Law Schools

Is this law student a spy?

At this year’s Emory Law School commencement, Professor Sara Stadler urged graduates to think outside the box with respect to their career options: “You might not be able to land that [top-choice] job…. You might have to move to Nebraska.… You might have to join a small firm where they don’t make the big bucks.”

Or you might have to… become a spy in the Middle East? Emory law student Ilan Grapel has been detained in Egypt, by authorities who allege that he is a “highly trained” spy working for Israel.

Ilan Grapel is… pretty cute. Is he a spy?

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On Thursday night, I tried to explain the ups and downs of living your life under constant threat from debt collectors. Based on the reaction to the post, I have to say that the reading comprehension of my post was poor, even by “internet commenter” standards. Even Megan McArdle in The Atlantic missed some of the key points in my post.

Mostly, I blame myself. When that many people gloss over things in your post, chances are you didn’t make things clear enough. So allow me to correct that problem now. This time, I’ll use capital letters and aggressive fonts to make sure we’re all on the same page: when it comes to negotiating down your educational debts for less than the principal, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT FEDERAL LOANS. You should never, ever mess around with your federal debt because Uncle Sam ALWAYS GETS HIS MONEY.

Are we clear?

McArdle also claims that she doesn’t know anybody who successfully negotiated down their student debts with their lenders (missing again my point that my debts had already been sold to a collection agency). McArdle’s skepticism sounds to me like a person who goes to a car dealership, pays sticker price, and then wonders why everybody was high-fiving the dealer as she drives off the lot.

But these factual issues are not what interested me about McArdle’s post. What I found interesting was the subtle scorn she (and many commenters) had for those who do not pay back their debts. I should have included that scorn in my list of things that happen when you default on your loans…

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Are you ready for some change? We’re about to see if two organizations worth about a quarter when it comes to regulating law schools can add up to a dollar’s worth of law school transparency. The American Bar Association has adopted new reporting standards for law school graduate employment data.

And at least for the first year of the new standards the ABA will be partnering with the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) to try to get accurate post-graduate employment data to prospective law students.

Let’s hope the ABA and NALP take their talents to the U.S. News law school rankings…

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Earlier this week, a tipster wrote to us: “The University of Chicago Law School is suffering from a problem not too different from the one that Antoine Dodson and his neighbors suffered not too long ago.”

Chicago is a long way from Huntsville, Alabama, and the University of Chicago Law School is a long way from the housing projects of Lincoln Park (no, not that Lincoln Park). But the tipster is right: both places have been the site of rape allegations.

Students at UofC Law already know that they need to hide their laptops when at the law school. But do they now need to hide their kids, hide their wives, and hide their husbands, ’cause they’re raping everybody out there?

Actually, no — there appears to be no cause for alarm. Let’s learn about the allegations, and the school’s response….

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Did you know that there is a federal panel that reviews accreditation organizations? Did you know this panel makes recommendations to the Department of Education on how well the accreditation organization is doing its job? Did you know that there is a government panel that can actually address how the American Bar Association is doing its job of accrediting law schools?

The panel is called the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. Now that I’ve told you its function, you will not be at all surprised that the ABA got smacked around a bit when it was brought up in front of the board.

Oh, don’t worry, the panel isn’t actually going to do anything to force the ABA to do a better job. This is government work we’re talking about.

But still, the ABA got a bit of a tongue lashing, so that’s something….

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Today brings more news coverage of Reema Bajaj, the rather attractive 25-year-old lawyer accused of moonlighting as a prostitute. Her story was written up in the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other outlets.

Both papers covered the newest development in the case, a court hearing yesterday. Bajaj pleaded not guilty to three counts of prostitution (two misdemeanors and one felony), according to her lawyer, David Camic of Aurora, Illinois.

I have previously expressed my gut instinct that Reema Bajaj is innocent. Maybe I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover, but she just looks innocent — youthful and sweet and wide-eyed. She is a young Midwestern woman, of South Asian ancestry, who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. It doesn’t get much more wholesome than that.

And now I don’t have to rely solely upon racial stereotyping vague intuitions. Now I have additional evidence, from several sources — including a law school classmate of Reema Bajaj….

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As I’ve mentioned before, I graduated from law school over $150,000 in debt. As many of you know, I haven’t exactly paid all of that money back. Not making payments that first year was all my fault. I wanted to get married, didn’t have a credit card, and was using money that should have been going to my loans to finance my wedding.

After that first year, things got a little out of hand. My debt was being sold, the monthly payments were outrageous, and I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to the situation during the few times when I was both awake and not billing hours. Then I quit my law firm job, hilarity ensued, and I woke up one day with a credit rating below 550.

I’ve been paying the minimum balances to various collection agencies since 2007 or so. Whatever. My hopes for paying it off or owning property pretty much rest on my ability to hit the lotto. Most likely, I’ll die still owing money for law school. And that will be the story of me.

A reader emailed us, asking how bad non-payment of law school debt can really be. As one who has walked this path for eight years, I can honestly say it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s a completely different lifestyle than my friends lead. I can’t do “normal” things like get a Discover card or answer my unlisted telephone. But once you get used to it, it’s really not that bad. Your creditors will take away everything they can, but living a paycheck-to-paycheck, judgment-proof existence isn’t as bad as people make it look when they are trying to get you to sign up for a “free” credit reporting service….

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In my earlier story about Reema Bajaj, the 25-year-old Illinois solo practitioner who now faces prostitution charges, I noted that she seems “very sweet and wholesome,” as well as “a fundamentally decent person.” And I adhere to this position. When I reached out to her through her law firm website, to see if she had any comment on the charges, I received this auto-reply:

My confidence in you, dear lovely Reema, remains unshaken. I am impressed by your politeness. I suspect that there’s more to your story than meets the eye. I remind all of our readers that you have only been accused — and remain innocent until proven otherwise.

In response to our request for tips about Reema, we heard from one of her law school classmates, who provided additional info about Reema N. Bajaj….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More About Reema Bajaj, the Lawyer Accused of Prostitution”

We have a definite theme for this week’s installment of the Bar Review Diaries: stress!

Big surprise, right? What’s not stressful about a multi-day test that culminates three years of study and kind of determines your entire future?

Our columnists are in the thick of their review, and by the looks of it, anxiety is starting to creep in….

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Every season leads to more opportunity for me. I want a future too. I was going to go to school to get my law degree, but I really don’t want to do that work in the ant farm world. I’m seeing where it leads me, I want to be a performer.

Vinny Guadagnino of MTV’s wildly popular Jersey Shore reality TV show, reflecting on his career plans.

(As you may recall, Guadagnino previously thought about going to law school, after racking up an astronomically high undergraduate GPA.)

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