The Profession

“To Practice Law, Apprentice First” by John J. Farmer, Jr.

Bio: John J. Farmer, Jr.

The following is excerpted from John’s recent piece in New York Times–

“The job market for law school graduates is collapsing; some schools have been misleading, or even fraudulent, in reporting admissions and employment data; tuition and student debt have reached record levels….Nearly half of those who graduated from law school in 2011 did not quickly find full-time, long-term work as lawyers. Yet the need for legal representation has never been greater. In New Jersey, where I teach law, 99 percent of the 172,000 defendants in landlord-tenant disputes last year lacked legal counsel….Nationwide, judges decry not a surplus of lawyers, but a lack of competent representation for those who aren’t rich individuals and corporations….Legal education has not so much failed the profession as mirrored it. Law schools have trained students for a profession that has left a huge part of the public unable to afford representation — especially the middle class — and at a cost that perpetuates the problem….There is a way out. Law schools and the legal profession could restore a vibrant job market by making representation easier to obtain. In doing so, they would revive their historic commitment to the balance between acquiring wealth and promoting civic virtue.”

The following responses are excerpted from letters published by New York Times in response to the foregoing:

“An underpaid apprenticeship scheme would be much better received if it replaced the (largely unnecessary) third year of law school, but don’t hold your breath waiting for law deans to get behind a 33 percent revenue reduction.” ~Dave Silberman, Esq., Guilford, Conn., Feb. 18, 2013 (The writer, a corporate lawyer and 2001 graduate of Columbia University School of Law, still owes approximately $55,000 in law school loans.)

“The law school process is too long, too institutionalized, too expensive and too arrogant.” ~Christopher Denton, Esq. Elmira, N.Y., Feb. 18, 2013

“Apprenticeships, however, should not be limited to litigation and similar court-focused proceedings. Legislative work is legal work.” ~Dakota S. Rudesill, Washington, Feb. 18, 2013 (The writer is a visiting professor and the interim director at the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic of the Georgetown University Law Center.)

“As a student at Central Michigan University who wishes to attend law school, I was told by an adviser, a retired attorney, to avoid getting an internship at a law firm. She said: ‘You will become very good at making photocopies and getting into courthouses, and you will learn nothing of real value. It probably won’t look very good on a résumé, either, because most law schools will know you were just a mule.'” ~Ben Harris, Mount Pleasant, Mich., Feb. 18, 2013


In Declining To Hear A Criminal Case, Justices Rebuke Federal Prosecutor

WASHINGTON D.C. – In a rare and forceful take-down of a Federal prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, devoted a nearly five-page statement to the Government’s racially charged remarks during a Texas drug trial.

“I get accused by defense counsel of, I guess, racially, ethinically profiling people when I asked the question of Mr. Calhour, Okay, you got African-Americans and Hispanics, do you think it’s a drug deal? But there’s one element that’s missing. The money. So what are they doing in this room with a bag full of money? What does your common sense tell you that these people are doing in a hotel room with a bag full of money, cash? None of these people are Bill Gates or computer magnates? None of them are real estate investors.”

From the Court’s special comment:

By suggesting that race should play a role in establishing a defendant’s criminal intent, the prosecutor here tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our nation. There was a time when appeals to race were not uncommon, when a prosecutor might direct a jury to ‘consider the fact that Mary Sue Rowe is a young white woman and that this defendant is a black man for the purpose of determining his intent at the time he entered Mrs. Rowe’s home or assure a jury that I am well enough acquainted with this class of niggers to know that they have got it for the white race in their heart. [citations omitted]

The prosecutor’s comment here was surely less extreme. But it too was pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence, and racial prejudice for reason.

Related: Sotomayor Scolds Prosecutors, New York Times, 2.26.2013