Student Loans

Do you know an easy way for moderately priced public law schools to make even more money? Charge more for tuition. Do you know an easy justification for jacking up tuition rates? Say that you are moving to a “private funding model” while you bemoan the lack of public support for your institution.

After that, it’s all profit baby!

The big news in the law school hot stove league is that another major public law school is toying with moving to a private funding model. The logic for eschewing public funds for an increase in private dollars is, as always, disingenuous. But hey, as long as the law school keeps paying its tithe to the university, few will object to increased gouging of prospective law students…

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A reader noticed the job placement stats at UCLA Law, the #16 law school in the country, for the class of 2010.

The stats are frankly unbelievable. UCLA is claiming that 97.9% of its class of 2010 was employed within 9 months of graduation, at a median starting salary of $145K. Japanese officials were more straightforward about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster than UCLA is being with these bogus employment figures. But whatever, as I’ve said many times: we’ve gotten so used to educators misleading us that the concept of one of them telling truth seems like we’re asking too much.

At least UCLA added some fine print:

Note: Employment statistics include full-time and part-time jobs. Salary statistics are full-time only for those who reported salary information. Second jobs are not included in these statistics. This report represents NALP categories only.

Translation: If a graduate received money for giving a half-and-half at a truck stop up in Berkeley, that still counts! But the salary numbers only refer to our highest performing graduates. Also, why are you reading this tiny print? Look at the monkey. Look at the monkey. Yes, you’ll probably need a second job. What?

Obviously, this “disclaimer” is woefully ineffective, and a reader has even more reasons why….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “UCLA Law’s Job Placement Numbers Strain Credulity, But Did You Read The Fine Print?”

Mommy, have you seen my Hot Wheels car?

* Trademarks, and textiles, and taboos, oh my! Take a look into the fabulous world of fashion law with Charles Colman of Law of Fashion. [Professionelle]

* When you make stock market bets on SCOTUS outcomes, you better have a lot of money to throw around. Luckily, Ted Frank has plenty. [Point of Law]

* Jackass star Ryan Dunn passed away yesterday, which is sad. While normal people mourn the man who shoved a toy car up his butt, lawyers think up ways to assign liability. [Litigation & Trial]

* A J.D. is apparently still worth all of the debt associated with it because… why? Given that landing a job right now is about as easy as nailing jelly to a tree, how is this profession worth the debt? [Kiplinger]

* The blogs of the Am Law 100 have grown a lot this year, from 126 blogs to a whopping 269. Some firms are blogging duds, but I guess they’re busy making money. [Marketing Strategy and the Law]

* It may be better to be pissed off than pissed on, but getting peed on is apparently a natural step in professional development. [An Associate's Mind]

* Attorneys fall into one of three categories when it comes to the iPad: you got one; you want one; or your firm got one for you. Here are some lawyerly apps for you to play with. [Law Degree]

Because explaining things to people isn’t always enough, God created infographics. Sure, “infographic” is a modern-sounding internet word, but the concept has been used since time immemorial. I’m sure the first cave drawing was done by a smart guy trying to explain the concept of hunting to a dumbass.

I’ve been trying to explain the pitfalls of going to law school for years, but will forevermore be thankful to Professors Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit for pointing me in the direction of this extremely helpful infographic. Basically, if you took everything I’ve ever written about law schools and distilled it into a picture, it wouldn’t be very long.

And it would look something like this…

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For the most part, I’ve just been happy that the lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, over the school’s allegedly misleading employment statistics, exists. It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about raising awareness of the disingenuous way law schools go about filling up their classes.

Of course, anytime somebody says “it’s not about winning or losing,” you can best believe that person expects to lose. I’ve been operating under the assumption that Anna Alaburda, the woman suing TJSL, would get her butt kicked all over the courthouse.

But maybe I am wrong to give up hope for a victory so quickly. Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal has managed to find a couple of lawyers who believe law schools could be in big trouble…

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Let’s say that instead of taking on huge debts while I was in law school, I had taken up a wicked cocaine habit. Let’s say I had done loads and loads of blow from 2000 to 2007 and then went into a 12-step program. If I had been lucky enough to avoid an overdose or jail, you could argue that things would be better for me right now — even if I had a really serious cocaine problem where I spent my all my disposable income on the drug, and even if I put a good job and a good marriage straight up my nose. If I had been through all that and then wrote an essay about the highs and the lows of doing cocaine throughout my legal career, if I was telling kids that they could overcome a wicked cocaine habit even though the consequences were severe, if I was truthfully telling people that even though I’m trying to stay clean and sober now I’m not “ashamed” of my past life, I’d have nearly everybody in my corner.

Instead, I didn’t have a cocaine habit in law school and beyond. I defaulted on my student debts.

Really, the smart thing to do would have been to default on all my loans, then blame it on the cocaine that I was “powerless” to stop. But instead of playing the victim, I marshaled what autonomous power I had and chose not to pay back my loans in a timely manner. I decided to go down on my own terms, not the terms set out for me in a promissory note.

That seems to be what has really pissed everybody off…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Kids, Get High Off Drugs, Not Debt. It’s More Fun And People Are Nicer To You When It’s Time To Recover.”

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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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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Resorting to violence is part of human nature. We see it all the time, especially in children. When arguments fail, when hope wanes, the fists come out. Most people are willing to fight long before they are willing to admit that their entire worldview is wrong.

Institutions are no different; they will fight to preserve the way they’ve always done things before they will change, even if their old ways are ass-backwards and likely to lead to ruin.

This desire to fight instead of change is how I understand the Department of Education story that has been blowing up the internet today. Apparently the Department of Education — not the police or the military, but the DOE — got a warrant to send in a SWAT team after a person who was delinquent in paying back their student loans.

A SWAT team, guys — a freaking SWAT team, over some unpaid debts.

UPDATE: Please note the important updates and corrections to this story, after the jump.

Now I ask you, does that sound like the behavior of an institution that is confident about the state of the student loan economy, or does that sound like an organization trying to keep things together by using force and terror?

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Okay, I’m using the term “lifts” very loosely. We all know that outsourcing is taking work that used to be done by very expensive associates based in America and giving to inexpensive workers based in India. The law firm saves money, the client saves money, and the only people who are harmed are recent graduates of U.S. law schools.

But could outsourcing companies be poised to give something back to American law school graduates? Outsourcing companies aren’t ever going to replace the many lost Biglaw jobs that are never coming back, but they could be giving rise to some new opportunities.

At this point, every little bit helps…

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