A righteous anger has been seething from the most unlikely and urbane of American institutions. Inside ivy-shaded law schools from Columbia to Berkeley, students facing six-figure debts and zero job prospects are howling that JDs aren't much more than university-approved scams.
Dozens of blogs such as Shilling Me Softly have stirred the wrath, and last month a Boston College student earned headlines by begging his chancellor to give him back his tuition. "It's really just a Ponzi scheme," a Seton Hall law student and blogger named Scott Bullock told the New Jersey Star-Ledger this summer.
The latest sign of law grads' dire straits comes from Coral Gables, where the University of Miami is trying to bolster the grim market for the 350 new lawyers set to graduate next spring by offering their services — for free.
University of Miami School of Law
The program, called the Legal Corps, will place graduating students without job offers at public interest organizations or judicial chambers. The firms and courts will pay nada, while UM will pick up a $2,500 monthly stipend.
"It's great to know that we've got this as a fallback option," says Irma Khoja, a 26-year-old South Florida native who will graduate next spring.
UM's program has earned accolades for its realistic approach. In 2009, the school asked incoming students to consider deferring enrollment for a year and asked would-be lawyers to check their motivations before committing.
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Now, UM is perhaps the first school in the nation to offer its new grads' talents for free to public service-minded firms. The pragmatic message might be tough to stomach, but most law students appreciate it, Khoja says.
"What's great about UM is they're very practical and realistic compared to other schools who see this as just an opportunity to get more applications and more revenue," she says.
Like the vast majority of her classmates, Khoja doesn't have any offers lined up. She won't apply to the Legal Corps unless nothing else materializes — but at least it's there, forestalling any urge to join the ranks of enraged law school bloggers.
"I'm just trying to stay as positive as I can," she says, "because it's the only way to get through the semester."