Debt

Won’t be long before law schools are getting this guy to sell you legal education.

It really bothers me when law schools resort to “used car salesmen” tactics to try to induce law students to sign up for school. Say what you will about the value of legal education, but it’s not like buying a Sham-Wow. Students can’t be influenced by “special, limited time” offers when trying to decide if and where to invest three years of their time. If nothing else, you’re entering into the lottery to win a legal career, not an iPad Mini.

Law schools that try to exploit “impulse buy” reactions to fill their seats should be ashamed of themselves. They are taking advantage of kids — twenty-somethings who don’t have lawyers or accountants or appraisers representing their interests. Law schools are at a huge informational advantage concerning the true value of their services, value that they try to hide at every turn from independent third parties. Law students are trying to cobble together what they can based on word of mouth, Google, and some published rankings. Turning the screws on these prospective students with offers that “expire in 24 hours” is a good business strategy if you are trying to sell them a toaster, but it’s a disgraceful thing to do for a place that claims to be an “institution of higher learning.”

I can only hope that anybody who received this “hard-sell” email from this law school did the smart thing and just walked away…

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The vast majority of our readers are members of the legal profession in some way — and whether you’re a prospective law student, a current law student, a young associate, or a partner, chances are you’ve all had similar worries about the future and its many uncertainties. Will you be able to find a job? Will you be able to pay off your loans? Will you even enjoy being a lawyer? One thing, however, is for sure: you’d prefer that your children not suffer the same vocational fate as you.

But when it comes to the other members of society, well, they’d just love it if their sons or daughters were to become a lawyer (or marry one). Despite what we know to be true in most cases, it seems that the people who pick up their phones to respond to survey questions have been left in the dark when it comes to the current state of lawyers and their livelihoods.

Take a wild guess at who thinks this career path is still the road to riches….

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Regular readers of this blog know that you cannot discharge student loan obligations through bankruptcy absent a showing of undue hardship. If you go broke borrowing money for expensive cars, houses, and monkeys/butlers, no problem, file for bankruptcy and start over. But if you go broke trying to better yourself through education, the government will make you beg and prove that you are sad and hopeless. Wonderful system we’ve got here.

We’ve also talked about how many people who might be eligible for undue hardship on their student debts don’t even try. The system is daunting and complicated, and I’ve argued that prostrating yourself in front of a bankruptcy court and letting them invade your life to the point of telling you how much you should be spending on your cell phone is not something that comes naturally to people with pride and dignity. This might be hard to understand for people who have never been in this situation, but I’d much rather be a “deadbeat” and have my wages garnished with the discretion on how I spend the rest than have some old judge tell me how much money I should be spending on breakfast.

When trying to get your debts discharged through bankruptcy, there seems to be no limit to what a judge can take into account to see if you are really desperate. But a recent Ninth Circuit opinion upholding a discharge by reversing the district court put one boundary on what a court can look at to determine if you’ve tried to pay your debts in “good faith.”

The court can’t look at your household and suggest that you pimp out your wife. So at least that’s something…

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* NY Attorney General investigating fast food restaurants for shorting their employees. This is a worthwhile cause, but what he should be looking into is who ate the bones? [CNN]

* Two schools, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and York College of Pennsylvania admit they gave false information to U.S. News resulting in better rankings. Those were their BETTER rankings? [TaxProf Blog]

* To keep “misleading statistics” in perspective, the Department of Education leveled one of its steepest fines on Yale for covering up multiple “forcible sex offenses” to keep its campus safety statistics down. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

* A measure of resource governance finds the U.S. has the second best governance of its oil, gas and mining sectors. Give yourself a hand regulators. And we’re gunning for you Norway! [Breaking Energy]

* The Honorable Felicia Mennin does not grasp how time works. Thinks artist should have been more conscious of the public fear surrounding the Boston bombings… back in February. [New York Times]

* Congratulations readers for helping the profile of a White House petition to reform student loan policy. Here are a couple more if you feel like making more reforms to the process… or at least more suggestions for reforms that will sit on someone’s desk. [Whitehouse.gov and Whitehouse.gov]

* Is political intelligence practice too risky? Is political intelligence an oxymoron? An interview with Robert Walker of Wiley Rein LLP after the jump [Bloomberg Law]

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* A White House petition started by a young lawyer asking that at least student loan interest be tax deductible like interest on a mortgage to help out those folks like, frankly, most lawyers, who make too much money to deduct their student loans. [WhiteHouse.gov]

* Antoinette “Toni” Bush, partner-in-charge of Skadden’s communications group, is leaving the firm to become global head of government affairs for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Free tip: brush up on your hacking law. [Am Law Daily]

* The Department of Energy may adopt a new “commercial maturity test” to get rolling on the backlog of liquid natural gas export license requests. And that, of course, will spur the inevitable lawsuits. [Breaking Energy]

* Apparently, President Obama dreams of “going Bulworth and resents the “Harry Potter theory of the presidency,” that the President can wave a wand and make things happen. So he’s pro Pras, Maya, and ODB, and anti-Hagrid. Who’s anti-Hagrid??? [New York Times]

* Lois Lerner, the manager at the center of the IRS “scandal,” has backed out of delivering the keynote at the WNEU Law commencement. I’m pretty sure Staci would do a better job… of running the IRS. [Boston Herald]

* Overlawyered blasts the Daily Caller for trying to tie Lerner to Obama via her husband, Michael Miles of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan because the large firm had some ties to Obama. Blerg. Meanwhile, this “partisan scandal” is turning out to be bipartisan entirely based on which IRS office the groups dealt with. [Overlawyered]

* Congratulations to this guy. Must have been a hell of a feast. [WDRB]

‘Another tuition hike? Time for a new car!’

If liberals are to be true to our professed values, we must critically examine our own conduct, however painful and embarrassing it might be. We cannot speak truth to power yet not to ourselves. [P]rogressive law professors, I charge, have profited from a system of legal education with harmful consequences to individuals and society — while claiming (and believing) that they were fighting the system.

– Professor Brian Tamanaha of the Washington University of St. Louis School of Law, criticizing his colleagues for remaining silent while law school tuition has soared. His remarks can be found in a forthcoming essay that will be published in the Stanford Law & Policy Review.

With graduation fast approaching, maybe people are coming to the startling realization (what took you so long?) that they’re going to have to figure out a way to pay off their student loans. Sure, it was fun to have government monopoly money to play with while you were in law school — maybe you had a weekly shoegasm at DSW; maybe you repeatedly blew your wad at Game Stop — but now it’s time to face the music.

Unfortunately, when it comes to debt repayment, the soundtrack that’s playing on an infinite loop in your mind is from the shower scene in Psycho.

Whether or not you’ve got a job lined up, you know for sure that your starting salary is nowhere near high enough to allow you to both live indoors and make monthly payments to your loan servicer. You’re scared that you’re going to have to moonlight in retail, or worse yet, move back in with your parents.

All you know is that you really, really don’t want to default on your loans. Your credit will be shot. Your phone number will be scrawled on the bathroom walls at collections agencies. Your life’s work will be all for naught. What the hell are you going to do?

Don’t worry, friends. Your loan servicer has a secret to share on how to avoid the disaster of default….

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For the record, his tattoo should be Larry Bird walking through a door.

* Louisville coach Rick Pitino promised his players that he’d get a tattoo if they won the NCAA tournament. I’m hoping Peter Kalis makes the same pledge if K&L Gates makes its projected annual profits. [Huffington Post]

* The Harvard Federalist Society held a conference on the importance of intellectual diversity in the legal academy. Somewhere out there, Ted Cruz nods solemnly. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* A public service announcement: Don’t wank and drive. [Lowering the Bar]

* Hey, Houston readers! Since I’m in town for our event tonight, I wanted to give a plug for the OKRA Charity Saloon. I visited last night and it was great — a beautiful space and all the profits go to a charity that you get to vote on (one ballot for each drink you get). An all-around great idea. So if you’re looking for a location for your next happy hour… [OKRA Charity Saloon]

* James Poulos makes a good point: it may put you horribly, horribly in debt, but education is still a good thing. [Forbes]

* Tomorrow check out our newest series: Unofficial Orientation to Law School. We will be video chatting with students, professors, and hiring managers about how 0Ls can successfully launch their legal careers. This series is presented by LexisNexis, BARBRI, and Law Preview, a BARBRI Company. [Above the Law]

* Have you ever wanted to see puppets set to the L.A. Law theme song? No? Well, after the jump you can see it anyway….

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Amid a jobs and loan debt crisis, the push for legal education to reinvent and remodel itself upon the medical school paradigm continues to grow. From a reduction in years of schooling to legal residency programs, these and a slew of other ideas are looking better and better.

Next up to the plate: monetary incentives to practice in no man’s land. Doctors have been getting loan repayment incentives for four decades in exchange for practicing in underserved rural areas.

Why can’t lawyers do the same thing?

In recent weeks, South Dakota’s innovative plan to keep lawyers in the state and practicing in rural areas has gotten a great deal of media attention. If you’d consider hanging a shingle in a small town for five years in exchange for a yearly sum of $12,000 to pay off your debts, then this is a great idea.

There’s free money waiting for you in flyover country….

Do any of you remember the set up of Northern Exposure? It was a decent enough show where a “city slicker” doctor had to practice in small town Alaska to pay off his student debt. Aidan from Sex in the City was on it.

Anyway, the point was that the state of Alaska paid for Rob Morrow’s medical school. In return, he had to work wherever Alaska sent him for five years.

Subject, of course, to the restrictions outlined in the Thirteenth Amendment, I’ve wondered why this isn’t an actual thing that more states do in order to help underserved communities. Why doesn’t New York pay for a bunch of people to go to medical school, but then they have to practice in poor areas for a term to work off their debts?

One state is giving it a try. And why not? I mean, it’s not really like peonage, is it?

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