Thursday, September 30, 2010

Legal Career Ended by Reality TV (I'm not talking about my addiction to Housewives of DC either)

Last week, I posted about Vinny--a reality t.v. star from Jersey Shore who decided to pass on the legal career, in favor of a career in acting.  Since he is already a "star"in some sense, I think it is a wise decision.  What about an attorney who ends her prestigious legal career for the shot at becoming a reality star?
A Brooklyn district attorney was forced to resign this week after her appearance on the TV reality show “The Apprentice” began to interfere with her day job. “Obviously, how can I be in a courtroom now, at least while the show is airing?” Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy, who mostly prosecutes the offenders for misdemeanors in Criminal Court.

Ms. Saeidi-Azcuy didn't want to quit her job, but it became hard to voir dire a jury:
She never told her bosses that she was taking two months off to record the show, apparently hoping that they would never see her mix it up with Donald J. Trump on their televisions once the show was broadcast. And her plan would have worked, if it hadn’t been for the jurors on her cases, who do watch Mr. Trump and began to recognize her after just two appearances on the show.

So, I know that The Apprentice this season is focusing on victims of the recession.  I realize that The Apprentice is about getting a job with Mr. Trump--but it's a little nutty that she resigned from a job that many BIDER readers would murder for.  Come to think of it, why the hell is she on the show anyways?  Well, according to her bio, she's the only breadwinner in her home.  I'm willing to place a bet that her hubby is a Brooklyn Law Grad as well, and consequently unemployed.

Look!  I was right!
In Saeidi-Azcuy's case, her husband works pro bono, so they're forced to live on just one income.
So, shouldn't he be on the show and not her?  Now they will both be out of work, unless she gets that job working for Mr. Trump.  I guess she can always try to be the new Kim Kardashian--the lawyer edition.

Thanks tipster!  You're the best.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lawyers AKA Pompous A-Holes?

Ran across this letter and I nearly fell over in my chair:
I've been dating this guy who is a young, successful lawyer for a couple of weeks. I really like him but whenever we go out with my friends, he talks A LOT about the fact that he went to law school and is a lawyer. He doesn't even talk about specific law experiences. He just continuously reminds people that he is a lawyer. Most of the time, it doesn't even relate to the conversation, he just throws it out there.

Don't get me wrong, he should be proud because he worked really hard to get where is, but it just comes across as too much. Even my friends have noticed and have said how they really like him but "he talks about being a lawyer a lot." They weren't mean about it and just dismissed it as his way of trying to impress them, but he does it often, even among his own friends or new people he meets.
The fact of the matter is that I hang out with very down-to-earth people who aren't pretentious. So here is my issue: some friends and I are planning on going away and sharing a vacation house. I don't know everyone in the group that well and I am concerned that this problem will happen again, only it's a bigger deal because we'll all be stuck together for a few days. One friend even said "just make sure he doesn't constantly talk about being a lawyer."
I definitely don't want him to hide who he is and what he does, but I don't want him to gloat about it either. How do I tell him to cool it with the bragging without hurting his feelings or undermining his success?
– Cool It, Boston 
See what I mean?  Ha. If you recognize yourself as this guy, please shoot me an email!  Love it!

Oh yah, here's my answer.

Dear Cool It,

You're reading him all wrong.  He's ecstatic to have landed a job as a lawyer.  This is an achievement.  It's the gold medal of going to law school during this recession.  He probably realizes how lucky he is. He keeps interjecting it in conversation because he can hardly believe it himself.  Because you're assuming that all lawyers are well off and employed, you do not value his great success.  If he had  completed an Iron Man in record time, would you feel the need to silence him?  No. You'd let him talk about it a few times to many people--because it would be the accomplishment of a lifetime.  So, let him gloat.  He'll probably be let go from his Big Firm job in a few years, then you'll be wiping the tears off his face when he tells people he WAS an attorney.

Love, hugs and kisses,

Breaking News: Student Loan Relief...

for students from bankrupt West Kentucky School of Law.  Hopefully, more schools will go bankrupt, and this trend will continue:
Student Loan Xpress, Inc. (SLX) has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth of Kentucky that will result in an estimated $3.6 million reduction in the loan obligations for students who attended a now bankrupt West Kentucky law school.
The lender, SLX, engaged in bad behavior:
...the lender charged fees when it said it would not and required loan repayment when students were entitled to deferments because they were still in school. "There was an overall pattern of abuse by the lender that ignored federal and state consumer protection requirements and put students in a financial bind before they even started their careers.
and now they will pay, by reducing each student's tuition by an average of $25K:
Students' loan indebtedness will not include any amounts for tuition and school fees for credits that were not transferred to another school; interest on the loans will be based on the reduced loan amounts and any capitalized interest will be removed from their loan accounts; and late fees for delinquent payments and certain loan fees will also be removed from borrowers' accounts.
Each student's debt load will be reduced in light of the credits that they were unable to transfer to other schools.  Frankly, what schools will they be permitted to transfer to?  This school sought accreditation and was never successful.  I guess that means they were never able to secure a fax machine.  Why would the ABA accredit a school like that?
SLX's dealing in other schools are under investigation.  It might be worth following if they are your lender.
I anticipate that more law schools will close down in the future and this type of scenario will play out more than a few times.  Here's to foolish optimism.

Trailblazing Ideas from Pace Law: NETWORK, says Dean Littman

The Pace Law Grads in this article, all suffering from diminished expectations and lack of job prospects, didn't get the memo.  According to Yahoo, legal hiring is up 29% and lawyers are earning $110K on average!  What are they doing wrong?  What am I doing wrong?  Hell--what are you doing wrong?

Well, Pace is being innovative by re-introducing the wheel and fire to humanity suggesting that students network the hell out of other attorneys.  I guess I forgot to do that.  According to Littman, networking is key: 
Littman said students must attend networking events, make good impressions, collect business cards, and follow up with telephone calls.
"Networking and experience go hand in hand," she said.
When she says they go hand in hand, what does she mean?  By networking, I will gain experience?  Or my experience will be enhanced by networking?  That's gobbledygook.  Your students have no real experience, so it will not be enhanced or diminished by networking.   Who is she kidding?  Even after one year of practicing, most lawyers don't have enough experience to hang their hat on.

Dean Littman also warns students that six figure salaries are hard to come by.  Really?  I've been turning down jobs offering $60K and $70K daily--holding out for that six figure job! Silly me.
Littman said she also advises students to have more realistic starting salary expectations, noting that only 2 percent of graduates are getting salaries of $150,000 or more a year.
Younger said students might want to consider "hot areas" of law, such as bankruptcy and intellectual property, to increase their chances of getting hired.
"There is an enormous unmet need for lawyers in America, especially for people who can't pay the rate that Fortune 500 companies can pay," he said. "These jobs don't pay $165,000 a year, but they pay something."
Do I find it ironic that the rest of the article focuses on the stories of Kavitha Mukund, Jennifer Lincoln, and Marjorie Levine--all students that were unable to secure a job offer?   Yah.  I do.  Then there's the story of  John McCarron, a guy who didn't even try to find a job. Instead he started as a solo right out of the gate.

Dean Littman, can you point me in the direction of the "unmet need for lawyers"?  I can't seem to find it anywhere around here.
Thanks Tipsters!  :)  It would be so hard to keep this up without you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tom M. Cooley Hall of Shame! Go Team...

Hate to poke fun at Tom Cooley School of Law, but they make it so easy.  Every school has its notable graduates.  A tipster told me about two of them: Nazhy Buck and Lloyd Johnson.  Okay, so I'm overstating it. It's not really about notable graduates.  And it's not even about being notable, it's about gossip.  Nazhy Buck, according to her profile on the website on of the Center for Ethical Solutions where she is an intern, has a very impressive resume:
Nahzy Buck is a freelance Farsi linguist and educator, having most recently worked as a Research Translator for the Dari Translation Project at Carnegie Mellon University in 2009. Among her other positions, Nahzy was an Intelligence Analyst for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in Ottawa, Canada. She taught as an adjunct Professor of Persian Language and Culture in the Department of Iranian Studies at Hankuk University (University of Foreign Studies) in Seoul, South Korea, for five years. She was also an adjunct Professor of Middle East History at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. A native speaker of Persian (Farsi), Nahzy also has a command of written Arabic, which is uncommon for native speakers of Persian. She received her Master’s degree in International Relations from Kyung Hee University in Seoul, and has legal training from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, with a focus on constitutional law and civil rights. She has long been an advocate of religious minority rights, especially with regard to the plight of the Baha’is in Iran who, among other things, have been barred from access to university education for the past 30 years by government policy.
Wow.  Cooley should be proud.  But, wait!  She didn't graduate from Cooley.  She actually sued Cooley for expelling her from law school when she has a disability.  She lost that law suit.  Poor lady.  It's really not her fault.  She's obviously very intelligent.  Her husband, also a Cooley Grad, is a professor at MSU.  And her son is the youngest student to ever attend MSU.  However, as we discussed earlier, Tom Cooley has a notoriously low curve (2.0 to 2.4).  So, judge Ms. Buck as you may, she's evidence that some people are doomed to fail.  Including highly intelligent and accomplished people.

The second bit of juicy gossip is really sad, actually.  The author of this blog, Lloyd Johnson, graduated from Tom Cooley in 1989.  And, in 2010, he was murdered by his wife.  She was charged with murder and the unauthorized practice of Medicine--of all things.  Apparently, she had bloody tissue in her fridge.  Wow. Macabre!  
...Johnson had an open wound from an old injury that required attention.
Home healthcare providers had been hired, but Johnson was far too dedicated to his work as an attorney to keep the appointments, she said.
So, she treated it herself--killing him?  Not sure.  But it makes me grateful to be a not-so-busy-or-dedicated attorney and still alive.  Right?

I can't make this shit up.
Thanks Tipster!  I hope you make the cut at Tom Cooley!

The manner of death is accidental related to that old open wound from a boating accident,” he said.
Some of the contributing causes of death to the 413-pound Johnson were hypertensive cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, liver cirrhosis and morbid obesity.
Look's like it wasn't murder after all.  It was the lifestyle of an attorney.  :)  Go Cooley!  Thanks Tipster!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Not Rich At $250k - Great Post At the Legal Dollar

I haven't been following the story about the UChicago Law professor with a doctor wife who complained in a blog post about not feeling rich even though his combined family income is more than $250k. The professor took down his post after getting a ton of flack for his whining when so many people would kill to make even a fourth of his family's income, but a BIDER reader gave us the cached link to his post which you can go to here.

When I first read the post, I immediately thought to myself, this guy doesn't feel rich because he probably owns at least two luxury cars and a McMansion in a very wealthy suburb of Chicago with more space than his family actually needs. In short, I could tell from the blog post that like so many lawyers who win the job lottery and end up in Biglaw or teaching at a top law school, this professor and his family spends well beyond their means even when they earn more than most of us could ever dream of.

The Legal Dollar proves that my initial conclusion about this law professor to be correct with a post that explains the full story behind this professor's lifestyle and the total amount of student debt he and his wife still have 12+ years after graduating from law school. This professor and his wife still owe more than $500k in student loans. Don't feel sorry for them. They should have spent their first several years out of school focused on paying off their loans instead of taking out more loans for their McMansion, but that is a mistake that many Americans have made. I have heard so many stories of seemingly upper-middle class families who lose everything because most of what they have was bought with credit cards and loans. I personally know people who make $100k but still struggle to pay the bills because they HAVE to have that nice apartment in Manhattan even if it means paying triple the amount of a smaller apartment in Jersey or the Bronx:
...Some commentators have been critical of the Professor, but let's take a
look at his situation as a way for young associates and those considering law
school to gain insight into what their life will be like if they are lucky
enough to win the law school lottery and earn top dollar. I previously
talked about why 145K/year does not go as far as new law grads think it will, but now we can get an example of what life is like for a lawyer more than 10 years out of law school.

First, read the articles linked above and let's set the context. The Professor is a 1998 graduate of law school and spent time at Kirkland & Ellis (which typically pays top dollar.) He is also married to a doctor who apparently also makes at least a $100K/year contribution to the home.

The first thing that I note is that although the Professor has been out of
law school for 12+ years and spent time at K&E, he and his wife still have
more than $500,000 worth of student loans. We don't know the exact split
of who brought what debt to the marriage, but the existence of the debt even
after 12 years in practice should help disabuse law students of the unrealistic
idea that they will somehow just "pay back their student loans in 3 years or
so." Here's someone making top dollar with a wife working a high-paying
job and they still have $500K in loans after 12 years - yikes!

For $500K in loans, assuming an interest rate of about 6.8%, they pay
$34K/year after taxes (most likely about $51K/year pre-tax) IN INTEREST
ALONE! It's hard to know what the actual total payments are, but figure an
additional 20K/year after taxes has to go to principal (about 30K before
taxes.) This means that about $80K of their pre-tax income goes to loan

What's my point? Student loans are just a monkey on your back that you will be carrying for decades. The Professor has been carrying his for 12+years - and will probably be carrying it for 20 more. For those considering law school, recognize that this means you - even if you win the "good job lottery" that is harder and harder to win these days.

Second, we note that the single biggest expense for the Professor and his
wife are TAXES! More than $100K/year. In my experience, potential law students - and even young associates - are consistently underestimating just how big a bite taxes take as your income increases. For example, remember those things like personal exemptions and loan interest deductibility that you get to deduct at lower incomes? Well, they disappear when you go higher. Also, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) starts to take a much bigger bite. But it's not just federal income tax - it's state income tax, Social Security, and Medicare taxes (FICA), too. Right now these probably consume about +40% of the Professor's income.

...Third, the last thing that struck me about the articles is that the Professor mentions that his second biggest expense is his mortgage - and that it is less than $100K/year, but more than his student loan payment - and that his property tax is about $15K/year. According to Bankrate, the P&I payment on a $1.5M home loan over 30 years at 5% is about $96K/year. $80K represents about a $1.3M home loan.

Also, I am generally familiar with the Chicago real estate market and (although some suburbs deviate and are more expensive) a home that requires about $15,000/year in property tax probably costs somewhere in the $1.2-1.7M range.

This leads us to two points: First, even though the Professor has been out 12+ years and his wife works as a doctor, they probably don't have a large percentage of equity in their home. Second, the the Professor owns too much house. The total housing expenses including mortgage and tax are near to or in excess of $100K/year - which is frankly too much.

In summary, even if the Professor and his wife are paid $400K - as some commentators have suggested - they are most likely out about $100K in income taxes, $100K in mortgage and house taxes, and $80K in loans. That gets them down to about $120K, which after private school for the 2 kids (probably about $30K/year), a 401k contribution ($33K/year), and some base living expenses
for food, utilities, cars, etc (figure $3000/month = $36K/year) - the Professor
and his wife are left with a total of $21K.
This should be a lesson for anyone who still thinks that taking out $100k+ in student loans is a good investment even to go to a good school. Unless you are willing to live frugally for a decade or longer, you will have the student loan monkey on your back for the rest of your life, even if are lucky to earn in the six-figure range.

We all want nice things and to live comfortably, but there is a point when some people just become flat out greedy and when they hit a rough patch, they aren't willing to downgrade to a smaller house or a used car. They'd rather live on credit and pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans until they die before giving up the luxuries they've become accustomed to. That is not the way to live. Unfortunately, people aren't realizing this until it is too late. This seems to be the case with this UChicago professor. Don't feel sorry for this guy, but do realize that a six-figure salary does not mean you are living the high life when you have six-figure student loans to pay back and you expect to send your kids to the best private schools, colleges, and graduate schools.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vinny from Jersey Shore is the Smartest of the Bunch!

You may recall that Vinny from Jersey Shore is the "intellectual" of the bunch, with aspirations of law school.  Not anymore.  Well, he's still the intellectual--especially since he has changed his mind about law school and decided to pursue acting.  Since he's already there with one of the most infamous reality shows ever, this is the wisest decision he could have made.  In an interview, he states the reasons why he changed his mind:
I said that if got into Harvard or Yale with my LSAT score, then maybe I’d give up on the reality-TV career, but this was back when the show just started. But I didn’t, obviously. It was good enough to get into a good school, but my score was nowhere near that. But the next day after saying that, all these headlines said “Vinny is going to Yale or Harvard!” When I wanted to go to law school, I didn’t want to really know what lawyers did, and I still didn’t want a lawyer. I just wanted the degree, and that still stands. I think it’s very prestigious to have a law degree. You can go into politics, the FBI, Wall Street. I would never rule that out. But I don’t want to be a lawyer. I have a lawyer now, and I see what he does, and it’s not for me.
The law is as prestigious as Snookie is tall and sexy.  Notice, when a person becomes acquainted with the practice of law--he is often immediately turned off from it.  Take my day, for example.  I had a real estate closing, representing the seller.  It took 6 hours.  We sat there and waited for the bank to approve the funds for 4 of those 6 hours.  Titillating stuff.  I'd much rather be doing "G.T.L. baby. Gym, Tanning, Laundry"--The Situation.

I guess, if he changes his mind, he can always pull a Jerry O'Connell and attend a TTT.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1992 Temple Law Grad Can Afford to Work for Free!

Can you?  Cheryl Jacobs has been licensed to practice law for 18 years.  She was laid off in 2008 and decided to help the Philadelphia community by defending victims of predatory lending.  Apparently, she's had much success.  When I say "success"--I don't mean money. I mean the type of success that makes you feel like a good person:

"I charge my clients very little or nothing at all," she says. "They can't afford to pay me. If you can't afford your mortgage, you probably can't afford a lawyer."
Although Jacobs, who is divorced and has a daughter, is working harder and making less money than ever before, she has never felt happier.
"Why do I do this? When the mediation works, when I know I've kept somebody in their homes, the feeling is so amazing," she says. "I know how I'd feel if someone was in danger of losing my home and someone helped me stay in it."  
This story was intended to be a feel good story, but I see it differently.  Many people go to law school to make a difference, and Ms. Jacobs is certainly doing that.  However, the ability to make a difference while keeping your head above water financially is a luxury that too many recent graduates cannot afford. I do not presume to know what she paid for law school or whether she still has loans.  I tried to look up the history of tuition at Temple Law, but that information is not available on the web.  However, if we use this chart of the average cost of Public Law Schools as a guide to what she may have paid for tuition back in 1989 through 1992.  I know that Temple Law is private, but notice that tuition in public law schools have quadrupled since 1992.  So, if students today owe roughly $120,000.00, then Ms. Jacobs likely only paid $30,000.00--a reasonable sum which may be paid off by now.

So, once again, it comes down to the money.  You may not care about the cost, because you want to do something good for the world.  However, lemmings must realize that tuition makes your do-good dreams cost prohibitive.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Harvard to Homeless and Other Anecdotal Evidence Not to Go to Law School

First off, just in case you didn't know where you and the millions of unemployed graduates fall on the hierarchy of all things important:

On Wednesday, lawmakers passed a bipartisan resolution to honor dogs.

Specifically, service dogs. H. Res. 1614, which passed by a voice vote Wednesday afternoon, recognizes "the extraordinary efforts and dedication of these service dogs."

Don't get me wrong. We love dogs here at BIDER. But with one in seven Americans living in poverty and the unemployment rate at unprecedented numbers, you'd think there'd be more pressing issues on their agenda...such as the private loan bankruptcy bill. Well, that barely made it out of subcommittee and will likely never get passed:

The Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2010 (H.R. 5043), which has been offered in several preceding congressional sessions, would restore provisions previously included in the bankruptcy code. In 2005, Congress voted to amend federal bankruptcy law to make private student loans unforgiveable debt in bankruptcy unless a borrower is able to demonstrate that loan repayment would be an "undue hardship."

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the bill faces long odds for a final passage. Many Republicans oppose the measure, warning that it would drive up interest rates and further shrink the market for private loans. Additionally, the congressional legislative session has only four weeks before the House's target date to adjourn.
Just say no to private loans. The Damned Generation will not find any student loan relief from the government beyond IBR and even that has its problems.

In other news, all of us has a story about someone they know or have come across who is facing a lifetime of soul-crushing student loan debt and unemployment. Several of us scambloggers who went to top schools know these people all too well. Some of our readers have shared their stories about making it into a top 14 law school only to see their world fall apart before their very eyes.

I have plenty of stories about classmates who graduated cum laude from T14 School of Law only to find themselves unemployed with $100k debt two years after graduation. Maybe I will share more of these stories with our readers sometime. That being said, I didn't attend Harvard Law where everyone assumes will guarantee their graduates a lifetime of wealth and success. Well, think again.

I won't give away all the details in order to protect the identities of everyone involved, but I know of someone who graduated from Harvard Law School and currently works at a motel. Not even a hotel, a motel in a seedy area where no one who graduates from Harvard Law School dreams of ever spending an hour of their life let alone the rest of their life. This HLS grad is forced to work there in order to have a place to live and to pay off the remainder of their student loans. I wish I could share more, but I won't embarass anyone with specific details. Have any of you come across a T14 or even a T3 graduate down in the dumps? Please share in the comments.

Has Lifetime considered a sequel to Homeless to Harvard? How about Harvard to Homeless: The Postgraduate Years. Just a suggestion.

CitySlips For Women on the Go (CLOSED)

Congratulations to Becky from Minnesota! We will be contacting you shortly
When I use to live in NYC, there were always times when I had to walk in pain in my dress shoes because my purse was too small to carry a pair of flipflops to wear after work. Sometimes my feet were in so much pain in my high heels that I would look for any department store just to buy a pair of comfortable shoes for the walk home.

Now you can walk in comfort and style with CitySlips. Angel and I are both huge fans of this product. Angel says CitySlips are perfect for running to court. I think they are great for any time of the day or evening.

What is so great about this product is that it fits into most purses and handbags. That means you can bring CitySlips with you even when you're not carrying your huge tote or gym bag. These shoes are very comfortable and each pair comes with a pouch that unfolds into a carrying tote to put in your heels. I love this product and carry it around with me everywhere I go. It's such a relief not to lug around a pair of sneakers in my purse and be able to fit a pair of comfortable shoes in even a clutch purse. This is a must have accessory for busy women looking for a stylish alternative to the usual boring flip flops and sneakers you see women around your city wear after work.

You can buy CitySlips online or at many of the fine retailers listed at the bottom of the page. You will also find CitySlips at Dillards in the near future and you can order them right now from Neiman Marcus. Yippee!

I've also learned that CitySlips offers an even flashier solution for a night on the town with AfterSoles. After an entire evening in those painful stilettos, you'll be grateful to have a pair of AfterSoles in your purse.

BIDER is giving away a pair of CitySlips to a lucky BIDER reader. Just visit CitySlips and tell us why you need a pair of CitySlips.

Get an extra entry for Liking CitySlips on Facebook or following CitySlips on Twitter. Contest ends October 5th. US residents only.
Good luck! Thank you to CitySlips for providing BIDER and a reader with free samples of their fabulous product.

Monday, September 20, 2010

NEWS That Matters to Me: Discuss Among Yourselves.

Companies manufacturing high-precision products—car and aircraft parts, large-scale construction equipment—encounter a dearth of workers with the mathematical and technical skills necessary to operate computer-controlled machines; these companies face lagging sales as a result. In some cases, these companies set up their own training programs to teach potential workers the skills necessary for high-tech manufacturing, but the length of time required to complete these training programs—time away from lower-paying but already extant jobs—renders them infeasible for some prospective applicants. Thus, the positions remain unfilled, because the American educational system does not currently produce enough job candidates with the technical expertise to perform in the “blue-collar” jobs of the twenty-first century. 
Furthermore, kids that aren't geared towards a college education fall off of the map without any options that would interest them.  Not everyone is academically inclined and there is nothing wrong with that.  When will we learn?
"In February 2007, Ms. Ch├ívez quietly took a job herself at People Exchanging Power. She says she had just gotten divorced, was having trouble making her mortgage payments, and viewed working for the service, which paid more than $40 per hour, as a great way to earn money in her spare time and gather material for her fiction."   I want to sign up!  $40/hour.  That's mad loot to a shit solo like myself.  What business does People Exchanging Power deal in?  Oh, the phone sex business.  
"Do you want a biker bitch, an imperious goddess, or a stern teacher ready to punish unruly students?" Lick my boot!  
Then a 30-year-old law school graduate said he's no longer able to make the interest payments on his educational loans, much less able to have a mortgage or a family. He said he had been inspired by Obama's campaign. But now, "that inspiration is dying away," he said. "I really want to know: Is the American dream dead?
"Absolutely not. ... There is not a country in the world that would want to change places with us," Obama responded. "We are still the country that billions of people in the world look to and aspire to."  Let's hope you're right, Mr. President.  My American Dream is on life support.
  • Darwinism--kind of?  87% of Law School Admissions Offices have received a bad letter of recommendation--a total application killer.  I would like to say that they are idiots for asking the wrong person to write them a recommendation--but they are the lucky ones in the end.  They just don't realize it.  Law School Admissions Offices also had this to say:
56 percent predict an increase in applications this year, while only 6 percent predict a decrease – 25 percent p.predict application numbers to remain flat, while 13 percent were not sure; 75 percent say the lagging effects of the recession are responsible for the recent and predicted application increases. 
All of these stories came from BIDER readers.  Thank you for your vigilance!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Unified Front in the War Against the Education Scam!

One of the criticisms we scambloggers often receive is that we are not unified, therefore our voice is somehow limited by the size of our individual blog audiences.  However, since Kimber from Shilling Me Softly came out of hiding, she has been working hard to get a centralized website together for us to all post on. It's called Down by Law.  Please check it out.  We have a forum on there--intended to be a place where your voice can be heard without censorship (cough, cough, NOT Top Law  We just started, so it's still a baby blog.  Hopefully, it will get bigger and gain steam. We will continue to post on BIDER though, because that's my baby.

Friday, September 17, 2010

25 of the Highest Paying Jobs Don't Require College Degrees

I must have covered this sort of story before, but it hurts every time I see it.  And the common denominator is the inability of Big Business to outsource the work:
...According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), eight of the 10 fastest-growing occupations through 2014 don't require a bachelor's degree. And these jobs, which include health technology, plumbing, firefighting and automotive repair, are less vulnerable to outsourcing. After all, if a fire breaks out, you need the fire department to be a few blocks away, not halfway around the world.
Good point. That's why lawyers and factory workers are equally screwed.  So, here are the jobs. Read 'em and weep!

1. Air traffic controller: $102,030

2. Funeral director: $79,517

3. Operations manager: $77,839

4. Industrial production manager: $73,000

5. Transportation manager: $72,662

6. Storage and distribution manager: $69,898

7. Computer technical support specialist: $67,689

8. Gaming manager: $64,880

9. First-line supervisor/manager of police and detective: $64,430

10. Nuclear power reactor operator: $64,090

11. Computer specialist: $59,480

12. First-line, non-retail supervisors/manager: $59,300

13. Nuclear technician: $59,200

14. First-line supervisor/manager of fire fighting and prevention worker: $58,920

15. Real estate broker: $58,720

16. Elevator installer and repairer: $58,710

17. Sales representative, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products: $58,580

18. Dental hygienist: $59,790

19. Radiation therapist: $57,700

20. Nuclear medicine technologist: $56,450

21. Power plant distributor and dispatcher: $57,330

22. Fashion designer: $55,840

23. Ship engineer: $54,950

24. Detective and criminal investigator: $53,990

25. Commercial pilot: $53,870

I wish I were a Funeral Director.  Working with the dead has always appealed to me. Oh well!
Thanks BIDER tipster.  This particular tipster sends me stories all the time.  I really appreciate it. You should comment some time, girlie!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Poor, You're Poor, Everybody's Poor, Poor!!!!

Yes.  We are gaining in numbers.  Whoops. I guess that doesn't help us.  The Poverty Rate rose to 14.3%, the highest since 1994.  How horrid.  And when I say 'poverty,' I mean pooooooor as dirt;
"For a single adult in 2009, the poverty line was $10,830 in pretax cash income; for a family of four, $22,050."  That is really poor.  I actually don't think I qualify, but we'll see when I do my quarterly taxes at the end of this month. I always seem to think I did better than I actually did.

It seems that this number could have been so much worse.  Thank God for mom and dad:
And the numbers could have climbed higher: One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report.
So, what's the REAL poverty rate?  Why do I always have to ask these questions for the retards over at the New York Times. I'd like to see the stats on how many able bodied people are couch surfing and what the real poverty rate is based on that number.  God, must I do everything?  And they make the story even more bland by noting that those poverty stricken by the recession are the usual suspects:
Dr. Smeeding said it seemed almost certain that poverty would further rise this year. He noted that the increase in unemployment and poverty had been concentrated among young adults without college educations and their children, and that these people remained at the end of the line in their search for work.
We're in the front of the line, I suppose.  So, they go into several heart wrenching stories of uneducated folks with babies that are forced to move in with relatives to weather the financial storm.  I would rather read about people like BL1y who no one would have ever thought would be living below the poverty line.  Oh yah, he doesn't count because his parents are working.

But the situation would be more bleak but for unemployment benefits and, at the same time, it's not as bleak as we thought because of certain benefits that come with living in this Great Country of ours:
If food-stamp benefits and low-income tax credits were included as income, close to 8 million of those labeled as poor in the report would instead be just above the poverty line, the Census report estimated. At the same time, a person who starts a job and receives the earned income tax credit could have new work-related expenses like transportation and child care. Unemployment benefits, which are considered cash income and included in the calculations, helped keep 3 million families above the line last year, the report said, with temporary extensions and higher payments helping all the more.
So, once again, a half ass story from an ass clown publication.  Try and publish a real story, New York Times!

Thanks for the tip, BIDER Reader.

Should I Be Insulted?

The scambloggers are gaining in power and recognition.  The AmLaw Daily wrote an article about all of the scam blogs that are popping up on the Internet:
Malan spoke with the authors behind blogs like First Tier Toilet, Third Tier Reality, Esq. Never, and The Jobless Juris Doctor about the employment prospects for students outside the country's top eight law school, as well as student loan debts reaching six-figures for some graduates.
And that's just scratching the surface. The Am Law Daily had a quick look at more than a dozen similar blogs out there, such as Exposing The Law School Scam, Highest Education, Legal Nihilist, Outside Lies Magic, Rose Colored Glasses, Scammed Hard!, Shilling Me Softly, Subprime JD, Tales of the Fourth-Tier Nothing and, dare we say, Fluster Cucked. No doubt there are countless others.
Ya.  There are others, like BIDER!  What the eff?  So peeved.  I know that we have readers.  What gives? I want a little recognition!!!!
New England College School of Law professor Bill Childs, who told Malan he follows blogs that decry the law school experience as a scam, doesn't take offense to what they're saying, but also doesn't think that law schools are fraudsters.
"Law school is not the best idea for everyone in the world," Childs said. "Some of these blogs are coming from an honest place and are saying, 'Think about your choices carefully.' I can't argue with that. I think that's good."
Yah.  You better believe that it's good.  We are exposing the dark side of a higher education.  Someone has to do it.  Just call me Geraldo Rivera.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Big Favor, BIDER Readers!

Every year, the ABA names the top 100 Blawgs.  It's the academy awards of Legal Blogs.  Since you're reading this now, I'm assuming you like BIDER and I'd love if you could nominate it for a top 100 spot.  Or, if you absolutely loathe and despise our content and writing, LEAVE.  No... don't. I'm totally joking.  BUT, feel free to nominate any scamblogger (See Blog Roll on the Side Bar) for the honor.  It would be magnificent if any of the scam blogs made the list since it will receive some great publicity and the message could spread far and wide.

Use the form located here.  Thank you so much!

Retirement from the Law at 26: True Story.

A Canadian Lawyer, Chris Graham, won the law school jackpot. He scored a Big Law Job as a Corporate Lawyer.  For the first few months, his position was admirable:

Ever leave a meeting at 2 p.m. and read about it on the New York Timeswebsite before dinner? (To be fair, this is more likely to happen when a major investment bank has recently declared bankruptcy.) Ever worked pro bono for hedge funds? Savour that for a moment. Then savour the case of champagne that arrives in your office when the project is finished. “Thanks for all your effort.”
Need to get documents to a client on short notice? “No problem. We'll send the corporate helicopter.” Just for documents.
That's exactly what many lemmings dream of when they enroll in law school.  But they don't realize the collateral damage that it causes:
That spring I found and lost a beautiful woman, then spent the summer thinking about what she had showed me about time, which turned out to be my side of the bargain with the firm. I get serious work and a generous salary; it gets my time, whenever it wants, as much as it wants.  
Yes.  Big Firm Life, lack thereof, is a tumultuous one.  Mr. Graham explains it beautifully.  Once you scored the job, your life is no longer linear.  It begins to have as many up and downs as the U.S. economy.  Sometimes you're working late into the night, and showing back up at 7:00 a.m. to "finish a deal."  Other times, you're twiddling your thumbs--terrified that you're never going to find enough work  to meet your billable hour requirements.  The unpredictability is agonizing:
Think of a graph showing your hours worked each day for a year. The regression line is not especially high, but the standard deviation is outrageous. That's life as a corporate lawyer.
For some people (perhaps many, judging by the number of corporate lawyers in the world), this sort of arrangement is fine. Standard. Life would be boring if you always knew what was coming.
It took a year to realize this is not me. Reacting to changing circumstances is one thing; being told how to react, and when to react, is another. My graph was a cardiogram, all heart attacks and comas. 
So this Canadian did what so many lawyers wish they could do.  He quit and went back to college to get a different B.A.   He went to Oxford, actually.  He majored in History and Politics so that he could do what he tried and failed to do in his limited free time--read and write.  It's funny because so many law students choose this very same major and find that it doesn't lead to gainful employment.  Maybe it doesn't lead to gainful employment when you already have loans for college?  But Mr. Graham had an advantageous position.  He used his BigLaw salary to save up for the additional schooling.  I suspect that he didn't have loans from law school either.  So, he was free to pursue intellectual satisfaction.  I hope he reads this post and corrects me if I'm wrong.

So, he retired from BigLaw at 26.  Lucky Canuck.  Good luck and a big thank you to him for putting out a realistic portrayal of life in BigLaw.

Is It Wrong That I'm a Bit Jealous of Dr. Chang's Son?

So your mom gets arrested for grand larceny and forgery, but at least your law school education is paid for.  That's looking at the bright side of things for Dr. Cecilia Chang's family.  Oh yah, mom's case can be the first pro bono case that the son takes on. He can afford to do it with no debt.

Apparently, she was a fundraiser for St. John's University who would travel the world in pursuit of dollar bills.  She managed to secure a donation for this very Catholic School from the very Muslim Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia.  From that, she pocketed $250,000 which she used to pay for her son's law school education, casino trips, Victoria's secret and shopping sprees.  In actuality, she probably only spent $50,000 on her and the remainder on her son.  But she's going to the big house for it anyway.  Go Mom!  Where can I sign up for that job?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Deadly Curves: Some People are Doomed to Fail

Alton and I use the "Shoutbox" to the right to communicate with each other.  I wish more of you would drop a line once and a bit, but it's mostly me and Alton.  He suggested I blog about the Grading Curve and its effects on law students, even in a good economy.  I think it's a worthy topic, so I will give it a go.

Silly me.  When I started law school, I didn't know about the grading curve.  Before you bash me, you must remember that I started law school before the Internet was widely used and I didn't come from a family of lawyers.  Some of the privileged folks in my class started law school with the family's law library.  That made me feel a little bit disadvantaged.  But when I walked into Con Law and the Professor explained the Grading Curve, I felt a little worse off.   I don't remember what the curve was based on, but I do remember it was in the low Cs.  So, Let's say it was a 2.5 at my law school.  It's my understanding that it varies greatly from school to school. So, my Con Law Professor gave the best explanation I've heard to date, so I'll reiterate it here:

Monday, September 13, 2010

New York Times FAIL: What's the Real Story Here?

A tipster sent me this link and I think it's been covered by another scamblogger, but I'm going to use it to address another issue. Issue: I hate the New York Times more and more with every passing day.  Ya, okay.  The student loan default rate has gone up from 5.2% in 2006 to 7% in 2008.  Blah, blah, nominal story.  Big Whoop!  How does the editor even allow such a stupid and insignificant story into this "esteemed" publication.  Here's the real story: how many loans are in forbearance?  When will forbearance run out?  When all of the students that are currently in forbearance run out of time, what the hell will the default rate be?  That's a real story.
When the bottom fell out of the subprime mortgage market, the real story was always the number of foreclosures that were down the pipeline.  The news continued to warn that the worst was yet to come. I guess that we are trying to maintain the illusion of stability, because the powers that be are afraid to pump fear back into the market?  How so, you ask?

Well, the comments on my post from last week reveal how the student loan market resembles the now infamous subprime mortgage market:

EvrenSeven (a regular BIDER reader) wrote:  Does anyone know if student loan debt has been repackaged and sold off as securities like mortgages were? [DAMN good question, man
Anonymous answered: Oh, yes, it has been. In fact, it's even better than that. By manipulating the cohort default rate, the private banks for "federal" loans (like Sallie Mae) can make it appear that a very low percentage of students actually default on their loans. So, using a two-year cohort default (which was the standard until recently when it was changed to a three-year default rate), the banks can claim that only 4 or 5% of their student debtors default. Using that data, the federal government then decides how much of each bank's portfolio they are going to guarantee. Then the banks take that guarantee, and use it to market securities based on the student loan payment streams. The then sell the securities to the market as "safe" investments because they are backed by the government to 97% of the underlying debt obligations, for example. It's the same as the rating agencies getting it horribly wrong with home mortgages, or not really caring about whether they got it right. It's just the federal government pricing the securities instead of Standard & Poor's. Of course, by excluding anyone in default for more than two years, the banks can get a low default rate, a high federal guarantee percentage, and a "safe" security to sell.  Of course, there IS less risk because no one can discharge the loans in bankruptcy. But at some point, when it becomes pointless for the students to even try to pay on the debts, then trouble still comes to town.

Now, THAT'S a story!  
Let's do a headcount.  How many of the BIDER readers have loans that are in forbearance?  Are you running out of time?  Will you be able to handle the payments when you finally get a job, considering that the interest will be compounded and added to the loan?  Are there more loans in forbearance than there are mortgages that are delinquent?  According to this news story, "about 10 percent of the loans were more than 90 days delinquent by the end of 2009."
Am I the only one that sees the connection here?   
I'm a nay sayer, I know.  But the worst is yet to come. But there is a silver lining:
Under the current rules, schools with default rates of 25 percent or more for three consecutive years, or a default rate higher than 40 percent in a single year, lose their eligibility for the federal student aid that provides most of the revenues for for-profit colleges.
Congress!  Please don't change that law!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Debt Destroys Relationships: AS IF You Didn't Know.

I once spoke to bl1y about how hard it is to "get some" when you're broke and unemployed.  For him, clearly.  Not for me.  I'm taken.  Yah, I guess it's hard.  But my point to him is, once you're past courtship, dating isn't all that expensive. You stop eating out so much, you cook more at home, you hang out and watch TV. It gets comfortable and cheaper.  I guess he's right though. If you haven't dough to take the girl out for fancy dinners, how will you manage those initial few months before you're IN a relationship.  So, in short, being broke or unemployed can keep you from getting some and beginning a relationship.  However, DEBT can break a relationship if you're already in it.

Thanks for this article, BIDER reader!

I once dated a guy for a while and it looked like it was getting serious.  He lived in Maryland.  When I met him, he was seemingly  in awe of my profession. He had the sort of practical job you get right out of college, and did pretty well--but not as well as I at the time. However, he was NOT in awe of my debt. He asked me how many thousands of dollars I borrowed to go to law school.  Try TENS of thousands. I thought it was $60K, because I was in that cloud of delusion that keeps you from adding up the separate loans on the back of the KHELC statement.
Well, fast forward to a later date, when I was trying to buy the apartment that I live in now.  I figured that he would come up to New York eventually and live in it since his job was more easily done across state lines than my own.  My mortgage broker, at some point in the process, alerted me to the fact that my credit score took a slight hit since my credit was run in Maryland last month. "WHAT????" says I.  I instantly knew who the culprit was.  I called that fat bastard and confronted him about it.  Instead of a heartfelt apology, I was met with stinging accusations. You don't owe $60K in student loans, you owe $72K!!! What the hell else have you lied to me about?! I owe no one anything! If we got married, what are you bringing into this marriage,  negative numbers?!

Whatever.  The beginning of the end.  I wasn't into him anyways.  At the time, I was livid and I still am because he had no right to run my credit.  Besides, I don't owe nearly as much as other people do. Right?  However, a BIDER reader sent me this article that deals with this issue and shed some light on how my ugly ex must have felt.  And I kind of get it now.

And hey, look!  It happened to this chick too!

Ms. Eastman said she had told him early on in their relationship that she had over $100,000 of debt. But, she said, even she didn't know what the true balance was; like a car buyer who focuses on only the monthly payment, she wrote 12 checks a year for about $1,100 each, the minimum possible. She didn't focus on the bottom line, she said, because it was so profoundly depressing.
But as the couple got closer to their wedding day, she took out all the paperwork and it became clear that her total debt was actually about $170,000. "He accused me of lying," said Ms. Eastman, 31, a San Francisco X-ray technician and part-time photographer who had run up much of the balance studying for a bachelor's degree in photography. "But if I was lying, I was lying to myself, not to him. I didn't really want to know the full amount."
So, the question is, when do you tell your squeeze that you're in debt?  This is probably timely for Jobless Juris Doctor. I hear she's found someone to keep her warm at night, right in time for fall.  When should she drop the bomb on her new beau?

For more on how Student Loan Debt Destroys, check out this article by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox.  Also, Cryn Johannsen, an Indentured Student Advocate, put together this piece with many testimonials to how Student Loans have destroyed people's lives.  Trust me, these stories are stranger than fiction and more heartbreaking than Titanic.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Education Bubble: A Different Perspective

I think this article actually appeared in print in the New York Post (from what I was told).  For those who are unfamiliar with New York Newspaper Culture, the Post is the working man's paper.  It's filled with pictures. It's opens like a book.  The articles are short and sweet and refreshingly popular in nature.  So, when this op-ed was published in the Post, I was ecstatic.  In my humble opinion, the story of the education bubble is reaching the masses.  Of course, since the Post is geared towards the masses, the story speaks to them--not us.  Us meaning those with a higher education--which is only a small percentage of the population as a whole.

Anyway, it's worth looking at:

Government-subsidized loans have injected money into higher education, as they did into housing, causing prices to balloon. But at some point people figure out they're not getting their money's worth, and the bubble bursts.
Any day now.  I'm waiting and hoping for this day to come.  And he's not even talking about law school. He's talking about college.

My American Enterprise Institute colleague Charles Murray has called for the abolition of college for almost all students. Save it for genuine scholars, he says, and let others qualify for jobs by standardized national tests, as accountants already do.
"Is our students learning?" George W. Bush once asked, and the evidence for colleges points to no. The National Center for Education Statistics found that most college graduates are below proficiency in verbal and quantitative literacy. University of California scholars Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks report that students these days study an average of 14 hours a week, down from 24 hours in 1961.
Wow.  So all the things that we say about law school are doubly true of college. I went to a great undergrad and I had a 4.0 and pumped it for it was worth.  It never occurred to me that college failed in in goals of educating students in the most basic ways.  Literacy?

I live in the hood, as many of you know.  How does one know she lives in the hood?  Well, if there are more people sitting on stoops then there are stepping off the bus in the evening, you probably live in the hood.  But my neighbors are not completely nonproductive.  Many are enrolled in a local college or community college.  They are continuously taking classes--aimlessly.  I have written many stories about my run-ins with local "students."  There's the retarded guy who works at the local Duane Reade.  You can tell that he doesn't have the intellectual capacity to be in college, but he's been going and will continue to attend college until he can get a Ph.D. in History so he can be a Middle School teacher (his goal, no joke).  Or the guy who I overheard on the train that said that he's been going to school for Criminal Justice for 7 years and he was too good to take a job in Customs through connections, where he will top out at $80K--even though he couldn't form a full sentence.  I don't mean to look down my nose at people, but I'm not sure either of these guys can even read.  So, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  I guess the problem is more widespread than I thought:

The American Council of Alumni and Trustees concluded, after a survey of 714 colleges and universities, "by and large, higher education has abandoned a coherent content-rich general education curriculum."
They aren't taught the basics of literature, history or science. ACTA reports that most schools don't require a foreign language, hardly any require economics, American history and government "are badly neglected" and schools "have much to do" on math and science.
So, the failure of college should be measured by the content of the curriculum and not the probability of scoring a job upon graduation.  That's the same analysis we've been applying to Law School, which fails on both counts.  Then these poor souls go from being an undereducated undergrad to an ill prepared lawyer.  Why are we paying so much more for so much less?  Well, isn't it clear?

Universities have seen their endowments plunge as the stock market fell and they got stuck with illiquid investments. State governments have raised tuition at public schools but budgets have declined. Competition from for-profit universities, with curricula oriented to job opportunities, has been increasing.
People are beginning to note that administrative bloat, so common in government, seems especially egregious in colleges and universities. Somehow previous generations got by and even prospered without these legions of counselors, liaison officers and facilitators. Perhaps we can do so again.
Yes, of course.  The parasitic administration that feeds off of other's misfortunes, i.e. your mortgaged future.  Yet the politicians of this country have sold education as the panacea to poverty and stagnancy.  Is it really?  Weren't we doing better just 50 years ago with so much less of an education?
A century ago only about 2 percent of American adults graduated from college; in 1910 the number of college graduates nationally was 39,755 -- smaller than the student bodies at many campuses today.
Wow. That is putting it into perspective.  I guess too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.
As often happens, success leads to excess. America leads the world in higher education, yet there is much in our colleges and universities that is amiss and, more to the point, suddenly not sustainable. The people running America's colleges and universities have long thought they were exempt from the laws of supply and demand and unaffected by the business cycle. Turns out that's wrong.
That's a little premature, Mr. Barone.  When schools stop opening up and start closing down, I will believe that they are no longer exempt.  But I think we're a few years from that, especially with federally backed student loans and the protections that affords them.  But I hope you're right.  They need to start worrying about customer satisfaction or suffer the consequences.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Myth of Partnership

I realize that most of my readers can only dream of working at a large firm--so what happens once you get there is probably beyond the scope of what you can think about today, when you're unemployed and living in your parent's basement.

However, it's something that should be discussed in light of the theme here: the law school scam.  When you sign up for law school, when you're a bright eyed and bushy tailed lemming, you think about the prospect of making partner.  That's the way that you decided you may make your millions.  You have a chance, right?  Wrong.

When I signed up for the dream, I was told that you could potentially make partner in five years. I understood the "over and out" Cravath System--probably not as well as I know it today.  But the chance, the glimmer of hope, was there.

Since then, the track for partnership has lengthened:
An associate may have to wait as long as 9 years before the decision is made as to whether the associate "makes partner." Many law firms have an "up or out policy" (pioneered around 1900 by partner Paul Cravath of Cravath, Swaine & Moore[2]): associates who do not make partner are required to resign, either to join another firm, go it alone as a solo practitioner, go to work in-house in a corporate legal department, or change professions (burnout rates are very high in law[3]). [as per Wiki]

Fast forward several years, to when I was working in Big Law. I noticed that the only people who seemed to become partners were outsiders.  The criteria for becoming a partner seemed to change from working hard and making your billable hour requirements, to your ability to bring in business.  I will be the first person to say that law firms are inept at business.  However, this trend makes sense.  It just sucks for those who devote 9 years of their life and their most productive years, only to be pushed out by a stranger to the firm. I guess it's the difference between those who appreciate Derek Jeter as a home grown Yankee to A-Rod, a great import.  Some people say that A-Rod will never be as loved as Jeter, because he's not really a Yankee in the way that Jeter is.

Then, in combing the news on google, I noticed the trend to take in high powered outsiders with influence and clients is the way to become partner at a large firm.

So, how does this tie into the scam?  If the partnership track has lengthened from five years, to nine and then perhaps not at all, why has the cost of a law school education quadrupled?  I'm not saying that everyone that goes to law school thinks they are going to become partner, or even wants to.  However, if it's not longer a part of the plethora of options as a J.D., why would you pay more for the J.D.?

Do you know anyone who has made partner at a top 200 law firm?

Food for thought.

Hope(lessness) and Change

H/T to Corrente for finding an oldie but goodie by Ian Welsh called the Personal Politics of Hopelessness. I'm sure many of our readers can relate:

As I write this I’m eating a sub I bought from across the street. While it was being prepared I chatted with the young woman making it, and she told me about moving from the Canadian Maritimes to Toronto, to, in essence, get a job that pays a little more than minimum wage. Because out in the Maritimes she had trouble getting even that.

I thought to myself that her experience is one that politicians need to have. Many politicians, of course, have never ever had a bad job. They went straight to a good university and from there to a good job or internship. They probably worked hard for it, and think they deserve what they have, never really seeing all the people whose feet were never on that road, who never had the same shot they did.

Then there are a fair number of pols, though less and less every year, who will tell you about the lousy jobs they had as teenagers, or maybe in their early twenties. But in most cases something is different between them and many working class and even middle class folks.

They knew they weren’t staying there.

When I was poor and working in lousy jobs I used to look in the mirror and see myself at 50, or 60. I expected to still be working at grindingly hard jobs, being treated badly by bosses (because there is no rule more iron than that the worse you are paid the worse your employer will treat you), and still being paid little more than minimum wage. That was the future I saw for myself.

And when I was on welfare, after having failed to find a job for 6 months, and even being turned down by McDonalds (in the middle of the early nineties recession) I wondered if I’d even ever have a shitty job again. I ate cheap starchy food, turned pasty and put on weight. My clothes ran down. When my glasses broke beyond the point where tape would keep them together I literally had to beg the optometrist to make me his cheapest pair and I’d pay him later. (I eventually did.) My life was a daily grind of humiliation.

And that’s what I expected my life to be.

When politicians participate in one of those “live on Welfare for a week/month” programs I’m happy, but I’m also dubious. The difference is that they know they’re getting out in a week or a month. They know it’s going to end. Much as I applaud someone like Barbara Ehrenreich, who lived for months working at lousy jobs, again, she knew it was going to end. She knew that, if push come to shove and she became seriously sick, she could opt out. She knew that if she really couldn’t eat for days, that was her choice.

Living without that safety net, knowing that if something goes wrong, that’s just too bad, changes you. Living without any real hope of the future, knowing that the shitty job you’ve got now is probably about as good a job you’re ever going to have, changes you.

And it changes your sense of what hard work is, of what it means to be deserving. I remember working on a downtown construction site as temp labor, and I’d watch all the soft office workers with their uncalloused hands come out for lunch, and I’d wonder why they got paid two or three times what I did for work that was so much easier (and which, of course, I could do, even if I didn’t have a BA.) At the end of the day they might be stressed, but I’d go home physically exhausted from hard labor and so would my co-workers.

Of course, I got out of that. I’d say “I went back to university”, but even though that’s true, it’s not what got me out, since I never finished my BA. Instead what got me out is that I finally got a couple chances to prove what I could do—I got a temp job in an office, and was one of their most productive workers (they measured it.) Later I got invited to blog, and hey, I can write, even if I don’t have a BA. I got lucky. Like most people who get lucky in work, that luck involved a lot of hard work, but it also involved luck.

But a lot of folks never get lucky despite the fact that they work hard. Perhaps they aren’t really all that bright (half the population, after all, is below average intelligence.) Perhaps they’ve got some personality issues or weak social skills. Perhaps there’s something not quite right in their brain chemisty. Or perhaps they just never catch a break because they aren’t lucky and their parents weren’t well enough positioned to help them get those breaks.

But still, most of them work hard and earn their money, whether it’s barely more than minimum wage or they did get a bit of luck and got one of the few remaining good blue collar jobs.

But when they look in the mirror, they know that the guy or gal looking in the mirror ten or twenty years from now is probably going to be doing the same thing. And they know that they’re one bad break away from losing even the little they have—one illness, one plant closure, one argument with their boss.

They don’t have a lot of hope for the future, except that it won’t get worse. The life they live now is the best it’s probably gonna get.

Living like that changes you. It makes you see people differently. You understand that there are a lot of bad jobs out there, and that someone’s going to be stuck with them. You know that most of those jobs are either hard or humiliating, and often both. You know that for too many people, a shitty job where they’re abused by their boss is as good as it gets.

If this depression and the "jobless recovery" has taught the educated underclass anything it is that connections and luck usually matter more than intelligence, hard work, and doing everything right to get into law school or even a top law school only to find yourself back in the same position you would have been in if you had dropped out of high school. Only now you have student loans so huge that it will take you the rest of your life to pay back.

This is especially painful to many of us who didn't come from a rich family. Maybe your mother was like the woman in Ian's post who moved to Toronto to find something better than a mininmum waged job. Or your parents struggled to pay the bills and the mortgage while putting aside money each month for your college fund. My mother bought used textbooks from the library so she could tutor me at home in addition to schoolwork. She always emphasized getting an education so that my life would be better than hers. Some of you might have had strict parents who forced you to take additional classes and extracurricular activities so you'd have an edge when applying to college.

Your parents or guardians did all of this because they held out hope that all of that hard work and education would someday pay off and you wouldn't have to struggle for the rest of your life or work in a demeaning and low-wage job. Hope for a better life for themselves but especially their children is what keeps most people going through the worst of times. Well, the light at the end of the tunnel has officially gone out and with it the hopes and dreams of millions of Americans who did everything right (emphasis mine):

Meeting 99ers is to tap into a deep well of anger at lives that have been knocked off course, shattering the enduring vision of the American dream that many had felt they had achieved. Just take Donna Faiella, a 53-year-old New Yorker who lives alone in Queens. She spent 28 years working in film post-production and video-editing. She was successful and had a career. Now she is desperate for a job, any job. But she cannot find one. "I will do anything. I will sweep floors. You think I look forward to collecting unemployment? It is fucking degrading," she said, almost quivering with anger.

Faiella is in dire trouble. Joblessness has eaten away at her sense of identity. "I feel like we are worthless. We are lost in the world. I don't know what to call myself. I don't have a title any more. What do we do? What do we do?" she implored. Faiella has one week of benefits to go. Then her 99 weeks will be up. She will have a title again. But not one she expected. She will be a 99er. "I am petrified. Do I become homeless?" she said, adding that she has begun making inquiries at local shelters.

Perhaps the most tragic is to see so many young Americans who have lost all hope and faith in a better future for themselves and for their children. It is tragic to see a generation who should be starting their lives having to move back home with nothing to give their parents - who may very well be struggling with unemployment or early retirement themselves - other than a worthless piece of paper that they and their parents had invested their entire lives to obtain.

I hope for our country's sake that someday we get a President who really had to struggle so they know what it is like to live on the edge with no money and no hope for the future. Someone who grew up on welfare and struggled to find a job during our generation's Great Depression will hopefully have at least a modicum of empathy to invest in job creation and finally end the total looting and destruction of this country by Wall Street and the student loan companies. I'm not holding my breath. Regardless, if or when we get out of mess, there will be inumerous casualties including many of our readers and scambloggers who are part of the Damned Generation.

Student Loans Scheme.

Infographic by College

Sunday, September 5, 2010

For the Millionth Time: Don't Go to Law School

I’ve been on vacation so don’t ask me about Zenovia Evans or what new idiotic marketing strategies TTT schools are coming up with to lure unsuspecting prospective students. All you need know is that we are going to be in this depression for many more years. This more than likely means that there will be very little job creation for laid off workers, recent graduates, and future graduates to get back to work.

This is why I disagree that going to a T8 school means you will be in good shape. Whoever came up with the motto “Yale or Fail” has the right idea. Going to a top school no longer ensures your professional and economic safety unless you graduate at the top of your class and have the connections to secure and keep your job long-term.

I will say that college and graduate schools are good places to weather the storm IF you get a full ride. I have friends in other countries that are doing this but the big difference is that they only pay $10k or less per year in tuition compared to $30-50k per school year in the United States. I absolutely do not advocate going to any law school right now if it means you have to risk $200k and a possibility of lifetime debt to get a law degree. If you search hard enough, once in a while you can find some truth in a few of the employment statistics for law school graduates. One example is The National Law Journal’s annual rankings based on the percentage of grads that 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 percent

9. UC Berkeley School of Law – 50 percent

10. Duke Law School - 49.8 percent

Only 55.9% BigLaw employment for the “top law school”. Think about that. Since schools rarely if ever publish honest statistics about their graduates, I can only go on anecdotal evidence from our readers and I believe that even the NLJ rankings can only be taken with a grain of salt. I have heard that only half of last year’s Columbia Law School class received job offers. We have read the articles about some Harvard Law graduates being unable to find employment. Last year’s Georgetown Law graduates went on NPR to discuss their unemployment woes. And no, the other 50% did not land government jobs. Give me a break. They are more than likely unemployed or working in jobs that paid less than what they could have made straight out of college. I know quite a few people who went to these "top BigLaw" law schools who are reading this from their parents' basement. Don't be arrogant to believe that you can beat the odds just because you got into a T14 school.

Let’s be clear. If you do not graduate in the top quarter of your T14 law school, do not count on any job be it BigLaw, ShitLaw, or with the government. Bottom half of the class? Forget about it. You future was doomed the moment you saw your first semester grades. That is the risk you take when you go to law school in 2010. You can go to a T8 school and come out with no job prospects. It is happening to thousands of students today. Even if you do find a job, who says that you will still be employed a year later? Plenty of my law school classmates were laid off from BigLaw less than 2 years after graduation. Most law students with less than 2 years of law firm experience are in big trouble in this economy. That is not significant experience to compete with folks like Angel who have a decade’s worth of experience. I know people from T8 schools who are unemployed and I know a few “lucky” T14 and T30 grads with jobs as staff attorneys, aka BigLaw doc review. This is the gamble you take when you go to law school today. Is it worth the misery and the stress and the horrible work life to spend $200k and 3 years of your life so you can put JD on your resume?

A BIDER reader emailed me about his cousin who is applying to law school. The BIDER reader thought of all the reasons he decided not to go to law school and all of the reasons not to go to law school that Angel and I have laid out here for the past year. He told his cousin that there were scambloggers from T14 schools who could not find a job. His cousin isn’t even applying to a top school and is applying on a whim after getting laid off from his job. Here is the kicker: this guy doesn’t even want to practice law! He says he wants to be a consultant for the pro sports industry and believes the JD will make him more marketable. No, this is not a joke!

This is why BIDER is so important. We may be unable to save everyone, but people are listening and I think those who do their research deserve to be warned. This BIDER reader was unable to save his cousin, but after a year of reading BIDER he now questions the reasons why people go to law school with no intention of practicing law or believe that if they don’t find a law firm job that they are marketable in other fields. This is the biggest lie of the law school scam. You will be less marketable than the entry level candidate right out of college. And if you are among the majority of law students with not so stellar grades, there is a good chance that employers who care about grades will ask for your transcripts from college and law school. That has happened to me before. That C+ in Contracts could come back to haunt you when you are competing for the handful of respectable jobs left in this economy. For the millionth time, do not gamble with your future at a time when so few opportunities exist for anyone let alone a law school graduate three years out of college with no real world experience or marketable skills, just $200k in debt and a transcript peppered with Bs and Cs. Your life will be ruined.

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