Corporate Top Law Schools in the United States are designed to operate as factories that produce Widgets for American corporations. The Widgets they produce are indebted young adults armed with JDs and little legal skills.
This is the purpose of the so-called T14 law schools: to manufacture JD-ers or Widgets (not lawyers) for corporations.
And here’s how the manufacturing process works:
Step 1: Debt + Deceive + Deprive of skills
Step 2: Produce a Crop of JD-ers (Widgets) with Limited Freedom and Options
Step 3: Insert Widget into the Corporate Machine
Step 1 — Debt, Deceive, Deprive
- DEBT: You pump up the price of tuition so high that it damn near guarantees every student will be in red hot debt upon graduating school (T14 Schools cost about $60,000 per year, just in tuition)
- DEBT: You persuade your mostly financially illiterate soon-to-be student-widgets to take on loan bombs to finance the high price of law school. You teach them nothing of the scary consequences of compounding interest.
- DEBT: You force your student-widgets into an arbitrary three year incubation period, which means you force them into about $180,000 in tuition alone (not including cost of living, which can be through the roof too).
- DECEIVE: You blind your incoming class of student-widgets to the debt load by selling them on high-minded ideals: Law school is the vehicle through which you’ll change the world.
- DEPRIVE: You then deprive your student-widgets of practical skills, legal or entrepreneurial, so they’re not useful upon graduating. It’s widely known law school education does a poor job at equipping student-widgets with actual lawyering skills. This is key. Because The Corporation does not want its Widgets armed with the freedom, agency and depth that skills and no debt provide. The Corporation doesn’t want this outcome because it makes it easier for the Corporation to mold their Widgets into specialized technicians to do subsequent corporate bidding.
- DEPRIVE & DECEIVE: And you justify this deprivation by claiming law school is where you learn to “think like a lawyer.” (Which isn’t true. Law school teaches you how to think like a Law Professor, not a lawyer.) And you give your student-widgets a subtle wink wink assurance that this deprivation is worth being subject to because you’re in a named brand school.
Step 2—Produce Widgets with Limited Freedom & Options
- Student-widgets are smart and at some point early on in the incubation, even if they had public interest intentions, realize the only jobs that’ll 1) pay off their nightmarish debt in a reasonable amount of time and 2) tolerate minimal legal skills is a corporate law slash Biglaw job.
- In other words, student-widgets come face to face with the fact they are going to lack serious freedom and options when they graduate from the Factory because that’s what the combination of compounding debt and a weak skill set does: It limits your freedom and optionality in life. The student-widget comes to terms with the fact they’ve been trapped by the Corporate Law School System, and are all but forced to serve The Corporation.
- What’s more, by the time student-widgets have their come to moment, pressure to secure internships for 1L and 2L summers is building up. And as they’re under this pressure, the Factory campus has been conveniently bombarded with Biglaw firms because Biglaw has a tight relationship with the Factory. Biglaw firms have an overwhelming presence during OCI (on-campus interviewing). They’re the main legal employer option at OCI. And so when the student-widget is facing limited freedom and options and Biglaw is dangling a six-figure salary in front of his face, what chance does he have to escape The Machine?
- While student-widgets could escape and bail at the prospect of their imminent subscription to peonage (slavery to debt) and corporate servitude, they often fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy and continue to drudge along, accepting the raping that is compounding student interest loans. They also often fall victim to the “well, this is how it’s always been done mentality.” Which in fact isn’t true. The original method of becoming a lawyer in the U.S was by reading the law or legal apprenticeship. Ask Abraham Lincoln how he became a lawyer.
Step 3—Insert Widget into The Corporate Machine
- You complete the manufacturing process by graduating the student-widget with heavy debt and light legal skills. You turn the student-widget into a JD-er (a Widget).
- And plug the Widget into a job representing the interests of The Corporation.
That is how the Corporate T14 Law School System works.
Of course, not all student-widgets follow this sick cycle. Some stick to their public interest guns and sign up for sketchy and unreliable loan forgiveness programs. Some find ways to lower Factory costs through scholarships and work. Some wisen up and opt to become lawyers by Legal Apprenticeships or ditch law altogether for other careers.
But many, if not most, T14 law student-widgets don’t take alternative routes. They get stuck. And they end up getting sucked away by the aggressive currents of the Corporate Top Law School System. And these currents are strong.
You might be thinking: but what if I enter Biglaw, serve The Corporation for several years to lower my debt load, and then move on to a more enlightened legal career?
This is the oft-purported game plan you hear from law student-widgets: Pay your corporate dues and then migrate to greener pastures. And if executed according to plan, it’s not the worst idea.
However, things usually don’t work out this way. Your chances of remaining a cog in The Corporate Machine, that is, becoming The Machine, are high. Because The Corporation designs the system to stack the odds in its favor. The Corporation understands there’ll be slippage due to a few Widgets defecting to other careers. But it knows defections are a small cost of doing business. Enough Widgets remain cogs and keep The Machine humming.
This system design is in part how The Corporation further strengthens its stranglehold on American culture, government, and business: The Corporation, thanks to the Corporate Top Law School System, prevent smart, ambitious individuals from pursuing careers that’ll challenge its power. And the system is fueled by debt.
This is an unfortunate state of affairs for society because T14 JD-ers have a lot of potential. They could go on to do big things and solve important problems the world needs solving (like fighting against the revolving door and the power corporations have over politicians). But many don’t get the opportunity to work on important problems because they get subsumed by The Machine. If anything, it’s likely the Widget deludes himself, as a self-preservation technique, into thinking mergers and acquisitions and squashing antitrust lawsuits are “important” problems. These are not important problems.
Yes, some JD-ers escape the corporate manufacturing process, beat to their own drum, and chart their own inspiring path. But not enough.
Here’s a Pro Tip: the key to not getting getting trapped by the Corporate Top Law School System is to not have any debt. If you have no debt, your options in life explode.
Which means, if you’re committed to law school, you might consider delaying your studies and saving your tuckus off so you can avoid the Great Debt Trap. Even if that means delaying for a decade. Or if you’re committed to being a lawyer — not necessarily a law student — you might consider Reading The Law. That is, bypassing the Corporate Law School System altogether and becoming a lawyer by Legal Apprenticeship.