Debts

The horrors of student loans are much discussed here at Above the Law, if only because law school tuition is so damn high, and housing expenses are so damn costly, that financing a legal education usually requires taking out about six figures of non-dischargeable debt. That’s quite a heavy load to carry. If only there were some way to pay the bills without going to the poorhouse in the process.

Apparently there’s a new way to deal with the rising costs associated with higher education in this country, and you don’t even have to lose your dignity to participate. You see, Seeking Arrangement, the leading “sugar dating” website, recently released statistics showing that more and more college co-eds are turning to “sugar daddy” and “sugar mama” arrangements to pay for their school-related expenses.

And hey, if all the college kids are doing it, why can’t law students fall in line with the latest trend?

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It’s completely natural for adults to reach a breaking point. Sometimes, enough is enough. This is true for almost all aspects of adult life that people wish could be changed, including those dealing with addiction, infidelity, and, of course, the headaches that accompany being employed. When and where this point is crossed obviously depends on the individual, but many times, it’ll result in breaking away from what became comfortable and a willingness to do anything for a change.

I personally experienced this myself just before Christmas — that’s when I quit my awful retail job….

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‘Please sir, some more gruel experience.’

Anyone who’s been following the implosion of the law school bubble is well aware of the fact that many recent graduates have been left floundering when it comes to employment prospects. And given the vast media coverage of the legal academy’s existential crisis, everyone and their mother knows that entry-level law jobs are few and far between. People are hungry for experience, but they’ve quickly come to the conclusion that it’s a real seller’s market out there. In today’s economy, it’s kill, be killed, or work in retail with a law degree (a fate which, for some, may be worse than even death).

As expected, some employers have chosen to take advantage of this situation. Take, for example, the “excellent position” we covered last summer, after a number of tipsters emailed us to express their outrage. The job was touted as providing “valuable experience,” and even though it had a sad little yearly salary of $10,000, some 32 people applied.

In the wonderful world of legal one-uppance, it was only a matter of time before someone came up with an even more audacious employment scheme. Would you be willing to pay someone for legal experience? Because that’s what this Connecticut law firm expects you to do.

Leave it to a lawyer to come up with a way to turn this dearth of job opportunities into a revenue stream….

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It’s a little bit early for tuition hike season, but in a few weeks, we’ll start getting stories about law schools raising tuition on students just because they can. We say it every year, and we’ll say it again this year, but it appears that law school tuition is one of the only things that is recession-proof.

Law salaries remain flat. Law applications are even down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean tuition will follow. Here’s how committed law schools are to raising tuition: they’ll raise tuition and then give high-achieving students scholarships to offset the increase. It’s as if low-achieving law students are subsidizing tuition for high-achieving law students at schools across the country.

Law schools are willing to do whatever it takes to keep making the tuition number go up. At Miami, they raised tuition and then (after we asked about it) gave 2Ls a “waiver” from the hike.

It goes up at Duke. Last year, tuition went up at Duke Law School by 4 percent. Why? Why was the money needed during a time of extreme challenge in the legal job market? Who knows? It’s not like Duke is required to explain itself to students.

But this year, some Duke Law students are trying to make the administration understand that the “standard” tuition hike doesn’t make any sense for the students at the school….

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Stephen O’Neal

I later found out that during this whole period of time… when I was being romanced by Citibank, that they had reason to believe — in fact, they knew — that Howrey was in default of material covenants, and they didn’t tell me that.

Stephen O’Neal, a former partner of Howrey LLP, in a deposition in his pending litigation against Citibank. O’Neal and another former Howrey partner, David Buoncristiani, allege that Citibank committed fraud by encouraging them to finance their capital contributions with Citi, claiming that Howrey was financially sound when the bank knew Howrey wasn’t.

With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s attempt to win their first national championship in a quarter of a century, and at the same time, their attempt to end the Southeastern Conference’s years of dominance of the BCS, I am hoping that this return to glory by a once storied franchise will be accompanied by a return to glory for the storied legal profession.

When I was growing up, most thought of lawyers as highly educated, intelligent, and self-motivated (even to a fault) professionals. Many considered lawyers to be part of the upper echelon of society, and most people also believed that simply being a lawyer would result in a huge, guaranteed payday. And for most of college football history, the Fighting Irish received similarly high praise.

In recent years, however, both the legal profession and the Irish have been held up to strong criticism, and were unable to enjoy the same success people became accustomed to. Even while I was still in law school at my TTT, respected attorneys told me not to worry about the school I was attending, because by the time that I got to my second or third job, no one would care anymore. The little detail that everyone left out was just how much it would matter for that first job — because it’s rough to get to the second or third job when you can’t even find your first, no matter how hard you try.

Going along with the Fighting Irish’s return to the top, here’s a look at a few other things that were once closely associated with the legal profession that are no longer true, but would be welcomed back with open arms….

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If you’ve been a loyal reader of Above the Law, you know that law school graduates have done some pretty crazy things to pay off their educational debt, up to and including the attempted sale of their law degrees on websites like Craigslist and eBay. Back in 2008, a graduate of DePaul Law tried to sell his degree on eBay for $100,000, the approximate value of his law school loans. Similarly, in 2010, a graduate of Georgetown Law attempted to sell his degree on Craigslist for his remaining student loan balance.

Some of these stunts failed miserably, but others (sort of) worked — the disgruntled Georgetown graduate managed to sell his diploma for 10 percent of the original asking price. But what about the current deluge of downtrodden law students? What can they do to offset their student loan debt?

Well, they can sell their names on eBay, for starters….

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One guy went to a professional school that takes the responsibility for training the next generation seriously. The other guy went to law school.

If you talk to legal educators for long enough, you might start to think that they are trying their best. You might start to think that there is no other way they can approach the training of lawyers. You might even start to think that they are more concerned with education then with bilking law students for all they’re worth.

Don’t believe it. Law schools are involved in a straight cash grab, and it turns out the we only need to look towards our nation’s medical schools to see how things look when schools are more concerned with the profession than profits.

It turns out that a very prestigious medical school is looking to trim a year off of the education — because doing so will reduce student debt and encourage young doctors to go into underserved fields….

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You may recall that back in 2011, before all of the law school litigation came into being, the California Culinary Academy (CCA) was hit with a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit filed by its graduates. The allegations contained therein — misleading job data, high tuition, and difficulty finding jobs after graduation — were very, very similar to those found in the law school lawsuits we revel in covering. Unlike the law schools that are currently under fire, the CCA offered to settle the case for $40 million, and that settlement was approved and entered as a final judgment this summer.

While the only law school lawsuit that’s come anywhere close to CCA’s status has been Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law — currently in discovery, where all sorts of interesting stuff has been unearthed — law school plaintiffs may have another avenue to explore, thanks to yet another lawsuit that’s been filed by CCA graduates. This time, the bitter would-be cooks are out for blood against the very company that funded their failed culinary education.

That’s right, Sallie Mae is being sued for handing out private loans with “credit-card interest rates” like candy — really expensive, life-ruining candy. When will law school graduates do the same thing?

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Here at Above the Law, we frequently address law school loan debt and the many ways it has screwed over various members of the legal profession, including some of our own editors. As many of you know, both Elie and I graduated from law school with six figures of loan debt. And although we both have a seemingly insurmountable pile of debt to pay off, we’ve gone about doing so in different ways. He’s been paying collection agencies not to break his knees since 2007, and I’ve been paying my loans like a good little indentured servant since 2010.

But I’ve got to admit, that wouldn’t even be possible if it weren’t for income-based repayment (IBR), the magical plan that caps your payments at 15 percent of your discretionary income. With IBR, I’ve been able to continue making interest-only payments for about two years, gleefully awaiting the day that I’ll finally be able to dig into the principal amount — which will likely never happen, but hey, a girl can dream.

The pesky thing about IBR is that you have to reapply each year to tell your loan servicer that yes, you’re still ridiculously poor, and no, you still can’t afford to pay those insane amounts they’d expect you to fork over otherwise. I sent in my reapplication packet more than a month ago, specifically so that I’d know what my new payment amount would be for the upcoming bill’s due date.

So you can imagine my COMPLETE AND UTTER shock when I opened my mail this morning to see that with my glamorous “entry-level journalism salary,” I’d apparently been kicked off of my IBR plan.

Happy f**king New Year to me, right?

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