Student Loans

Wait, you expected a real burning man? Well, that's just silly.

As you know, some people have taken to suing law schools because despite the education and expense, they find themselves unemployed.

Suing people is such an American way of handling a problem. “Wahhh, your system took advantage of me and thousands like me. I’m angry. I’m gonna sue you, and even if I lose, it’ll make you all sadfaced.”

In other parts of the world, they know how to freaking protest a scam:

A 27-year-old Moroccan who set himself on fire to protest his unemployment died from his burns Tuesday in a Casablanca hospital, his wife said.

Boom goes the dynamite! (Too soon?)

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Here at Above the Law, we realize that we sometimes sound like broken records. We’re constantly bemoaning the casualties of the student loan industry, blaming law schools for preying upon poor, innocent, and financially inexperienced law students.

But at some point, there comes a time when we’ve got to stop defending law students when they make incredibly irresponsible financial decisions. Sometimes, we’ve really got to wonder: how can people be so dense? Simply put, it’s because they’re law students.

Case in point: kids at a D.C. metro-area school recently fell victim to a scam that wasn’t perpetrated by their law school, but instead, by an alleged law student whose sob story sounded just like a Sally Struthers commercial….

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There’s a really funny post up on Constitutional Daily, in which the protagonist — who holds a J.D. from NYU Law and was laid off from Biglaw during the recession — recounts his inability to secure a job at Target. It got me thinking of that other great lie that law schools tell incoming law students: “Yada yada, you can do anything with a law degree… also, I’d like to interest you in partial ownership of the Brooklyn Bridge.”

But many J.D. holders have found out the hard way that holding a law degree only opens doors to “law” jobs. They aren’t degrees of general utility.

If anything, they close more doors than they open….

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Kyle McEntee (left) and Patrick Lynch (right), co-founders of Law School Transparency (LST).

Late last year, plaintiffs’ lawyer David Anziska pledged to make 2012 “the year of law school litigation.” Anziska, who’s currently spearheading efforts to sue law schools over allegedly misleading employment statistics, told my colleague Staci Zaretsky that he and his team members “want to sue as many law schools as we can to bring them into the fray.”

That’s all well and good — for plaintiffs’ lawyers, and for news outlets like ours seeking juicy stories to cover. But there are other ways to achieve reform. So here’s another thought: Could 2012 instead be the year of law school transparency? Transparency achieved voluntarily, by law schools coming forward on their own to share comprehensive data about how their graduates are faring in the job market?

In the weeks since we wrote about the University of Chicago Law School providing very detailed employment data about its recent graduating classes, based on our interview with Dean Michael Schill, we’ve heard from deans, professors, alumni and students of other law schools, all with similar messages. They believe that their schools, like Chicago, are also transparent about graduate employment outcomes — and they want to be recognized for it.

This chorus of “me too!” messages raises a promising possibility: Is law school transparency becoming, for lack of a better word, “cool”? Will honesty about employment data become the hot new trend for U.S. legal education?

Perhaps. But there’s still a long way to go, as shown by a report issued this week by Law School Transparency….

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It's time we all entertained my American Dream.

Businessmen never rob banks
you can sell s*** and get thanks
that’s what I learned from the Yanks
— The Engineer; Miss Saigon.

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, 80% of law students would make the same mistake twice. Sorry, that’s not fair: 80% of law students can’t admit to themselves that they made a mistake in the first place. Whatever, that’s probably not fair either. But a new report says that 80% of law students would attend law school again if they could start over. I’m just having a hard time dealing with what those numbers mean.

Because those numbers mean that running a law school is truly the best and easiest job in the world. If 80% of your customers would purchase your services again, and there’s seemingly a never-ending flow of potential law students eager to apply for your services, then you have nearly no incentive to improve what you are selling. You wonder why law schools can charge whatever they want despite the poor job market? It probably has something to do with 80% of law students feeling like they’d do it again….

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Dominique Strauss-Kahn

* Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer has a challenge for you: “I defy you to tell the difference between a naked prostitute and any other naked woman.” [Dealbreaker]

* It’s not often that Cravath partners leave for other firms, but it happens. Jeffrey Smith, former head of the environmental practice at Cravath, recently decamped for Crowell & Moring. [Am Law Daily]

* Former Bush Administration DOJ official John Elwood, now a partner at Vinson & Elkins, breaks down the Office of Legal Counsel’s recently issued opinion on recess appointments. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Blawging, Flawging & the Mathematical Theory of Information. Also: what do laser hair removal in D.C. and lemon law in Wisconsin have in common? [Associate's Mind]

* Are Americans finally waking up to the higher education bubble? [Instapundit]

Professor Ann Althouse: birthday girl.

* It appears that Joseph Rakofsky, whose handling of a criminal case drew critical comment, struggles on the civil side too. Justice Emily Goodman returned a proposed order of his with this notation: “Decline to sign. Papers are incomprehensible.” [New York Personal Injury Law Blog]

* If you’re a trusts and estates lawyer or a reader of fiction, consider checking out this well-reviewed new novel by Patrick James O’Connor, which takes the form of an extended last will and testament. [Amazon (affiliate link)]

* Happy Birthday, Professor Althouse! [Althouse]

Every so often, people ask us about the “value” of getting an LL.M. degree. Our answer has remained pretty consistent. Is it a tax LL.M. from Georgetown or NYU? No? Then save your money and buy something valuable like gold or drugs. See this graphic (click to enlarge):

Photo credit: some dude on TLS.

But still, people ask: “Is it worth it to get an LL.M. degree?” And obviously, there are a bunch of people who put down good money chasing an extra credential that has little to no impact on their job prospects.

Why? Well, the simplest answer is that LL.M.s are extremely valuable to law school budgets. LL.M.s are so lucrative for law schools that law school deans are willing to lie or become willfully ignorant as to the employment opportunities generated by an expensive post-law school degree.

The National Law Journal made that EXTREMELY OBVIOUS point yesterday (again)….

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* “It seems no one can use dirty words, except Steven Spielberg.” Well, sh*t, I’ll be damned. Is Elena Kagan going to be the voice of reason in the Supreme Court’s FCC profanity case? [Los Angeles Times]

* Ken Cuccinelli filed an emergency motion to get Virginia’s primary ballots printed. You can’t wait three days for Perry’s hearing? It’s on Friday the 13th. You know how that’s going to go. [Bloomberg]

* The Tenth Circuit upheld a ruling to block an Oklahoma law barring the consideration of Sharia law in court decisions. If this pisses you off, go and watch Homeland. You’ll feel better. [MSNBC]

* Dewey want to join the Magic Circle? Bloody hell, of course! Clifford Chance has snagged two mergers and acquisitions partners from Dewey & LeBoeuf. [DealBook / New York Times]

* What will an LL.M. get you in today’s job market? Not a whole lot. And if you’re counting that extra year of loan debt as something of value, then you’re just a masochist. [National Law Journal]

* Heather Peters, the former lawyer suing Honda in small claims court, may be SOL because of a SOL issue. Stay tuned for the results at her second hearing later this month. [Huffington Post]

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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