Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Should you really go to law school?

Despite the down economy and big firm layoffs, college students are still beating down the doors of law schools in America. More people — 60,746 — took the most recent LSAT on September 26 than had ever taken the exam before. The number of LSAT takers has been on the rise since 2007, but this is the largest jump since 2001— nearly 20% over last year.




I won't dig into the reasons for this increase too much. (If you are interested, this thorough post on Most Strongly Supported has a good discussion.) But for any person considering law school or a legal career, this is a good excuse to discuss the question of whether you really should go to law school.

There has been a flurry of articles and blawg posts lately about whether a legal education is really a good investment. Vanderbilt Law professor Herwig Schlunk wrote an entertainingly-titled article "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be ... Lawyers," and Paul Caron of TaxProf Blog asserted that "Going to Law School Is Like Starting to Smoke." There's a healthy dose of humor and pessimism in both those pieces, but even the most optimistic observers have to recognize that the legal profession is undergoing a shift that is destroying many of the institutions that made it so lucrative. Aspiring lawyers must now realize that they might not have a job waiting for them when they graduate from law school. And law schools, particularly those in the top tier, have become more like big businesses than halls of learning. While the median income of lawyers increased by 25% from 1987 to 2002, the average law school debt increased 400% over that same period. In 2005, the average graduate of a private law school had $78,000 of debt from law school alone.

Young LDS students considering legal careers should carefully consider these sobering number, in light of Mormon Church advice on avoiding debt. I have heard many people within the Church say that borrowing money is okay for purchasing a home, obtaining an education, and sometimes to purchase a vehicle. But given the housing market collapse and the rising costs of a legal education, students should understand that neither a house nor an education is always a good investment.

While some parts of the country are still under-serviced, there are probably too many people getting into the practice of law. Last month Justice Antonin Scalia commented that he thought that America is "wasting some of our best minds" on lawyering, when other fields lack qualified applicants. After last September's jump in LSAT takers, the ABA Journal took the unusual step of suggesting that applicants "consider the alternatives."

My advice to people considering law school is the same that it has always been. If you are interested in the practice of law, then by all means, pursue it. But if you don't know what to do with your life and you know lawyers can make a lot of money, I think it's a bad decision. I also recommend that future law students find out for themselves whether they will like legal practice. Most law schools will let you sit in on first-year law school classes, and you can volunteer or do internships at legal offices to find out what the practice is really like. It is better to find out early on that you wouldn't really like being a lawyer, and if you do like it, the experience will cement your decision.

This content is cross-posted from LDS Law.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Legal Brief: LDS Church Nondiscrimination, Phoenix Temple Zoning Approved

  • The LDS Church declares its support of nondiscrimination regulations that would extend protection in matters of housing and employment to gays in Salt Lake City. LDS Newsroom
  • Statement from LDS church regarding Salt Lake City's non-discrimination ordinance. Deseret News
  • Phoenix planning commission approves zoning changes for Mormon temple. Fox 10 AZ




  • Neighbor vs. Neighbor over Mormon Temple in Phoenix. Fox 10 AZ

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In response to a commenter

Last month I noticed a lurking commenter on this site that also commented on one of Jeff Breinholt's posts over at Mormon Matters. (Jeff is a DoJ attorney with a superb series of legal posts. If you haven't read his stuff, I highly recommend it.) The commenter identifies himself as Frank Fox, who Jeff named as one of the pro se litigants who has filed multiple spurious lawsuits against the Mormon Church.

I got curious about these cases, and found several opinions dismissing two of Fox's previous lawsuits. The first lawsuit, Fox v. Hawk, was dismissed sua sponte under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6). (Cases filed pro se and in pauperis can be reviewed sua sponte under Hall v. Bellmon.) The Utah District Court gave Fox a chance to amend his Complaint, but the Amended Complaint still failed to state a claim and the case was ultimately dismissed on May 9, 2008.

Fox filed another pro se suit on February 27 of this year in the case Fox v. Eyring. Fox identified Henry B. Eyring as the leader of the Mormon Church, and alleged various claims, including that Eyring and the Church had violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and §1985 and had cyberstalked him. Acting sue sponte, the Utah District Court again found Fox's claims to be baseless and dismissed  the suit for failure to state a claim.

Not easily deterred, Frank G. Fox filed a new case in his home state of Louisiana a mere week after the dismissal of the Eyring case. In Fox v. Tippetts he again alleges civil rights violations by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fox says that the Church hasn't yet responded to the lawsuit, and I haven't seen any of the filings. However, unless Fox's pleadings have improved significantly since Eyring, this case may be doomed to a swift dismissal as well.

My guess is that almost any large institution or public figure continually face spurious lawsuits. In fact, Jeff Breinholt's research seems to show that the Mormon Church faces more than it's fair share of frivolous litigation. But these aren't the sorts of cases that keep the Church Legal Department up at night.