Depressing stuff

In August of 2009, while driving around Silicon Valley after speaking at Santa Clara Law, I saw an office park in East Palo Alto with a sign that jumped out at me. Being a Biglaw groupie, I stopped and snapped a picture:

I parked, got out of my rental car, and walked around. I was struck by the beauty of the overall office complex, with its expansive plaza, immaculate landscaping, and fountains. It was a veritable law firm Xanadu!

Or maybe an old Indian burial ground….

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(Plus more potential partner departures.)”

At some point, the Department of Education is going to have to step in and put a stop to the American Bar Association’s monopoly over the standards for legal education. The ABA has gotten to the point where it’s just trolling us — making patently ridiculous decisions as if it doesn’t even have to pretend to have a grasp on the challenges facing prospective law students and the legal profession.

The ABA’s “watchdog” for law schools is stepping down. Hulett “Bucky” Askew, of John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, has served as the ABA’s consultant on legal education since 2006. Note: that’s a pre-recession date. I take this as more evidence (as if we needed more) that the ABA has been operating with a pre-recession mentality throughout the entire recession and quasi-recovery.

But let’s stop crying about the ABA’s almost comically slow response to the shifting legal education market. Wait until you get a load of the guy who’s going to be Askew’s interim replacement…

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Today we’ll give you a double dose of Dewey. This morning we published an eloquent email from a Dewey paralegal, which looked at the story from a human-interest perspective. Now we shall return to the business aspects of the crisis.

Last week, we mentioned that tax partners Fred Gander and Hershel Wein were in talks to leave Dewey. Those talks have come to fruition: Gander is heading to KPMG, where he will lead its U.S. tax practice for Europe and the Middle East, and Wein is joining him there.

Now let’s look at the big picture: Dewey’s looming debt deadline, and the possible rescue by Greenberg Traurig….

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Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been some discussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.

There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.

Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….

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Here at Above the Law, we frequently sound gloomy notes about going to law school. In the past week or so, for example, we’ve written about one recent law school grad on food stamps and another one with almost no employed classmates. We’ve discussed the bleak market for legal jobs and the crushing burden of student loan debt.

As I’ve said before, our criticism of law school does not spring from malice. Rather, we want people to make an informed decision about whether to invest three (or more) years of time, and $100,000 (or more) in money, in pursuit of a law degree.

In today’s post, we’d like to talk about the other side of the coin: law school success stories. Let’s hear from people who went to law school and have no regrets — or even view going to law school as the best decision they ever made. Perhaps you might be one of them?

We’ll prime the pump with a few law school success stories, to get the conversation going….

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Yesterday we wrote about a recent law school graduate who is now eligible for food stamps. He owes over $200,000 in student loans.

It’s hard to wrap your head around such a big number. What does six figures of educational debt actually represent?

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There’s really no better expression of how law school can be a horrible financial decision than the story of a J.D. holder on welfare.

Usually, those stories involve a person who is mentally challenged in some way, or somebody who developed a hardcore drug or alcohol problem. A law degree obviously cannot protect you from all of life’s atrocities.

But the thought is that a practicing attorney of sound mind and body can earn enough to stay off of public assistance.

Or should I say “myth.” Law schools are very interested in taking your money, but they’re less interested in helping you find a job at the end of your journey.

Here’s one graduate’s sad, sad story. The only thing he did wrong was go to law school. Now, he’s qualified for food stamps….

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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 visit to my office has evolved into something akin to the road to Lourdes. Pilgrims arrive red-eyed and defeated, faces etched with misery, searching for a way out of a trap.

The standard story is some variant of the following: You are either out of work or loathe your work. You have $180k in loans. You have either no income or an impermanent income paid to you in exchange for any joy life might offer. You see no hope.

Let me spell out the critical element here: You are one hundred and eighty thousand dollars in debt.

Just to fully drive the point home: that’s bankruptcy-proof debt.

You’ve yelled at your parents, but it’s not really their fault. You’ve wept and wailed and gotten drunk and stoned and consumed a scrip of Xanax. You’ve tried sleeping and pretending you don’t have to wake up.

Then comes the pilgrimage. Perhaps I can heal with a laying on of hands….

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Georgetown University Law Center (known for its great gym).

I feel very fortunate to have had an idea of what I wanted to do from such a young age, and even more fortunate that it involved graduate school. What can you do with a bachelor’s degree anymore? I’m hoping that the job market will pick up in the three years I spend at law school, because a lot of lawyers are getting laid off. The American Bar Association is even encouraging college students not to apply to law school, citing the bleak job market.

– Noah Rich, a Georgetown 1L who was interviewed by the New York Times as part of the newspaper’s survey of the class of 2011 at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.

(It’s hard out there for a class of 2011 college graduate. More findings, and additional law-related tidbits, after the jump.)

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On the Philadelphia Craigslist, there is a job listing for people who enjoy pissing all over the 99% — a part-time job for a most likely unemployed person who nonetheless loves the people in power and hates everybody else. Oh, and applicants better have not protested against the Iraq war, because apparently this employer loves people who never question authority.

See, this is why we still have to pay attention to Super Tuesday despite the fact that the Republicans are down to a robot and a guy who hates women. Republicans always have a puncher’s chance because there are so many people in this country right now who are unemployed and willing to take part-time crap work, who still believe that someday — magically — they will end up on top.

It’s much easier to sing to these American idiots about the dream of prosperity than to tell people the truth: statistically speaking, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning that to go from the mailroom to the boardroom.

But, since I suspect at least 50% of the unemployed people out there don’t understand how the system works, let me post the job. Have fun with your self-loathing….

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