Education / Schools

Student Loan Bailout.JPGA couple of months ago, it occurred to me that if the government didn’t start tackling the student loan issue, people would simply stop paying off their loans:

The stick is this: nobody is really going to pay you back anyway. Where do you think loan payments rank on a priority list that includes: food, shelter, anti-depressants, and résumé paper?

According to USAToday, that is precisely what is starting to happen:

Student loan defaults are at their highest rate since 1998, and likely will go higher. And though federal student loans offer some payment modification options, private loans are far more onerous, because even filing for bankruptcy rarely wipes out the debt.
Congress might tackle bankruptcy law reform again this year, but it decided as recently as last year not to allow student loans to be easily discharged through bankruptcy filings.

Just to be clear, if you are a financial idiot and you rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt on flat screens and rims, you can get that wiped out in bankruptcy. But if you take out loans to pay for your education, and you can’t get a job because the economy has stopped, the debt will follow you to the grave.
More horror stories that the baby boomers don’t want us to talk about after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Student Loan Bailout: The Choice of a New Generation”

Syracuse College of Law logo.JPGI’ll admit, I’ve never really understood the utility of cheating on a test. Even if you don’t get caught, what have you really gained from getting a couple of extra questions right? A third of a grade? A full grade? It just strikes me as ridiculously hypocritical. If you really care that much about your grades, isn’t it better to just put in the work over the course of the semester? And if you don’t care about your grades, why do you suddenly lose your nerve at the very end?
In any event, I suppose the terrible economy is making a lot of people think creatively about what their transcript will look like when it comes time to find a job. It looks like a spate of cheating scandals has erupted among some New York law schools.
The Syracuse University College of Law is so worried about the problem that it is cracking down on people with weak bladder control:

Students can now use the rest room only once during an exam, which can last four hours, because some are suspected of using cell phones or looking at papers in the bathrooms. Students with medical reasons to use the rest room more often than once per exam must provide medical documentation to a dean.
“During this exam period, we have received a significant number of reports from (first-year) students alleging academic dishonesty,” read an e-mail sent by law school deans to first-year students.

Forty years I been asking permission to piss. I can’t squeeze a drop without say-so.
While Syracuse adopts the Depends Honor Code, Fordham hasn’t decided if it will do anything at all. Details after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Cheaters Never Win, Winners Never Cheat”

Student Loan Bailout.JPGDear President Obama, First Lady Obama, Treasury Secretary Geithner, Education Secretary Duncan:

Hello all. I am writing on behalf of the massive amount of educational debt that I am no longer able to pay. Like so many young Americans, I got into a much better and more expensive school than my family could afford. After being told approximately 5,000,000 times that education was the “silver bullet” that was necessary to live the “American Dream,” I decided to fund my education through various loan programs. At the time, it seemed reasonable.

After I completed my four year degree program, I sadly learned that I wasn’t qualified to do anything particularly interesting. I’m not really good with computers, so creating the web application that simulates blow jobs or farts wasn’t an option for me. Based in part on the advice of nearly every intelligent person I’ve ever met, I decided to double down on the “education” gambit and get a post-graduate degree.

Mind you, I did eventually want to do real work and earn real money for a living, so I didn’t pursue a Ph.D. Instead I opted for a professional degree. A J.D. if you must know.

Once again, I decided to go to the best school that I could get into, instead of the cheapest school I could find. Once again, I received a significant amount of federal aid to accomplish this. At the time, I knew that I was signing myself up for years in a grueling job that I wouldn’t really enjoy, but I understood that there was “no such thing as a free lunch.” I was willing to sacrifice.

But, it looks like America is not holding up her end of the bargain. Please continue reading.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Student Loan Bailout. Just Do It.”

Jeremiah Wright Rev Jeremiah Wright Barack Obama Above the Law blog.jpgThis is slightly off the legal beat. But these days, everyone is talking about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright — including lots of law professors (like Ann Althouse and Glenn Reynolds). And we also know how much you enjoy controversy over commencement speakers, especially at Northwestern University (where Jerry Springer is speaking at the law school’s commencement this year).

So, with those connections in mind, here’s some interesting news from late last week:

In a highly unusual move in the academic world, Northwestern University in suburban Chicago has publicly disinvited the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright from its June commencement ceremonies, where he was to receive an honorary degree.

It’s another indication of the rolling repercussions of the retiring African American pastor’s inflammatory comments on America, 9/11, race relations, the AIDs epidemic and Illinois’ junior senator, Barack Obama.

From Northwestern’s statement:

Dr. Wright was quoted as saying that his invitation to receive an honorary degree was withdrawn by Northwestern President Henry Bienen because Dr. Wright “wasn’t patriotic enough.” If Dr. Wright was quoted accurately, that statement is not true. In his conversation and correspondence with Dr. Wright in March, President Bienen never characterized Dr. Wright’s views or made a judgment about them. The letter said, “In light of the controversy surrounding statements made by you that have recently been publicized, the celebratory character of Northwestern’s commencement would be affected by our conferring of this honorary degree. Thus I am withdrawing the offer of an honorary degree previously extended to you.”

So, readers, any thoughts — on Northwestern’s withdrawn invitation, or on Reverend Wright more generally? Might he have a cause of action against Northwestern arising out of his “dis-invitation”?

(No, we don’t seriously think that. But we’re trying to give this post some connection to the law, however tenuous. And we figured that those of you who are studying for final exams might appreciate the challenge of trying to come up with a legal theory for such a lawsuit. Go ahead — spot those issues!)

Collected Jeremiah Wright coverage [Althouse]

Statement Regarding the Rev. Dr. Wright [Northwestern University]

Jeremiah Wright axed from honorary degree by Northwestern U. [Top of the Ticket / Los Angeles Times]

Clyburn Blasts Wright for ‘Knee-Capping’ Obama [The Trail / Washington Post]

Bully Larry Clark Movie Above the Law blog.jpgThe New York Times is on a bit of a “bully” kick lately — using their “bully pulpit,” if you will. They recently ran this 1100-word article, by Pulitzer Prize winner Dan Barry, about an Arkansas teen who has been subjected to bullying at school for years — sometimes to the point of physical violence. (Gawker glibly summarizes it as a piece about “a random kid, Billy Wolfe, who gets knocked around a lot.”)
Sure enough, it has a legal angle to it:

The Wolfes are not satisfied [with the school's response to their complaints about their son being bullied]. This month they sued one of the bullies “and other John Does,” and are considering another lawsuit against the Fayetteville School District. Their lawyer, D. Westbrook Doss Jr., said there was neither glee nor much monetary reward in suing teenagers, but a point had to be made: schoolchildren deserve to feel safe.

One ATL reader who drew this article to our attention is definitely on the side of the parents: “I’d like to see a post about the tort and criminal aspects of the case. Seems like the school’s gonna get creamed.”
This reader is probably not alone in feeling sympathy for Billy Wolfe. We’d guess that victims of schoolyard bullies are disproportionately represented among the ranks of lawyers, especially lawyers at top law firms. What do revenge-seeking nerds do after high school? They grow up to become lawyers, so they can acquire wealth and power, and lord it over their used-car-selling ex-tormentors at twentieth high school reunions.
But the Times didn’t stop there with its fixation on bullying. A second Times article, in today’s paper, discusses bullying in the workplace. How long before Nick Kristof writes an impassioned column on the subject, after traveling to Arkansas and hanging out with poor Billy for a week?
More discussion, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Bullying and Biglaw: Perfect Together?”

not so fresh feeling Massengill douche douchebag Above the Law blog.jpgHere’s an interesting factoid. According to a quick search we ran over at the Public Library of Law (powered by Fastcase), the word “douchebag” has yet to appear in the pages of F.3d. [FN1]
That may be about to change, if the Second Circuit decides to publish in a case that was just argued. From the AP:

A teen who used vulgar slang in an Internet blog to complain about school administrators shouldn’t have been punished by the school, her lawyer told a federal appeals court…. [Ed. note: an "Internet blog" -- not to be confused with all those Non-Internet blogs.]

Avery Doninger, 17, claims officials at Lewis S. Mills High School violated her free speech rights when they barred her from serving on the student council because of what she wrote from her home computer.

In her Internet journal, Doninger said officials were canceling the school’s annual Jamfest, which is similar to a battle of the bands contest. The event, which she helped coordinate, was rescheduled.

According to the lawsuit, she wrote: “‘Jamfest’ is canceled due to douchebags in central office,” and also referred to an administrator who was “pissed off.”

In the district court proceedings, there was some extensive discussion of the whole d-bag remark:

When [the school board's lawyer] pressed [student council treasurer Pat] Abate on whether he had ever seen the famous douchebag posting, Abate’s responses included: “I haven’t seen it on my computer monitor, I haven’t seen it in my dreams.”

Guess he isn’t very imaginative.

[A lawyer] asked Abate and [senior class vice president Jackie] Evans to define douchebag.

“Stupid, moron, idiot, Abate said.

“Jerks,” Evans said.

Hmm…. They’re in the vicinity, but haven’t hit the definitional g-spot. We respectfully submit that the term “douchebag” carries a stronger sense of condemnation than the terms proffered by Abate and Evans. See (defining “douchebag” as “[s]omeone who has surpassed the levels of jerk and a**hole, however not yet reached f**ker or motherf**ker”). [FN2]
[FN1] Maybe someone with free Westlaw or Lexis access can confirm for us that F.3d is douchebag-free.
[FN2] Alternate definition of “douchebag” from Urban Dictionary: “A student or instructor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.” Well, as long as it’s not the law school….
Update: Thanks, commenters — F.3d is certifiably douchebag-free.
Further Update: Oh wait… As this commenter notes, if you expand the search to include “douche bag” and “douche-bag,” you’ll see that F.3d has been thoroughly defiled.
Appeals Court Weighs Teen’s Web Speech [AP]
Defense Crumbles as Students Weather Cross-Examination [CT News Junkie]
douchebag [Urban Dictionary]
douche commercial [YouTube]

graduation cap gown kid Above the Law blog.jpgIn the comments to our post about Thanksgiving horror stories, an interesting (if somewhat off-topic) discussion developed. It started off with a law student complaining about having to study for final exams over the holiday, to which another commenter responded: Why bother? After a certain point, who cares about your law school grades?
The conventional wisdom is that law school grades don’t really matter after your first year. Once you’ve secured your summer associate gig in the fall of your 2L year, you can pretty much coast, according to this theory. Unless you’re hoping to graduate with honors, snag a feeder judge or Supreme Court clerkship, or become a law professor, you don’t need to worry about your law school transcript (as long as you don’t fail anything or lack sufficient credits to graduate, of course).
But in the comments, some readers suggested otherwise. They claimed that if you want to lateral from one firm to another, the firms you’re applying to may request your transcript and consider your grades. Some suggested that grades even matter in the context of partnership decisions.
Thoughts? If you have an opinion or, better yet, hard information, please provide it in the comments. Thanks.
Earlier: Thanksgiving Horror Stories: Open Thread

Binghamton University Law School Above the Law blog.jpgConsidering the grim job prospects for graduates of non-top-tier law schools, maybe we should be shuttering law schools rather than opening them.
But the trend may be going in the opposite direction. From the National Law Journal:

State University at Binghamton in New York is in the early stages of planning to open a law school, which would be the third public law school in the state.

Binghamton University President Lois DeFleur said that she has been in ongoing talks with State University of New York (SUNY) officials and with the American Bar Association about the school. The proposal would need the approval of state’s education department and the governor.

The other publicly supported law schools in New York are the University of Buffalo, part of the SUNY system, and the City University of New York School of Law at Queens College.

Okay, maybe this wouldn’t be such a horrible idea. First, Binghamton is a well-respected university, so presumably its law school would be strong as well. Second, it would be a public school, with more affordable tuition. So even if its graduates have trouble finding jobs, at least they won’t be six figures in debt.
From a tipster:

There is really no great option for affordable legal education in New York (Buffalo?) and very few options at all outside of NYC (i.e., Cornell). Another thing to consider is that the closest schools to Binghamton (besides Cornell) are Albany and Syracuse, both of which are private schools. So, presumably there would be a market for this school.

Thoughts? To any Binghamton undergrad alums: Would you like your alma mater to launch a law school?
SUNY Binghamton makes a bid to create law school [National Law Journal]

James Sandman James J Sandman Jim Sandman Above the Law Blog.jpgRemember James Sandman? Oh no, you don’t? Well, surely you remember the Arnold & Porter partner’s infamous essay, The High Price of Escalating Associate Salaries, which he wrote while president of the D.C. bar.

Jim Sandman’s article, dishing out harsh criticism of law firm associate pay raises, did not endear him to ATL readers. In a near comments clusterf**k, he was condemned as the greediest of greedy Biglaw partners (along with other epithets not fit for printing here).

Well, maybe Sandman has gotten a bad rap. After all, he was public-spirited enough to serve as president of the D.C. bar. When we met him at this party, one of many charitable functions he attends, he didn’t have horns growing out of his head.

And now we hear that he’s leaving his lucrative partnership, to toil in the considerably less profitable precincts of the D.C. public school system. He’s accepted a position as General Counsel for the District of Columbia Public Schools, and he’ll also be a member of Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s senior leadership team to the DC School Board.

Read the A&P memo announcing Sandman’s departure, from firm chairman Thomas Milch, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Musical Chairs: Jim Sandman Isn’t as Greedy as You Thought”

short bus shortbus special education Washington DC Above the Law blog.jpgWhile you wait for more bonus announcements to trickle in, check out a benchslap from the nation’s capital. The Washington Examiner reports:

Furious over the city’s “stunning ignorance” of the crisis facing its special-education system, a federal judge has given the District of Columbia one week to come up with a cost-fixing schedule — or face contempt charges.

In an unusually caustic order, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman has ordered State Superintendent Deborah L. Gist and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to come up with a policy for setting rates with the thousands of private schools and vendors with which it does business.

Judge Friedman had especially harsh words for the city’s counsel:

“The defendants’ response demonstrates a stunning ignorance of the history of [the] litigation and the operative orders issued by this court,” the judge wrote. “The only plausible explanation is that the attorneys whose names appear on the signature page … must not have read it. …”

Lighten up, Your Honor. Lots of people sign stuff they didn’t draft, or even read. They’re called partners.
(And reading court filings is overrated. Just ask Chief Judge Jacobs.)
Judge sets deadline for special ed plan [Washington Examiner]
Earlier: Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs: Not Running for Student Body President

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