Saturday, February 27, 2010

Top Law School Degree For Sale on Ebay


After several years of practicing law with a bunch of nerds in Silicon Valley I have come to the conclusion that my law degree is useless and I don't want to be a lawyer anymore. Though I spent over $100,000 on it I am willing to sell it for the bargain basement price of $59,250, which is the current value of my remaining student loan balance.

This priceless collectible will permit you to be surrounded by hobby-less assholes whose entire life is dictated by billing by the hour and being anal dickheads. Additionally, this piece of paper has the amazing ability to keep you from doing what you really want to do in life, all in the name of purported prestige and financial success. Finally, girls in the Marina will swoon with retarded thoughts of sugar daddy when they hear you went to XXX prestigious law school and are a lawyer.

Act now as supplies are limited and this crap takes three years to make. DISCLAIMER: this piece of shit isn't even written in English. It's in Latin or something, but I have the translation. It says "Haha. We took your tuition money bitch, now suck it. Sincerely, President of the University"

Added Bonus: It's from one of those elitist BS institutions that accept people like George W. Bush cause their daddy donated $20 million i.e. Cornell, Penn, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Georgetown, Duke, Tijuana Tech, etc. Instead of donating $20 million you can have it for the low low price of $59,250 or best offer.

This is actually a serious post. I will really sell this piece of shit.

The current bid is $102.50. Too much if you ask me.

UPDATE: Lawyers Against The Law School Scam has posted the lawyer's followup comments in an interview with ATL in the comments section below.

Question About The National Law Journal's Annual Rankings

Maybe I've been really naive but I'm a bit confused by The National Law Journal's annual rankings based on the percentage of grads who landed first year BigLaw jobs:

Here are the Top 10 in the NLJ ranking followed by the percentage of grads who landed first-year positions at the nation’s largest firms.

1. Northwestern University School of Law - 55.9 percent
2. Columbia Law School - 54.4 percent
3. Stanford Law School - 54.1 percent
4. University of Chicago Law School – 53.1 percent
5. University of Virginia School of Law – 52.8 percent
6. University of Michigan Law School – 51 percent
7. University of Pennsylvania Law School - 50.8 percent
8. New York University School of Law – 50.1
9. UC Berkeley School of Law – 50 percent
10. Duke Law School - 49.8 percent

Harvard and Yale failed to crack the top 10 but I'm guessing that's because a lot of their grads take clerkships and government jobs. My question is: Really? Only 55.9% for the "top law school"? When I applied to law school, the T14 schools made it seem like at least 75% or more of their graduates ended up in BigLaw while the rest went onto really prestigious government and public interest jobs or clerkships. I think I even read at a T14 website while applying that 99% of graduates went onto biglaw jobs or clerkships. Even though the schools above can boast more than the vast majority of law schools out there, I think that even the top schools have been guilty of false advertising and stretching their numbers. From these numbers it looks to me that students at the top 10 schools listed above are still vulnerable to unemployment if they aren't in the top 50% of their class. Am I missing something here? What do you think?

UPDATE: The Jobless Juris Doctor alerts us to a Harvard Law School newspaper article about many Harvard 3Ls not getting job offers. It looks like the T14 is indeed no longer safe after all.

Friday, February 26, 2010

And a Word from the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan

My rants are in blue.  This baller, turned Government Official, has some ideas about how to improve the education system in this country.  He has a bone to pick with Sallie Mae as well, but I'm not so sure that his plan will change life for those students who are currently in default.  Read on....

Direct student loans: A better way to invest in education

By Arne Duncan
Friday, February 26, 2010
For too long, bankers have gotten a free ride from the U.S. Department of Education.  Really, Captain Obvious?

Under current law, taxpayers provide as much as $9 billion each year to subsidize guaranteed student loans issued by banks. The banks earn profits on the interest; if students default, taxpayers take the loss, not the banks. In other words, working Americans pay while bankers get rich.  Not clear on which taxpayers he's talking about. It's my understanding that the only taxpayers that suffer are those who are unable to pay their loans.  Otherwise, like death and taxes, this money is paid back to the lender (and therefore the Government). 

Meanwhile, educators, engineers and computer scientists -- the backbone of the new economy -- face crushing debt from six-figure college tuitions. A study of national postsecondary student aid found that in 2008, two-thirds of college seniors graduated with debt averaging more than $23,000. That number will rise as public and private college tuition costs escalate.  What about Lawyers and those that choose to go to Graduate School?  I  know that JDs are FAR from the back bone of society, but lawyers, on average, graduate with $90K in debt. $23K is child's play.  Way to make a major problem seem minor, Mr. Duncan!

The banks have had plenty of help with government bailouts and other subsidies while working families and students are increasingly squeezed. President Obama wants to eliminate the subsidy for banks and use that money to help poor and middle-class students and adults attend college.  I wish that Pres. Obama would not use the money to help students go to college.  Geez... it's just more free money that will be soaked up by the Educational Industrial Complex.  He needs to stop extending government help to students so that colleges will be forced to be competitive.  Lah di dah di... you know my spiel.

The president also wants to strengthen community colleges, give grants to states that improve college completion rates and boost early-learning programs. I hate to break it to you, but not everyone who goes to college should.  Those that can't complete it, aren't dropping out for lack of funds.  With guaranteed returns, banks will lend money to students who want it.  They are dropping out because they missed their calling, i.e. are not "college material."  Why push people to finish something that costs money and doesn't necessarily better one's job prospects.  I'm not knocking it. I consider them the lucky ones.  He wants to lower maximum monthly payments for student loans from the current 15 percent of income to 10 percent to make college debt more manageable. How about 5%?  At 10%t, a person who earns $40K will pay $400?  That's a bit steep to me.  I paid about 6% of my monthly salary to student loans (when I had a job) and I really thought that was reasonable.

Not surprisingly, the banks are working hard to block our common-sense proposal. Sallie Mae, the largest player in the student lending business, has spent millions of dollars to lobby Congress and run ads in several states, claiming that our proposal will cost jobs and inhibit service. These claims must be challenged.  If by service you mean, people who call you mother, place of business, cell phone and neighbors to harass you to pay your loans... I think that Sallie Mae could handle a little less service.  And I don't give a shit about the jobs that will be lost.  If you are the type of person that can go to work every day and fleece students from their hard earned money, thereby prohibiting them from eating, getting married and buying homes... you deserve to be homeless.  Morality, people.  Look into it. I wouldn't take a job where I'd step on kittens. How is this different?

The president's plan actually creates jobs and draws on free-market principles by selecting private companies through a competitive process to service student loans issued directly by the Education Department. These private companies, including Sallie Mae, compete for our business and are evaluated on the quality of their customer service and their default rates.  This is where our dear Secretary of Education loses me.  Are we accusing Sallie Mae of having bad customer service?  Is that what they have done to hurt students in this country?  Try this, Mr. Duncan: we will set up a committee to investigate and prosecute Sallie Mae for predatory lending.  That's the kind of reform I'm looking for.  Being concerned about which servicing company has the best customer service is like being concerned about whether the executioner is swift with his sword.  He's still going to kill you.  And Sallie Mae or other mysterious private companies are still going to rape you.  We need to force their hands and have them work with students so that there won't be defaults anymore. If someone provides proof of income and reasonable expenses... and they really can't afford to pay more than $50 a month, why can't the Government force Sallie Mae to take $50 a month. 

Loan servicing is a growing industry as more and more Americans pursue college degrees. Under our contract, the high-performing companies will get more business over time while poor-performing companies will get less. The market will play, and students and taxpayers will win.  This is a riot.  So, those with loans, will graduate from college and work for companies that collect on student loans from their peers.  I guess it's a job (for the greedy and black-hearted).  I'm sure that the jobs in this growing industry will be shipped to India before long, when college grads with $50K in debt demand to be paid more than minimum wage so that they may service said debt.  "Hello, this is Debbie calling from Bangalore.  How may I be helping you today.  I see that you be late with your payment. Thank you.  Please.  Transferring you to manager. Be patient."  Imagine the head tilt.  Ha.

It's no wonder that the banking industry is pushing back hard to protect its taxpayer subsidy. Over the years, this giveaway has generated billions in profits for banks and hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for bank executives.

The banking industry's claims that it wants to protect American jobs are also suspect. The fact is, Sallie Mae sent thousands of American loan servicing jobs overseas in 2007 to further increase profits, and it agreed to bring them back last year only to compete for our loan-servicing business.  Wow.  So happy that you MADE them hire Americans.  Really!   This is the best thing that I've read all day.

The Education Department has issued more than $187 billion in student loans since the Direct Loan Program was created in 1993. The number of universities participating in the program has more than doubled, to 2,300, in just the past three years. There is no justification to continue wasteful subsidies to banks. It is time to complete the shift to direct lending.  So, there will be more subsidized loans?  Is that what he's saying?

The president's proposal, which has passed the House and awaits Senate consideration, represents the ideal hybrid of public investment and market-based management. Through direct lending, we get a bigger bang for taxpayer bucks while using competition and private-sector expertise to improve customer service.  Once again, this focus on "customer service" throws me for a loop.  Don't get it at all.

The writer is the U.S. secretary of education.

What do you guys think?  Is he full of crap?  Is this a good plan or a non-plan?  Will it change anything at all?  Chime in! 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wall of Shame: 2010 Edition

But I Did Everything Right hasn't done a Wall of Shame post since December so I thought I'd start the first Wall of Shame post of 2010 with the latest lawyer/thief to pull a Ponzi Scheme on innocent clients.

Mini Madoff
From today's Herald Tribune:

Arthur G. Nadel pleaded guilty Wednesday to 15 federal fraud counts, publicly admitting for the first time that he orchestrated a massive Ponzi scheme in Sarasota.

Once a key player in social and philanthropic circles, Nadel is now known as a "mini-Madoff" who bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from clients.

Nadel, 77, may spend the rest of his life in prison after his guilty plea to six counts of securities fraud, one count of mail fraud and eight counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.

"Arthur Nadel cheated his victims out of hundreds of millions of dollars of their retirement money and savings by lying to them over and over again and claiming false returns and profits," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"Many of Nadel's victims were elderly and relied on the money that they invested in Nadel's funds for their retirement. While he deceived and impoverished others, Nadel funded a luxurious life for himself and his associates," Bharara said.

Nadel paid himself $55 million in performance and management fees. He also diverted $23.5 million in investors' money and allocated $22 million in profitable trades to his own accounts.

He bought real estate developments, businesses, the Venice Jet Center and a fleet of jets and helicopters with proceeds from the Ponzi scheme. He will forfeit those assets in the plea deal.

He and his wife were large donors to a number of local charities and foundations with money that prosecutors say came from the scheme.


I also recommend reading L4L's latest post on another TTT dean who deserves a mention on our Wall of Shame, Dean Karen Rothenberg of U. Maryland Law. According to L4L, Rothenberg "received $350,000 in compensation for several sabbaticals she apparently never took" which was "on top of her $371,000 a year “base” salary".

More Academics Come Clean on the Value of a Graduate Education

For those of you like a former classmate who thought getting a PhD in the humanities after law school would guarantee a cushy job in academia, think again. It's nice to see more academics like Hope College professor Thomas Benton write the truth about the job prospects in academia, another over saturated and competitive job field. Getting a PhD is an investment in time and thousands of dollars. It could lead to a dream job in academia or you could also end up falling flat on your face with huge debt and few job prospects. Benton's article in The Chronicle of Education also touches on the issue of graduate school specifically benefiting wealthy students while leeching off of students who aren't as privileged or connected, something we've been talking a lot about here. I've posted excerpts from his article below. I also recommend reading another article written by Benton in 2004, Is Graduate School a Cult?. Please forward this to any friends or relatives thinking about waiting out the recession in graduate school. It's important that more students, not just those considering TTT law schools, understand the risks they take when deciding to spend the next five to eight years of their lives on a degree that won't guarantee a damn thing.

The Big Lie About the 'Life of the Mind'

By Thomas H. Benton

A year ago, I wrote a column called "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go," advising students that grad school is a bad idea unless they have no need to earn a living for themselves or anyone else, they are rich or connected (or partnered with someone who is), or they are earning a credential for a job they already hold.


One reason that graduate school is for the already privileged is that it is structurally dependent on people who are neither privileged nor connected. Wealthy students are not trapped by the system; they can take what they want from it, not feel pressured, and walk away at any point with minimal consequences. They do not have to obsess about whether some professor really likes them. If they are determined to become academics, they can select universities on the basis of reputation rather than money. They can focus on research rather than scrambling for time-consuming teaching and research assistantships to help pay the bills. And, when they go on the market, they can hold out for the perfect position rather than accepting whatever is available.

But the system over which the privileged preside does not ultimately depend on them for the daily functioning of higher education (which is now, as we all know, drifting toward a part-time, no-benefit business). The ranks of new Ph.D.'s and adjuncts these days are mainly composed of people from below the upper-middle class: people who believe from infancy that more education equals more opportunity. They see the professions as a path to security and status.

Again and again, the people who wrote to me said things like "Nobody told me" and "Now what do I do?" "Everybody keeps saying my doctorate gives me all kinds of transferable skills, but I can't get a second interview, even outside of academe." "What's wrong with me?"

The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimum wage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.)

Unable even to consider that something might be wrong with higher education, mom and dad begin to think there is something wrong with their daughter, and she begins to internalize that feeling.

Everyone has told her that "there are always places for good people in academe." She begins to obsess about the possibility of some kind of fatal personal shortcoming. She goes through multiple mock interviews, and takes business classes, learning to present herself for nonacademic positions. But again and again, she is passed over in favor of undergraduates who are no different from people she has taught for years. Maybe, she wonders, there's something about me that makes me unfit for any kind of job.

This goes on for years: sleepless nights, anxiety, escalating and increasingly paralyzing self-doubt, and a host of stress-induced ailments. She has even removed the Ph.D. from her résumé, with some pain, but she lives in dread that interviewers will ask what she has been doing for the last 12 years. (All her old friends are well established by now, some with families, some with what seem to be high-powered careers. She lives in a tiny apartment and struggles to pay off her student loans.) What's left now but entry-level clerical work with her immediate supervisor just three years out of high school?

She was the best student her adviser had ever seen (or so he said); it seemed like a dream when she was admitted to a distinguished doctoral program; she worked so hard for so long; she won almost every prize; she published several essays; she became fully identified with the academic life; even distancing herself from her less educated family. For all of those reasons, she continues as an adjunct who qualifies for food stamps, increasingly isolating herself to avoid feelings of being judged. Her students have no idea that she is a prisoner of the graduate-school poverty trap. The consolations of teaching are fewer than she ever imagined.

Such people sometimes write to me about their thoughts of suicide, and I think nothing separates me from them but luck.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Martha Tells Me This is Insider Trading...

I was alerted to this wacky story, and I'm wondering why I never knew about it prior to today.

Apparently, Chairman Lord (Oh, the irony!) of Sallie Mae sold 400,000 of Sallie Mae stock--days before Bush released his 2008 budget which called for $18 billion dollars in subsidy cuts for the lending industry.

Does anyone know if this bastard served any time in Federal Prison for Insider Trading?  You can't tell me that he didn't hear that his stock was going to tank.  

For those of you that are too lazy to click on the link, here's the story:  

Scrutinizing a Sallie Mae Stock Deal

February 14, 2007
Consider it another sign that the new Democratic Congress is making good on its vow to ramp up its oversight of the student loan industry.
Tuesday, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said they had requested information from the company, the White House , and the Education Department about the sale of 400,000 shares of Sallie Mae stock by the student loan behemoth's chairman, Albert L. Lord. The stock was sold only days before President Bush released his 2008 budget, which contained proposals to cut into lender profits that sent Sallie Mae stock plummeting 9 percent. $18 billion in subsidy cuts and fee increases for the lending industry , and markets responded by sendingSLM Corp. stock spiraling downward from $46.46 to $42.37 -- the lowest closing price in two years.
“Given the timing between your stock sale and the public announcement of lender cuts, we seek additional information about these events,” the two members of Congress wrote in the letter to Lord . The letter asks for all communications about the lending industry dating to last November 1 between Sallie Mae and the Department of Education, including phone and meeting logs, e-mails, and meeting minutes.
“We look forward to responding to any questions that members may have on this matter,” said Tom Joyce, vice president for corporate communications at Sallie Mae. “The timing was completely and utterly coincidental.”
Joyce said that Lord had notified the corporate board during a regularly scheduled meeting on January 23 that he planned to sell some personal stock to fund several private business ventures.
“It’s undoubtedly in the board minutes,” he said of Lord’s announcement on the stock sale. Lord sold 400,000 shares, netting $18.3 million. Joyce said that this is a little less than 5 percent of the stock that Lord is allowed to own.
Miller and Frank's letters to the company, the Department of Education and the White House ask for written responses within 10 days.  The letters follow the introduction in the Senate this month of theStudent Loan Sunshine Act, which its sponsors, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), say is designed to force lenders and colleges to disclose information about any "special" arrangements in which institutions have agreed to offer products from certain lenders to their students, among other things.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Comments That Should Have Been Posts

Someone needs to make sure the masses stay in their place.

Anonymous @ 1:24 posted some good research in the post below.

I posted this over at Nando's blog awhile back, but received no response - let me know what you guys think:

"Just to show everyone how easy it was for our parents compared to our current plight, and just some food for thought in general:

The federal minimum wage from 1980-1981 was $3.10 and from 1981-1990 it was $3.35. If we assume that an average person could get a job paying minimum wage during the school years of 1980-81 to 1982-83 during a three year stint at the University of Michigan Law School, and assuming that person worked 20 hours per week during the 52 weeks of the three years in law school (certainly quite an easy task if you ask me), that person would have made $10,192.00 over the three year period.

Now, how much would tuition have been for those three school years? A grand total of $7,266.80!

In other words, you could work minimum wage jobs during your law school stay and actually come out ahead $2,925.20 when only taking into account tuition versus total minimum wage earnings! The extra money left over represents about $81.25 left over each month.

I realize you would have to take into account food, lodging, transportation, etc. However, average rent was $300.00 (which if you had roomates would be significantly cheaper - say ~$75.00), and everything else was much cheaper. Basically, you really could work minimum wage jobs back then and pretty much cover ALL of your costs for three years of law school. I really don't even know why people took out loans back then (if they did at all).

Now, comparing the numbers today:

Tuition - $129,030.00 for three years of tuition (assuming they don't raise tuition for the next three years...good luck with that).

Michigan minimum wage - $7.40. Working 20 hour weeks for the three years you would make $23,088.00.

Running the numbers, you would be left with a deficit of $105,942.00! And that's not even mentioned housing costs, food, transportation, etc."

With those numbers in mind, I then posed the following question:

"Maybe someone here can clarify this for me, but why did people really even need loans when all this federal student loan legislation was passed? Are you telling me that people really couldn't come up with the money to pay for their tuition back then? I really find that hard to believe. As I pointed out earlier, even as recent as 1985 (and a few years later even) you could completely finance a top notch law school education. Why were the loans needed?"

So does anyone have any thoughts? I really want to know why anyone from that day and age even needed loans to finish school. I realize that I only took numbers from the University of Michigan, but I have checked numbers from other schools and have found them to be quite comparable, and in many instances you could fund an education for much less than the numbers cited above. I'd especially be interested in hearing thoughts from those that graduated college from that time period.

In many ways our society was more equal three decades ago than it is today. We've made progress in dealing with racism, homophobia, and sexism but have gone backwards in terms of dealing with economic inequality. It amazes me that in this recession, colleges and universities still have the nerve to justify increases in tuition and room & board fees. As I commented in the post below, high tuition costs and the burden it has on American families is one of the reasons why the US lags behind many European and Asian countries when it comes to education and cutting edge research, especially in math and science. While other countries pay talented students (debt free!) to study overseas and receive the best education to become tomorrow's leaders in science, medicine, and technology, we seem fine with blaming young people who get in over their heads in student debt simply because they want an education to do something better with their lives.

Angel and Grumpy Young Man make valid points. A college degree shouldn't be a requirement for everyone nor is everyone meant to become an academic, a doctor, or a lawyer. I agree that the ABA needs to be reformed and all of TTT schools shut down. But let's be clear that a good education and making connections with important people at top universities and at Ivy Leagues is one of the few ways a person can move up the socio-economic ladder. Poor, working, and middle class students who are smart and determined enough to overcome the many obstacles to get into a Tier 1 school should not be prevented from attending because they don't have the money. I see the growing inaccessibility to an affordable education as another way the elite can keep anyone else from upsetting the golden applecart of wealth and privilege. Inaccessibility to a quality education whether we're talking about primary school or college is just another form of discrimination and segregation. If more people were as outraged we might actually have a fighting chance at changing the system.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Interview With the $500K Doctor, Michelle Bisutti!

Today was my lucky day. No, I didn't get a job, don't get overly excited. I had a chance to speak to the famous, or infamous, Dr. Michelle Bisutti--from the Wall Street Journal article entitled The $500K Student Loan Burden. She was sweet as apple pie, and was very excited to reach out and talk to my readers, who have also suffered from the student loan scam. I spoke to her on the phone and I tried my best to quote her verbatim. Excuse me, Michelle, if I didn't get it quite right. But the message certainly there. Michelle is not a sob story. She's allowing herself to be the poster child for a revolution. I hope she didn't tell her story in vain. Enjoy...

1. Are you surprised at how popular the story from the WSJ has become?
Yes. I knew it would grab people’s attention because of the number, but I’m surprised at how many people picked it up. Rush Limbaugh, Ron Paul and Michael Moore picked it up. Radio commentary and on-line as well. Rush Limbaugh blamed the govt. for the high fees that I was charged. At the time, I thought that he didn’t know what he was talking about, but I’ve learned some things [which I will get into later]. On Michael Moore’s website, one of the most popular articles is one featuring my story. They are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they both used the article to make their points. It was very strange. Those are the just the ones that I got to. It was nauseating at first to see how popular the article was; I’m a private person and to see my name all over was very embarrassing. But people need to know what’s going on. What’s happening to students is criminal. In regards to the government’s involvement, I thought that Sallie Mae owns Financial Management Systems (FMS), my lender, but FMS is basically a government agency. 80% of its revenues come from the government. It contracts with the Dept. of Education and Dept. of Treasury. It’s basically a government agency. So, it’s the U.S. govt. that charged me that $53K penalty for default. FMS collects on student loans, Medicaid, and Medicare for the government.
2. Why did you decide to give your story to the WSJ? Two reasons. First, I wanted people to know about these crazy fees that you are charged if you default on your student loans. It’s outrageous and criminal and legalized loan sharking. Second, I want parents and their kids to know what they’re getting into when they get a loan. What does it mean for interest to accrue, what does it mean to defer, what happens if I default? These are the tough questions that kids need to ask if they decide to sign on for a student loan.
3. If you could do it again, would you? What would you do instead? I don’t know. There are not too many things that I love to do and medicine is one of them. I used to be a personal trainer. Both professions go hand in hand, really.
4. Why did you decide to leave being a Personal Trainer? That was a side job. I did it while I was going to school. I didn’t think it would be satisfying. I wanted to go to law school, but I found out that Columbus has the most attorneys anywhere per capita. So I decided that isn’t a good idea. At the time, I foresaw taking out 70K in loans, and not finding a job as an attorney. So I went back and did pre-med requirements in two years after college and went to medical school.
5. What is your current monthly payment? My loan is partially in collection. $550-600 and the other one, $990, with only $100 going to the principal. They are trying to charge me another $32K penalty fee, so that the loan can be sold to another student loan company. They are asking that I sign on and agree to that penalty. I am meeting with attorneys and trying to figure out what I can do to avoid this. I’m trying to enter the Income Based Repayment program but I’m not sure what portions of the loan will qualify and what won’t. It’s been 2 months since I applied. I know I’ll be paying this back the rest of my life.
6. What caused you to fall behind? I did my residency and Wells Fargo loans came due 2 years into my residency, so I started paying on those loans. I deferred the others while I did my residency and then I did a fellowship in sports medicine. While I was in my fellowship, I defaulted. I was not making enough to survive, so I couldn’t pay it.
7. Did you live extravagantly while in Medical School? Do you live extravagantly now?? Far from it. I drove a used Honda and lived in an apartment. I haven’t been on a vacation in five years. I still own a used Honda accord. I live in a house my boyfriend owns. Like I said, I haven’t been on vacation in 5 years.
8. What is your plan for tackling your student debt? I have applied for IBR and that’s all I can do. You can’t get out of student loans. I can’t not pay them. They garnish wages. I’m getting 100s of emails about stories much worse than mine. At least I don’t have children and I have a job. I’ll be okay and I’ll be able to pay these, but the fees are absolutely criminal. A lot of these people are not going to be okay. It’s horrible what they are doing to people that tried to get an education, better themselves and live the American dream and now they are indentured servants for the rest of their lives.
9. If called to testify before congress about your student loan experience, would you? Yes, I have become the poster child for the student loan crisis. Without a doubt.
10. Do you have any feelings on the student loan scam? Do you think that the system should change? I think there is a scam, evident by some of the actions of the Bush Administration when they created the 2008 budget. I won’t get into that, but there was something seedy in the way that Sallie Mae was dealt with. But this take over by the U.S. Government of student loans is a good thing, to take out the middleman. But it’s the government is the one that charged me these unreasonable fees. So, I don’t know what to say about that. But I know that the middleman is making billions of dollars off of us, which is criminal.
11. Any advice to students? I advocate higher education, but doing it smart. Take out as little as you can, if you can live at home and stand your parents, take out low interest loans, and be aware of what would happen if you get out and can't find jobs in your chosen field. Especially now, when so many people can’t find a job in their field. Know what kind of money you will be looking at repaying. You cannot get out of student loans. You have to pay them. People say the two things you can be sure of are death and taxes, but add to that—paying off student loans. They need to know what can happen. Get a major that you can get a job with, like being an engineer. But don’t go to school, just to go. Like getting an art history degree. That won’t work and you’ll probably be waiting tables. I don’t want to keep people from going to college, just know what you’re getting into. I have given some thought to whether we’re better as the uneducated masses or the educated masses. I think it’s better that we’re educated. Because if we’re educated, we can fight this.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

As Public Outrage Grows, More Turn to Violence and Destruction in Protest

We'll be seeing more videos like the one above. An estimated 6.1 million delinquent homeowners will lose their homes in the near future.

Financial blogger Yves Smith discusses the possible beginning of a violent backlash, the most notable example being the man who burned down his house and flew his plane into a federal office building in Austin on February 18th:

Note that he sees his violent response to his economic plight as a political act, a blow for freedom. I am certainly not advocating this course of action. But others start connecting at least some of the dots this way, seeing their financial stresses not as the result of bad luck or lack of sufficient effort, but as an indictment of the system. Given the breakdown of communities (for instance, the fall in involvement in local civic groups and shortened job tenures, both of which lead to weaker social ties and greater isolation), the odds that the disaffected will turn to violence is greater than in past periods of stress.

Violence certainly is not the solution to our problems, but that isn't to say that the growing anger in the U.S. isn't justified. If more isn't done to stimulate the economy and create jobs, desperate people angry over the nation's economic inequality will take matters into their own hands and the results could be disastrous and deadly.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Weekend Treat: One Nation. Under Debt. In Stress.

This is a facinating documentary about this Country's Debt Crisis.  We are
the first generation of people to do worse than their parents and this movie
goes into all the reasons why.  If you have some free time, this is definitely
worth watching.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Overqualified, Under Experienced Graduate and Debunking More Education Myths

Recent graduates of various degrees and backgrounds have discovered that "too much" formal education and not enough work experience places them in the difficult position of being "overqualified" for entry level work but not qualified enough for mid-level jobs. I've seen both new graduates as well as those laid-off with fewer than 2 years of work experience faced with this predicament. Seeing that more people are returning to school to wait out the Great Recession (that will unlikely end any time soon), I predict that this particular demographic will continue to grow over the next decade. Disinformation spread by graduate schools looking to make billions from the recession and high unemployment rate have successfully convinced thousands that one can never have too many degrees. The reality of six figure loan payments during a time when employers are slashing wages or only offering low-wage and unpaid internships rarely gets mentioned during orientation.

I've only come across one retired academic at a job seminar sponsored by my alma mater dissuade the audience from going back to school. The hundreds who packed the auditorium ranging in age from 23 to their mid-50s seemed to appreciate his candor and honesty. "The last thing you want to do right now is take on more debt or extend your stay in college or graduate school," he said as he went on to discuss examples of students who actually failed class on purpose so they could stay in college for an additional semester rather than face unemployment. "You don't want to come out of school in a few years with the same amount of work experience you have now just with more debt and a degree that is useless. Employers these days don't want to pay someone more money simply because they have an advanced degree." And yet, thousands more each year are fooled into believing the exact opposite.

I won't spend a lot of time discussing the problems having a JD poses on law graduates looking to start a career in a different field. Most of us who have attempted to branch out into other careers have found how much of a hindrance that "versatile" JD has had on our job search. I mentioned in my first post to read Esq. Never about the challenges entry level candidates with a JD face right now. I still recommend trying to branch out sooner rather than later if you no longer want to practice law or can't find a lucrative legal job because of your grades or law school ranking. Chasing after the $160k biglaw dream (or nightmare?) when you neither have the grades nor T14 cred is a lost cause imo, especially in this economy when even top law school grads and experienced attorneys like Angel are having problems finding jobs in the legal market.

Articles like the one Angel posted from the National Law Journal is BS for the most part, similar to the type of PR stuff found in those glossy diversity (chuckle) and lifestyle pamphlets given to law students during interview week. Those who have made it to the top through nepotism, backstabbing co-workers, or representing the most heinous of corporations, insurance companies, and criminals like to perpetuate story lines as unbelievable as the ones found on television shows like The Deep End and The Good Wife. As much as I love The Good Wife and Julianna Margulies' intelligent and admirable character Alicia Florrick (who just happens to always represent innocent clients or take on pro bono cases for her high-profile Chicago law firm Stern, Lockhart & Gardner), the glamorization of an otherwise depressing and elitist profession has helped the ABA and law schools rake in the dough while ignoring the more common realities of the legal profession including depression, desperation, corruption, high unemployment, and suicide. The majority of the lawyers I know who were laid off from both biglaw and mid-sized law firms felt almost relieved to leave the toxic and unfriendly work environment. I won't even go into my own short-lived experience at a firm - all I'll say is that the experience was overwhelmingly negative. Other than the paycheck most people find little fulfillment from working at these sweatshops, so don't envy us or feel bad if you never had the chance to experience it first hand.

Just a typical day in the life of a first year associate, right??

For those of us who would rather put our unrealistic dreams of becoming a real life Alicia Florrick behind us, convincing employers that the writing and analytical skills developed in law school makes you the best candidate for a non-legal job can be as nerve-wracking as a first year law exam. Getting your foot in the door of these non-legal jobs is a challenge in and of itself. Sometimes it means working from the bottom despite all of the money and time you invested into earning your law degree. One option is to take an unpaid/low wage internship. As an observant friend noted, unpaid and low wage internships are another way of weeding out people who come from poorer families as the employer assumes that young graduates who accept these internships will receive financial assistance from their parents. I know a lot of you, including myself, can't afford loan payments and an apartment in NYC on a $10/hour internship. Unfortunately, an internship is often the only way a young graduate or entry level candidate can get a leg up on other applicants once a full-time job becomes available within the company. I know one person who managed to get a full-time (non-legal) job after a summer internship last year and another law graduate who has put their pride aside to work their way up from intern to administrative assistant with a company. Yes, it sucks. But if you don't have the connections to get a full-time job, an internship might be the only viable option available at the moment.

The downside to this is that even internships today are extremely competitive and it doesn't always guarantee a job in this economy. I also know people working from one internship to the next with no job security or health benefits. It is unbelievable to some that someone with a graduate or professional degree has to accept an unpaid internship, but this is the nature of our new economy. Keep an open mind and if you can afford to, take an unpaid or low-wage internship in an industry that you want to transition into from the law and use your free time to find your niche and apply to full-time jobs in that field. At least the internship will make it easier for you to create a new resume that will make you more employable outside of becoming a paralegal with a JD or doing legal temp work.

As always, anyone with better advice is welcome to post their ideas. I will also begin to delete comments that I deem to be off topic or offensive.

Chasing Money....

When I was an associate at a small firm, there were many aspects of the practice that turned me off.  There was the boss who was constantly yelling at someone for something.  He would get so red in the face that I feared he'd keel over with a stroke or heart attack.  There was the delayed paydays.  Initially, payday was on Thursday and somehow it migrated to Tuesdays in the 3 years I was there.  You never got your paycheck or a raise unless you begged for it.  Actually crying and pretending to quit were highly effective ways of dealing with these issues, since I was a valued employee.  The lack of health insurance and vacation time.  I could go to the doctor and my boss would pay for it in cash, but it had to be a client of the firm so some barter type of payment could be made out.  Most times, I would go to the local pediatrician for my aches and pains. Thank God I didn't get pregnant or get AIDS.  And, of course, the general lack of human rights afforded to most Americans...  like taking a sick day without an hourly phone call checking up on the status of my health and whether I needed a ride into the office or the constant phone calls at all hours for nothing special.  Most of that could be chalked up to my boss' personality, I suppose.

But what I hated more than anything was chasing down money.  I hated that there were cases I felt passionately about... and my boss would instruct me to get the check from the client or walk out of court.  I wanted to get my paycheck and do my job and not worry about how the firm was paid.  Sometimes, my boss would tell me to call my client and talk about their balance.  Since I wasn't responsible for the bill,  I would plead with my client. I would ask that they pay the bill so that I can continue righting a wrong and advocating them zealously.  I didn't think of my time as charity... but I guess that is how they thought of it.  But, as an associate, I wasn't the bad guy. I just wanted to do my job.

Now, I'm taking on cases and trying to break into the solo market.  Surprisingly, the clients haven't been hard to find (knock on wood!).  After all, it's a recession and people are screwing people out of money left and right.  But, the clients once again want lots to be done for nothing.  NOTHING.  I'm on edge because I've been sending a reminder to pay to a client every day for 10 days, all for a measly $100. I did about 3 hours of free legal work that I'm not charging him for.  The bastard hasn't paid me yet.  Because I'm not an associate, it's not about my mean boss forcing me to walk out of court when you need me most... it's about disrespect and lack of consideration.  Just because the tools I gained in law school come out of my mouth and aren't a product resulting from skilled craftsmanship, I still deserve to be paid.

So, if this type of behavior continues, I can imagine I will become my red-faced boss when it comes to legal fees. I can only pray that I find myself a way out of this hole by then.

So, I found these articles interesting/helpful in regards to solos and small firms and the pitfalls of practicing during the recession.

Apparently, a ton of California lawyers are in such economic dire straits that they are stealing from clients and being disbarred in droves.

Here's some helpful tips for making your small practice recession-proof.

God help me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Every Elite Group Needs a Bit of Propaganda to Entice the Masses.

The National Law Journal is a bloody rag, but I read it from time to time to keep up with the propaganda machine, aka The Legal Industrial Complex.

So, I was combing through it on-line and I came upon this disgusting article--most likely written to pump up the egos of everyone in the Good Ole Boy's club and to snag OLs into the machine.  Oh yah, a third purpose is to make lawyers who haven't made it, such as myself, feel like shit.  My comments are in purple below, and they are mostly addressed to the Venable Associate that wrote this dirty diaper of an article.

"Oh no!" My wife and I were just beginning a two-week vacation when she remembered the juror questionnaire. She had recently received the notice and, naturally, the deadline to respond fell right in the middle of our vacation. Intending to submit the questionnaire before leaving, she had taken the forms to her office, but forgotten to complete and mail them.

"Call your people and have them take care of it," I said.

"My people?" she replied.

This got me about one of the benefits of working in a big firm that I had been taking for granted. After several years of practice, there are a few dozen attorneys that I know well enough to call friends. They are the kind of friends that I would trust with my assets and the well-being of my family, the kind of people I would trust to sign my name with all the attendant repercussions. 

What about the associates that will step on you on their way up the the partnership totem pole?  Yes, there are those that you can trust, but unless your wife is a solo, I don't see how your esteemed associates at Venable are any more trustworthy--especially when they are constantly looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the crowd.  In all likelihood, if they were to do something for you, it's because you are never assigned to a case by your lonesome.  Instead, every case is given a  team of attorneys--all equally responsible to make sure things are done correctly. And if things are not done correctly, i.e. one attorney forgets to file the juror questionnaire, all of you will feel the wrath of the senior partner on the case.  Stop kidding yourself.  They are all operating in CYA (cover your ass) mode.  This is not a quality that is unique to big law or successful attorneys.  People are people, wherever they end up in life. 

I started to think through the people in my firm that I know and trust. As I thought through the list, I realized that I had not known some of them for long. It was not the length of the friendships that made them reliable. It was that they were attorneys with three common qualities: they were meticulously honest, generous, and responsible.

Obviously, honesty is a trait expected of everyone, attorneys and non-attorneys alike. But for attorneys, honesty is more than a virtue; it is a professional qualification. There are professional rules of conduct addressing honesty, and all of the oaths of admission that I have taken have addressed it in one way or another. Perhaps then it is no surprise that the people I work with are meticulously honest. 

Oh yah, sure... attorneys are more honest than most.  That's why Mark Drier, founder of Drier LLP, and probably a millionaire several times over, created a Ponzi scheme that would have been the main news if Bernie Madoff didn't create a bigger one.  I'm not going to say that lawyers are more likely to be crooks than other people--but to say that you and your associates in BigLaw are MORE honest than most because of oaths and bullshit is just that, BULLSHIT.  I'm wondering if you're trying to fix our BAD reputation, or trying to distinguish the Good Ole Boys from the shyster solos.  Why would you even write this nonsense down and publish it, like it's fact. It's not.  BigLaw attorneys are just as conniving and greedy as the soloshit lawyers.  They just have the resources to not get caught.

So what about generosity?

Law firms are among the largest contributors to various charitable causes, and pro bono work is only one way in which attorneys are generous to society at large. Within the firm, there is also a wealth of generosity on an interpersonal level. Hardly a week goes by where one coworker or another does not offer to buy me lunch, or vice versa. Even more compelling is the overarching generosity with time. Despite high billing requirements and the pressures of large firm life, I have rarely been turned away when seeking help or advice from another. 

Haven't you heard of tax breaks based on charitable contribution?  Are you seriously trying to say that BigLaw gives out of the goodness of their hearts.  BULLSHIT.  Also, if you seek out advice and it is freely given, it's because all of the attorneys at the firm are responsible for getting this right.  If the firm doesn't, it won't get paid.

Which brings me to responsibility.

Naturally, it takes a certain level of responsibility to make it through college and law school with the level of performance required to get a job in a large firm. Meeting the demands of large firm clients requires even more responsibility – with time, money, and deadlines – if an attorney is simply to survive. This makes a big firm attorney the perfect friend to have when you need to be confident that something will get done – such as a fax response to a juror questionnaire.

Twice in the last week I have forgotten an important document related to personal business outside the office. Each time, I have been relieved to know that I had people I could trust to go through my personal documents, whom I knew would take the time to do it simply because I had asked them to, and whom I could rely on to send it to me quickly, just as they had promised. 

I think this little nugget was put in here to make all of the lemming think that those who don't succeed in law school are irresponsible people.  That's not true.  Most, if not all, of law students were always responsible good students and they falsely assume that this trend will continue in law school.  And the flunkies of law school don't change once they get there.  They are still responsible.  They are still attending class.  They are still doing the the assignments.  They are still studying.  However, they fail despite all of that.  It's a crap shoot.  I would argue, at least in my law school, that the best students weren't more responsible than the others.  Sometimes, they were more underhanded.  Books would be missing from the Library Shelf when you needed them for the ONE MEMO that you draft first semester.  These same Law School superstars would lie and say things like, "I haven't even opened a book yet" to throw off the others and make them think it's too early to be studying for finals.  I had an awful experience once where this BITCH frenemy called me and said she wanted to study with me at Borders. I told her that's fine, but I am studying Property and I'm not prepared to talk to her about Constitutional Law.  So, she could sit there and study ConLaw, but don't distract me by talking about it.  What did she do?  She sat there and quizzed me for hours on ConLaw to make herself feel better about all that she studied and to distract me from studying for my intended subject.  Is that responsible, or is that strategic??

It's easy to take something for granted when we have never known it to be any other way. For my part, I'm glad that my wife's comment prompted me to stop and take the time to appreciate how fortunate I am to be surrounded not only by professional colleagues, but also by trusted friends. 

Life must be great on top, huh?  My point is, after reading this article, don't think that you belong in big law if you are honest, generous and responsible.  It means nothing.  I am all of those things and I'm unemployed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Riddle of the Day.

What's worse than being unemployed after graduating from law school with $120K of debt? 

Being laid off when you're over 50!  Apparently, lawyers are offing themselves left and right because they cannot deal with the desparation that comes with trying to live outside the legal industry, while nearing the sunset of their careers.

The first lawyer suicide I heard about was back in May of 2009.  Mark Levy was a successful attorney, aged 59, of counsel to Kilpatrick Stockton.  He had argued successfully in front of the Supreme Court.  He was an attorney that his alma mater, Yale, could be proud of.  He lived in the wealthy suburbs of D.C. (I think it was either Potomac or Bethesda).  I didn't know him--but I think he had class because he carefully plotted his revenge when he was tossed out like yesterday's trash by Kilpractick Stockton.  Rather than gassing himself in the garage or hanging himself in the basement, thereby punishing his family, who had nothing do with Kilpatrick's bad behavior, he drove into work and shot himself in his office.  I had to say a little rah rah sis boom bah for the guy.  He certainly got his point across.  Although I'm very sad for his family--I'm sure that KS will think long and hard about who they fire in the future.  At least, I hope they do.

So, today, I am surfing the web and I find this article about about a Connecticut Real Estate Attorney, aged 64, James F. Ripper.  Real Estate was the crux of his solo practice, a firm he called Real Estate Resources, LLC.  Apparently, he had done well for years and did not so much as have a grievance filed against him until the Great Recession--at which time he dipped into client money in the amount of $125,000.  He hung himself at home.  His poor family. I really feel badly for them. 

Well... I can't say that I would ever commit suicide in such a proactive manner. If it ever came to that, I think I'd starve myself to death.  Much less violence involved.  People are bound to judge these two men based on their choice to quit rather than persevere, but what these men did is not a testament to their character.  They were both highly regarded in their respective communities. Instead, it's a huge statement as to the mindset of an older attorney faced with a crumbling practice or being laid off a few years away from retirement.  One would think that these two could coast until retirement kicks in.  But you have to understand the psyche of attorneys.  Being an attorney is so much more than a job. It's a career, a mindset, pride and self-worth.  And to have the rug pulled out from under you when you are in the alleged prime of your career is crushing and gut wrenching.

The impotent and ineffectual ABA is feigning concern:

"Suicide among lawyers has long been documented to occur two to six times as often as in the general population, according to the American Bar Association. And recessionary times are not helping. Earlier this year, the ABA offered a free online program to members that focused on preventing suicides during a bad economy."

If you know or suspect that someone close to you is suffering from depression.  Act now.  Many of the pillars of our society are fraught with cracks, and you can never tell who is on the brink of crumbling. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Job Offers Galore....

in Bangalore.  It seems that you stand a very good chance of getting a job offer if you go to school in a third world country. Why did my parents come here again?  I'm joking, of course.  I love America.  It just seems as if the U.S. has jumped the shark.

Read this and weep!

BANGALORE: A clutch of foreign and Indian law firms literally swooped down on the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore 
campus, over the past few weeks, offering handsome packages to graduates. The rise in demand for prospective lawyers saw an uptick in salaries being offered — from Rs 7.5 lakh in 2009 to Rs 9.7 lakh per annum this time. The highest domestic offer, of around Rs 12.5 lakh, was made by FMCG major Marico, compared with Rs 11 lakh made last year.

Around 50 students of the 2010 batch of 77 students have accepted corporate offers, while the rest will be pursuing litigation, civil services or other further studies. Amarchand & Mangaldas was the biggest recruiter and they picked up 12 students.

The highest offers were made by UK Magic Circle firms namely Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, followed by Norton Rose and Herbert Smith, that offered an average salary package of £37,000-38,000 per annum. A unique feature of this year’s placements was the participation of PSUs such as Indian Oil and Sail. This year’s campus placement saw participation by law firms like J Sagar & Associates, Nishith Desai & Associates and Talwar Thakore & Associates, among others.

Consultancies like McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group also visited the campus. Around 21 students were recruited through earlier processes and pre-placement offers with law firms like Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh Shroff, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices and S&R Associates.

The campus placement at National Law School was held early this year instead of the conventional April-May sessions, said NLSIU head of the public relations cell, Kushal Bhimjiani. “Foreign firms are increasing their offers to students in India. They come earlier due to which we missed out a few jobs,” Ms Bhimjiani said.

“Indian firms also wanted it to be held earlier as they want to get hold of the best talent,” she added. Representing the financial sector were companies such as ICICI Bank, Kotak Mahindra and microfinance organisation IFMR. The other top companies that participated were Bharti Airtel, Marico, Jindal Steel Works and Hero Honda.

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