Law Schools

After going through this week’s entries for Comment of the Week, it seems that many of our commenters really want an Above the Law T-shirt. There was some stiff competition (what up, Richard Brosner?), but in the end, we decided to address a topic that’s germane to anyone who has taken out a loan to attend law school.

Over Labor Day weekend, the New York Times had an interesting article about the apparent “ease” with which one can get student loan debt discharged through bankruptcy. And by “ease,” we mean that there’s a whopping 39% chance that you’ll receive a full or partial discharge, but only if you can show that you’re a lost cause to society without any semblance of dignity or hope for the future. Easy, right?

Well, actually, yeah. Because when you’ve got six figures of law school loan debt hanging over your head for a degree that you thought was going to be marketable and you’ve resigned yourself to a job as a sandwich artist at Subway just to make a buck, you’re going to lose hope pretty quickly.

And that’s exactly why our Comment of the Week was just so damn appropriate….

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I’m telling you folks, the message is starting to filter through about law schools. The education costs so much and the job prospects are so uncertain for new lawyers that people are finally starting to understand that getting a J.D. is not the kind of bankable asset that it used to be.

It’s filtering through to students. But most importantly, it’s starting to filter through to parents. Raise your hand if you are in law school now because Mommy or Daddy thought it would be “good for you” to “get serious” about something. (Wait, don’t literally raise your hand, you might get called on… oh, sorry. Just say something about how the case holding “seems to contradict, at least in part” the holding from the last case you read. That’s always the right answer.)

As I was saying, it’s parents who think that law is the kind of professional enterprise that will guarantee their children good, stable incomes. Armed with this (incorrect) information, they often push their children into legal careers that their kids never wanted.

But that’s all starting to change, and today’s example of that change is Theresa Brenner. She’s decided to “postpone” making a decision about going to law school. Instead, she’s going to drive the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. And her parents are supporting her decision.

She’s having second thoughts, but I think we can all clearly see that driving around in a car shaped like a hot dog is a FAR SUPERIOR career choice than going to law school in this market at these prices….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Girl Postpones Law School To Drive A Wiener: Good Call or GREAT Call?”

Now that classes are back in session, I really hope some professor at Cardozo Law School pulls Benula Bensam aside and tells her that her keeping the story about her passing notes to Judge Jed Rakoff (S.D.N.Y.) alive is probably not helping her chances of securing a legal job.

You’ll remember Bensam as the student who got reprimanded for passing notes to Judge Rakoff during the Rajat Gupta trial. She went on to sue federal prosecutors and marshals for a number of claims arising out of largely standard courthouse security protocols. As we’ve previously discussed, upon leaving the courthouse Bensam wanted her cell phone back and had problems getting it.

Judge Andrew L. Carter (S.D.N.Y.) kicked most of Bensam’s case today, but he did give her leave to file an amended complaint on one issue.

For her sake, I hope she doesn’t take it…

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One of the things I said at orientation this year — straight out — is, ‘If you’re in here, you know what the job market is, you know what debt you’re piling up, and you need to make a decision.’ Don’t hesitate. If you’re not sure you have a passion for the law, do a re-evaluation in the first days so you can have your money back. We don’t want to take your money.

Donald J. Guter, dean and president at South Texas College of Law, explaining the school’s policy of giving new students about ten days after orientation to drop out and receive a tuition refund.

(If you know your law school’s tuition refund policy, feel free to note it in the comments.)

‘Which one of you is special?’

Today, the ATL Career Center launches its latest feature: a Pre-Law section, featuring ratings, inside info, and expert advice on law schools, LSAT prep, and the application process. Check it out here.

While law school applications continue to decline and legal jobs are scarce, the business of discouraging people from going to law school is positively booming. There is a mountain of data which would seemingly dissuade anyone from taking on massive debt only to then leap into the clogged toilet of this job market. (And yet, see this compelling analysis that now is actually a great time to apply to law school, especially for lower scoring applicants.)

But what about future law students — are the 0Ls getting these gloomy memos? And how is it shaping their choices?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of BluePrint’s summer students studying for the October 2012 LSAT. We had nearly 600 respondents. Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0Ls’ perception of the legal landscape, including the realities of financing a law school education and the current state of the legal job market.

After the jump, see some of what we could glean from the 0L mind, including a striking disconnect between the “job market” and a “career path”….

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* When in doubt, seek divine guidance and bet it all on black. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is going to be visiting Las Vegas this week, where he will attend a Red Mass and then head for the Strip. [Reno Gazette-Journal]

* After being limited on page length, a licensing expert opted to file a five-page cartoon brief in the Apple e-book case. This dude can retire, because he’s achieved legal baller status. [Bloomberg]

* James Hayes’s lawsuit over ICE’s alleged federal “frat house” has been sent to mediation for a possible settlement — but in real Greek life, he likely would’ve been peer pressured to de-pledge. [Washington Post]

* Bull’s-eye! Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack has recused himself from a personal injury case where he was alleged to have called a Cozen O’Connor partner a “piece of sh*t.” [New York Law Journal]

* The case of the missing asterisk: an Ohio Court of Appeals candidate was fined for wearing judge’s robes in her campaign flyers because she failed to indicate her judicial status or lack thereof. [National Law Journal]

* How much does it cost to cover up and then begrudgingly deal with a child sex abuse scandal? The tab thus far for Penn State University is about $17M — $4M of which went to legal services and defense. [CBS News]

* Despite Villanova Law’s admissions scandal, the dean reports that the school has admitted its “highest-quality” class ever. You know it’s hard to believe anything you say about your data, right? [Philadelphia Inquirer]

Investing in rims is a safer bet than investing in law school.

Occasionally, people will tell me that the calculus for attending law school is different for African-Americans than it is for any other kind of American. The proponents of this theory (and people who believe this come from all races) start with the objective fact that African-Americans are underrepresented as members of the bar. They view that as a social injustice that contributes to the fact that African-American clients are underserved by the legal community.

From those two appropriate concerns, these guys then see that the obvious solution is that more black people should apply to law school. And so they then make up reasons for why applying to law schools is somehow an especially good idea for black people. As if the fact that there’s a laudable social end magically changes the math of the law school decision.

But the social ends do not justify the economic means. Poor black people need lawyers, they don’t need more poor black people who became poor by going to law school.

Now, I’m all for racial diversity, but I fail to see the social good of encouraging black people to make ruinous financial decisions just because they are underrepresented in the group of people making this particular stupid purchase. I wouldn’t say to a bunch of white people, “You know, you really need to buy expensive rims for your car on credit. No money down!”

Sorry, that might be an inapposite analogy: rims are at least shiny and accomplish their stated goal of providing bling for your ride. A J.D. can’t even be used to adorn a car.

As I said, I’ve heard this terrible argument before, but rarely as boldly as from the associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Law. Her version of the argument seems more like an attempt to cause active harm to the black community by taking advantage of those who don’t have enough information.

This falsehood that law school is somehow a “better” bet for African-Americans must be stopped, right here, right now….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Dean Gives Worst Advice Advice To Minorities Since Someone Told Native Americans To Have A Drink”

I’ve said countless times that discharging student debts through bankruptcy is nearly impossible because you must make a showing of “undue hardship.”

Showing undue hardship is a very high bar, and it takes a very long time. Prospective law students don’t really understand the difference between student loan debt and something like credit card debt until it’s way too late. And even when it’s too late, most people (and many lawyers) feel that it’s not even worth trying to convince a bankruptcy judge that a person holding a J.D. has the “certainty of hopelessness” required to get student debts discharged.

But an article this weekend in the New York Times suggested that more people should give “undue hardship” a whirl. Sure, the guy the Times chose to feature is freaking blind, but even absent a physical disability, the article suggests that undue hardship might be a real possibility for most people.

Hey, it doesn’t hurt to try. At least, it hurts less than the likely plan B of stabbing out your own eyes….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Can You Show ‘Undue Hardship’ On Your Student Loans? You May Be Surprised.”

‘This herpes thing is less embarrassing than my 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian.’

* Want to know what they call the Supreme Court attorney who deals with requests for stays of execution? The death clerk. Paging John Grisham, because this guy’s nickname would make a great book title. [New York Times]

* “If you’re going to sue, it’s better to sue earlier rather than later.” Probably why battleground states like Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are in a tizzy over their election laws. [Washington Post]

* WikiLeaks or it didn’t happen: Bradley Manning’s lawyer has demanded that seven years be cut from his client’s prospective sentence due to allegations of improper treatment while in military custody. [The Guardian]

* Michigan Law’s Sarah Zearfoss, she of Wolverine Scholars fame, finds media coverage about the awful job market for recent law grads “really frustrating.” Try being unemployed. [Crain's Detroit Business (reg. req.)]

* Kris Humphries is being sued for allegedly giving a girl herpes. But alas, the plaintiff seems to have no idea who actually gave her the herp — four John Doe defendants are identified in the complaint, too. [Star Tribune]

* “Given the police idiocy, one wonders where the boobs really are.” A nude model who was arrested during a body-painting exhibition in Times Square won a $15K false-arrest settlement from the cops. [New York Post]

Angelica Cecora

Ed. note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow. A restful and happy Labor Day to all!

* The lone ex-Dewey partner who was sued by Citibank for defaulting on his capital loan is fighting back, claiming that he was “fraudulently induced” into signing up for the plan even though the bank knew that the S.S. D&L was sinking. [Reuters]

* If you’re trying to avoid additional questions being raised about your alleged bad behavior, a resignation amid scandal isn’t the way to do it. Suzanne Barr, the ICE official accused of running a federal “frat house,” has quit her job. [New York Daily News]

* A federal judge taught the members of the Louisiana Supreme court that the year 1994 did, in fact, occur before the year 1995. Justice Bernette Johnson will now ascend to the rank of chief justice. [Times-Picayune]

* Because we’re all a little hopeless these days: given the bleak realities of our economic situation, perhaps it’s finally time to change the standard for a discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy. [New York Times]

* “The groups that attempt to rank schools are involved in a lot of hogwash.” Even if that’s the case, people are still going to care about the University of Illinois’s rankings nosedive after the Paul Pless to-do. [News-Gazette]

* Don’t be scared by the absurd tuition rates or the abysmal job prospects, because law school is still a great investment for African-Americans — and for law schools in search of diversity, too. [National Law Journal]

* “[T]hat a lawyer would take this kind of case is shocking.” Sadly, it’s not. Angelica Marie Cecora, the alleged escort who filed a $5M suit against Oscar de la Hoya, now has to pay all of his legal fees. [New York Post]

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