Student Debt

William Robinson III (a.k.a. the guy who needs to explain how he afforded his Corvair in the first place).

So earlier this week, the president of the American Bar Association, William Robinson, gave a ridiculous interview to Thomson Reuters News & Insight. You might have heard about it.

Robinson had the grace and the courage to tell law students it was their own fault for the rampant price gouging that happens as a result of the ABA’s ineffective oversight of law schools. It took real strength of character for Robinson to share this anecdote: “When I was going to law school . . . I sold my Corvair to make first-semester tuition and books for $330.” I mean, how many people in Robinson’s position would be so out of touch that they think prospective law students are driving automobiles that can cover a whole semester of tuition at an American law school!

That’s right, future 1Ls, don’t get too used to your Jaguar XKR. Don’t become too attached to your Lexus hybrid. You’ll need to sell your luxury automobile to pay for law school. D’uh!

Sorry, I’m still flabbergasted that the president of the American Bar Association openly admitted to being a complete joke.

When the story broke the other day, I had the good fortune of being in Washington, D.C., at the annual conference of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). The law school at the University of California – Irvine invited me to speak to law school professionals and deans about how law schools could better use (or avoid) social media.

And let me tell you, law school professionals — the people who have to deal with the perception of general ABA incompetence on a day-to-day basis — were not at all happy with William Robinson’s comments….

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As we mentioned today in Morning Docket, William Robinson, the newly appointed president of the American Bar Association, is taking a stand on the status quo of legal education in our country.

But instead of combating 2011’s annus horribilis for law schools by calling for reform, Robinson is defending the ABA’s role, stating that young lawyers “should have known what they were getting into.”

Isn’t it wonderful to know that the man in charge of the ABA is essentially playing the “blame the victim” card when it comes to debt-saddled and unemployed law school graduates?

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Puppy is sad because you think he has no soul.

* Rick Santorum and the Sweater Vests can join Rick Perry’s ballot access lawsuit in Virginia. It’s funny, because at this rate, Perry will have dropped out before the first hearing. [Washington Post]

* If you’re an unemployed law grad drowning in debt, you should’ve known that you’d be screwed. Warning! Danger, Will Robinson! Opinion does not compute! [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Scott Rothstein claims that his firm kept a condo across the street so that partners could bang hookers. If real firms were like this, there would be less partner defections. [Orlando Sentinel]

* One robo-signer to rule them all: David J. Stern, Florida’s dethroned foreclosure king, is being sued by his own company for fraudulent conduct. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. [Bloomberg]

* Do cute, little doggies have souls? Of course they do, but the law doesn’t really conform to animated children’s movies from the eighties. This lawsuit hopes to reveal the truth. [Gothamist]


We mentioned this in yesterday’s Morning Docket, but I think it deserves a full post. For a long time, I have been questioning the value proposition of going to law school. Finally, it seems that somebody who can operate a calculator has my back.

The National Law Journal reports that Jim Chen, Dean of the Louisville School of Law, has come up with an easy-to-apply salary figure to determine whether law school was a financially sound decision on a case-by-case basis.

If you want to go to law school and one day be able to own a home, Chen argues you need to have a salary that is three times your law school’s annual tuition. You need to earn six times your annual tuition if you want to be a truly financially sound home owner if you are carrying three years of law school debt with you.

I’d like for people who constantly defend the value of law school to start pointing out the high-salaried jobs that are needed to make law school worth it….

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The battle for greater law school transparency, for more accurate and complete information from law schools regarding the jobs obtained (or not obtained) by their graduates, has many fronts. Some advocates for transparency work through organizations, such as the Tennessee non-profit Law School Transparency. Some have turned to the political process, where the issue of transparency has attracted the attention of several United States senators. And some have looked to litigation, suing law schools for providing allegedly misleading data about post-graduate employment outcomes.

Here’s an interesting idea: what if law schools just started posting comprehensive, accurate employment data on their websites? On a voluntary basis — not compelled by politicians, lawsuits, or the American Bar Association (ABA)?

Wouldn’t that be great? And wouldn’t it be helpful to prospective law students trying to decide whether it’s worth investing three years of their lives, and a large amount of (often borrowed) money, to pursue a law degree at the school in question?

Take a look at what they’re now doing at the University of Chicago Law School. Could it perhaps serve as the model for law school reporting of employment data?

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No glove, no love.

* The Supreme Court will hear Obama’s challenge to Arizona’s immigration law. Upside: we can probably expect a decision by June. Downside: Lady Kaga has to sit her ass out. [New York Times]

* Depressing fact of the day: unless you’re earning six times your law school’s annual tuition, you’ll probably never be able to afford a home. Thanks a lot, student loan debt. [National Law Journal]

* Wilson Sonsini has announced its 2011 partnership class. Of ten new partners, only three are women. At least they’re beating Cravath’s partnership diversity scale. [DealBook]

* Los Angeles is suing to block an initiative that would force porn stars to wear condoms. Why? It wastes taxpayer money, and would be disastrous to spank banks nationwide. [Courthouse News]

* Stephanie Van Groll may be the “tall, young, hot nymph” whose sexting lawsuit against Kenneth Kratz survived a motion to dismiss, but he is still the prize. [Appleton Post-Crescent]

* The American Bar Association can’t handle law schools, yet Obama trusts them to vet potential judicial nominees. Well, seems like they’re doing a bang-up job with that, too. [New York Times]

* First the New Jersey bar exam results, and now more MF Global drama. Angry investors want to know if a lawsuit will help Jon Corzine remember where he put the missing $600M. [Bloomberg]

* Law school debt increased by $475M between 2008 and 2010. Grab a raincoat, because this bubble’s going to burst soon, and it’s not going to be pretty (except for Cooley Law; they’ll be rich). [Am Law Daily]

* And on that note, what on earth was Cornell Law thinking? Did they fail to realize that their Cooley rankings would plummet if they decimated their library square footage? [Cornell Daily Sun]

* UC Berkeley: “We never like to hurt our students.” Yeah, apparently that’s what the police are for. Occupy Berkeley protesters are suing the school over police brutality allegations. [Huffington Post]

[L]aw school is a very risky (and expensive) investment; it should not be entered into lightly…. [E]ach potential student’s calculus will be based on a host of factors unique to him or her. For some, like an English major (relatively low opportunity costs) who gets some scholarship assistance (somewhat lower out-of-pocket costs) to attend Harvard Law School (relatively high pay-off), the investment in a legal education is almost surely a no-brainer.

– Professor Herwig Schlunk of Vanderbilt University Law School, in a new working paper entitled “Is a Law Degree a Good Investment Today?”

(Additional excerpts and discussion, plus links, after the jump.)

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Back in August, we reported on National Jurist’s fifth annual list of the 60 Best Value law schools. The Best Value ranking system takes into account the following criteria: in-state tuition, average student debt, the percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation, and bar passage rates.

Two months ago, the list was unranked, but the final tallies for the honor roll have now arrived. As in years past, in addition to the rankings, National Jurist has given letter grades to the rest of the schools on the list, ranging from A- to F. Wouldn’t you hate to be a student or an alumnus of a law school with a failing grade?

Check and see if your school made the grade, after the jump….

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Whenever I ask law school deans to explain their BS employment statistics, they just shovel more BS my way.

But maybe if students themselves asked where these figures come from, they’d get some straight answers.

One student, at a law school that at this point is undisclosed, asked her dean why the school’s employment statistics were clearly misleading. And it looks like the dean broke things down for her.

She used the information to tell another story of the 99%….

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