Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Article on CU Law Tuition Increase States 9 Out of 10 Grads Find Jobs, Are Fine With Owing $200k

Did the University of Colorado pay the person who wrote this article? Despite that tuition at UC Law will go up by 15 percent, the law students interviewed seem fine and dandy with paying the increase and owing $200k in student loans:

When he finishes law school at the University of Colorado, Sean Dormer expects he'll be saddled with $200,000 of student-loan debt.

The first-year law student is leaning toward a modest-paying, public-interest field and says "there are more important things in life than money." His in-state tuition tab next year will be $24,264, up 10.5 percent from this year's rate.

Maybe these incoming student haven't been hit by reality yet or maybe they just come from rich families. But where is the outrage from students with the foresight to understand that they can't afford the increase in tuition without a job or if they plan to work in public interest? We need someone like Harlan Ellison to set these kids straight, aka tell them to drop out of law school before they take out another loan from Aunt Sallie.

Law students said they're resigned to taking out more loans, and some plan to graduate with debt in the six figures, contending with their aspirations to pursue careers in service-oriented fields.

Can You Even Eat on That Kind of Money?

by guest blogger The Angry Future Expat

The overeducated and overindebted are well aware of the loneliness, despair, and financial desperation associated with pay cuts and joblessness. The feeling was summarized by Toiletlaw in the best couple sentences blogged recently:

...sending out resumes is a lot like being on a deserted island. Except in this version of castaway, we’re third tier toilet grads supping on ramen noodles, and instead of a painted volleyball, Wilson is instead the name of the Sallie Mae bill collector calling every 30 minutes asking when their money will come in. Other than that, metaphorically, we’re living the same meaningless life with little to call our own...

The literary professions are particularly hard hit during these times as set out in the post below - actually, come to think of it, where's my fucking paycheck Hardknocks?!?! - but I digress. Times are tough all over, and even Aunt Sallie's own are getting a taste of the toilet. Its CEO will need to somehow get by with a 35% pay cut:

An Associated Press calculation shows student loan provider Sallie Mae's CEO got compensation of $5.4 million last year, down 35 percent from 2008. The biggest cut was in the value of stock and options CEO Albert L. Lord received -- $3.1 million in 2009, down from $6.6 million...

Wow, brutal. Hey Al, if you need some recipes involving pasta, ramen, peanut butter, or cans of tuna, feel free to give me a shout. I'm here to help buddy. But Sallie Mae's executives aren't the only ones suffering:

When the government cuts corporate welfare, the business sector's loss is the taxpayers' gain.

Still, "it's tough when somebody eliminates 90 percent of your business through legislative mandate," Christopher Chapman, president and chief executive of Access Group Inc. in Wilmington, told me.

Yeah, that is tough. Real shame. Of course, I know how that feels since my business took about a 90% header following the Lehman Brother's failure, and I didn't even have a business model designed to ladle non-dischargeable debt onto unsuspecting 22 year olds. But, in any case, I feel for you, man.

Of course, on the bright side, graduates of New York Law School won't be quite as lonely!

Access has already cut 50 workers as the volume of new
loans drops, and is trying to keep the other 365 staffers busy
servicing old loans, Chapman told me.

Looks like Access Group debtors can look forward to a collection call every 15 minutes, instead of 30. That should help with the loneliness.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Dare You Ask Me to Work for Nothing?!

HAHA. I love this man. Harlan Ellison is a writer but his experience with employers trying to use his services for free is so similar to what lawyers are currently dealing with that I had to share this video with those of you who haven't seen it before. Job ads for lawyers to work for free, for $10/hour, and even for room and board are becoming commonplace these days. And these firms often demand that applicants graduate in the top of their class from top tier schools, have experience, and admission to bar. Maybe someday more people can be like Ellison and tell these employers to take a long walk off a short pier, but I doubt it. Things aren't going to get much better in the coming years and we'll see a lot more graduates who are currently in school to wait out the recession doing absurd things when they enter an already over saturated job market. Sad.

Defaulting on Student Loans is One Way to Prevent Identity Theft

by guest blogger The Angry Future Expat

One of the largest student loan guarantors and collectors ECMC - which if Google is to be believed has close ties to Aunt Sallie - was robbed last week. Personal data for more than 3.3 million borrowers, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and other info were taken and are now, presumably, in the hands of the Russian mob.

ECMC is the designated guarantor for loans in Oregon,
Virginia and Connecticut, but borrowers from all states could be

The 3.3 million social security numbers that were stolen from ECMC
represent 8.9 million loans, Mr. Kelash said. One borrower may take
out multiple loans.

Indeed, Mr. Kelash, one borrower may take out multiple loans, examples include just about every reader of this august blog. But even more interesting is that whoever orchestrated the theft seems to have known what not to take:

ECMC services and insures more than $11 billion in student loans for the U.S. Department of Education. ECMC also owns Premiere Credit LLC, a federal student-loan collection agency. No Premiere accounts were affected by the theft, Mr. Hawn said.

There you have it kids. A consolation prize for defaulting on your student loans and getting kicked over to the collection arm.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Recovery is Here! Private Sector Wages and Salaries Increase to 2006 Levels!

by guest blogger The Angry Future Expat

Great news out of the Bureau of Economic Analysis! In fact, it looks like the proof of a recovery that we've all be waiting for. The data is out for the Fourth Quarter of 2009, and yes, readers of this fine blog will be pleased to learn that after 4 straight quarters of declines, private sector wages and salaries increased in the last three months of 2009. They are now splitting the difference between the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2006.

Wow! Of course, the population increased by about 8 million during those years, but who cares? The recovery is here! Hooray!

And the economists are thrilled, because when you factor in government spending and few other things, presto!

Incomes climbed faster than gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, indicating the U.S. expansion is gaining more momentum than growth estimates suggest.

Gross domestic income, or the money earned by the people, businesses and government agencies whose purchases go into calculating growth, rose at a 6.7 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, Commerce Department figures showed today. GDP expanded 6.1 percent in the final three months of 2009 before adjusting for inflation.

“We’re in a recovery and maybe the recovery is a little bit stronger than we thought,” said Ethan Harris, head of North America economics at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Global Research in New York. “My guess is the income will be stronger than the GDP data” in coming quarters.

And we all know that any "guess" out of Bank of America is good as gold.

Do You Want to be a Guest Blogger This Week?

Angel is on vacation and I need to finish a book while doing a work related project. I'll be posting but we can use a few more people to keep our readers entertained this week in Angel's absense. If you share our views and would like to contribute your thoughts about an article you came across or your feelings about the recession, law schools, or the legal profession, you can email me at for consideration. Thanks!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Is College Worth It?

It's that time of year. When you find out whether or not you're accepted into the college of your dreams. Just a little discussion in this clip of "Take Away" on NPR about what that means to families and whether or not it's worth it.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

And How Is Your Saturday?

Just in case you were having too much fun on this beautiful Saturday, this is a reminder that the unemployed and young folks interning and working part-time are still screwed for the long haul. Underemployment hits 20% in Mid-March (emphasis mine).

Even with historic healthcare legislation under consideration, Congress passed and the president signed a new jobs creation bill on March 18. No doubt, national attention will shortly shift to unemployment and anticipation of the government's April 2 report of the March unemployment rate. In this regard, Gallup's mid-March unemployment rate is likely indicative of the not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate the government will release in April, as is Gallup's broader underemployment rate.

The danger associated with focusing on unemployment is reflected by the recent statement of Morgan Stanley economists suggesting that the U.S. may add as many as 300,000 jobs in March owing to an improvement in the weather, economic growth, and the government's hiring of temporary census workers. If anything close to this number of new jobs is announced by the government in early April, there is likely to be an enthusiastic, possibly even celebratory, response. Government officials are liable to tout the continued benefits of last year's stimulus and the future benefits of the new jobs bill. Many Wall Streeters will likely argue that the surge in jobs is simply another confirmation of the strength of the overall economic recovery.

However, before policymakers celebrate too much, they should note Gallup's recent findings involving its new, more inclusive measure of underemployment. To be sure, there are some benefits associated with the unemployed getting part-time jobs, no matter the source. For example, Gallup's self-reported spending data show that part-time workers who want full-time work spent on average 24% more per day ($51) during the past 30 days than did the unemployed ($41). While this represents an improvement and is good for the economy, it is not nearly as good as the 85% higher daily spending of those having full-time jobs ($76).

It is also often suggested that a growth in part-time jobs may indicate future growth in full-time work -- that companies hire part-time workers before committing to hiring new full-time employees. While this is sometimes the case, it may not be so at this point in the U.S. economy: Gallup data show that one in three part-time employees who are wanting full-time work are currently "hopeful" about finding a full-time job in the next 30 days -- not much of an endorsement of the idea that today's new part-time work will progress to full-time jobs.

Regardless of how one interprets the shifts taking place between part-time and full-time jobs, it is important that policymakers focus on the broader goal of reducing underemployment, not just unemployment. Part-time, temporary jobs like those associated with census-taking are far better than no job and may reduce the unemployment rate, but they do not represent the kind of job creation needed for a sustainable economic recovery.

On an added note, Corrente, a great website that has advocated for single-payer health care, plans to have a discussion of the book ECONned tomorrow with the author Yves Smith. I received the book last week from the publisher and I haven't gotten around to finishing it yet but hopefully I'll have a short review up along with a giveaway of the book next weekend (I'm starting to sound like a law school professor o_0). If you can't wait you can buy the book on

Now get out and enjoy the sunshine.

Friday, March 26, 2010

More Reasons Not to Go to Law School

The New York Times City Room blog recently posted a Q & A with a career counselor. Readers sent in their questions and the career counselor answered them in the most polite, PC way possible. Regular readers here know that Angel and I are more blunt about law school being a big mistake for MOST people who either don't have the grades or law school prestige to enter BigLaw, end up in BigLaw but get laid off or quit in a few years, or end up in an established law career yet feel completely trapped because they are unfulfilled and miserable after spending three years and thousands of dollars on a degree that is useless outside of practicing law. Yay! Here are a few of the questions from an established lawyer and a recent law grad that the NYT career counselor answered. My answer is below in red.


I majored in media arts for my undergraduate degree. Because of my creative interests, I became a graphic/Web designer, but was laid off early in my career. With few job prospects and limited opportunities to make a decent salary in design, I decided to go to law school. I have been practicing trademark and licensing law for the past five years and have yet to find my passion for the law. I do not feel that the legal field speaks to my interests and passions, namely art, design, music, geography, history, etc. I have thought about using my love for music by moving into entertainment law, but the basic job description would be similar to my current role and so I don’t feel that in the end I will be fulfilled.

I am giving serious thought to a complete change in career and moving into architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning (these fields seem to combine elements of several of my interests). Harvard has a six-week exploratory program that would allow me to see what is involved in this field. From there I could determine if going back to school is a worthwhile option. I am hesitant after spending so much time and money on law school to go back to school again, but it is clear that the law is not for me. Do you think that this kind of a program would be a good use of my time and money, and help me find a career better suited to my interests and skills?

— Posted by Oliver


I can certainly understand your hesitancy to spend more money on education and training after investing the time, money and energy into obtaining a law degree and that you’re no longer interested in practicing law.

I think you are certainly on the right track to evaluate how you can integrate your passions for art, design, music, geography and history into what you do next. Your decision to explore architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning seems more aligned with your passions than law does. You state that you are giving it serious thought, which I assume means that you have gone through a thorough brainstorming exercise, generated many different career options and then narrowed it down to those listed above.

Creating numerous options and vetting the interests and risks of those options on paper is an important activity to invest in before actually making a monetary investment. Many of my clients come up with as many as 10 or 15 different career options to evaluate and then prioritize. I encourage you to do the same, if you have not already.

Your hesitancy in making the decision to invest in Harvard’s six-week exploratory training program indicates to me that you might not have enough information to make this investment decision. I encourage you to identify what your concerns are, formulate smart questions and then ask people in these fields to help you address your concerns. By doing so you will gain the clarity you need be able to make a better informed decision.

Good luck Oliver.

HardKnocks' Answer: Hi, Oliver. Law school is a mistake for anyone who considers themselves to be creative and artistic. I fall into that category. Growing up I was very musical, artistic, and enjoyed creative writing. If my college career counselor had any idea what law school was really like, she would've immediately told me not to apply because law is generally not an area where talented people can express their creative side in their work. Outside of public interest law, being a lawyer is for boring people with no passions other than to make a lot of money or dream about making a lot of money in the basement of BigLaw doing temp work while practicing shitlaw on the side. Before you became a lawyer, you worked in graphic/web design. You clearly have more practical non-legal skills that the average lawyer and would likely be able to use that to leave the law for a more fulfilling career.

You are absolutely correct in feeling hesitant about spending more money on an education that may or may not help you find a job in architecture or urban planning. First of all, how much is this six-week Harvard exploratory program?? Have you spoken to people who have participated in this program and did they feel that it was worth the price to attend? If not, what else can you do to work in this field temporarily without having to spend thousands of dollars on a so-called exploratory program? Can't you do the same thing for free with an alumnus from your college? Would it be more worthwhile and cheaper to do an internship with a local architect or urban planner instead? What are the current job prospects for recent urban planning/architect graduates and what is the average salary for a recent graduate?

Finally, do you have a plan to leave law and live off of your savings for a considerable amount of time until you make the decision to return to school or will be able to find an entry level job in this economy? I don't think your hesitancy comes from not knowing what you want to do. I am almost certain that you want to leave the law and I can't blame you. Your hesitancy is from not knowing which option will allow you to spend as little money as possible to get to where you want to be. Law school isn't the only school that is a waste of time and money for most graduates. I've come across intelligent people with graduate degrees in public policy, international relations, journalism, and business who have been unable to find jobs in recent years. Older people established in their careers and school counselors (who are paid to tell you that more school is a good idea) have no idea what us young folks are going through so the best thing to do in your research is to google about blogs like this one started by recent graduates. I just googled "urban planning degree worthless" and came across the following articles:

Don't make the same mistake twice. Do your research and make sure that this is something you really want to do, will pay enough for you to pay off your loans, and will allow you to use your creative side. Good luck.

- HardKnocks


I recently graduated from law school and took the bar exam. Now, I am searching for an entry-level attorney position in a market where there are several more-experienced people competing for the same position. How do I make my résumé stand out among the crowd?

— Posted by Kelly


Yes, it is a highly competitive job market for law school graduates these days, and your question about how to stand out among the crowd is an important one. In addition to your grades and the schools you attended, other differentiators that employers will look at will be how well you balanced school and internships. Within those internship experiences, which I assume you have, be sure to highlight examples of how you demonstrated leadership, solved problems, applied critical thinking, developed new ideas and effectively dealt with change and ambiguity. These are some of the essential resiliency skills that many of today’s employers seek in all levels of candidates.

I also encourage you to demonstrate your people skills to future employers by using networking as a key method of your overall job search strategy and not rely solely on applying to job banks or working with recruiters.

Good luck Kelly!

HardKnocks' answer: Erm, "several more experienced people competing for the same position"? How about thousands upon thousands more experienced lawyers who can't find a damn thing in this market. Just ask experienced lawyers like Angel. Instead of asking the NYTimes counselor for advice, you should have just googled "law school scam movement" and that would've given you the answer you needed. Maybe not the answer you want to here but an honest account of what things look like for recent law school graduates and mid-career attorneys like Angel who were laid off and are currently competing with us young 20-somethings for a job. Because I don't know your GPA or law school, I have no way of giving you an honest estimate of your chances of landing a job right now. I'm sorry to say this, but there is little that a recent graduate can do to stand out amongst thousands of resumes unless you graduated at the top of your class from a T14 school. And even those people (I know a few of them personally) cannot find a job right now. Yep, law review, T14, dual degrees, published articles, prestigious internships, and all that jazz and still can't find a job. If you graduated from a top law school with good grades, the only thing you can do is network. If you graduated from a third tier school or have bad grades, I recommend searching outside of the legal market for a job. Good luck.

- HardKnocks


I received an email this morning from a friend who has a friend who is drowning in student loans and has no place to turn to.  Apparently, she feels that she needs representation and cannot deal with the harrassment anymore.  I'm wondering if anyone who reads my blog knows of an attorney who takes on these sort of cases pro bono or for an affordable rate, or some sort of non-profit that will assist lawyers who are being ruined by student loan debt?

We all know or heard of how much harassment the student loan machine can delve out.  There's actually a lawsuit that you can join if they are calling your cellular phone to collect on late payments:

Sallie Mae Autodialer Calls Complaints and Class Action Lawsuit

On February 2, 2010, a Seattle resident filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against the student-loan giant SLM Corporation, popularly known as Sallie Mae, over alleged unauthorized autodialer calls to the cell phones of borrowers who took out student loans with the national lender. The class action complaint, entitled Arthur v. SLM Corporation, seeks both injunctive relief and money damages.

Congress adopted the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ("TCPA") to stop abusive telephone practices by lenders and marketers, and in particular placed strict limits on the use of autodialers to call cell phones. The complaint charges that Sallie Mae has deployed automatic telephone dialing systems to make pre-recorded, non-emergency calls to customers who did not expressly consent to be called on their cell phones within the meaning of the TCPA.

"Nobody should be subjected to repeated, intrusive autodialer calls at all hours from their lender, especially on their cell phones," commented Jonathan D. Selbin of Lieff Cabraser. "We hope the lawsuit brings some relief to borrowers who have enough to worry about these days without receiving harassing calls like these."

So, in addition to this law firm, does anyone know of attorneys in New York City who are willing to represent a lawyer down on her luck?

Thank you kindly.  Remember, if we don't look out for one another, no one will look out for us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sometimes I feel like I'm Talking to the Wall. Can You Guys Hear Me Out There?

Today was very frustrating for me.  I was on the subway platform, sitting on a bench, and I saw two girls that were discussing outlining and its virtues.  Of course, I took the opportunity to ask them about law school.  One of the girls had a contracts textbook on her lap.  The look of it made me cringe at the memories.

"So, do you girls go to law school?"

"Yah, you're a lawyer? Do you like it?"

"Well, how much I like it is inversely related to how much it pays.  When I liked it the most, I earned no  money.  When I liked it least, I made a killing. Now, I'm trying a solo practice, so the work is interesting and far from lucrative."


"Just make sure you live like a student when you're a student, or you'll live like a student when you're a lawyer."

"Do you live like a student now?"

"I have a scholarship, so that won't be a problem for me."

"Yes. I live like a student. I actually always have. I don't remember the last time I bought a pair of shoes. Is your scholarship related to your GPA."

"Well, yes... but it shouldn't be that hard to maintain it.  I want to do public interest work, but I'm not sure I'll be able to do it and live around here."

"Do you have a trust fund?"


"Well, then you can't."

"There's great income based repayment programs through our school."

"What school is that?  NYU?"

"No.  Seton Hall."

"Oh.  Have you heard of Big Debt, Small Law--the guy who writes that went to Seton Hall and he's trashed it from here to high heaven.  The Dean of your school even offered to find him a job to make him shut up."

"Yah.  Job market sucks.  Our Dean told us that only 94% of last year's class is currently employed."

"And you believe him???? Okay, this is my train.  Bye!"

So, if that exchange wasn't bad enough, I ran into the semi-retarded guy that I've mentioned before.  I don't exactly know where on this blog, but I'm sure I did.  The background story is that he wants to be a Ph.D. in sociology and an elementary school teacher and a career guidance counselor. Whatever, he doesn't have a mental capacity to do it.  That's a fact. He can hardly speak english and I'm pretty sure it's his native tongue.  So, he's my neighbor and last we spoke I told him to stop focusing on school if he is pulling out loans to go. He should concentrate on moving up the ladder at the local Blockbuster and becoming a store manager.  At that time, he insisted that he could get financial aid and was very happy about transferring to a four year university.

Today, I see him and he has news for me.

"I'm on academic probation. I got an 'F' and I'm so upset.  They don't understand my disability.  Plus I lost my job and that's stressing me."

"That sucks! What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to talk to the professor about changing the "F" to a "D"."

"Okay.. I'm going to suggest this:  why don't you take some time off of school and get yourself together financially so you can concentrate.  You aren't pulling loans out for this, right?"

"I have a great financial aid package."

"Does that include loans?"

"Ya... but it's a good interest rate."

"You will never ever ever be able to get rid of your students loans. You have to die to get rid of it. You could be compulsive gambling, shopaholic, irresponsible credit card bill payer... and you can get rid of that debt.  You can't get rid of student loans though, ever."



"I watch lots of documentaries.  I know about student loans."

"Well you didn't know that they weren't dischargeable. Consider giving school a break.  I got to go."

Sometimes I feel like no one is reading this blog.  With all the information out there, how do you not KNOW that your Dean is a liar and that student loans follow you to the grave?

People are so frustrating.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Will You Be Helped or Harmed by the Health Care Bill? And What About Student Loan Reform?

Several of our blog roll friends have posted their thoughts on the health care bill and the student loan reform bill.

Esq. Brutus:
The middle class is indeed being destroyed. Why? Well, you do the math:

America = Military Industrial Complex + Healthcare Industrial Complex + "Education" Industrial Complex + Big Agriculture Industrial Complex + Banking Industrial Complex²

With those fat cats getting such huge slices of the pie, how could much be left for a middle class?

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch: "You reach a point where you say, who is going to pay for all of this? And it's going to come down to us taxpayers. And like I say, it's the Europeanization of America, and that's the worst thing that could possibly happen to our country."

Who is going to pay for all this? Well, probably the same Debt Children who will be paying for the gazillion dollar prescription drug benefit that
you voted for in 2003, Senator. Oh, I forgot - Repubs don't ask such questions when a fellow Repub is in office.

What a joke. And who's kidding whom? These republicans would be supporting this healthcare bull if McCain had won.

Well, what can I say folks? Virtually any major legislation passed that affects Americans living in America primarily benefits one of the industrial complexes that I mentioned earlier in this post.

Let's call them The Big Five - Military, Healthcare, Big Agri, "Education," and Banking².

They don't care about the debt incurred to finance their feasts. If they can't pay their own debt, they'll be bailed out or handed another government contract. If they fail, they will be given more power and funding. If they crap their pants, the Debt Children will clean their runny boxer shorts pursuant to dictates from Washington D.C. and IRS agents.

The Angry Future Expat

Yup, whatever garbage was being spread around about how the health insurers didn’t want the Obama health plan to pass was just so much shadow boxing and bullshit. The stock market speaks the truth. Tens of millions of new captive customers, forced to buy insurance from companies that maintain their antitrust exemption, and face no real competition from a government plan, e.g. Medicare buy-in or public option.

This plan is nothing but the wholesale transfer of wealth from the middle class (via the treasury) to the health insurers enforced by the world’s biggest and most aggressive collection agent – no, not Sallie Mae – the IRS. Sound familiar? It is eerily similar to TARP, TALF, free money from the Fed, and non-recourse loans backed by Toxic waste at par.

Education Matters on the "historic" student loan reform bill:

While I give it some credit, it offers nothing, absolutely nothing, for those who are:

(a) already in default,
(b) those who are on the brink of defaulting,
(c) and those who are simply struggling to make ends meet and pay their bills month-by-month.

Based upon the number of emails I am now receiving each week, the people I already know who fit the criteria I listed above, etc., etc., it feels like a big blow to millions and millions of people in the U.S. I have made it clear to Sec. Duncan in a recent e-mail that, "[the indentured educated class] comprise a large segment of the electorate who voted you and President Obama into office. We are enormously unhappy with both the Department of Education's lack of response to the student lending crisis and the utter silence from the White House. This is not change that I voted for - this is more of the same."

But I think political blogger Ian Welsh explains best how the HCR bill will help some Americans while harming others:

Some people will get care they wouldn’t have otherwise. People on Medicare will have half the “donut hole” for drug coverage covered, some people will get insurance who would have otherwise been refused. Etc…

But here’s something which WILL happen as a result of this bill: some people who are not on Medicare will not be able to afford their medicine, due to the ban on reimportation and the increase in time before generics are allowed on the market. Many of them will die, others will go bankrupt.

Others will be forced to buy insurance they can’t afford, and will be fined if they don’t. That money will have been money they would have used to buy out-of-pocket health insurance. They will be harmed by this bill.

The excise tax will inexorably make employer provided health care plans worse, meaning more and more things won’t be covered by good plans (aka: plans that cover what you need.

Some women who need abortions won’t be able to afford them, and some of them will wind up bearing children they don’t want or will go to back alley abortion methods, and some of them will die or be permanently injured by so doing.

The point is that while there is no denying that some people will be better off under this bill there is also no denying that some people will be worse off. People will die who wouldn’t have without this bill, people will live who wouldn’t have without this bill. People will not go bankrupt because of this bill, people will go bankrupt because of the bill.

The question is not “will some people benefit” or “will some people be harmed”, the question is “on the balance does this bill do more good than harm?”

I come down on the side that says it does more harm than good. I may be wrong, I may be right. We won’t know for a good 10 years or so.

If I’m wrong, I’ll admit it and eat crow.

But I think I’ll be missing a meal.

And whether it does more good than harm, having the Federal government mandate that people buy a private product that costs as much, in many cases, as their tax bill, or the IRS will fine them, sets a bad precedent. Saving a private industry which was in a death spiral (the insurance companies were only maintaining profits by cutting customers) sets a horrible precedent. And refusing to do the right thing, which would have cost less, well, doesn’t set a precedent, but does continue a very tiresome trend of the US being unwilling to do the brain dead simple thing that has worked everywhere else, because its government is captured by moneyed interests.

has put together this really handy chart that you should pass along to any family and friends still confused about the health care bill. Most of the people I know still have many questions about it and how they will be affected.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tonight's LOST Looks Awesome

Tonight's LOST episode is Richard-centric so fans of the show might finally get some of the answers about the island we've been waiting for. Feel free to use this thread for all LOST related topics. Angel and I are big LOST fans!

Celebrating Women's History Month

I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to acknowledge that March is Women's History Month and International Women's Day was March 8th. This is a blog that a lot of people will mostly associate with the "law school scam movement", but I think Angel and I as well as our wonderful readership have brought to the table, our wonderful blog community, so much more to discuss and ponder than just the injustice of our current law school system and the superficiality of the legal world.

We have discussed economic inequality, access to good education, politics, student loan reform, access to affordable child care, and most recently women's right to have or not have children and still be successful in the workplace. Some of our readers such as Jadz have shared their stories and the challenges they have faced in BigLaw and other aspects of their lives as working mothers. All of these issues are intertwined so I don't think we can address one issue without discussing a whole host of other inequalities that come into play in order to explain why we and the nation as a whole are in the current state we're in. And I think that is why our blog has become such a diverse bouquet of topics that we can discuss almost anything in our lives and have it relate in some way or another to the disaster the ABA and other greedy people in the law, business, and politics have created.

I came across an article at in January that pretty much sums up in a few paragraphs the gender inequality that still exists in the legal profession. The N.Y. State Bar planned to have a panel on women in the law except that the panel was initially to be made up of all men giving women lawyers "tips" on their strengths and weaknesses. I think the portion I've pasted below says it all so I'll leave it up to you to express your thoughts on this incident in the comments:

Faced with a call for a boycott of a discussion at its annual meeting next week, the New York State Bar Association has revised its plans to have a panel of "distinguished gentlemen" expound on the "strengths and weaknesses" of women in the legal profession.

Bridget J. Crawford, a Pace Law School professor, had urged state bar members to boycott the Committee on Women in the Law's Jan. 26 panel discussion entitled "Their Point of View: Tips From the Other Side," calling it an "insult to all women in the legal profession."

Crawford said Wednesday she called off her proposed boycott after the state bar changed the makeup of the panel to include both men and women, and altered the description of what the panel would discuss to "challenges faced by women in the workplace in the areas of communication, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, organization and management of work, as well as the role of mentoring."

As originally posted in state bar promotional materials, the event was described by the committee as a "distinguished panel of gentlemen from the legal field" who would "discuss the strengths and weaknesses of women in the areas of communication, negotiation, medication, arbitration, organization and women's overall management of their legal work."

Despite the challenges we as American women still face both in the workplace and others who deal with domestic violence and rape hidden behind the veil of a perfect home, there are still so much more atrocious human rights violations against women and children in other countries that need to be remembered, even if they are only brought to light a few times each year. One of the few men in the mainstream media who regularly covers these crimes against women and girls, Peter Daou has written extensively and passionately about women's rights and victims of stoning, rape, and other forms of torture against women in the Middle East and Africa. You can find his articles at The Huffington Post but I'd like to end with one of his articles in particular that gets to the heart of the problem, "Male Monsters -- Girl Buried Alive for Being a Girl and the World Shrugs". The world shrugs.

***Trigger Warning***


Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an "honor" killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys. The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-meter hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman. ... Media reports said the father had told relatives he was unhappy that his daughter - one of nine children - had male friends. The grandfather is said to have beaten her for having relations with the opposite sex. A postmortem examination revealed large amounts of soil in her lungs and stomach, indicating that she had been alive and conscious while being buried. Her body showed no signs of bruising.

First, let me say this: the brutalization of women and girls cuts across all religious and cultural boundaries, so this isn't just about dis-'honor' killings, though few things are more heinous than a father murdering his daughter (after dispassionately discussing it with other family members). It's about the things males do to females and will continue to do unless the outcry is loud enough that the world begins to take notice.

In a December post, I made a painfully easy prediction: women would have another horrible decade. I gave a few examples.

Like this:

Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore. Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. "We don't know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear," said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo's rape epidemic. "They are done to destroy women."

And this:

13-year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped. Reports indicate that she was raped by three men while traveling by foot to visit her grandmother in Mogadishu. When she went to the authorities to report the crime, they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium of 1,000 onlookers as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her until she died. A witness who spoke to the BBC's Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium. ... She said: 'I'm not going, I'm not going. Don't kill me, don't kill me.' "A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her." The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was "awful".

And there's so much more.

Here's a BBC story from this morning:

A wealthy British landowner has been found guilty of murdering his estranged wife. Prout's wife asked him for a divorce before she went missing...

Or this, from 2005, that uses a perfect word to describe the men who do these things:

When Amy Rezos went to meet her estranged husband to talk about a divorce, she never imagined what would happen next. When the couple separated, Chris got a hotel room. On July 2, 2004, Amy thought she was meeting him in the hotel to finalize the details of the divorce. Instead, she was walking into a carefully planned trap. As the couple argued over the custody of their two boys, Chris snapped. "I just remember seeing a look on him that I had never ever seen before in my life. It was a look ... like a monster," she said. Amy was savagely beaten. Someone in a nearby room heard the commotion and called the police. When officer Paul Lovett arrived, Chris Rezos tried to convince him that they were victims of a robbery. But Lovett didn't buy it. "I could see a woman on the floor covered in blood. The bathroom was covered in blood. I was certain she was dying. I asked her to blink once for no, twice for yes," Lovett said. As the 35-year-old woman lay near death, Lovett tried to speak to her, "I asked if your husband did this to you and blink once for no, twice for yes, and she blinked twice," he said.

I could post thousands of these and it wouldn't capture the depth and breadth of the problem. It comes down to this: there simply isn't sufficient public outrage about gender-based violence to spur political action.

In the aftermath of Haiti, I asked a simple question: "If the World Can Mobilize Like This for Haiti, Why Not for Sexual Violence in Congo?"

The world's response to Haiti is fully warranted - anything less would be reprehensible. But one thing about it frustrates me: why can't we muster the same sense of urgency, the same focus, the same acceptance that other lesser activities must be temporarily set aside; why can't we mobilize as quickly and react as fiercely and forcefully when it comes to similar calamities across the globe? Say, for instance, the monstrous sexual violence in Congo? When young girls are being gang-raped with bayonets and chunks of wood, their insides ripped apart, how can the world take it in stride? There's simply no excuse for a muted response, let alone indifference. None.

Some readers said the global inaction with respect to Congo boils down to Coltan, and to some extent that's true. But the bigger problem is apathy. Nick Kristof articulates it well:

Sometimes I wish eastern Congo could suffer an earthquake or a tsunami, so that it might finally get the attention it needs. The barbaric civil war being waged here is the most lethal conflict since World War II and has claimed at least 30 times as many lives as the Haiti earthquake. Yet no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.

'Pathetic' is an understatement.

Sometimes I feel like we were all born into an alternate universe, a psychotic, twisted, perverted version of what life should be. Our existence is marked by unimaginable violence, hideous acts of evil against the most innocent among us. It's like living in a perpetual horror movie.

Setting aside the existential conundrum, one thing I know for certain: we can't stop jumping up and down, screaming at the top of our lungs, donating money to organizations that help women, telling our friends and families, doing everything in our power to stop these male monsters from continuing their savagery against women and girls.

I hope as lawyers and as human beings that we can begin to see individual acts of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, discrimination in the workplace, and the lack of concern for the care of women and children as all intertwined due to the misogyny and hatred of women which exists the world over. As we remember how far we've come in dealing with these issues, also remember how far we have yet to come in our struggles to fully eradicate the human rights violations against women all over the world.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Three hours in landlord-tenant court trying to adjourn another attorney's case that is (SURPRISE!) on for a trial..... $200.

Locksmith spending one hour letting me into my apartment that I stupidly locked myself out of because I ran to the mailbox to check on whether or not a deadbeat client remitted payment of $500 that he CLAIMS he sent me--only to find out that he still hasn't sent it.............................. $270.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Student Loan News (Updated)

I wanted to share several more articles I came across this morning at Alternet and at Cryn's blog Education Matters.

Education Matters linked to a BBC article that brings up the actual cost for an education in the US these days: $200,000. We've all come across articles and op-eds from people like the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education who use the $23,000 average student loan statistic, which we all know is baloney. Everyone I know owes more than $30,000 in student loans, even the ones who only went to college and not graduate school.

The second article I came across is by Les Leopold at Alternet called Stop Student Loan Sharking, Make College Free. Thank you! Finally, someone arguing that a college education should be virtually free for anyone who wants it. Leopold make some great arguments for making education free. I just put Les Leopold's book on my must read list. He's one of the few people out there making sense right now.

For a fleeting moment I thought Congress was going to do something really wise: Get out of the student loan-sharking business. Recall that only a few days ago, the House and the Senate were going to fast-track the student loan reform bill by attaching it to the health care package. It was supposed to be a sure thing. What was I smoking?

Our current student loan system could have been invented by Tony Soprano. We taxpayers guarantee the loans and the government does most of the underwriting, rate setting and paperwork. Then private banks step in, impose their extra charges on needy students, and walk off with all the profits. Not only do the feds donate tax dollars to these banks (what else is new?), but the banks bribe college officials to send students their way. Bada Bing!

If the bill passed, eliminating Tony as middleman, the government could have saved from $37 to $87 billion dollars over the next decade for use in supporting more Pell grants for low-income students.

To be sure, Republicans, en masse, are opposed to eliminating the no-account middlemen because that would amount to a socialistic takeover of free-enterprise. But, they also are joined a group of Democrats including Senators Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jim Webb of Virginia. The banks in question just happen to be employers in their states and campaign contributors as well. (See New York Times)

Unfortunately we’re having the wrong debate here. The important question isn’t who should be saddling students with enormous debt — the government or private banks. It’s why anyone should be saddling them with enormous debt. As of 2008, 62 percent of all students at public 4-year colleges and universities took out loans. By graduation they owed a median of $17,700. (See

Allow me to offer this radical concept: They should graduate with no debt. Going to a public college or university ought to be free.

It used to be that way, at least for vets. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (GI Bill of Rights) sent 7 million Americans to school for free after WWII. In 1988, a Congressional committee determined that for every dollar invested in that program, $6.90 was returned to the US economy. No reason we couldn’t repeat that performance today. Why isn’t universal free higher education on the political agenda? Here are some of the reasons:

1. Students won’t value what they don’t pay for.
Can’t you just see it? We let students in for free and they trash the place. If we’re not careful, we’ll get the ’60s all over again. But of course, this argument doesn’t apply to students from wealthy families who don’t have to pay a dime for college or run up any loans at all. Why the double standard?

More importantly, education is a necessity, not a privilege for the few. Our society always has recognized the need for free public education. As early as the 1600s, the New England colonies provided it. By the 20th century K-12 free public education became the norm. Nobody argued that only those who could pay for it should be allowed to go to high school. Times have changed a bit: Today people need a college degree or advanced vocational training if they’re going to do well in the world.

2. The GIs earned it. Why should everyone get it for free?
The original Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was actually opposed by Franklin Roosevelt. Why? Because he believed that everyone in the country had been part of the war effort–factory workers and farm hands were as important as front-line soldiers. So why reward just the vets with a free college education? But Roosevelt soon realized we had to send the 7 million vets to college for free, or else unemployment might soar after demobilization. No one wanted a replay of the Great Depression.

And we don’t want this Great Recession to continue either.. Right now more than 29 million of us are without work or forced into part-time jobs. We need more than 100,000 jobs every month just to keep up with population growth. Free higher education would surely take the pressure off–and it would have that extra bonus of actually educating people and enriching their lives. Unemployed workers of all ages would go back to school if tuition were free.

3. We can’t afford it.
Wrong. What we can’t afford is what we’re doing now: loading up students with debt and slamming the academy’s door in people’s faces. We need as many people as possible to get a college and advanced vocational education. It’s the key to prosperity and a better quality of life. The smarter we are at work, the better the life that we can create for ourselves and our kids. How are people going to tackle global warming, the health care crisis, and all our other challenges without an education?

Also, we need to get a whole lot smarter about economics and governance. Our current economic mess shows just how dumb we are when it comes to protecting people’s livelihoods. Millions lost their jobs because we were too damn stupid to stop Wall Street’s gambling spree. Worse still, most of the economics profression justified it asit was happening. We’ve got to figure out how to keep our free-enterprise economy from turning into a billionaire bailout society, which is where we’re heading. And our political system needs a little work too. For instance, how about educating some people to come in and fix the U.S. Senate, one of the most dysfunctional institutions ever? (While we’re at it, the Texas curriculum board could use a little help too.)

4. There’s really no public support for free higher education.
Are we sure? Few have tried to move the issue on a national level.

But if we asked parents and kids, we’d find out that free higher education is a no-brainer. It would be a good idea even if the federal government had to go deeper into debt to finance it. We’ve pumped more than $8 trillion into Wall Street with our loans, asset guarantees and liquidity programs. God knows how much we squander each year on military boondoggles. Yet, it might cost from $50 billion to $100 billion a year–a relative pittance–to cover all public higher education tuitions. And it would be a huge investment in a brighter future.

But the fact is, we don’t have to run up a tab to get free higher education.

Imagine turning a fee on Wall Street gambling into a “college education for free” card for every American. A small financial transaction tax on bankers’ speculative deals could fund free higher education in perpetuity. To jump start the program, we could put a windfall profits tax on the $150 billion in bonuses Wall Street executives are now collecting, thanks to our bailout. (Or, if we had the nerve, we could place a 10 percent income tax surcharge on those earning more than $3 million a year.)

The GI Bill’s free tuition program was a key factor in building our post-WWII prosperity. If we want our nation to grow smarter and stronger again, we need universal free higher education right now.

Les Leopold is the author of The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance destroyed our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About It Chelsea Green Publishing, June 2009.

Update: This was my response to Jadz idea about focusing more on vocational training in the comments section:

I agree most with Jadz' opinion. In my perfect world everyone would have equal access to health care and education. I know this will probably never happen, at least in the US, so I think we should at least have a cap on tuition fees and more of a focus on apprenticeships and vocational training like in some European countries.

I think $23k is still too much to attend most colleges outside of the top 50. The same goes with law schools outside of the top 20. The current economic situation is a perfect example of a college and graduate education being worth less than $23k for the thousands of graduates who can't even find a minimum wage internship.

I found the students fees for 2009-10 in the UK on the BBC website:

STUDENT FEES (2009-10)
England: £3,225 pa
N Ireland: £3,225 pa
Scotland: free for Scottish residents, £1,775 to others in UK
Wales: £1,285 for Welsh residents, £3,225 to others in UK
Students from elsewhere in the EU pay the same as those locally
Those from outside the EU pay whatever the university charges

I met an Oxford University graduate who owes less than £10,000. This would be considered virtually free in my opinion to attend one of the best universities in the world. Third tier college and law students in the US often have to pay more than 10 times that amount for a completely worthless degree. Its time to eliminate the student loan sharks and slash professors' six figure salaries. I agree with L4L that instead of paying useless, overpaid ivy league grads who have never practiced law, practicing attorneys should be teaching those classes instead at a third of the cost.

PS - If you're just stopping by to spew Tea Party/Libertarian/ "life isn't fair"/ you're a stupid socialist/Obama is a socialist nonsense, your comment will be deleted so don't bother writing.

Added note. When I say college should be free or low cost to anyone who wants it, let me explain what I mean. And no, I don't think everyone should go to college or has the book smarts or talent to attend Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Princeton, Brown, UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, Berkeley, Michigan, Virginia, or Julliard:

College shouldn't be the path for everyone. Nor do I think colleges should open its doors to any Jane or Joe who clearly doesn't have the desire or the book smarts to take college seriously.

Rich kids will always have the advantage of going to college whether they want to or not, usually on their parents' dime, and a lot of them will use the opportunity as a four year frat party. Those aren't the people I'm concerned with or this article addresses. Poor kids who don't take school seriously will either not go to college or end up in community college anyway and those are the people who will benefit the most from apprenticeships and trade schools after high school. It's the poor and middle class kids who have the potential and smarts to work in academia or become doctors, teachers, lawyers, writers, and scientists who are getting the shaft.

Our tax dollars will be better spent on work training and education programs than paying for prisons and wars. And that is exactly where a lot of these kids wind up when they don't have access to education and vocational training. Billions of our tax dollars are wasted on the most idiotic programs, yet people scream socialism when some of us actually want to put that money to good use back in our communities to help people stay healthy, safe, and happy.

I've always advocated closing down most of the law schools outside of the T20 because I understand how the proliferation of crappy, low ranked schools devalues the worth of a degree. The same goes for colleges. With fewer schools, colleges and graduate schools will become more competitive and people who don't make the cut can get a low cost education at community college or vocational school part time and work in an apprenticeship to pay off the tuition easily. Those who go to college should have the privilege of attending for free or at a low capped rate depending on financial need and merit-based scholarships both from the government and the university.

We really wouldn't have these problems if our government gave us BACK our tax dollars (rather than to Goldman Sachs) to use for education, vocational, job creation, and community health programs. I see it less as socialism and more as getting back what we pay for to invest in our communities.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sallie Mae Workers Protest Student Loan Reform

H/T to The Jobless Juris Doctor for posting this story yesterday. It's so outrageous that I had to share it with our readers here. The Pioneer Credit Recovery debt collection firm, which is owned by Sallie Mae, sent 300 of their workers on six buses to Buffalo, NY to protest student loan reform outside the district offices of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N. Y., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, DFairport. Unbelievable!

Across from the Larkin at Exchange building, home to Gillibrand’s office, employees wearing matching blue shirts chanted “Save Our Jobs!” and carried signs with similar messages.

Sallie Mae has previously reached out to lawmakers to get the point across, said Jeff Mersmann, vice president of operations for Pioneer Credit. “This takes it to another level,” he said.

Participation in the rally was voluntary, with employees offered the option of signing up to ride a bus to Buffalo, he said.

Conwey Casillas, a Sallie Mae spokesman, said employees have been tracking the reform issue for about a year and were asking for other ways to get involved. “They are concerned about their jobs, and they wanted to communicate that,” he said.

This story should have made the headlines of every college paper in America only to remind students and graduates what we are up against. Student groups should be planning to do the same thing, bussing hundreds of students to protest Sallie Mae in their state's capitol. These scumbags will do anything, pull any ploy they can think of, to stop student loan legislation from being passed. What are students and graduates planning to do about it to counter Sallie Mae's noise machine?

I am so glad I didn't borrow from Sallie Mae when my law school sent students a spreadsheet of private loans to choose from like it was a damn lunch menu. A close friend even had a Sallie Mae teddy bear - goodness knows where she got it from - and had it sitting on her nightstand or propped on her bed whenever I visited her dorm room. She really had no idea what she was getting herself into. She thought Sallie Mae was a decent organization that helped poor families buy homes and poor students attend college. That's why she would always hug that little bear with it's Sallie Mae logo when I wanted to rip its head off.

Here is Grandma Hardknocks' response to the 300 workers who have traded their morals for a dirty paycheck and manage to sleep at night knowing full well that they are helping to prevent legislation that could help save millions of young people from financial ruin:

War between Mercer Law Students and Faculty Spill Over Onto Facebook

Mercer University students, faculty, and staff are in open war against each other and themselves over rankings, hiring decisions, and even the school logo. We have uploaded the facebook argument between Professor Donal Christopher Wells and Mercer Law students on Mercer 3L Charlie Grimsley's facebook page. Below we have included a bit of background on Mercer Law's challenges in the last several years in the USNWR rankings as well as the highlights of the current student backlash against incompetent professors and faculty. Angel and I applaud Mercer Law students! This is a must read post!

Mercer Law Facebook Fight

A little background:

In 2006, Mercer Law School was ranked 87 by US News and students generally felt that the University was on the right path. However, over the past three years, Mercer has fallen from 87 to a three way tie for 100 in 2008, and was most recently off the top 100 list entirely. As a result, students and faculty have been angry, frustrated, and actively seeking drastic changes at the school. The only problem is that everyone has disagreed about the way that these changes should be accomplished and the fight is spilling over into the public.

The highlights provided by an anonymous tipster:

The first indication of trouble at Mercer was a 2008 rant against the school posted across several law student forums. The posts resulted in an online skirmish that included SEVERAL HUNDRED posts from Mercer students, faculty, alumni, and amused onlookers. The general gist was that a student was upset at the direction the school was taking and his perceived waste of money and the impending plunge into tier-3 toilettedom. The students split into groups defending or attacking the school. Those students who attacked the school were attacked online and often had their online identities publicly exposed. The Mercer Law administration eventually got involved and somehow most of the posts have disappeared. However, you can find some residual posts at:

Then, Mercer Law did drop off of the top 100 list in 2009. Students immediately circulated a petition calling for sweeping changes. The petition was signed by more than half the student body and was also embroiled in controversy since the text of the signed petition was substantially changed before it was delivered to the University President. Again, debate raged on through school-wide emails and public forums. One month later, the dean resigned. In a Macon Telegraph article about her resignation, University officials noted, “Some students have been active the last few months with things like petitions, but I can assure you this has nothing to do with that.”

When students returned to school for the fall semester of 2010, the situation continued to worsen. Every minor disagreement between school policy and student desire has turned into a major debate. When the University changed it law school logo, students were quick to attack the seventies style logo and the process for creating it by creating a new petition and formed a SBA committee to address the issue.

Incident Earlier in the Semester Involving 3L Charlie Grimsley and a Professor Who Refused to Turn In Grades Until February:

Then, in an already desperate job market and facing a lowered perception of their schools, students were denied their current GPAs and Rankings because one professor refused to turn in his grades until late in February—a class with a term paper due in early November. The following exchange occurred between third year student Charlie Grimsley and the Dean of Academic Affairs:

Dear Deans,
I am writing regarding the grading deadline. Today is 10 days after the January 15th grading deadline for professors to turn in fall grades. One professor has still not turned in his grades. In fact, this professor habitually violates the grading deadline (I don’t think he has turned grades in on time a single time since I have been a student here). This professor’s actions are disrespectful to students, to the registrar’s office, and to the other professors who regularly turn grades in on time. This habitual violation of the grading deadline makes the registrar’s job harder and makes it difficult for students who are applying for jobs, clerkships, and LL.M. programs.

I want to be clear, this is not a situation where a professor occasionally misses the grading deadline and has a good excuse for doing so. This is a situation where the same professor always misses the grading deadline and usually by more than a week. Rizza Palmares, Dan Hines, and I had a meeting with Dean Mary Donovan about this issue on Friday, January 22, 2010. My questions to Dean Donovan were this: (1) has anyone ever spoken with this professor regarding his lack of regard for the grading deadline; and (2) to whom should SBA officers direct complaints of this nature? Dean Donovan did not directly answer either question, but, instead, suggested that a group of students try talking with this professor. Frankly, this is not the students’ job—this is the administration’s job. Dean Donovan pointed out that other law schools have professors that habitually violate grading deadlines. We are not students at other, cheaper, higher-ranked, law schools; we are students at Mercer Law School and most of us pay $34,000 a year to attend this institution.

Personally, I do not think it is too much to ask for the administration/deans office to address a situation where a professor always violates the grading deadline placing students at a disadvantage for jobs and clerkships. At the very least, I think the students deserve a better
explanation. Now here we are, a week from February and the registrar is still waiting on this professor’s grades. Finals were finished over a month ago. Do you think this behavior is acceptable? Has anyone in the dean’s office addressed this professor’s lack of regard for the grading deadline? To whom should SBA officers direct complaints of this nature? The students at this law school deserve a higher level of respect than that the dean’s office and this one professor have displayed in this matter. The main question isn't, is this a problem. This has repeatedly happened and we are past that point, the main question is what is the administration going to do about it on behalf of the customer/student?

Charlie Grimsley

The response:

Dear Mr. Grimsley,
Thank you for sharing your concerns about the late grades. The Dean's office is aware that one set of grades has not yet been turned in. As we do every semester, the Dean's office continuously reminded faculty about the grading deadline and monitored which faculty were meeting the deadline. When faculty did not meet the deadline, the Dean's office communicated with them to remind them about the reasons for the grade deadline and the negative repercussions for the students caused by missing the deadline. As in past semesters, the Dean's office has communicated those concerns on several occassions since the deadline has passed to the faculty member who has not yet turned in his grades. Hopefully, the grades will be turned in shortly.

Steve Johnson

The final reply before a formal censure bill was passed by the students:

Dean Johnson,

Thank you for your response.

I mean no disrespect, but I must ask: Do you, or the other deans, feel that your response is adequate? This professor is always late; do you think a simple reminder is sufficient? At this point shouldn’t someone be standing by his office door until he gets the grades done? What is the purpose of having a grading deadline if the dean’s office does not hold professors to it?

What if a student missed a deadline? Would the dean’s office simply remind him/her that they were late and delay everything else until they got a response? If the dean’s office does not have the authority to address this problem then who does? To whom should the students complain? Are you telling me that we are all (students, registrar, administration, etc…) at the mercy of one professor who can turn grades in whenever he feels like it?

Do you think an 11 day delay is acceptable? How would you feel if the university held your paycheck for 11 days? How would things work if each and every student missed the tuition deadline by 11 days? This problem needs to be addressed in an adequate way. A simple reminder is insufficient at this point. This professor is a habitual violator and everyone knows it, steps need to be taken to rectify this problem.

Charlie Grimsley

Professor Tony Baldwin posted his grades the following week. Good job Mr. Grimsley and shame on you, Professor Baldwin for not posting your grades sooner!

Current problems and the Spill Over onto Facebook:

Two weeks ago, Mercer’s new Dean Search Committee unveiled their first candidate for Dean, Gary Simson from Case Western. General chaos ensued after an article was found that said “Gary Simson has agreed to resign" from Case Western after “students posted some of the lowest bar passage rates in the state."

Most recently, the same student, Charlie Grimsley, who wrote the petition against the Dean, sent the emails about grades being late, and who uncovered the article about the prospective new Dean posted on his facebook wall, “A decline in rank, plummeting bar passage rates, and alumni giving up on the school, this sounds eerily familiar.” Obviously frustrated with the constant attacks from the student, Mercer Professor Christopher Wells quickly replied, “Wonder why Mercer Law's applications are up 70% and alumni has risen so dramatically this year? I don't think the answer is bad-mouthing.”

Valentine Leppert, a 3L and currently ranked #1 in the class, responded, “I wonder how you are the head of a ranking committee that has been in existence for nearly a year but has not done anything. I wonder how you could oversee the admissions process and allow theincoming LSAT scores to drop when the school was already ranked 100th. I wonder why you have been an associate professor for roughly twenty years. I wonder how you can drive a Porsche while none of the students have decent jobs."

Note that David Hricik and Theodore Blumoff who join in on the Facebook fight are both Mercer professors.

What a disaster! Good luck to Mercer Law Students and keep on fighting!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Technology: Friend or Foe?

This article made me feel like a dinosaur, but it's worth talking about. In my view, the legal industry--until recently--was the last holdout against technology.  I have always been a bit more computer savvy than my old fart bosses.  When I started practicing, I found it so odd that I had to draft a letter, print it on "good paper," fax it and then send it via regular mail.  Why couldn't I just email the opposing counsel if I wanted to ask them when/if they will be complying with the court ordered discovery schedule?  I remember that we had verification issues regarding using email as evidence in court.  Judges did not trust it and thought that it could be manipulated.  I'm actually not sure if an official ruling regarding the issue ever emerged--but all of a sudden--I'm practicing as a solo and email seems to be okay by everyone.  Of course, instead of sending letters via regular mail, lawyers are still printing the letters onto good paper and scanning them and sending it via e-mail.  I guess we'll never learn.  When I first started practicing, the only way to do on-line legal research was to pay for it; Weslaw or Lexis.  So, as a lawyer, you felt like you held the key and the cure to your client's legal problems.  God knows that law school didn't actually give you any practical experience that entitled you to payment.  You were just a super, duper researcher. You had the tools at your fingertips and you would figure out how to use them to zealously advocate for your client.  In the beginning, you don't even have legal instinct. Now, everyone has those same tools, i.e. Google.
What do you think technology has to or for the legal industry?  Do you have a favorite gadget? 

Read this article for more....

At the outset, a disclaimer: In this column I sound like a grouchy old man. But, when I began practicing law in Nashua in October of 1985, we had computers (or at least the secretaries did). We also had a room full of dot matrix printers that made a lot of racket a lot of the time.

Those computers and printers certainly helped us begin our march toward greater efficiency, but it was the arrival of the fax machine that was the true harbinger of my future as a business lawyer. The fax machine made stuff go faster.

In the world of corporate and commercial law, lawyers exchange documents all the time. Before the fax machine, we regularly used the mail to transmit documents to the lawyers on the other side. That meant we had a choice: either get our drafts out early or delay the closing. And no commercial lawyer worth his or her salt ever wants to be the one holding up the parade. So we procrastinated less, and our closings proceeded at a reasonable and perhaps even civilized pace.

But the fax machine changed all that. It gave lawyers the luxury of waiting until the relative last minute to transmit documents to lawyers on the other side. One of my mentors at the time identified the fax machine as a particularly awful development. He tried to fight the battle. For weeks, he said we didn’t need one. Eventually, he had not choice but to cave in. Lawyers had started faxing everything. The pace we needed to work at to maintain a successful law practice began to accelerate. It hasn’t stopped accelerating since.

The next big development, of course, was the arrival of the Internet and e-mail. E-mail, for me, has been as insidious as my kids. Slowly but surely it has gradually taken over every aspect of my life. I broke down a few years back and got a Blackberry, so I could have the joy of reading e-mails at 2 o’clock in the morning and replying to them with six-word messages. There is a reason the device has earned the nickname “crackberry.” For the most part, clients love it.

The handy dandy nature of 24-hour-a-day e-mail tends to raise the expectations of clients when it comes to response time. I suspect most lawyers would agree clients really expect an almost immediate response to their electronic inquiries. Some lawyers have adopted the auto-reply mechanism on their e-mail – yet another application to make our lives easier – to generate a reply that tells the client not to expect a reply until certain hours of the day. I wish I had that sort of gumption; but I know it would frustrate some of my more demanding clients. I think that to be perceived as a responsive lawyer these days, I really have to hustle.

Please don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to whine about how tough life is as a lawyer. I know these technological advances impact all businesses and most workers. But is all this speed and increased access good for my relationship with my clients? Does it make me a better lawyer? Or is my enslavement to communications technology detracting from my professional development as a lawyer?
I have had a Web site for years, and I confess that most marketing professionals would deem it under utilized. For me, as with many lawyers, it really functions as an online brochure of sorts. I think it generates some business, and truthfully, it doesn’t really bother me that much. But do you know what does bother me?

Facebook bothers me. In Facebook, and its obnoxious grown-up cousins Linked In and Plaxo, we have the next phase of techno-torture for lawyers. I don’t do Facebook, at least not yet. Honestly, I don’t really see the attraction. I’m not sure I want to be connected to people from my distant past, and I’m not sure I want to share my current life with acquaintances. As for connecting with my clients, I have to wonder whether I should I be connected to my clients. Is that healthy? What about confidentiality?

As for Linked In and Plaxo, I’m guessing I’m not the only one being peppered on a daily basis by e-mails from them telling me that all sorts of people want to connect with me. These requests create a real dilemma for me. I sit at my desk and wonder: Are people’s feelings hurt when I fail to reply? What if I reject the request? Does that signal trouble in our relationship somehow? Perhaps, most disturbingly, am I passing on the networking opportunity of a lifetime by failing to Link In, and refusing to Plaxo- create? Must I Tweet to compete? I can feel the paralysis setting in.

This month’s ABA Journal says there are all sorts of incredible applications coming that I can load on to my upgraded Blackberry that will make my professional life easier still. Terrific, I can’t wait. Right now I use my cell phone for calls and e-mail. Soon, I expect to be able to participate in a six-party conference call while simultaneously driving, ordering dinner, learning to speak Guajarati, and Tweeting to all my Linked In connections about the wondrous day I’ve just had.

At that point, I expect, I will know I am truly networked and connected. As long as I don’t text, it will be perfectly legal. And best of all, I’ll be practicing law faster than ever.

Scott Flegal is a business lawyer and mediator. Visit him online at www. or

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