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The “scam blogger” movement is more than a thorn in the side of law school administrators, a recent academic paper argues — it is playing an important role in the evolution of the legal profession. Lucille Jewel, an associate professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School, argues that scam bloggers have raised legitimate questions about the law school system, and have reached a broad audience by gaining the attention of mainstream news outlets. Jewel is convinced that they’ve helped push law schools into improving the accuracy of their reports on their graduates’ job prospects. “I think they make a compelling argument,” Jewel said in an interview. “Most law schools continue to spin this story of, ‘Come to law school. Sure, you’ll take out loans, but it will all be worth it in the end when you enter this noble profession.’ But here you have a large percentage of recent graduates who are disgruntled and questioning the value of their law degree.” Scam bloggers are law school graduates who take to the Internet to trash law schools for what they see as a scam of exacting high tuition for the privilege of competing for too few available legal jobs. Jewel surveyed the phenomenon in “You’re Doing It Wrong: How the Anti-Law School Scam Blogging Movement Can Shape the Legal Profession,” published by the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology. Jewel said she decided to research the scam blog movement because it represents a new way to view the law school system — one that has resonated well beyond the relatively small world of legal education. Newspapers including USA Today and The New York Times covered scam blogs during 2010. “With the scam blogging movement, a small set of underemployed or unemployed attorneys — not the type of lawyers who would normally be listened to with respect to ideas for reforming an aspect of the profession — harness the power of the Internet to argue for changes in the way that law schools market themselves,” she wrote. Scam blogging first emerged in 2009 and gained momentum in 2010. These days, more than 20 blogs often interlink with one another. Their denunciations of the law school system can be jarring to legal professionals, who are accustomed to culture of restraint and deference, Jewel wrote. Their blogs, with names such as Third Tier Toilet and Subprime J.D., rarely mince words. They feature graphics showing overflowing toilets and stories of humiliating job experiences, but their blunt tactics are no reason to dismiss their arguments, Jewel concluded. “This article ultimately concludes that the legal profession will be strengthened by the new arguments and ideas entering online from the profession’s sidelines,” Jewel wrote. “Thus, we should, to a certain extent, relax our professional norms and allow these arguments to take shape.” It’s difficult to gauge the effect the scam blogger movement has had on the larger debate over the transparency of law school employment data. The American Bar Association recently moved to require law schools to report more detailed job information in its annual questionnaire. However, that push involved a number of more traditional advocates, including law professors and Law School Transparency, a nonprofit group formed by two former Vanderbilt University Law School students. Still, no one can argue the scam bloggers haven’t been noticed, Jewel wrote: “Despite its nontraditional approach, the scam blogging movement has had a palpable effect on the debate of an important issue facing the legal profession.”

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