Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at TristanTaylorThomas@gmail.com, and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.
If you’re a frequent reader of Above the Law, then you’ve seen plenty of stories about the horrors of attending law school. But even so, the editors have expressed a few opinions: Elie doesn’t want you to go to law school at all; Lat thinks you should give law school a try, as long as it’s free; Staci’s ambivalent, but thinks it’s cool if you sue after you graduate; and Danzig stalks people who went to law school, so… yeah.
It’s a little confusing, isn’t it?
Perhaps you’re still unsure about what you should do. That’s why I’m here to tell you about the darker side of being a law school graduate who just so happens to be a member of the Lost Generation. I’m here to tell you about the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life. I’m here to tell you about going to an unranked law school….
* Someone was finally able to liken the Scalia v. Posner debate to a suitable situation: bitchy mean girls fighting each other in a middle school cafeteria. Seriously, only the inclusion of “like” throughout the entirety of the dialogue could’ve made it better. [lawprofblawg]
* Who pays your law professors’ salary? The obvious answer is law students, since professorial wallets are padded by tuition dollars. But what happens when IBR comes into play and loan debts are forgiven? Then the answer shifts to the taxpayers. [PrawfsBlawg]
* When Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers died, everyone was expecting that a lawsuit would be filed, but no one really thought that it would be one based on contract law. [New York Law and Legal Analysis Blog]
* What kind of case “really turn[s] on” everyone’s favorite First Amendment lawyer? Free speech cases that are riddled with challenges, of course, and questions about what does and doesn’t constitute porn. [Vegas Inc]
* You must be wondering where Above the Law fell on this ranking of the 15 Most Influential Law Blogs. We won’t give it away, but let’s just say that we now share something in common with Cooley. [Business Insider]
* “[S]ome dude with the munchies is getting a little legal education.” That’s what we thought when one of our top searches last week was “pictures of tacos” — and not even “duck tacos,” but regular ones. [Search Party]
From the time of my first column here, I’ve received emails from readers. Thoughtful people, both lawyers and non-lawyers, critical and yes, thankful, have offered (even using their real names) their suggestions, comments, lists of typos and grammar issues, and questions.
Questions like these:
1. Is it worth going into the field of law right now, or has the oversaturation of the market made building a solo practice or finding a decent firm position an almost impossible goal? Many of the writers on legal blogs (names of legal blogs deleted as not to upset my boss Lat) make it sound as though one would be foolish to enter the profession in any capacity.
2. If you had to make a decision between a tier three school with a full tuition scholarship, or $100k of debt to attend a “top 14″ law school, which would you choose?
After going through this week’s entries for Comment of the Week, it seems that many of our commenters really want an Above the Law T-shirt. There was some stiff competition (what up, Richard Brosner?), but in the end, we decided to address a topic that’s germane to anyone who has taken out a loan to attend law school.
Over Labor Day weekend, the New York Times had an interesting article about the apparent “ease” with which one can get student loan debt discharged through bankruptcy. And by “ease,” we mean that there’s a whopping 39% chance that you’ll receive a full or partial discharge, but only if you can show that you’re a lost cause to society without any semblance of dignity or hope for the future. Easy, right?
Well, actually, yeah. Because when you’ve got six figures of law school loan debt hanging over your head for a degree that you thought was going to be marketable and you’ve resigned yourself to a job as a sandwich artist at Subway just to make a buck, you’re going to lose hope pretty quickly.
And that’s exactly why our Comment of the Week was just so damn appropriate….
Investing in rims is a safer bet than investing in law school.
Occasionally, people will tell me that the calculus for attending law school is different for African-Americans than it is for any other kind of American. The proponents of this theory (and people who believe this come from all races) start with the objective fact that African-Americans are underrepresented as members of the bar. They view that as a social injustice that contributes to the fact that African-American clients are underserved by the legal community.
From those two appropriate concerns, these guys then see that the obvious solution is that more black people should apply to law school. And so they then make up reasons for why applying to law schools is somehow an especially good idea for black people. As if the fact that there’s a laudable social end magically changes the math of the law school decision.
But the social ends do not justify the economic means. Poor black people need lawyers, they don’t need more poor black people who became poor by going to law school.
Now, I’m all for racial diversity, but I fail to see the social good of encouraging black people to make ruinous financial decisions just because they are underrepresented in the group of people making this particular stupid purchase. I wouldn’t say to a bunch of white people, “You know, you really need to buy expensive rims for your car on credit. No money down!”
Sorry, that might be an inapposite analogy: rims are at least shiny and accomplish their stated goal of providing bling for your ride. A J.D. can’t even be used to adorn a car.
As I said, I’ve heard this terrible argument before, but rarely as boldly as from the associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State Law. Her version of the argument seems more like an attempt to cause active harm to the black community by taking advantage of those who don’t have enough information.
This falsehood that law school is somehow a “better” bet for African-Americans must be stopped, right here, right now….
I’ve said countless times that discharging student debts through bankruptcy is nearly impossible because you must make a showing of “undue hardship.”
Showing undue hardship is a very high bar, and it takes a very long time. Prospective law students don’t really understand the difference between student loan debt and something like credit card debt until it’s way too late. And even when it’s too late, most people (and many lawyers) feel that it’s not even worth trying to convince a bankruptcy judge that a person holding a J.D. has the “certainty of hopelessness” required to get student debts discharged.
But an article this weekend in the New York Times suggested that more people should give “undue hardship” a whirl. Sure, the guy the Times chose to feature is freaking blind, but even absent a physical disability, the article suggests that undue hardship might be a real possibility for most people.
Hey, it doesn’t hurt to try. At least, it hurts less than the likely plan B of stabbing out your own eyes….
Ed. note: Due to the Labor Day holiday, we’ll be on a reduced publication schedule today. We’ll be back to normal tomorrow. A restful and happy Labor Day to all!
* The lone ex-Dewey partner who was sued by Citibank for defaulting on his capital loan is fighting back, claiming that he was “fraudulently induced” into signing up for the plan even though the bank knew that the S.S. D&L was sinking. [Reuters]
* If you’re trying to avoid additional questions being raised about your alleged bad behavior, a resignation amid scandal isn’t the way to do it. Suzanne Barr, the ICE official accused of running a federal “frat house,” has quit her job. [New York Daily News]
* A federal judge taught the members of the Louisiana Supreme court that the year 1994 did, in fact, occur before the year 1995. Justice Bernette Johnson will now ascend to the rank of chief justice. [Times-Picayune]
* Because we’re all a little hopeless these days: given the bleak realities of our economic situation, perhaps it’s finally time to change the standard for a discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy. [New York Times]
* “The groups that attempt to rank schools are involved in a lot of hogwash.” Even if that’s the case, people are still going to care about the University of Illinois’s rankings nosedive after the Paul Pless to-do. [News-Gazette]
* Don’t be scared by the absurd tuition rates or the abysmal job prospects, because law school is still a great investment for African-Americans — and for law schools in search of diversity, too. [National Law Journal]
* “[T]hat a lawyer would take this kind of case is shocking.” Sadly, it’s not. Angelica Marie Cecora, the alleged escort who filed a $5M suit against Oscar de la Hoya, now has to pay all of his legal fees. [New York Post]
Last week, my colleague Elie Mystal wrote a post opining about what Star Wars characters would be like as lawyers. There, he cast Justice Antonin Scalia as Emperor Palpatine, because apparently that was the “easiest Star Wars and the Law connection in the entire galaxy.” But what about mixing Star Wars and politics?
This week, one of our commenters had the chance to do just that after Elie picked apart President Barack Obama’s response to a recent law school graduate’s question about student loan debt. He called the response vapid and annoying (because it was), and with this passionate use of the Force, some thought that Elie might be convinced to join the so-called dark side — the Republican party.
Everything was proceeding as the Emperor had foreseen….
Yesterday, while taking questions from redditors and dodging nuts from the Republican National Convention, Barack Obama got a student debt question. Not just a student debt question, but specifically a law school student debt question. He got the question about one of the most important economic issues plaguing the very young people Obama was on Reddit to impress.
And he answered it.
He answered it in an annoying, vapid way that was replete with platitudes, yet devoid of any deep engagement with the issue. He got the question. And he answered it. But he said nothing at all.
The President offered some remarks about general indebtedness and waxed poetic about his commitment to education, but even Obama’s in-the-trenches appeal to young voters was blind to one of the biggest issues facing them.
Maybe if somebody Tweeted @BarackObama “discharge ed debt thru bk pls thx,” Obama could find a way to give 140 characters worth of a crap….
We know how much our readers love rankings, so for your viewing pleasure, we present to you the National Jurist’s sixth annual list of the Best Value Law Schools. This year’s Best Value ranking system takes into account the following criteria: tuition (25% of study), cost of living expenses (10%), average indebtedness upon graduation (15%), the percentage of graduates who got a job (35%), and bar passage rates (15%).
We’ve covered these rankings before. As in years past, National Jurist ranked only the top 20 schools, and has given letter grades to the rest of the schools on the list, ranging from A- to F. But this year, because of the uproar about transparency in employment statistics, the National Jurist’s rankings include adjusted weights for employment percentages based on 12 different categories.
National Jurist also paid special attention to average graduate indebtedness this year — and by “paid special attention to,” we mean that the publication hasn’t been following the news about the incorrect debt figures that were being used by law schools to pimp their programs like low-rent street walkers.
Check and see if your school made the grade this year….
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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