Tuesday, June 22, 2010

RedState.com Disses Unemployed JDs

I noticed some traffic coming from this website, and we have a less than sympathetic reader:
Nonetheless, I wasn’t quite aware of how bad things were “out there” until I happened upon a bunch of blogs written by out-of-work JD’s who are facing a mountain of debt, zero job prospects, and no way out except for leaving the country for good.  Here’s but a small sampling: Exposing the Law School Scam, But I Did Everything Right, Jobless Juris Doctor, Children of Debt, and others.  Granted, many of these blogs and their commentators have the whiny tone of those who feel entitled to something more, something better, than they got as the economy cratered.  Maybe some of them were bamboozled by the legal-industrial complex, and deserve everything they get.  I find it somewhat difficult to summon up a lot of outrage and sympathy on behalf of these unemployed lawyers, given that I’m still carrying six-figure debt from my stint at law school.
I wonder why he doesn't feel outraged when he's a victim as well.  Sounds like someone's politics are getting ahead of his financial status.  My brother suffers from this as well.  When you speak to him about the plight of the poor in this country, he sounds like a millionaire, but he is no where near a millionaire.  You have to reach a certain tax bracket before saying things like "they deserve everything they get."

He continues with the following:
The unemployed JD’s (and others who have made poor choices and taken on massive education debt on the promise that education leads to higher incomes) would love to strategically default on their debt.  Actually, they’d love to default, period, on their debt and start over.  Unfortunately for them, that is not possible.  Student loans, you see, are not dischargeable in bankruptcy.  The only option for someone unemployed, but carrying massive educational debt, is to flee the United States. 
Ironic, isn't it?  We're the ones that made poor choices, but he has more debt than I do. I don't have that much debt because I went to law school on scholarships, but I still resent every penny that I pay and because of when I graduated, the interest is usurious.  Does that mean that I made a poor decision, or I graduated at the wrong time?

But I do agree with his general point, which is:
I believe conservatives (and by extension Republicans) should take the position that what is needed is not moralizing to debtors (no matter how stupid their individual decisions may have been), but restoring the bankruptcy code to its original intent: providing a fresh start for individuals and companies. 
He seems to admire our zeal though:
The passion amongst this generation about the education bubble is intense, judging by the blogs and comments of the unemployed JD’s (and these are supposedly among the more successful of the Millenials, given that they finished college, studied enough to get into law school, then graduated with law degrees).

We are passionate about the education bubble. Instead of dogging us, you should join us.  No need for criticism.  But I'm not upset. Every article posted that features our blog, will spread the word that an education should be affordable or at least somewhat reflect your actual income when you graduate.  Oh yah, you deserve your debt as well, TheSophist.  But I hope you will be able to discharge it one day, if that serves you well.  Thanks for the publicity.  


  1. I don't think that is a bad article at all, and it definitely doesn't deserve the blog title you've given it. I'm far, far, far from conservative, but let's go, then. There's a bill in Congress that, apparently, can be bipartisan.

  2. Really, there's two options, you keep talented people in the country contributing to society, or you force them to leave and contribute to another country's GDP.

    The Republicans already have crafted some language that separates strategic defaulters from people who need bankruptcy. There's no risk that every graduate will immediately default on their debt.

  3. It's called brain drain! Hello China/India you got job 4 me?! I speak engrish good!

  4. He does manage to ignore the fact that law schools have been publishing knowingly deceptive employment statistics for years. Between that and the economic times we were experiencing when most of us made the critical decision to go to law school, how can you say we made a bad decision, really? Knowing what I know now, I would not make the same decision again, but, at the time, there was arguably a reasonable prospect of success. Times changed. We got duped and then we got tripped up. That's what bankruptcy is FOR.

  5. The guy doesn't understand what the true problem is with not having enough jobs for JD's. He looks at it through the eyes of the old chestnut of "those people should earn their jobs!"

    (Which is such a bizarre concept anyway. I expect that I should "earn" a promotion, or "earn" a really good job in a field that I want to practice in, or even possibly "lose" a job if I'm terrible, but how do you "earn" a basic entry-level job in the legal field? That's like "earning" a participant ribbon).

    Imagine if you had walked into medical school and told them that they could only offer residencies to 1/4 of the graduating class, and that it was solely up to the employer to decide which 1/4 of the class gets to move on. Most of the top 5% could count on something (as can a smattering of other people with good grades), but everybody else's job prospects were going to be based upon connections, gender, age, race, whether they speak foreign languages, and whether you could join your parents' practice. The other 75% were just going to have to open their own practices out of their bedroom and make house calls, and if something more invasive needs to be done, they can mooch off of a doctor with an established practice to use their laboratory and equipment.

    Yes, first of all, what goes through your mind is, "why are medical schools taking in so many people who will never learn how to treat patients in a practical setting?"

    Surely, you would want the new doctor to work under the direction of an older doctor just in case they are about to cut the wrong thing. You don't want a doctor whose office is a P.O. Box. You don't want a dentist who only had the resources to afford the instruments to clean teeth and to hope that one day they can clean enough teeth so they can buy an x-ray machine.

    "Wait, you wanted an x-ray to see if you have cavities? You need to visit Dr. Nguyen for that."

    Everybody from the ABA down to the law schools allegedly cares about providing ethical and competent representation, shouldn't they have the same attitude in making sure that the new attorney will find an associate position where they can handle cases under the direction of an established attorney? Where they will have access to research materials, a "real" telephone number that isn't a gmail number, and who isn't printing their business cards off on their home printer?

    And that's where, in the long run, we are destroying ourselves. Firms may save money today by hiring a bunch of contract attorneys, but now, you're going to have a generation of attorneys who knows how to do little more than scan documents for misspellings or run a half-assed solo practice out of the basement of their houses while one client after another has their lives harmed by the very fact that the attorneys don't know enough about what they should be doing in order to effectively litigate the case.

  6. I can't post this on the Red State site because their sign-up process is out of the interweb Stone Age. As a result, I'm going to cut and paste a response here because the debate needs to be re-framed, in my opinion. The argument about whether to change bankruptcy laws and to allow student loans to be discharged for those who need it is ultimately a much bigger issue than might be suggested as long as people are referring to the "law school scambloggers". This is about student lending in general, and the abuses are widespread. To be sure, the law schools exemplify some of the worst practices, but unemployed JD's are by no means the majority of those with cone-shaped "dunce" caps on sitting this life out on the sidelines.

    I want to point out a number of issues which may be relevant to how some view this post.

    In the comments here, and in the post itself, there was quite a lot of moralizing about law graduates who made stupid decisions. To be fair, some people did, in fact, make stupid decisions and should not have attended law school. But, it's become known that law schools have, for years, published effectively falsified graduate employment statistics, both for the percentage of graduates employed after graduation and for graduates' starting salaries. Of course, both of those statistics are relevant to prospective students' decisions about whether their decisions to take loans and attend law schools are good decisions or whether they are stupid ones.

    The law schools have done this primarily to pursue two objects. The first is a higher U.S. News and World Report ranking, which has a disproportionately influential place in the legal world. The second, of course, is student loan money. Until the Health Care Bill passed, this was money from private banks backed by the federal government. It was not actually taxpayer money.

    Perhaps students can be faulted for not investigating the methodologies used by the law schools to craft these numbers, but, quite frankly, there is something pretty unsavory about an institution of higher education treating its students like arms-length counterparties. They're not, and it's simply inimical to the purpose of a school to assume that they are. Much to my detriment, of course, I know that I did trust my school's administrators. One of them put before me a list of lenders and pointed out a particular lender that was offering a great program: Pay on time for 36 months, and the interest drops to 0%. I signed up. What the advisor didn't tell me was that there was a difference between a benefit that the lender could withdraw at any time, and a promise which the lender had to honor. Last week, I received a letter informing me - 7 years after the fact - that the program was discontinued because it didn't fit their profit-scheme anymore. The lenders will bend over backwards to get your business, and then withdraw a program that you believed was a term of the contract which they were obligated to honor. Unsurprisingly, if I ever am able to pay them back, I'll be paying back tens of thousands of dollars in interest which I had not planned on paying. Similarly, I did trust the employment numbers that the law school put in front of me, and while you might think it exceedingly naive to have done so (Apparently, it was.), I think it would be exceedingly harsh to suggest that people who work in law schools and have chosen to devote their careers to training professionals to look after the most important aspects of other people's lives, cannot themselves be trusted to do anything except make a wild grab for taxpayer-backed student loan dollars.

  7. When you have for-profit institutions like the University of Phoenix and similar post-secondary schools working as nothing more than one-way pipelines for federally-guaranteed loan money and engaging in similar kinds of practices to get "numbers" in the door and get them signed up for loans, you realize that the law school scam blogs are simply pointing out a much more significant problem. Law schools and unemployed JD's are not the reason bankruptcy legislation must be changed. Our problem is a small one, and I do realize that there is precious little sympathy for lawyers, the most hated people on several planets. The law must be changed because of the thousands of students who are sold a bill of goods, whether it is in a law program, a nursing program or an MBA program. And, the law must be changed because our schools are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Their only concern should be preparing our country to be competitive in the world economy. When you're busy running an administration which has as its first purpose making money, the student gets lost. They're just a vehicle to bring private loans to your door, and taxpayer guarantees to the lenders' doors. The enterprise is not about making the student successful at that point, and ultimately, that doesn't help anyone.

    In closing, the sad fact is that I was not a bad law student. The people who are blogging and commenting on the law school scam blogs are not losers. We have indeed lost. "A big hand." (Can anyone pick up on that reference?) That's for sure. But, a lot of those on the blog circuit were pretty successful in law, or at least law school, and, in the pre-2006 world, a lot of them would probably have ended up in a position to pay off their loans eventually. When unemployment gets chronic, however, you start to incur fees, and then the interest rate skyrockets, and then your credit score is tanked (even without bankruptcy); you start to think of yourself as a fairly intelligent, sort-of talented person who was just misled and then devastatingly unlucky. A lot of us didn't necessarily make bad guesses about whether we would be successful as law students or as lawyers. We just made a bad decision to trust people who really should be trustworthy, but aren't; and we, like millions of other people, didn't know what was going to happen to the economy in a few years. It's cases exactly like that that bankruptcy is intended for. Because, otherwise, put yourself in our shoes: What would you do? Stay and be a burden to your family and to society - just generally - or hop a flight and make the best of what is left of your life and hope to be at least a productive member of society somewhere? No one is asking for pity. No one is advocating for a change in the legislation because it would be a compassionate thing to do. The reason it should be changed is because it allows a lot of talented people who are capable of making a difference in other people's lives, to do so and to do it in the U.S.

    Now, I'm not going to proofread this because it's against my policy, but I hope that gives the Red State scribe some context for his or her next entry on the subject.

  8. It's because Wall Street owns the educational system in America and everything else in America.

    I riddle you this: how is Sallie Mae reporting a sharp increase in quarterly profit while all of its customers are unemployed? Hint: The Department of Wall Street...ahem...I meant to say the Department of "Education" bailing out student loan companies (not the students, but the student loan companies).

    And don't blame conservatives for this...if you can't see that both mainline political parties are behind this, you are willfully blind.



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