, it overpromotes itself on two counts. Although it is written by a law professor and published by a university press, and makes broad and universal claims about evils in the legal profession, it is largely a slapdash pastiche of hyperbole and anecdote. Nor is it a balanced view of the profession. Rather, it is one man's attempt to transpose his own journey through hopelessness and despair into a universal truth under the patina of scholarship.

Wihender_1I am perhaps slightly less sanguine than others who post on this particularZaringd_1 blog about whether truth necessarily emerges by way of the inductive process from data. Nevertheless I have a healthy respect for good data, and taking careful and thoughtful conclusions from it. What you cannot tell from the abstract is that the review juxtaposes good empirical work by Bill Henderson (Indiana-Bloomington, left) and DavidJ_conley_1 Zaring (Washington & Lee, above right), as well as an interesting piece by John Conley (North Carolina, below right) to which they cite briefly: "How Bad Is It Out There?: Teaching and Learning about the State of the Legal Profession in North
Carolina," 82 N.C. L. Rev. 1943 (2004).

My piece will appear in Hart Publishing's Legal Ethics, of which Brad Wendel (Cornell) is the book review editor.

UPDATE: One of the book's themes is how the unholy cabal of elite law schools and big law firms force law students to keep taking those $160,000 starting salaries to pay off the six-figure student debt. Somebody forgot to tell NYU. Today from Peter Lattman at the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog is a summary of Crain's New York's "The Business of Law Report" which includes:

A Q&A with Joshua Perry, a recent NYU Law grad who took a job as a
public defender in New Orleans. When asked about his law-school debt,
he explained that at $40,000 per year there’s no way to repay a
six-figure debt bill, but NYU has a generous loan repayment program. As
long as Perry stays in the public interest for five years, he says that
NYU picks up his loan debt and making his payments as long as his
salary stays below a certain cap.

(Cross-posted on Legal Profession Blog).


Anonymous Matt said...

My impression is that nearly all of the "top" law schools have debt forgiveness for those who do work in the public interest (or just low paying work.) Often a pretty long-term (5 years seems normal) committment is needed but then either large or complete debt forgiveness is common at the top schools, not just NYU.

2/28/2007 11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

please look up "fulsome" in a dictionary.

2/28/2007 11:43 PM  

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