Student Loans

Our readers love nothing better than law school rankings, so it was kind of the National Jurist to roll out its first-ever list of the Best Value private law schools. This new ranking comes in addition to its regular ranking of Best Value schools (which is usually dominated by public institutions of learning). These lists are usually released in alphabetical order, but this time, National Jurist assigned letter grades to each school due to a post-publication error. We’re off to a great start already.

The Best Value ranking typically takes into account the following criteria: tuition, cost of living, average student debt, the percentage of graduates employed nine months after graduation, and bar passage rates.

When the National Jurist created the Best Value rankings to “honor schools that took the cost of legal education seriously,” why choose to highlight private law schools at a time when tuition is higher than ever?

We’ll explore possible answers to that question, as well as reveal the rankings, after the jump…

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* “The situation is an absolute mess.” Last summer’s SCOTUS decision on mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders has created a “legal limbo” for inmates. We hope they find suitable dance partners. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Even after you retire, you apparently still have to deal with the Cebullsh*t from your life on the bench. Former Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s misconduct review is likely heading to Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. [Great Falls Tribune]

* Woe unto them that call unpaid work fair: the Second Circuit quickly granted Fox Searchlight an appeal in the Black Swan unpaid intern case in the hope of offering some “much-needed guidance.” [Deadline]

* Which private law schools offer students the best value? Some unlikely contenders are named on this list, and some T14 schools even make appearances. We’ll have more on this later today. [National Jurist]

* GW wasn’t the only school that grew the size of its entering class (although it was the largest increase). William & Mary and Missouri-KC saw big gains, too. Yay, more lawyers! [National Law Journal (sub. req.)]

* If you’re considering applying to law school, think about schools that have lowered their standards and are offering scholarship money like candy. Otherwise, here are some helpful hints. [Huffington Post]

* Henry Putzel Jr., former reporter of decisions at the Supreme Court, RIP. [Washington Post]

With nothing else to rank at the moment, U.S. News decided to try its hand at “news” and put out an article analyzing the expected fallout from the new mortgage lending rules coming down from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The new rules are intended to stem the tide of future foreclosures by clamping down on profligate lending.

But all clampdowns leave people out in the cold.

To put this more directly: if you thought being a lawyer with good credit would put you in a position to buy your own home, you’re probably wrong….

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Student loans are a real bitch, and declaring bankruptcy won’t even save you from them — unless you can prove you’ve got undue hardship and a “certainty of hopelessness” about you, which most people have too much pride to admit. Without government payment plans like Income-Based Repayment, Pay As You Earn, and Public Service Forgiveness, a much larger portion of our population would be living in a van down by the river, still drowning in educational debts, but too far off the grid for the bill collectors to come a-knocking.

This is why people absolutely lost their minds when the Daily Currant, a satirical online newspaper, published a story about President Barack Obama’s supposed bid to forgive all student loans. Given the responses, it looks like the youth of America is still in need of some change they can believe in…

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This is some quality dissembling. Dean William Treanor of Georgetown Law decided to enter the fray by responding to the New America Foundation report that I wrote about last week that claimed that Georgetown Law was using a loophole to use its public service debt repayment program to profit off the federal government. By way of recap, the school agrees to pay off the income-based payments of its students in the federal income-based repayment plan itself, then raises tuition for the next crop of students and uses that money to pay off their payments later, creating a big circle where tuition is artificially (if only marginally) inflated and taxpayers pick up the tab and the school pockets the profit.

Dean Treanor’s response attempts to deflect the criticism, but the article misses the entire point of the controversy.

What’s the important life lesson that Dean Treanor learned from Patches O’Houlihan? Oh right: Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive.

And Dodge….

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You might remember Matt Taibbi from such hits as “F@$% Goldman Sachs” and “Wall Street Trades Soylent Green.” He is a blistering critic of… everything.

In an upcoming Rolling Stone article, Taibbi has turned his withering gaze to the student loan industry. He criticizes Democrats, Republicans, and President Obama. Taibbi points out Obama’s hypocrisy on the student loan issue, something that I’ve been doing since 2009, but on this issue, the more the merrier.

While Taibbi’s article focuses on the crisis as it applies to college students, he can’t help but include some examples from the legal industry. I think that’s because no matter how much colleges and universities take advantage of college kids, law schools are worse….

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about the value of a law degree, and whether or not it’s actually worth a million dollars, degrees from some law schools are obviously worth more than others. Let’s be real for a moment here: If you’re taking out six figures of debt just for the privilege of attending, your starting salary damn well better be somewhere near the same amount, otherwise you’re going to be underwater for most of, if not all of, your adult life after law school.

Living with debt is scary, and if you want to have a better chance of being able to comfortably do all of the things you thought you’d be able to after getting a law degree, things like owning a home and having a child, you need to choose your law school wisely. You can start evaluating your options — or giving yourself a pat on the back — by checking out the latest U.S. News rankings for the 10 law schools with the biggest return on investment.

Which schools made the list? Not all of them are in the T14, so you may be surprised…

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As mentioned in Non-Sequiturs last week, this story is why we can’t have nice things. Specifically, why lawyers make it so we can’t have nice things.

On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Georgetown Law had worked out how to bilk the federal government into fully paying for some its students’ tuition and managed to create a profit for itself on the side. This is caused a bit of a stir Friday afternoon, but unfortunately the practice is neither new nor limited to Georgetown.

Though some tactics Georgetown employs may go beyond what any other school has the gall to attempt….

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Plaintiffs and the class are now stuck with a law degree they did not bargain for. That degree cannot be resold or transferred like real estate. It will never be recalled or repaired like a carburetor. And, unlike almost any other product, the debt associated with a degree from TJSL cannot even be discharged in bankruptcy.

Brian Procel of Miller Barondess LLP, on behalf of the plaintiffs in Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in a motion for class certification. The Alaburda case has already survived a demurrer in California, and will likely set the tone for the other pending law school lawsuits if certification is granted.

(Keep reading to see some of the evidence offered against TJSL.)

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The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education released a 34-page draft report today about its findings. Essentially, the document says, “Wow, the scam blogs were totally right, we suck.”

Just kidding. I mean, it does finally get to the point of identifying a problem with legal education that law school reformers have been screaming about for years. But, in the immortal words of Sam Seaborn, “Let’s forget the fact that you’re coming a little late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all.”

The top-line findings of the ABA draft report hit on pretty much all of the problems with legal education. But it’s still an open question whether the ABA will actually do anything about this report. I’ll tell you what I find out while I’m at their annual meeting next week, assuming I make it back alive…

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