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.


  1. This lady feels good helping debt beats? God bless this lady for being ignorant. Perhaps she could volunteer her time to work as my township attorney and that way good to honest hardworking homeowners can see a reduction in their property taxes for paying one less cushy government salary.

  2. Yes no pay sucks, but every once in a while getting beyond the capitalism, and actually helping the little guy/girl in a pro bono way to get their fair share in this world does happen and the feeling you get when helping out is awesome. I hate when people stick there nose out and down at those who try to make a difference. If I could afford to do the pro bono work plus work fulltime when I graduated (at a time I had then -$120K in debt)unclear exactly why new law graduates can't apply their legal skills and help out every so often.

  3. It's sad that the system requires some other form of support to do pro bono. Don't know Ms. Jacobs position, but in order to truly work for free you need to have a big chunck of change and/or a significant other's income.

    Again, not to downplay her contribution. I just wish it were feasible for more to be able to do so. All too often, you have to work for the man, in some form or fashion, in order to survive and pro bono gets kicked to the curb.

    The worst for me are the BigLaw partners who do lots of pro bono and mediation late in their careers. "Look at me and all the good I do!" Yeah, once you made your 30 years-worth of blood money, you take an interest in the plight of society as a whole.

  4. Angel, I agree with your assessment. The media latches on to these "feel good" stories. I am glad that Jacobs is helping real people, and that she is in a place where she can do so for free. This is honorable. MOST attorneys cannot afford to do so, as student loan debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. Apparently, the media still prefers feel good stories to (basic) investigative work.

    Also, Temple is a public university. I beat the hell out of this commode a while back on my blog.

    "Temple University is a comprehensive public research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded in 1884 by Dr. Russell Conwell."

  5. My mother always suggests I do this. Then I tell her between the malpractice insurance, not to mention the expense of running any type of practice . . . I would only be in the hole.

  6. @11:58. The term is deadbeats. Good day,

  7. This is pseudo-justice at its finest. Here's an economics lesson for her: You're not "helping the little guy" when you do this, you're "helping the little guy *at the expense of the slightly larger guys."

    So many lawyers run around claiming to do good when they're really not. Why should these people get representation on their loan modifications for free while middle-class people who were more responsible with their finances have to pay for an attorney? Yeah... doesn't sound too righteous, does it? Keeping dirt-poor people in their homes when they can't afford them is harmful for everyone - not just the banks. It's harmful for lower-middle class people trying to stay in their homes and it's especially hard on young people who now have to pay more on their first home purchase because these idiots are causing home prices to be inflated all in the name of their pseudo-justice.

    She's no different than anyone else representing someone for free, which, in the end, is sad, because it's skewing the labor market for attorneys. If she's convinced herself she's making a difference, good for her, but she's still a schmuck who's devaluing lawyer work.

  8. Temple Law is rather affordable even in today's law school market. Tuition for in-state residents is only $19,000 and the school tends to give out small scholarships as well. Would have been even cheaper in 1992.

    Just wanted to put that out there.



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