The New York Times reports that law schools in the US, smarting from the collapse of the job market for lawyers, are establishing law firms so they can hire their graduates and give them something to do.
For a minute there, I thought the legal profession was actually going to break precedent and do some real charity work. [Please don't tell me lawyers do pro bono work. Very few do, and when they do, it is a paltry amount of time. A judge had the audacity to recommend that new lawyers do 50 hours of pro bono work before being allowed to take the bar exam in New York. That's about 6 days of work per year. A law blog called it "indentured servitude."]
But the article mentioned that the legal services provided will not be free. in fact, the plan for the Arizona project "is to charge $125 an hour in an area where the going hourly rate is $250." That's not exactly analogous to the way a teaching hospital works.
By what criterion is $125 per hour "relatively low cost"? Oh, I think I've got it. That's relatively low cost for legal fees. Of course, lawyers know how make up for low hourly fees. According to another New York Times piece, it called padding the bill or "churning." One expert commented that "churning, while not endemic, is an insidious problem in the legal profession."
A lawyer for a firm that is being sued for overbilling of hours allegedly worked said in an email to a colleague, “Now Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard ‘churn that bill, baby!’ mode,” Mr. Thomson wrote. “That bill shall know no limits.”
So the idea of law schools setting up graduates in business reminds me of a joke.
Back in the late 19th century, a lawyer moved to one of the many new towns springing up in the West. He was the first and only lawyer. For a year, he had nothing to do and nearly starved to death.
Then another lawyer came to town.