Old People

There’s a great story in the Washington Post this morning about how senior citizens are still struggling to pay off their educational debt. Senior. Citizens. The story says that collectively Americans over 60 owe $36 billion in student debt. That figure includes seniors who have co-signed on loans for their children or grand-children.

And yes, I love the holier-than-thou people who lecture me or other debt-defaulters on our financial responsibilities who went to school by putting their parents or grandparents at financial risk.

But seniors are also in trouble because they took out loans to finance continuing education later in life. I’m sure if you look around your law school, you’ll think of a couple of people who are really too old to be there but were led to believe that one more credential would solve all of their life’s problems.

The senior struggle is just one more indication that our system for financing higher education is about to implode…

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* Thinking of going to law school and leading a stereotypical Biglaw life of luxury? Perhaps you should consider taking ex-K&E partner Steven Harper’s class at Northwestern. You might just change your mind. [Chicago Tribune]

* The HuffPo’s unpaid bloggers are going to stay that way for now, because Jonathan Tasini’s $105M class action suit has been dismissed. Perhaps he’ll get another SCOTUS case under his belt. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Parts of Junie Hoang’s lawsuit against IMDb have survived dismissal, but she can kiss her $1M damages claim goodbye. Too bad, because at her age, she could really use the retirement money. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Hofstra’s going to Havana, but it’s not to get career advice from Fidel. Instead, students will learn about U.S. export law. Sigh. You don’t need to go to Cuba to find out you can’t bring back cigars. [National Law Journal]

* Who’s the latest lady love in Lindsay Lohan’s life? Shawn Holley. LiLo reportedly whispered sweet nothings into her lawyer’s ear after she was freed from the bonds of supervised probation. [Los Angeles Times]

When I visited New York back in January, I stayed with some friends. When I woke up Saturday morning on the couch, my buddy and his roommate had already taken out their laptops and were typing away. I asked, “What are you guys doing today?” They both responded, “Working.”

I could not believe it. It was a surprisingly warm winter day. And my friends decided to remain cooped up in their literally windowless Manhattan apartment. Why wouldn’t they go outside? Go to park, or a bar for some day drinking.

But that’s America. We are always connected, always on call, and ignoring your BlackBerry for more than 90 minutes may be a fireable offense.

It wasn’t always this way. And there are some heretics among us who make a compelling case for a return to the 40-hour work week. Before you shoot the scruffy Californian, hear me out….

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Kim Kardashian

* Building bridges instead of burning them: a new Republican strategy that just might work. Thanks to this Senate deal, 14 federal judicial nominees will get confirmation votes before summer. [Legal Times]

* According to this survey, Biglaw firm leaders are wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to the economy and current business conditions. That said, where are the spring bonuses? [Am Law Daily]

* A jury found Virginia Tech negligent in its handling of the school’s 2007 massacre. The administration will probably appeal, but it’d be nicer if they just appeased the victims’ families. [Wall Street Journal]

* Want a tenure-track teaching position? Just sue. Nicholas Spaeth’s age discrimination suit against Georgetown Law will proceed, much to the school’s chagrin. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Kim Kardashian + boobs + lawsuit = water cooler fodder for lawyers. [New York Post]

Where's our spring bonus?

* Lawyers at this Biglaw firm may learn a thing or two about respecting their elders later this week. Kelley Drye is close to settling an age discrimination suit filed by Eugene D’Ablemont, one of its many de-equitized partners. [Wall Street Journal]

* Well, this could definitely be one of the reasons why Cravath hasn’t given out any spring bonuses to associates yet this year. They probably had to spend all of their money to clean up their allegedly fly-infested cafeteria. [Am Law Daily]

* Women in Virginia will now be able to politely decline their pre-abortion transvaginal ultrasounds in favor of abdominal ones. Oh, how nice! Look at that, girls, we totally won the war on women. [CBS News]

* Things Dharun Ravi texted to Tyler Clementi on the night the latter committed suicide? “I’ve known you were gay and I have no problem with it.” Of course you knew, you watched his sexual encounters via webcam. [CNN]

* According to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, this equation makes sense: donor sperm + donor eggs + an estranged wife + consent to post-separation IVF = a child support obligation. [Boston Globe]

As much as some people glorify being a “Jack of all trades,” the truth is that in order to succeed, most professionals have to specialize. After all, the full idiom is actually “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

At a certain point in a person’s career, if he really wants to go somewhere, he must become an expert at something specific and be able to do that one thing better than anyone else. No one wants to get complacent, but at some point work hopefully becomes comfortable.

And that’s what makes Judge Ann Pfau’s story so intriguing and unique. The 64-year-old was, until recently, the chief administrative judge for the State of New York. But late last year, after massive budget cuts, the lifelong administrator ended up as a trial judge, “in the gray courthouse that hulks next to Brooklyn Borough Hall like some weird tribute to bleak Soviet architecture.”

Talk about an unexpected career move…

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When I was a kid, I thought only white people had to worry about being thirty-something.

I’m back. I got sick, again, with pretty much the same kind of acute sinus infection as I had the last time. It’s the second time in six months some stupid illness has completely floored me by making it hard to see and think — I definitely need at least one of those faculties to do my job.

Last time, when I got back, I was just happy to be alive and looking for somebody to blame. This time, I’m depressed. It’s probably because I was sitting the doctor’s office, and I was whining and in incredible pain and petulantly demanding answers as to why I’m having all these health problems and the guy says to me: “Well, you are getting old.”

Sigh.

I’m not the only one. And it occurs to me that, once again, I’m in much better shape for this new phase of consequences than I would be if I was still at a Biglaw firm. Because while I need to refine and hone my skills in my mid and late thirties, associates at top law firms need to gun it. They need to take their suddenly aging bodies and turn every morsel of ATP into billable hours if they want to make partner. And they need to do it now….

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Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist. His new book, Way Worse Than Being A Dentist, is available on Amazon, as is his previous book, Life is a Brief Opportunity for Joy (affiliate links).

A law student client — already an MBA — said she needed convincing to drop out of her third-tier school.

I told her to calculate the return on investment for the final three semesters.

She crunched the numbers.

“Debit-wise, I’ve burned $80k in savings and I’m looking at another $100k of borrowed money. On the credit side, I might find a low-salary doc review gig.” She pretended to scratch notes. “So… big loans, interest payments, inadequate cash flow…opportunity cost of 18 more wasted months learning legal mumbo-jumbo followed by the bar exam…”

“In other words…” I egged her on.

“I’d be totally screwed.” She affixed the cap on her pen. “Thanks. I’m convinced.”

I posed the question we were dancing around: “Why are we having this conversation?”

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Judge Allen Beldock

If I were not a judge, I wouldn’t be doing anything. What would I be doing if I were not a judge? What am I even qualified to do? I’ve been a judge for 44 years. My father was a butcher. I’m not trained to be a butcher.

– Judge Allen Beldock, explaining why he continues to go to work every day at the Queens Supreme Courthouse. Beldock is 92 years old, works four days each week, and doesn’t earn a single dime.

SOPA is getting pwned. Yesterday, all the uber players with their epic gear hopped on Vent and raided the SOPA base, and now the newbie Congress people who sponsored the law are running scared. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the sponsors of the Stop Online Piracy Act have “renounced” their law. The New York Times reports that Senators and Congresspeople are abandoning this thing like it was a campaign promise.

Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, all of the big internet corporations flexed their muscles — and oh, by the way, this is what it looks like when corporations use speech for speech, as opposed to pretending that anonymous corporate campaign contributions magically count as speech.

In the wake of this victory, here’s a question: Is this what we want? Yesterday, the internet used its power for good (though I fear the movie industry will strike back by making you watch full-length Kevin James movies before you can download the next Batman preview). But what if in the future “the internet” wants something bad, something that is more than the mere protection of freedom?

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