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From J.D. to Food Stamps: The Personal Cost of Going to Law School

There’s really no better expression of how law school can be a horrible financial decision than the story of a J.D. holder on welfare.

Usually, those stories involve a person who is mentally challenged in some way, or somebody who developed a hardcore drug or alcohol problem. A law degree obviously cannot protect you from all of life’s atrocities.

But the thought is that a practicing attorney of sound mind and body can earn enough to stay off of public assistance.

Or should I say “myth.” Law schools are very interested in taking your money, but they’re less interested in helping you find a job at the end of your journey.

Here’s one graduate’s sad, sad story. The only thing he did wrong was go to law school. Now, he’s qualified for food stamps….

We received this story from a recent graduate of Northeastern University School of Law:

I went to Northeastern University School of Law. I worked my ass off at a school that did not give out real grades. The joke is/was on me. I took and passed [two state] bar exams. [I now work] 40-50 hours a week at a law firm that pays me a $1000/month stipend. I work a second job serving drinks at a comedy club on the weekends. And the icing: I’ve just qualified for food stamps. I’ve got over $200k in law school student loan debt. The career services office at my school has no advice for me. I network everyday, writing emails after work and making calls on my 30 minute lunch break. No one has a job for someone that comes from a shitty law school that did not even see fit to give its students grades. No, I did not know Northeastern did not give grades when I applied. And no, I did not thoroughly research how important it was to go to a high ranking law school.

Yeah, maybe Yale and Stanford can get away with not having grades, but at a school like Northeastern, it’s a more challenging proposition.

Obviously this guy could (and should) have done more research before going to law school. But should we really allow law schools to do this to people without even basic consumer protection? Haven’t we learned that letting institutions bait people into taking on huge debts really isn’t good for the economy?

Money is something we can objectively quantify. But you can’t really calculate the cost Northeastern exacted on this person’s spirit:

Before I went to law school, I was full of potential. Now, I can’t even get paid a living wage. I have more debt than I’ll ever be able to pay off and Northeastern simply counts the dollars rolling in while relying on federal loan forgiveness programs to deal with the graduates. Northeastern, and schools like it, have absolutely no incentive to prepare its students for a career. Its a cash cow for those professors who thought they would like to work 5 hours a week for their six figure salaries and provide the university at large with a prestigious addition.

I’m so fucked I don’t even want to get out of bed. I hate my life. I can’t change any of it. I’m stuck. Its not all Northeastern’s fault. Its probably mostly my fault. But Northeastern said the job prospects were in the 90%s. Not true. Never was.

Again, nobody is asking law schools to “guarantee” a happy life to their graduates. People just want law schools to be honest about the challenges of making it in the legal profession and living with six figures of debt BEFORE they start taking people’s money.

My advice for this recent graduate and people in his situation is to keep your head up. The debt feels bad, and lots of people will try to make you feel bad about it, but you can live a happy life with a ruined credit situation. Maybe the comedy club thing will work out.

You can recover from a bad decision in your twenties. Just keep your head up and be on the lookout for new opportunities.

Earlier: Kids, Get High Off Drugs, Not Debt. It’s More Fun And People Are Nicer To You When It’s Time To Recover.
Student Loan Debt: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Not Even Bankruptcy Will Make Your Student Loans Go Away

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