Megan McArdle

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Righteous Indignation, our new column for conservative-minded lawyers.

You probably saw this week’s topic coming. Until the folks at One First Street start tossing Elie and me some fresh meat to tussle over, my indignation — righteous as it is — must be directed elsewhere. Unless EM wants to argue that, when SCOTUS decided that Pelkey’s claim was not preempted by federal law in Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey, the Nine were, like, racist or something. (Query: what race is Dan? Where was the supplemental briefing?!)

So. The IRS’s targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status. I couldn’t not talk about this scandal, right?

Truly, I kept avoiding devoting this week’s column to the IRS abuses. Seriously.

For one thing, I was not initially so scandalized by this supposed scandal, though I was appropriately dismayed. Second, this story is still developing. So, I hereby reserve my right to be feverishly pissed off later….

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[D]on’t make a bad situation worse by doubling down on useless degrees. As I argue, going to the average law school at full price because you can’t get a job with your English degree is like having a baby to try to salvage a crumbling relationship.

– Professor Paul Campos of the University of Colorado Law School, in an interview with Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast.

(Campos, our reigning Lawyer of the Year, has a new book out entitled Don’t Go To Law School (Unless): A Law Professor’s Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk (affiliate link).)

Greg Kelly

* Greg Kelly stands accused of an alleged rape that supposedly took place at a “lower Manhattan law firm.” While we wait for the tips machine to fire up, who’s up for kegs and eggs and Good Day New York tomorrow morning? [Gothamist]

* Classes in space colony law coming in 3… 2… 1… [Buzzfeed]

* The Ninth Circuit isn’t paying too much attention to the drivel coming out of the Republican primaries. [WSJ Law Blog]

* Resources are available for lawyers with substance abuse problems who need help. For lawyers with substance abuse problems who don’t need any help, I’ll be at Professor Thom’s tonight. [ABA Journal]

* Megan McArdle wonders: How much does Warren Buffett pay his secretary? [Instapundit]

* Congratulations to Barney Frank. Welcome to a civil liberty you should have always had. [Huffington Post]

* Apparently New York Times writer David Segal started his jihad against law schools because of a lawyer friend he talked to at a cocktail party. Click on the jump so you can get a look at him being interviewed, just in case you see him on the subway and want to talk to someone about your troubles…

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Sometimes readers will email us with ideas for posts that range from the insane to the mundane. We’ve learned that what may seem mundane to the average citizen may be totally titillating for an attorney.

Members of this profession really, really like rules, especially rules about proper English grammar and usage. Be it confusion over a homophone, misuse of a hyphen, or incorrect placement of a semicolon, every grammar Nazi has a special place reserved in his heart for the idiot who screws these things up.

And that is why the topic of today’s reader poll is about how many spaces one should use between sentences….

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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…

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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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I have no idea why this is blowing up today, but it looks like the mainstream media just figured that maybe going to law school isn’t the most awesome idea (especially in this economy).

On New Year’s Eve, John Carney — our former colleague, from his days at Dealbreaker — noted on CNBC’s NetNet that the ABA issued a paper entitled The Value Proposition of Going to Law School (Word document). NetNet called the report an official warning from the ABA about the perils of going to law school. I’m always happy to see that particular report get a little bit more coverage. We linked to Carney’s post in Morning Docket on Monday, when we got back from break.

But then it seems that Doug Mataconis of Outside the Beltway noticed Carney’s report, and he did a story on it. And then Megan McArdle of The Atlantic noticed the Outside the Beltway report, and she did a story on it, today. And in the meantime the ABA paper has been linked and retweeted a bunch of times.

And that’s all well and good, except for the fact that the damn thing came out years ago and was widely discussed in the legal blogosphere back in 2009. So, umm, while it’s great that everybody is interested in this party, there hasn’t actually been any new news about the matter over the last few days….

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* Bad news for Howrey: Gary Bendinger, co-chair of litigation, is leaving for Sidley Austin, along with two other litigation partners, Gregory Ballard and Kevin Burke. [Am Law Daily]

* Richard Epstein and Megan McArdle on today’s judicial smackdown of Obamacare. [Instapundit]

* Quipped our tipster: “Three cheers to annoying psychology undergrads getting mugged in West Harlem. At least Dino BBQ is here to stay.” [Columbia Spectator]

* Just like last year, there’s some humorous motion practice going on as a result of Auburn college football scheduling. [Birmingham News]

* My pay during my AUSA days wasn’t great — but at least it was greater than zero. [S**t Law Jobs]

* It’s not too late to submit an entry for our law firm holiday card contest. [Above the Law]

* Or to RSVP for our holiday party (although we’re almost at capacity). [Above the Law]