Student Loans

Even witches must pay full price for BAR/BRI.

Law school is expensive. We get it. Preparing for the bar exam is expensive too. We know.

What’s a law student to do? Taking out more loans is the obvious answer, but at a certain point, one cries out, “!No más!”

Some have turned to, for lack of a better word, begging — like this aspiring UNC law student, and this 3L at Arizona State. But their efforts were not well-received. In these troubled times, we all have our own financial burdens to bear.

Alas, one student at Temple Law School didn’t get the “no begging” memo. She sent out a Facebook invitation to almost 800 people, requesting their attendance at an event entitled “HELP [REDACTED] RAISE MONEY FOR THE BAR EXAM IN JULY!!!!”

Yes, she’s asking her law school classmates — some of whom are probably just as cash-strapped and debt-burdened as she is — to just give her money.

Or pay her for one of her magic spells. Because she’s a witch, you see….

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(And begs her classmates for cash, too.)

And now things get interesting. As we continue to run through the U.S. News 2012 law school rankings, we get to a crucial set of schools. The schools in this batch are certainly top tier, but they’re not “top 14″; for the most part, though, they charge like top 14 schools (especially the private ones).

So this is the batch of schools where we usually hear questions like: Should I go to this school at full price, or a much lower-ranked school for free? And our answer is usually, “How much lower-ranked are we talking about?”

The bottom line is that when people get into schools like Duke, or Penn, they are going to end up going to that school. But when people get into some of the schools on this list, they do seriously consider other options. Should I retake the LSAT, score better and apply again? How much financial aid am I getting? What’s the job market like in the [secondary market] this school is located in, just in case I get stuck there? Is it worth it to go into this much debt for a degree from that school?

These factors should come into play no matter which law school you get accepted to, but at this point on the U.S. News list, cost factors take on increased importance…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Open Thread: 2012 U.S. News Law School Rankings (16 – 30)”

Numerous applicants to law school claim that they want to become lawyers in order to serve the public interest — and some of them are telling the truth. Alas, after burdening themselves with six figures of law school debt, they find it difficult to follow through on their public-interest dreams. The path of least resistance, or at least the path to the fastest repayment of loans, is working for a large law firm.

Working for a prominent law firm is great — lucrative, prestigious, honorable work — provided that it’s actually what you want to be doing (as opposed to, say, public interest work in Nepal). Unfortunately, many who toil in Biglaw do so primarily for the debt-dispelling powers of the paycheck.

Well, if you go to the University of Chicago Law School, you might be able to have your cake and eat it too — i.e., obtain an amazing legal education, work in the public interest, and not find yourself trying to invoke the “undue hardship” exception in bankruptcy.

Let’s learn about some changes that Chicago Law just announced to its LRAP, or Loan Repayment Assistance Program (those wonky Chicago types love their acronyms)….

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A view of Kathmandu (via The Kathmanduo).

On Wednesday we wrote about the great departure email sent out by Brian Emeott, a former corporate associate at Skadden in Chicago. Emeott, a 2004 graduate of Harvard College and 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, picked up and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal.

Brian’s wife, Claudine Emeott, resigned from her own job in December and moved to Kathmandu in January. She’s in Nepal to advance a worthy cause: as a Kiva Fellow, Claudine is working with a local microfinance institution for three months.

In our original post, we applauded the Emeotts for their sense of adventure. You can follow them at their (excellent) blog, The Kathmanduo, as they “work, write, and photograph [their] way through beloved Nepal.”

Some of our commenters, however, were more skeptical. They wondered (and so did we): How are the Emeotts making this work, in financial terms? Are they trust fund babies?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The Skadden Associate Who Picked Up and Moved to Nepal: An Update”

Critics of the legal-education industrial complex would probably like to see some radical changes in the U.S. law school system. They’d probably want a few dozen law schools to shut down entirely, to reduce the glut of lawyers in this country. Barring that, they might want to see law schools reduce tuition dramatically — not just freeze tuition, which some schools are already doing, but make an outright cut in the sticker price of a J.D.

Alas, expecting such changes isn’t terribly realistic. Law school deans and law professors aren’t going to willingly reduce their salaries or send themselves into unemployment — and why should they? Despite all the warnings about the risk involved in taking on six figures of debt to acquire a law degree, demand for the product they’re selling, legal education, remains robust (even if it’s showing signs of abating).

Interestingly enough, however, we’re seeing some law schools cutting their production (of graduates, of J.D. degrees)….

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You can’t call it a trend just yet, but the University of New Hampshire School of Law has joined Maryland Law and Miami Law in the fight to keep law school tuition down during a still-recovering economy. The school reports it will not be raising tuition for the 2011-2012 academic year.

It’s a sad state of affairs when a law school holding the line on tuition is breaking news. But with nearly every other law school rushing to bilk students who will pay anything for a legal education (law schools at Stanford, Arizona State, and Minnesota spring to mind), it’s nice to see at least a couple of schools that regard their students as something more than profit centers.

Maryland announced its tuition freeze in December. The National Law Journal reports that Miami recently announced it would be maintaining a tuition freeze already in place. Now UNH Law is joining their ranks. There’s still plenty of room on this bandwagon if your law school would like to take a brief break from molesting your financial future.

Not that UNH Law is cheap, especially for a third-tier law school. But this tuition freeze is another indication that UNH is at least trying to think about legal education in a somewhat realistic way…

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If you’re a law student and think you’ll make $140,000 right out of law school, you’re an idiot.

Gary Roberts, dean of the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, in an interview with the Indiana Lawyer (subscription).

In Part 1 of the Career Center survey results on debt, we reported that 85% of the 3,700 survey respondents have outstanding student loan debt, with more than half of them owing $100,000 or more. We also found that 75% of respondents considered their debt at least as much as other factors when deciding on where to work.  Today, we’ll take a look at a further breakdown of these numbers by job sector and amount of debt.

But first, let’s examine the extremes: respondents with the most debt, and respondents with no debt….

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We received an overwhelming number of responses – 3,700 – to last week’s Career Center survey on debt and how it contributes to your decision on where to work.  We will introduce an overview of the results today, and present a more detailed analysis later in the week.

Overall, 93% of respondents report being in some kind of debt.  And for the vast majority of them, that debt plays a role in their decision on where to work:

  • 38% of respondents said they considered debt about as much as other factors.
  • 37% said they considered debt more than any other factor.
  • 24% said debt contributed very little or did not contribute at all.

Exactly how much debt are we talking about here?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Career Center Survey Results: A Generation of Debtors (Part 1)”

If President Obama thinks education is so important, then why is he hell bent on financially crippling those who seek education? Seriously, why can’t he understand that making education affordable for everybody is not achieved simply by giving everybody the opportunity to take out loans that they cannot pay back?

I’ve mentioned before that Obama himself did not pay off his student loans until he became a best selling author. Does he expect everybody to write a great American novel? Does he think loans are free? Does ensuring that members of the “educated elite” are financially hobbled for the rest of their lives part of some sick political philosophy experiment?

I want answers, goddamnit! I want somebody to explain to me why this president — one who has enjoyed overwhelming support from the young and college-educated — has a blind spot when it comes to the cost of student loans.

Do I have to become a rabid, Tea Party Republican to get this Democrat to pay attention to me? Just look at what he’s about to do to graduate students. With one hand he’s trying to funnel more money to lawyers who help low-income clients, but with the other he’s going to make it even harder for lawyers to pay off their loans without working for people who have the ability to pay high fees.

He doesn’t want people who have a commitment to public service, he wants saints willing to martyr their futures on a pyre stoked by Sallie Mae….

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