Some skepticism about “UnemployedJD”

Today’s Wall Street Journal Law Blog has an article about the “UnemployedJD” blog of an unemployed law graduate. The website begins “My name is Ethan Haines.” The website features a picture of a trim white male who, according to the website, is on a hunger strike to protest his own unemployment and the unemployment of other law school graduates.

However, according to the WSJ, the website is operated by Ms. Zenovia Evans, who does not in any way resemble the profile of “Ethan Haines.” As reported by USA Today, Ms. Evans chose not to take the July bar exam, chose instead to study abroad in London, and is currently purusing a MBA. USA Today reports that she is not unemployed, but is instead an “independent contractor (which means no benefits) for a personal injury law firm, earning about $600 a week to hone her legal skills.”

UnemployedJD does not disclose where Evans/Haines attended law school. But a web search found a Zenovia Evans who attended the Auburn Hills campus of Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

The particular demands of the Evans/Haines hunger strike are that ten particular law schools provide certain information about the employment of graduates to an organization called Law School Transparency, and that the schools audit their career counseling programs “for effectiveness, resourcefulness, and accuracy.” [LST has no relation to Evans/Haines or the hunger strike.]

According to Evans/Haines, the ten schools to which s/he sent the hunger strike demands were “randomly selected law schools ranked in the Top 100 of the 2010 U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. These schools were selected because they stand to gain the most from keeping the current rankings structure in place.”

The Cooley Law School has been a long-time critic of the US News ranking sytem, which Cooley analogizes to ranking college football teams based on the quality of their freshman recruits, rather than by the results achieved by the teams. Cooley favors an alternative rankings system, under which Cooley scores in the top-20.

According to USA Today, “She says she owes more than $150,000 in loans.” (On the blog, she says that she authorized USA Today to reveal her real name.) Cooley’s current annual tuition is $30,644, with discounts of 25-100% available for students with high LSATs (starting at 149, with an additional 10% discount for Michigan residents).

It does not seem prudent for a person with $150,000 in debt to postpone the bar exam, study in London, and then enroll in a different professional school program.

Haines/Evans does not allege that Cooley Law School misled her in any way, or that Cooley’s Career and Professional Development Office failed to function in a professional and appropriate manner.

Surprisingly, Evans is also the proprietor of the J.D. Lifeline website, which sells a book for pre-law students, and another book for 1Ls. According to J.D. Lifeline, “now is the perfect time to go to law school.”

Regarding the progress of the hunger strike, Evans/Haines writes: “As of today, August 24th, I am officially at the end of the second stage of starvation. I have rejected all food thereby limiting myself to water and fruit juice for the past 12 days. Stage three – where death is highly probable – is in the very near future, but I have yet to receive any communication from law school officials regarding my Notice of hunger strike.  As of today, I have lost 15 pounds! I am at a loss for words…”

Given the near-death situation, one wonders if Ms. Evans is still able to perform her duties effectively at the law firm where she works.

Constant improvement of post-graduation data, and constant improvement of law school career counseling offices are both worthy goals. Certainly there is room for debate about the merits of the US News ranking system versus alternative ranking systems. To me, however, Mr. Haines and Ms. Evans do not appear to be particularly persuasive spokespersons for those causes.