Monday, June 18, 2012

Family Matters: Guest Post by Esq. Never

My post law school life has posed many challenges and humiliations. I essentially have to finance a small mortgage worth of student loans while also paying for rent. After living on my own for several years, I had to spend three years living with my parents. I lost out on three to four years worth of income and work experience. I, of course, had a miserable time finding a serious, professional job after school. While things were difficult for me for a long period, I always had a lot of flexibility to deal with my challenges.

I could stay with my parents. If that option wasn't available, I probably could have couch surfed, or found a tiny apartment in a bad area and strung together enough low level jobs to make ends meet. I held back on most expenses while I was unemployed. I was able to take some low level temp jobs in my attempt to rebuild my resume until I could land something better.

None of this would be possible, however, if I had a family. Mom and dad wouldn't be so happy to host an entire other nuclear family under their roof. Staying in the apartments of friends would be out. I couldn't have taken a low income temp route to try to build up a marketable skill set. I would have had to probably juggled multiple low wage jobs in order to feed my family. I would almost certainly be legitimately poor - perhaps for a long period of time.

I don't want to belittle the suffering of single people who went to law school - after all I'm one of them. Law school sets everyone back in life - unless they can land a great job and go easy on the debt (a rare combination), but it's particularly a pernicious force when those with families come out ruined. Imagine somebody has a decent job going into law school, and three years later they're in six figures of debt and can't buy a job.

I remember there was one guy in law school who had a job before law school, but was looking for a better career. He said he needed to make about $80k after school because he had a family. I'm not sure if he meant, only $80k would make the decision to go to law school worth it when he had to support a family or if it meant he couldn't maintain a reasonable lifestyle for his family at less than $80k. In either case, I don't know what happened to him, but I doubt he found a job with a salary he wanted. He wasn't a law review member, so it's a wonder if he found any decent legal (or non legal) job. In fact, getting a salary in that range right out of law school is exceedingly rare. Usually, small to mid law starts anywhere from the $40k to mid $60k's with limited room for improvement. Some more insidious roles or non profit positions could pay even less. Big law folks do make six figure salaries, but (aside from doc review) there aren't too many jobs in the middle.

Even if you can land a job, it has to hurt to know that you've set your own family back financially. A $40 or $50k salary doesn't go too far for a family of four particularly if you live in an area with a high cost of living. Plus, when you add in the debt, that's another bite into the family budget.

To the extent that the law school scam artists seek to justify their misdeeds, they probably have single people in mind. "Sure those kids will suffer in their 20's. Instead of renting luxury apartments and buying brand new consumer electronics, they'll have to sacrafice a little bit to pay back their student loans until they make better salaries. Besides, they have the IBR, so they'll be able to get by even before they make decent wages."

While singles struggle plenty with employment and debt, it's a lot easier for them to muddle along with $30k salaries. The monthly loan payments could obviously go to better causes, but they won't starve because of them (at least under the IBR). Job hopping and relocating are more realistic for this cohort, so the chance of emerging from this debacle with mitigated damages is more likely.

The cold blooded law school deans, however, either don't think (or care) about the plight of those trying raise a family. If a law graduate who is a parent is locked out of a professional position because of the J.D. what is he or she to do? It's pretty hard to support a family working part time at Home Depot: Particularly since having a family usually requires a mortgage for a home, a larger grocery budget, and more insurance. Do the law schools care that someone like this will go from the ivory tower to the welfare lines with no chance of ever retiring his debt?

If you're single and you're stubborn about your desire to go to law school, you're only digging yourself into a massive hole. If, however, you have a family, just remember, you're not only gambling with your future, you're gambling with your family's as well.

Esq. Never is a former Scam Blogger, who now runs the blog Finding a Non-Legal Job, which provides law graduates and attorneys with advice about transitioning into non-legal fields.


  1. We are that family of four. No medical or other benefits, high cost of living. LARGE student loan payments and many many other problems. We make too much for assistance but the student loan payments cost enough to equal another rent payment and it doesn't qualify us for assistance either. Oh you have student loans, obviously your own fault so you don't qualify for anything. So your grocery budget is miniscule and you have no health insurance, you still make too much money to get assistance.

    1. Mrs. Bob: I'm really sorry to hear about your plight! You really are in a kind of "no man's land" which, I suspect, is inhabited by more people than is commonly realized.

      And this is a great post because it discusses a little-examined aspect of astronomical tuitions and a collapsing industry: the effect on families. I wonder how many families hold up under such stresses, and for how long.

    2. Mrs. Bob. Thanks for your story. I really don't get the higher ed scammers. Maybe they can sleep at night knowing that some single 20 and 30 somethings are being held back in many ways because of the loan burden, but don't they realize that both the debt payments and overall loan burden can destroy families or prevent people from even getting married in the first place?

  2. James Jay Seirmarco married to Elizabeth with their two daughters is a cold hearted attorney who thinks he's so encyclopedia and rih. James Jay Seirmarco is really a shit snob. He is the worst manager who will yell at you from the top of his lungs while in the office. Jay Seirmarco is unprofessional and he has the nerve to tell you to quit when he has no right to do so. He acts like he's top notch when he's really a shit. If an employee wants to quit, he'll do it on his own volition. You have no right james jay seirmarco to tell an employee to quit. What you are is full of shit.

  3. I am a single mom, who has about 200k worth of school debt. 50k of that is private. I make to much in gross receipts in my solo work to qualify for health insurance for me or my kids. Those people refuse to calculate our eligibilty based on my actual income. Even of I got a job, unless it was amazing pay I will never get to the principle of those loans. And I can't even get a crappy job. I know it is dramatic, but it is hard not to see suicide as an option. At least then my kids wouldn't have a broken sad sack depressing them everyday.



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