Student Debts

In Professor Paul Campos’s new book, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link) — a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking seriously about law school — he shares an email from an individual who, after much research and thought, decides to enroll in law school. The email sheds some light on why people continue to sign up for law school despite all the warnings (from folks like Professor Campos, my colleague Elie Mystal, and many others). The law student writes:

[Prospective law students] think: debt doesn’t matter. There is no penalty for defaulting on the debt, except the relinquishment of the privileges of an advanced financial life. . . Students evaluating the horrible deal in question believe they have no access anyway to those privileges (e.g. a retirement account, a home purchase, a start-up business). For the student in question, all law school has to do is provide some potential benefit, and it becomes a rational choice.

After acknowledging that “[t]here’s a lot of force in this line of argument,” Professor Campos tries to refute it, basically arguing that many who go to law school based on such reasoning are “making a difficult situation worse.” But maybe the argument is not so easily refuted.

After all, what else are you going to do with yourself? Before you criticize law schools and those who matriculate at them, please familiarize yourself with the grim economic realities of twenty-first century America….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “In Defense of Law School: Because What Else Are You Going To Do With Yourself?”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Law Students Plan Preemptive Strike Against Their School’s ‘Regular’ Tuition Increase”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Gradenfreude: The Legal Profession Has the Luck of the Irish”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Ex-Law Student Auctions Off His Name to Pay Off Loan Debt”

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….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Medical Schools Make Reforms While Law Schools Make Excuses”

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Stop Handing Out Student Loans Like Candy, Or Else You’ll Get Sued Like Sallie Mae”

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “How the Heck Will You Pay Your Law School Loans After You’ve Been Kicked Off Income-Based Repayment?”

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

Don’t be fooled by her smile; Justice Kagan knows how to benchslap.

* Kagan, J., benchslapping. [Josh Blackman's Blog]

* I think I’d get this if I understood gymnastics. [Associate's Mind]

* Some people think IBR is pointless, but if you disagree, check out this petition. [We the People: Your Voice in Government]

* Partner readers, check out this new podcast (featuring law firm consultant Ed Wesemann and yours truly). [Attorney Search Group]

* Our annual Law Revue Video Contest is still a few months away, but if you like making legally themed videos, keep an eye on this contest (more details forthcoming, including info on the prizes). [Federal Bar Association]

* Speaking of contests, we welcome your votes in the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 (under “News/Analysis”). [ABA Journal]

* And speaking of Above the Law, the deadline for applying for our writer/editor position and our internship is tomorrow — so act now if interested! [Above the Law]

Marco Rubio

Man, I need to write a book. At this point, it could be about anything. Law. Debt. Raising a baby who can take a punch. It doesn’t matter. I’ve known for some time that selling a book is the only way I’m ever going to pay off my massive law school debts.

What I didn’t know was that becoming a best seller was the only idea our nation’s political leaders have for paying off their own law school debts. Seriously, you’d think my book idea was a fanciful plan that is the cause of terrible financial planning. And it is. But I’ve written before about how our president, Barack Obama, didn’t pay off his law school debts and until he published a best-seller. It’s not exactly a sound financial plan, even though it does work out in some cases.

But this “just write a book” approach to law school debt knows no party lines. Today I found out that Republican Senator (and likely presidential candidate unless Republicans figure out that “Cubans from Miami” are not the same as “Mexicans living in Colorado”) Marco Rubio took the same path to paying off his law school debts.

So, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t feel bad about still having this much debt, and instead get busy writing, “How to Write a Successful Blog When Your Readers Kind of Hate You.” Because apparently, that’s how a leader approaches the vexing problem of educational debt….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Is Writing A Best Seller The Only Way To Pay For Law School?”

* Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the fairest firm of them all? According to the 2012 Acritas Brand Index survey, the current leader of the Global 100 is the most powerful Biglaw brand for the fifth year in a row. [American Lawyer]

* But that might not last for long, considering the dilemma Baker & McKenzie is facing when it comes to joining the Shanghai Bar Association in China. The firm is one of the first to indicate that it’ll take the plunge. [Wall Street Journal]

* Thanks to the Second Circuit, Rajat Gupta will be a free man on bail pending the appeal of his insider trading conviction. We wonder what Benula Bensam would have to say about this new twist. [DealBook / New York Times]

* Jason Smiekel, the lawyer who pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot involving a former client, was sentenced to eight and a half years in federal prison. The things men will do for HHHBs. [Chicago Tribune]

* Student loan payments: coming to a paycheck deduction near you! Congress is considering an overhaul of the country’s student debt collection practices, and Rep. Tom Petri has some interesting ideas. [Bloomberg]

* The Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is the latest school to hop aboard the solo practice incubator train, but graduates will have to rent their office space from the school. Nice. /sarcasm [National Law Journal]

* “We didn’t file this complaint lightly.” Sorry, Judge Norman, but as it turns out, you can’t just sentence a teenager to attend church for 10 years as a condition of parole without pissing off the ACLU. [Tulsa World]

* When your alterations cost more than your wedding gown, it’s pretty much a given that you’ll have some problems — ones worth suing over, if you’re a true bridezilla (like moi). [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

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