Law Schools, Student Loans

Man Joins Army To Pay Off Law School Loans

I see debt relief, just over that hill.

Any time the punishment for going to your law school involves a graduate essentially “taking the black” and joining the U.S. Army to escape his crushing debt burdens, you have to be really proud of the value offered by your institution.

The quote from University of St. Thomas Law School graduate Thomas McGregor neatly sums up everything that recent law graduates are facing in this legal economy: “I paid off $108,000 of law school loan debt. All I had to do was put my life on the line.”

Parents, take note of such stories the next time you pressure your kids to go to law school and “get a real job”…

McGregor’s story seems extreme only because he actually did something about his large debt/no job situation, instead of just defaulting on his loans. Instead of sticking the taxpayers with the bill — and living in a credit score out of a horror movie — he fought for the rights and freedoms of the taxpayers, and in the process, battled his way back from financial ruin. From CNNMoney:

McGregor graduated from law school in May 2008, passed the Minnesota state bar and was sworn in as an attorney in late October.

He was convinced he’d get a “good job right away,” circulating his resume and taking an unpaid internship at a legal aid clinic. Later that year, he went back to work for his family’s roofing distribution business, where he had worked every summer for 13 years.

He was licensed to practice law, but he was driving a forklift and managing roofing material orders for $15 an hour, no benefits.

“I’d load up the pick-up truck or unload returns, it was pretty much manual labor,” he said. And his $1,200 a month student loan bills began to pile up….

“I was just being realistic. I’d be paying those loans off forever and I knew interest compounding would make (the total) go up,” McGregor said. “I couldn’t think of any better options.”

This brother is made of sterner stuff than me. I like meeting my financial obligations (now). But I also like having arms and legs. I can only applaud McGregor’s bravery and logic.

But I can also ask if we should really be living in a world where people feel pressed into military service because the University of St. Thomas is allowed to charge whatever it wants while qualifying its graduates to drive forklifts. McGregor’s story is kind of fun and awesome because he’s alive. If he were dead, it’d be another tragedy. (It’s a tragedy, of course, that we have any Americans in harm’s way fighting wars that should have ended ages ago.) Law school is something you do because you want to work in the safety of an office. It’s not something that you think will lead you to fighting in Afghanistan and, more to the point, it’s not supposed to be something that leaves you broke and driving a forklift.

AND YOU KNOW ST. THOMAS LAW SCHOOL IS COUNTING THIS GUY AS EMPLOYED! McGregor’s story should be a red flag for prospective law students all across Minnesota, but somehow it’s not going to look that way, statistically.

Thank God McGregor didn’t end up as another statistic:

He was only required to be active in the Army three years, but he liked it so much that he stayed. When he leaves the Army, he’ll be subject to be recalled for eight years, if the Army needs him.

He said he has no regrets.

“Joining the Army is something people can only decide for themselves,” he said. “It was a great opportunity. . . I don’t think any other job would be close to this.”

By and large, I’m in awe of the people who serve. If the people who ran law schools had one-tenth of the honor and professionalism of our military, we probably wouldn’t be in this mess.

I risked my life to pay off $108,000 in student loans [CNNMoney]

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