Monday, July 26, 2010

BIDER Reader Needs Advice (and Well Wishes for the Bar Exam).

This is the type of BIDER fan that I don't know how to save.  The one that's already took the plunge.  Any words of wisdom for him/her would be appreciated.  I, frankly, don't know what to say. I've never deferred my loan payments, amazingly.  So, IBR is a foreign language to me:

Hello Angel,

My name is [BIDER READER], I'm a recent law school graduate from this year, and I am taking the bar exam in two states this week. I just discovered your blog a couple weeks ago and I would like to seek some advice from you. I'm sorry this email is long, but I would greatly appreciate if your read it and provide some advice.

I have been very nervous... about job prospects and my student loans when I get out of school. I graduated from a TTTT in the 60th percentile, with $120,000 in loans, and am currently trying to find a job in a very crowed legal market. I had some fears this past year that it would be difficult to find a job as a lawyer with those factors, and stumbling upon your website site pretty much confirmed that those fears were true.

In addition, I am very burnt out from three years of law school, and BarBri this summer. I am dreading three days of examinations this week, not because I am unprepared, but because I am so mentally drained at this point. And I feel like it could all be for nothing even if I pass, judging from everything I've heard on the scamblogs. I had the vigor to practice law up until a few months ago, but now I am questioning whether I want to keep dealing with the seemingly never-ending tests, fees, and frustration that surrounds the law...if I can even find a job.

So, part of me just wants to say screw the law, and seek a non-legal job as soon as the bar exam is over. Unless I can parlay my J.D. into a good position, I'll likely be stuck making around $40,000 like I was before I went to law school. I'm wondering, do you know how bad income based repayment will be with my law school loans? I already realize that I'm gonna be living in my parent's basement for a long time, and won't be able to start a family for a long long time either. But one thing going through law school has taught me, is that money certainly isn't everything, and I'd rather do something I enjoy that be stressed out constantly a la law school.

I would appreciate any advice you could give me, being that it sounds like from your blogs you've been through some of the things I'm going through right now.

Yes, BIDER reader, I feel your pain. Maybe some of the readers can pipe up about IBR and how it works.  Hardknocks may have some insight.  I would suggest trying to find any job, legal or non, and let that dictate your future.  I am ten years out and making what I made as a judicial law clerk, or worse.  So, $40K doesn't sound like a bad salary to me.  Sorry you made this mistake, but you are far from alone.  

Any ideas for this young lawyer?

Oh yah, I'd like to pretend that the bar exam doesn't exist, but it does and many of our readers are taking it this week. I wish you luck and I hope you pass on the first try. At least you'll be satisfied in knowing that you're eligible to practice the law and you can go on with your life--whether that's being a lawyer or something else. GOOD LUCK. Let us know how you did!


  1. The bar exam is a joke. If it was actually hard, then passing it would get you a job. Like everything else surrounding the legal industry, it is a bunch of hype and hot air.

    If this person can get a $40k job they are ahead of me, I haven't made that much since I graduated 2 years ago and passed the bar (on my first try naturally).

    IBR is something like 15% of your disposable income, whatever that means. I guess they just have the decency to take out the taxes before charging you. After 20 years the loan gets forgiven. If you make more than $60k you're off IBR, but if you make more than that you should be somewhat okay.

    You can still start a family. I haven't, but plenty of underemployed lawyers are married somehow. I don't even have a gf though. Several women have, no joke, asked to get married to me when they heard I was an attorney. So if you can fake that and find someone rich, that is a plan. Gold diggers still think we have money just from our titles...of course they'll probably expect you to buy them expensive stuff so I don't know how long you can keep the farce up. You'll be able to sex them up first though I'm sure before they figure it out.

    You already screwed up, welcome to the club with the rest of the over-educated underemployed club. Maybe you'll get lucky and get a good job somehow, or win a big case, or get out of law. In the doesn't hurt to buy lottery tickets I guess. At least it's hope.

  2. I'm the one who wrote the email. I live in the tri-state NYC area, so $40,000 there is basically the same as $30,000 in most other parts of the country, fyi.

  3. IBR, if your loans qualify for it, is (I believe) capped at 15% of your disposable income, which is something like your AGI minus 150% of whatever the poverty level is for your size family. For most people, it works out well in reducing their monthly payments, but you have to keep paying continuously without slipping up or missing payments due to unemployment. They also generally don't pay down the principal of the loans, and might not even cover all of the interest that accrues.

    I actually found this Powerpoint rather informative: It's definitely the only useful thing to have come out of the Duke University School of Law in some time.

    If you can manage that, you get the remaining balance forgiven after 25 years. I really hope you make it that far, because after 25 years of barely chipping away at the interest of 120k, the total balance is likely to be pretty hefty. Best of luck!

  4. Advice? No.

    But I can say a prayer for you.

  5. I live in the tri-state area as well, and before the recession, you could get $50k shit law jobs maybe in Manhattan. But plenty of places outside of Manhattan would give you $35k or so. Now a lot of places offer $10 /hr. I know a guy that started about 10 years ago, he got $29k a year or something his first legal job, take it or leave it (he took it).

    I personally just wanted doc review. Before the recession people whined about $35/hr and OT, and everybody could get those jobs. Nowadays, that's not really the case. Rates are low, it's difficult to get assignments, and there's usually no OT. With big law shedding associates, these associates are more than happy to take document review. That pushes the rest of us out, and forces us into shit law, which was always actually worse than doc review.

  6. (Me again) Fuck....LOL I'm gonna be sending out lots of non-legal resumes after this test is over. I do have some business management experience from before I made the worst decision of my life, so maybe I'll get something decent.

    Oh well, at least that takes the pressure off passing the bar this week.

  7. Information about IBR can be found at ( They are the creators of IBR, and they are working on changes to improve it (I have a good working relationship with this org, too).

    I'm not sure if someone already made this comment (I skimmed the suggestions/remarks above), so at the risk of repeating what someone else may have said about it, I'll say this about IBR, too: the program only covers Federal Loans. That's one of my biggest critiques of it. It should cover private loans, too. The private loans are the worst. However, one of my many readers enrolled in IBR recently, and she seems quite pleased. So, it's definitely worth exploring.

    -Cryn Johannsen
    Founder of Education Matters (

  8. "I'll likely be stuck making around $40,000 like I was before I went to law school"

    Waaah, waaah. What a spoiled brat. This reader would be lucky to start at $40K, but that doesn't mean - theoretically - that he/she has to stay at that level forever. Get a job at a *starting* salary, do well, make contacts, and either move up to something better or go out on your own. Christ. I am so sick of these grads who think they're entitled to start at $100K or more! And this dope is in the 60th percentile at a fourth-tier school? Oy. Give it up now.

    P.S. to Angel: This idiot needs good wishes, not well wishes. "Good" is an adjective; "well" is an adverb. You're conflating "people who wish you well" (adverbial form) with "people who send you good wishes" (adjectival form), thus ending up with something that's not quite English.

  9. My first suggestion would be to try and get a financial planner of some sort and see if they can crunch the numbers to figure out what repayment program you need to be on. They might be able to walk you through the different options based upon what you owe and how much interest you may end up owing.

    Second of all...

    I am a graduate of a TTTT. I'm in a different (less saturated and stronger) market than you are, so these rules may not exactly apply to your situation, but coming from a TTTT does not have to be an absolute kiss of death. A surprising number of my classmates are finding jobs. They may not be great jobs, but function to pay the bills. The best explanation I can come up with is that there are more than a few employers who are either partial to our school, want to hire somebody who can be their clone, or they need people who will do basic work and who aren't going to sport a sour look on their face because that they aren't working in something a bit more prestigious. There is also a perception that good courtroom litigators don't come from top schools because they might be too pretentious for jurors.

    I tweaked my resume to make myself look much more "Joe Schmoe" and I'm now getting calls from the kinds of employers who ignored me previously.

    It's completely counter-intuitive, but I thought back on a few jobs that I wasn't even selected for an interview, and comparing myself against the people I knew who were interviewed and hired, and I began to accept that there was a market out there for people who didn't exactly make great strides.

    Maybe they aren't the best jobs, but that's the point. Shitlaw attorneys know that T-14 grads will have the means to bolt when the market picks up, while the very average will be grateful to have a job and that you know that the best that can happen to you is that you'll slide into another firm just like theirs.

  10. RE: IBR

    1. Doesn't apply to private loans.
    2. Is dependant upon income to debt ratio. Maybe you'll qualify for a few years, but then you might earn your way out of it. Remember, the debt ratio is underestimated because it only counts public loans.
    3. Timeframe is 10 years for public jobs and 25 for private. That's a lot of time where you could achieve ineligibility. With IBR you are essentially betting on never getting a raise or higher paying job over the course of an entire career. Even marrying a wage-earning spouse could kick you out.
    4. Once out of it, no more income-dependant payments and no more eventual debt forgiveness.
    5. The private loan payoff is currently taxable. So you would somehow have to save up for that too (if it ever happens).
    6. IBR is a program, not a contract. Program terms can be changed at any time. You have no contractual rights to keep the terms extant when you began the program (unlike contractual loan consolidations).
    7. IBR payments are likely to be low enough that your total loan amounts keep growing because they will not be enough to cover just the interest, let alone principal.
    8. That means three possibilities: (1) you earn/marry your way out of IBR and owe more than you did when you started it, with no more payoff; (2) You achieve the payoff, but if private will have a HUGE balloon payoff with HUGE taxes; or (3) you actually never earn more than 30k in a public job for a whole career, don't marry someone who works and the program is never tweaked in a way to screw you and doesn't disappear altogether, which it could.



Blog Template by - Header Image by Arpi