Art, Law Schools, Reader Polls, Student Loans

ATL Debate: Should This Graduate Of A Top Law School Solicit Donations To Pay Off His Student Loan Debt?

Chris Danzig here. If you read Above the Law, well, ever, you know that we are deeply concerned about the burden of law school loan debt facing many young lawyers. The general consensus at ATL — vocalized most frequently by Elie and Staci, who each have firsthand experience with six-figure loan debt — is to avoid law school entirely, or at least know what you’re getting yourself into (and STFU when bill collectors come calling).

Occasionally, we hear about unusual approaches to dealing with debt that are undertaken by entrepreneurial — or outrageously bold, depending on your perspective — lawyers or law students. Crowdsourcing seems to be one of the new strategies.

Today, we heard from a 30-year-old graduate of an elite law school who is still living with his parents. He has turned to the internet for help paying off his loans.

I think he may be onto something, but my colleague Staci doesn’t exactly agree….

Meet Nick, a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. He has six figures in loans to pay off, no legal career to speak of, and a burning desire to be an artist. Here’s the video from Save Nick, his IndieGogo page. (There’s a textual summary below, if you can’t watch at work.)

Here’s what Nick says about himself:

When I was 22, I borrowed over $160,000 to attend law school. Halfway through, my girlfriend’s suicide forced me to reevaluate my life, and I finally found the courage to admit what I had known all along: I belonged in the arts.

Despite having worked consistently since graduation – albeit not in a legal capacity – I’m crippled by student loans. At this rate, I’ll be living with my parents well into my 40s.

That’s where you come along.

But this isn’t just some high-tech panhandling. This is 21st century street busking. In return for your generosity, I will create – movies, music, stories, pictures, poems – and do so specifically for you, with more spectacular and involved works going to those more giving (see perks on the right).

In addition, to help fight suicide, I will donate 10% of my proceeds to Active Minds, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention and mental health education among college students.

CHRISTOPHER DANZIG

The story of Nick’s girlfriend’s suicide is incredibly sad. At the same time, I don’t think it’s exactly relevant — people are allowed to change their minds and choose to pursue lives that make them happy. A “come to Jesus” moment can happen because of a serious tragedy or because you simply wake up one day and realize your priorities are totally out of whack. Nick probably should have quit law school as soon as he realized he had no interest in practicing law, but taking that plunge is still scary.

Here’s why I have no problem with Nick’s proposition: he’s not just begging for donations (and, in fact, a chunk of the donations he receives will get passed right along to a suicide prevention organization, so his plan is not entirely self-interested to begin with). He’s still putting in work — and it’s working towards the goal of his new artistic career. And this happens all the time. Kickstarter has been massively successful in helping aspiring musicians, authors, designers, etc. find customers willing to pay for their creations.

(Honestly, I don’t even have a problem with law students asking for donations. No one is forcing anyone to help out. Undignified? Maybe, but if someone wants to give to charity, who am I to stop them?)

That said, I’m not sure Nick will find a particularly sympathetic audience among the lawyerly readers here at ATL. Many of our readers are also hurting financially — or perhaps secretly dreaming of becoming painters or global dog-walkers themselves.

Let’s see why Staci thinks I’m a big softie….

STACI ZARETSKY

Hold on a second while I get out my bitch-slapper. Okay, I’m ready now.

Here’s why: because Nick brought this upon himself, and he should deal with the repercussions of his own decisions the same way — by himself.

I’d really love to know why some people think that things should just be handed to them, when everyone else has to suffer and bend over backwards to do the exact same thing. For every “Nick” out there creating IndieGogo pages in the hopes of SOMEONE ELSE paying off their law school debt, there are hundreds who are doing it by themselves, without any help from anyone.

Nothing in life is easy, except taking advantage of suckers on the internet — and maybe that’s why Nick (and everyone else, and their mother, and their dog) thinks that ideas like this will work.

Nick had every opportunity to end his financial suffering and quit law school. Why the HELL didn’t he do it? When you’re dealing with the potential for a six-figure debt load, you’ve got to sh*t or get off the pot. But unfortunately for Nick, he must’ve been constipated. If he realized during his third semester of law school that he had absolutely no desire to be a lawyer, why didn’t he just cut the cord? It surely couldn’t have been due to embarrassment. (Let’s face it, the guy’s offering to tattoo himself for some cash; he clearly has no shame.)

Perhaps he should look at this as a form of punishment. Paying off $145K of debt that he acquired in the pursuit of a degree that he didn’t even want should be more than enough to teach him that he ought to be more careful with his money. Keep your money, and let him deal with his crushing debt obligations on his own.

On the bright side, at least Nick has some additional street cred with the ladies: being a starving artist is way cooler than being a struggling lawyer.


Readers, you’ve heard both sides of the argument. What do you think? Take our poll below, and don’t forget to share your advice in the comments.

Should this kid solicit donations to pay off his loan debt?

  • No. (60%, 709 Votes)
  • Yes. (40%, 466 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,174

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Save Nick from Living with His Parents until He’s 40 [IndieGogo]

Earlier: Incoming UVA Law Student Asks for Tuition Donations
Small Firm Lawyers Balk at ASU 3L’s Request for Sponsorship

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