Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The art of necessity

University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds has a piece in the New York Post about the student debt crisis, in law school and more generally.  It's obviously a good thing that this issue is beginning to get some real traction in the media, and we can hope will translate into among other things more attention for Brian Tamanaha's terrific new book Failing Law Schools, which Reynolds cites.

As for immediate practical questions, Reynolds, like most of our generation, has a weakness for Polonius-like platitudes:

For students, piece of advice No. 1 is: Don’t go into debt. When I went to law school, back in the ’80s, I turned down free rides at a couple of excellent schools to go to Yale Law School, even though it meant taking on a lot of student-loan debt. I’m not sure I’d advise anyone to do the same thing today, even to go to Yale Law, the undisputed king of the law-school rankings — and I’m positive I wouldn’t make a similar tradeoff for many other places, even Harvard Law.

Debt is what gets people into trouble in bubbles: They borrow heavily because they think the value of what they’re buying, whether it’s a house or a tulip, will go up. When it stops going up, they’re sunk.
Today, the value of an education isn’t going up, but the price is. That’s a bad combination. So don’t borrow heavily.
This sounds suspiciously like a classic bit of baby boomer/one per center wisdom, i.e., take that Hamilton scholarship to Columbia over the sticker price Yale admit and you'll do just fine kids.
Responding to my critique of Special Snowflake Syndrome, some correspondents have pointed out that SSS is in part a predictable product of something like simple desperation:
Imagine that you’re a 21 year old kid with a 3.2 in Political Science, History or English, you’re one year away from graduating into a crap economy, and your Mom and Dad are not the kind of people with the business connections that can help you land a job. What do you? Move home with Mom and Dad and go to work at Starbucks, or enroll in law school?
Bored JD points out that until very recently the approved cultural response to this dilemma was "who cares?"

When confronted with this scenario, the prevailing mentality in this country until 2007 was quite simply, "fuck that guy. If he is too stupid to make rational decisions, let him get buried under the weight of his own poor choices." Then the bubble popped. And a whole load of people who never took out subprime mortgages, refinanced their houses to buy expensive consumer goods, or authorized bad home loans suffered. My father was laid off three times in four years because of a crappy economy. He's always lived within his means, never purchased anything gaudy or expensive with home equity. His home value took a bath and he will now probably lose money on his house. A guy who worked hard for many years and made what most people would consider good decisions. 
Another correspondent emphasizes that neither middle-aged boomers nor Kids Today have yet adjusted to an increasingly grim new normal, in which the wave of economic devastation that swept over much of the American working class in the 1970s and 1980s has now reached well up into the professional middle and upper middle classes:

I think something far more powerful at work than SSS is the now outmoded notion of “doing everything right” in America. It used to be that getting a graduate degree, especially a JD or PhD, really was a golden ticket of sorts. That time is now not only gone it has if anything passed through the looking glass into bizarro land, where having such a degree is a black mark. Making all the right choices no longer grant access to anything more assured than massive amounts of debt.

It’s hard to fault people for failing to come to terms with something that was heretofore inconceivable, especially among the striving middle classes, without their insider knowledge of hedge funds and how to place one’s knife and fork on the plate at the end of a seven course meal.
One thing I haven't sufficiently emphasized in my writing on this topic up until now is the extent to which the law school scam is both a product of and ultimately dependent on the slow motion collapse of an economic system which generated reasonable returns on investments in human capital for a much broader class of people than our modal prospective law student, hesitating between Yale at sticker or a full-ride at another top ten school.
People get scammed so easily by legal education because they don't have good options, so they turn law school into a "good option" out of sheer psychological necessity.
Perhaps the most disgusting bit of cynicism I've encountered in this business over the course of the last year has been the response of those in legal academia who, when contemplating the looming disaster of six figure debt and no real job facing something like a majority of current law grads, shrug their shoulders and remark that it's not like these people had better options.  In many cases this isn't even true -- law school has in fact made a bad situation worse for huge percentages of our students -- but even when it is, what sort of justification is that for the continual self-dealing that characterizes the behavior of the contemporary law school faculty and administration?
That the law school crisis is embedded in a much larger social crisis is rather all the more reason to stop eating our young.


  1. Great post. Your posts are starting to get to the root of this thing, i.e., law school isn't so much a free-standing scam as it is the canary in the coal mine. There's a crisis in legal education because there's a crisis in education as a whole, and there's a crisis in education because of Baby Boomer/GOP policies to screw over the next generation that have been in place for over 30 years now. (We started early here in California with Proposition 13 in 1978, which is why things are a little worse here.)

    None of that excuses the individually immoral decisions such as that horrible Rutgers-Camden thing you shined the light on last week, but it illustrates that this is a problem that isn't going to be fixed unless and until we face the problem in its entirety. I fear that it might take these tea party/austerity idiots actually winning an election or two and really running things into the ground before society as a whole figures this out and starts making the drastic changes that are required.

  2. The law school pigs chortling about today's student debt enjoy eating the young. They had the good fortune to attend law school at the right time.

    At Glenn Reynolds, list the cost of Yale law school's tuition when you were a student. While I'm sure it was a considerable amount, it pales in comparison to the levels charged today. These types of ignorant comments - plus the focus on the self - are what makes people HATE Boomers. I guess we can all rejoice knowing that this cohort will eventually die off in the next 20-35 years.

  3. Glenn Reynolds has been on this topic like glue for years and is a very constructive voice for reform. I look forward to his upcoming book. As to the preceding poster's attempt to blame the crisis in legal/higher ed on "Boomer/GOP" policies, that's just nuts. Conservatives are rare species in the higher ed administrations that set the exorbitant prices (and expand themselves to absurd limits with all manner of useless vice chancellors, including but not limited to "diversity" etc.), and conservatives aren't the ones who insist on unlimited federally-backed lending to students without regard to any traditional underwriting discipline (i.e., can this person afford the loan) and without risk to the universities. Also, conservatives aren't the ones who have gutted the humanities since before Allan Bloom's time.

    Fact is, universities will charge too much as long as they can get away with it. Despite the massive distortions in the ed market caused by (1) bubble thinking about education that, as lawprof well notes, has been socialized into students and parents for more than a generation, and (2) unlimited money for loans, market forces are finally starting to force some changes.

    I don't see this as a liberal/conservative issue. It hurts all of us equally and the solutions do not need to be ideologically charged. But comments like the above are really not part of the solution.

  4. 8:50:

    "...there's a crisis in education because of Baby Boomer/GOP policies to screw over the next generation that have been in place for over 30 years now."

    Really? Who was signed the HEA amendments in 1998 as President taking away BK dischargeabiity for all federal student loans while ignoring a study stating that the system was not being abused? What recently elected President had the same Congress in his back pocket for the first two years of his presidency yet did nothing to address the problems in higher ed?

    I think the bigger problem in this country centers around people who look at problems through a partisan lens and blame only one side. BOTH sides created this problem and BOTH sides will have to work together to solve it. Until people like YOU vote accordingly, things will not get better, only worse.

    Open your eyes. The healthcare scam, higher ed scam, law scam, social security scam are built and designed for one thing only: to extract more wealth from those in the population in order to give them a false sense of security in their futures. You make partisan claims and BOTH sides laugh....all the way to the bank.

    The Baby Boomers may be a bunch of incompetent short-sighted idiots but not all of them are that way. Again, both sides of the aisle want to see these divisions in order to keep the scam running. Not all Baby Boomers are deadbeats. In order to solve the higher ed scam, the Baby Boomers could become strong allies because they need us to pay for their social security, to buy their houses when they downsize, and to keep our consumer-based economy going. Many of us are not doing these things because of our student debt. You don't think our interests with the Baby Boomers are aligned?

    Wake the fuck up.

  5. Twice in the past few months I have had long conversations with people who plan to attend poorly ranked law schools in the fall. Their main reason is even more frustrating that the usual "I don't know what to do with my BA in history/poly sci/sociology/etc." It's the above statement coupled with the fact that they cannot think of a way to make payments on their substantial undergraduate debt. Both had never heard of IBR.

    I hope you asked those law professors what happens to this profession over the long-term when law school is known as a refuge for people who 1) have no options better than a McJob, 2) have huge amounts of UG debt and need a place to hide for three years, 3) suffer disproportionately from cognitive biases or lack research or critical thinking skills. I wonder why law professors would want to fill their seats with people from those three groups if they cared at all about the long-term reputation of the profession.

    The drop in applicants is heavy among the above average applicants- those with LSAT scores between 160-169. I'd venture a guess that those students have other decent options besides law school. The average LSAT score at elite UG schools is between 163-166. These are the schools that can send their graduates (even LA grads) into decent paying positions. The average LSAT score at my alma mater was in the low 150s. Members of my class ended up unemployed or working McJobs (often back at the place they worked in high school).

    Although it may not make sense from an individual perspective for people to attend a "trap school" with a 164, these are exactly the people we want in the profession in aggregate, to at least maintain the fiction we're elite and exclusive. Through the efforts of the scamblog movement, the word is starting to trickle down to college students in the know. This is a great development, but the response should be to make law school more attractive for those people by cutting the number of law students and the cost, not to accept with open arms the people who shouldn't be going.

  6. I'm glad Reynolds is pushing on the loan issue. But I had to laugh at this suggestion: "Where public universities are concerned, interested citizens can go straight to the trustees, and the legislature, to demand more value for the money. Would you rather see money go for more engineering professors than for a new football stadium or a vice-chancellor for diversity?"

    At OSU, the citizens will (and did) go for the new football stadium every time. And our vice provosts, whatever their specialty, earn less than some of the assistant coaches. I have yet to meet a citizen who wanted more engineering professors. This is another one of the problems in the education arena.

    Since I raised it through Reynolds' quote: I will defend to the end the need for diversity programs at universities. Universities are as resistant to change in this area as in others; employers are far ahead of most universities in terms of their needs for a diverse, cross-culturally adept workforce. And diversity costs peanuts compared to most of what universities do.

  7. It's actually called Bizarro World, not bizarro land. It's also called Htrae (Earth spelled backwards).

    It looks like 8:50 lives in Bizaro World, where he blames only the Republicans for out of control government spending and policies that created what are effectively pyramid schemes (last time I checked the history books, FDR implemented social security, and he was a Democrat). In Bizarro World, we can blame Prop 13 rather than out-of-control government spending for California's fiscal problems.

  8. 9:49, sounds like your the one out there. Social Security would be fine if we lifted the income cap. If you think its a pyramid scheme, then I don't think you know what either Social Security or a pyramid scheme are.

  9. Although it feels good to vilify the Boomers, I don't think it's necessarily helpful or entirely accurate. It's not helpful partially for the reasons mentioned above - they will have a stake in our success as time goes on. It also does us no good to see who spilled the milk - someone still needs to clean it up.

    It's not entirely accurate to classify all of the Boomers as evil and out for their own good, because most of them seem to just be doing what every other human does - assume that things will progress like they have. If X, Y, and Z were the keys to their success, most Boomer parents have only tried to give us more of X, Y, and Z so that we will be more successful than they were. Very few thought the underlying assumptions would not hold for decades or longer. When you're raised in a time where you can sell your Corvair to pay for law school, graduate with hardly any debt, and make an embarrassingly successful living, it is difficult for many to comprehend that the situation is as different as it is for their children.

  10. If there is any doubt about the law school "industry" check this:

    though this is just a spam bot - still kind of funny

  11. Whine whine whine; not a single protest; not a single act that in any way will impact the law school establishment and power structure.

    Only LST actually *does* something.

  12. and Glen Reynolds and LawProf.

    The commenters do nothing though. Lazy bums.

  13. Boomers are a large part of the problem. Not all are actively evil. Some are just passively evil.

  14. 10:16:

    Fuck off. A lot is being done. Even if the system never changes, I think most people who have been through the education scam will tell their children to stay away from higher ed, thus killing demand. Killing demand is the most important act of all. Why don't you do something, like get a life.

  15. 10:21 = lazy bum relying on other people and delusion.

    That's why you loser bums don't have jobs. It's not law school's fault. It's your own fault.

  16. @10:17AM

    Not true. I did my stint on the TV news talking about how my six figure SL debt earns 2K of interest every month, and about how it will balloon to over 1.5 Million dollars by the time I am at retirement age, and it had no impact.

    It makes no difference, and that is one of the reasons I stopped blogging.

    Probably the best advice I received as a blogger was from a few commenters as well as one ex-pat lawyer from an upper tier school who left the US because of his LS Student Loan Debt. They said:

    Get out of the USA

  17. I am surprised at the responses to Reynolds' comments. His main thrust is that law schools, and universities in general, are no longer good value propositions. In this he is exactly correct. His mention of his being currently unwilling to take out loans for a Yale Law degree should not be seen as a reflection of an insensitive Boomer attitude, but rather a recognition that going into debt for $200,000 or more for even a Yale Law School is an iffy proposition, a notion unheard of in times past. Note that when you factor in the other opportunities a Yale Law admit can have - 174 LSAT types are bright enough to have several opportunities outside the law, and they can determine a verifiable quantum of opportunity cost in going to law school, Mr. Reynolds has what I believe to be an unassailable point, at least as regards most students.

    And DJM, defend diversity programs as you will. But the fact is that educational costs have spun out of control, and so have the number of administrators. You can take the position that diversity positions should be untouchable, but like everything else when times are very difficult, their costs and benefits should be examined. Many schools, including your own, have a massive diversity apparatus. It may make minority students feel more welcomed, and liberal progressives feel enlightened and morally superior, but certainly at a cost to direct educational spending and at a time when the educational value proposition is at an all time low. Good luck explaining why a massive diversity apparatus is necessary when instruction is being cut. I don't agree that any program should be sacrosanct, and the fact that the progressive echo chamber insists that it be so only furthers the notion that education has a value problem. Moreover, want to truly get at the root of the diversity problem? Drastically improve the academic achievement of Blacks and Hispanics. The achievement gap is a huge driver of diversity programs and expense, like it or not. And it is not racist to suggest that at some point, students and their parents facing lots of expense, debt and perceive impaired value will begin to question every element of what they are paying for, even more so than ever.

    By the way, DJM, you are correct on football and all of its corrupting influence. I don't know how Division 1 University presidents live with the corrupting influence of football (and talk about diversity, no sport exploits black athletes and their health and futures like football). The likely answer is that they have to, because a winning football coach is more powerful than they are, and that the legions of not so bright big state school alums (look which schools dominate) would rather re-live their youth vicariously through the football program than through the academic programs of the school.

    And finally, I am not sure it is helpful to look at any of this in political terms. I know of no current politician who has assiduously stood for eliminating no underwriting/no discharge in bankruptcy/endless accrual of compound interest loans which reek of crony capitalism and the wrong headed notion that government backing (either through guarantees or polices) will not have unintended adverse consequences in the marketplace.

  18. Hey Prof, just want to share my appreciation for your work. I'm a recent college grad that works in legal recruiting for a V20. I see so many peers either in law school or considering it, and I do my best to both impress the danger of the situation upon them. I'm so grateful that I have sources like you that help reveal the truth. The risks are understated, the rewards are overstated, and there is a relatively narrow window that anyone can have a reasonable expectation of achieving a satisfying and rewarding legal profession at the end of it.

    I'll be applying this fall (out of a real desire to practice law), but I accept that there is a pretty narrow margin of schools that I would be willing to attend (T14 only, 8-14 only with significant scholarship assistance). Otherwise, it simply would not be worth it for me...

    Anyway, thanks for revealing what's going on behind the scenes of the law school scam.

  19. LawProf,
    Something to consider an article on, google "Unpaid Internships: A Prevalent Practice Called Into Question" that just came out from MoFo.

  20. "One thing I haven't sufficiently emphasized in my writing on this topic up until now is the extent to which the law school scam is both a product of and ultimately dependent on the slow motion collapse of an economic system... That the law school crisis is embedded in a much larger social crisis is rather all the more reason to stop eating our young."

    ^THIS. The law school scam is just one small part of a comprehensive economic collapse. Generational tropes are BS - there are just too many exceptions to make a rule. Most boomers and their 0L kids simply aren't far enough down the Kubler-Ross trail to understand that for most their degrees (not just JDs) will have permanent negative NPV, the "recovery" is a sham, Wall Street is a rigged game, and the ranks of the quietly desperate are swelling and will soon grow so large that they won't have to pretend anymore. No, that doesn't mean we are heading for "The Road" or a zombie flick. But it does mean that the old ways of doing things are over, conventional wisdom is for suckers, and it is far more likely that the median standard of living in what we now call the USA will continue to decline, possibly to unimaginable levels.

  21. The fact that Reynolds and LawProf could look at this situation, identify the same problems and solutions just goes to show how messed up the current situation really is.

    Think about it, this is the same Glenn Reynolds which LawProf suggested should face disciplinary action over his words on war in the Middle East several years back. Yet the system is so completely and utterly screwed up that two people from the polar opposites of political spectrum not only agree on the problem BUT ALSO the best solutions.

    Truly amazing.

    Who else would definitely tune in to this Nightline episode to watch Reynolds and LawProf together. I know I would.

  22. Somebody beat me to it, but it is worth repeating. Law students are the canaries in the coal mine. Unfortunately, nobody cares. Most people are more than happy lawyers suffer, even it it is just a bunch of kids in their twenties. Anyway, I expect people will start caring once this happens to teacher, nurses, engineers, accountants, etc. I hope it won't be too late.

  23. Grad students in the humanities and social sciences are canaries. Grads with massive UG debt are canaries. Lots of teachers have already been screwed. In a lot a way the big four law firms act like big law firms in terms of being pyramid schemes with recent grads forming the bottom, working long hours, and then eventually getting pushed out.

  24. Huey:

    I agree with everything you said, save for one exception:

    The final stage in the Kubler-Ross model is acceptance. Acceptance allows a person to "move on" from the bad event. Non-dischargeable student debt does not allow someone to move on so they stay in the depression stage. I think when you get enough people in the depression stage, you get anger. When you get groups of angry people together, you get a mob. When you get a get the picture.

    Either way, I think many of us would love to just move on ...but we cannot because of the student loan debt. I am going to a headshrinker to talk about this crap because truly, I just want to move on even if it means I never practice as a lawyer again. Maybe this headshrinker will give me some tips on how to deal with the monthly student loan payments that are becoming harder and harder to make.

    Tried the drinking thing, does not work. Tried the lashing out at everyone thing, no dice. There has to be a way around it.

  25. How are the payments that hard to make under IBR?

  26. 12:31 I meant accounting firms.

  27. "Social Security would be fine if we lifted the income cap." - from @9:55

    Not to side-track this into a debate about social security, but those words WOULD and IF are very problematic. If that "if" doesn't happen, then what?

    It's like saying, to get back to the topic of this blog, legal education WOULD BE fine IF law schools reported more accurate job placement stats, lowered tuition, actually taught legal practice, etc. Even if all those things magically happened, it seems doubtful that the end result "would be fine".

    It's just wishful thinking.

  28. 12:41:

    Because when your non-college spouse is working and you live in a CP state, the IBR assholes look at your CP income. Married filing separate is an option but a bad one because some many other tax breaks are lost. Additionally, at the end of 25 years the tax amount forgiven is held against my spouse even though I acquired the debt 10 years before I met her.

    This is the crap that the EIC (Educational Industrial Complex) does not tell you. Additionally, when you look at what I borrowed, I am a "tweener" for IBR purposes. I owe a lot but relatively speaking to other people who went to law school, I don't owe as much.

    IBR is a bullshit scam in much the same way student loans are predatory. It is a last resort. Don't think I would be any happier on IBR watching my loan balance EXPLODE on my credit and watching my debt to income get destroyed. If I have to, I will divorce my spouse and do IBR. She is agreeable but this makes me very sad, for obvious reasons. The system is fucked.

  29. Another reason not to jump on IBR is because many of us have already paid tens of thousands of dollars towards our loans. That money would be wasted.

  30. What a mess the whole thing is.

    What an absolute mess, with no way out of debt or any sort of remedy in sight except to die.

    IBR and ICR are scams, and the Dept of Ed. is a purely financial body. Meet the new boss same as the old boss.

    It is all really, really depressing.

  31. @12:50:

    Don't forget the tax bill. Yep, that's right. For those poor souls who slog through IBR hell for 25 (soon to be 20) years and actually stay in this repayment program, any balance forgiven will be treated as income and taxed as such.

    Looking at the current debt loads and factoring in compounding interest, it is easy to see how many people will again feel "they have done everything right" just to be hit with yet another massive bill from the federal gov't.

    There is a reason this program has a less than 5% takeup rate. And it is not just that it is too complex for even the most "sophisticated consumers."

  32. Do not pay back your student loans. Do not pay your credit card bills.

    They cannot do anything to you. Just lowers your "credit score". I don't give a shit about my credit score. I will operate in the underground economy.

    Look at JD painter, he owes over 350k yet he still lives in a house and has a dog. What can they do? NOTHING. JD painters only mistake was even making the min payments. Imagine all the things he could've bought instead of paying back these parasites.

  33. Atheist Lawyer:

    You are a little too mentally unstable. Some of your postings scare me. Your extreme thinking motivates me too keep my wits about this whole situation and to try and better myself while looking for answers.

    Get help, stat.

  34. I going to ask a question. My son is going to be married and he is carrying some significant SL debt and contemplating going on IBR. He lives in Florida. His future wife probably has some debt as well. What happens to this debt from a legal perspective. Do they both become responsible for it? How does it impact there buying things in the future, homes, cars, etc.?

  35. They will not be able to get loans on a home or car.

    HOWEVER, if YOU decide to get the financing for them, and they pay you back (the same amount you have to pay every month for the financing) then it is certainly possible.

    In order words, you act as a straw man or proxy for them. You will "own" the house and be responsible for the "mortgage" but the "real" owners will be your son and his wife.

    So you see, you DO NOT have to pay back student loans. EVER.

    @ 1:18,

    I'm sorry you think that not paying back parasite loans makes me mentally unstable. Are you a shill for the banking and student loan industry? Or are you a disgraceful criminal law professor who should be in jail?

    Maybe your name is CYTHNIA NANCE? A CRIMINAL? A FRAUD?

  36. 1:23:

    I don't give free legal advice. Been there done that too many fucking times. Call a Florida lawyer.

  37. 1:27:

    Who? I am nothing more than your typical debtor who despises the law school scam as well as the EIC.

    I have seen you post on this site and others, you just seem a little too militant and dangerous. No....a person purposely not paying back their loans is not mentally unstable, stupid, but not mentally unstable. I think you are unstable for a host of other reasons that I am not going into on here because it is a waste of my time.

  38. I like his militancy. I like his extremism. It's the only thing that produces change.

  39. 1:57: Yes. If more people did what he's doing, maybe some change would happen. As far as we know, he's not hurting anyone. Dropping out of the consumer/capitalist economy doesn't hurt anyone except the people who are in a position to profit. Once the profits stop coming in, maybe change will occur.

  40. Actually, extremism does not produce change. Extremism usually pushes death and destruction. Moderates create change because they have the ability to start and sustain the change.

  41. "Universities are as resistant to change in this area as in others; employers are far ahead of most universities in terms of their needs for a diverse, cross-culturally adept workforce. And diversity costs peanuts compared to most of what universities do."

    If you left your ivory tower and worked at an "employer" (I assume you mean "non-university employer"), you would see rather quickly that universities are far more obsessed, progressive, and willing to change with diversity issues than 98% of "regular" employers.

  42. 12:38, Thanks for reading my post, and I appreciate your correction of my admittedly sloppy analogy. :)

    On a more serious note, your point about anger and the “mob” is thought-provoking. I wish young people (I am 46, have been a lawyer since the early 90s) could move on but, you’re absolutely right, given the nature of non-dischargeable debt and the capture of government by business interests with a huge stake in keeping that debt non-dischargeable, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. The anger you describe is understandable and may have alarming consequences for the powers that be, as LawProf discussed in a recent column. I think it is a crime and a national disgrace what is being done to well-meaning young Americans in the name of corporate profits and cushy academic sinecures.

    That said, I sincerely hope you find something to bring you some peace and joy in your life.

  43. 2:29:

    Thanks. Truthfully, my life is pretty good and I am grateful for all that I have. A frickin job with the ability to pay down my debt would be nice. I just think that in the end, everything will work out and be ok. I don't know how yet but I just think it will be ok.

  44. I have had student loan debt for a long time. Since 1996, and after graduating from, as Nando might say: A 4th tier trash pit toilet law school.

    Trust me kids, if you end up carrying 6 figure SL debt for more than a decade, with all of its consequences, you too will end up a little nuts. And if you thought you were pretty tough in your youth, and tough enough to tough out the rigors of Law School and finally get that diploma, just remember what Hemingway said: All tough guys end up CRAZY!

    It took me 3.5 years to graduate because my GPA was so low after the 3rd year I lightened up on my course load towards the end so as to maximize my chances of a passing GPA for ultimate Graduation, and I became very keen as to what courses would possibly sink me with a candy D grade, and what courses, such as Family Law or other electives, would promise at least a wholesome C grade.

    Anyway, and after law school, and after licking my wounds from all the deeply resented ,in hindsight, Socratic bullying and hazing from horrible human being professors and the terrible mental stress of all that and my academic struggles, and, to continue the narrative, after the initial 6 month grace period for my SL debt, I started getting bills on a combined LS and Undergrad debt of about 69K for about 5 or 6 or 7 different loans, and it was rather confusing and so I consolidated. It cost about 10K to do it, but I figured handling the debt would be no problem in years to come because of my JD and my eventually passing the bar etc.

    What kept me going was a cultural belief that:

    "Student Loan Debt, as ALL THE WORLD used to say at the time, is GOOD DEBT!"

    And so, there was Painterguy in 1997, naked to the world and the naked city, with a 79K Virgin Student Loan balance.

    I could not find a decent job and so I started pounding the streets and hustling a hundred or more of my (mailed hard copies) resumes around, and unsolicited, and with a simple cover letter:

    "Dear Mr. Jones, President of XYZ Corporation:

    I am seeking a position with your firm."

    It worked, and I was picked up. And Oh man oh man did I find a job!

    My boss was a Yale lawyer, and I like to think I was the only person in the world that could make him laugh, (which I did do sometimes, and it was like a Glacier breaking up) and the business was used car or rather motor vehicle extended warranties.

    Story to be continued.

    But Athesitic Lawyer is OK.

    And remember this youse guys and all of youse:

    The original scambloggers paved the way for LawProf.

    Kind of like the way the smaller Lhasa Ahpsos with the keenest of hearing used to wake up the big dogs in the ancient Tibetan Castles.

    Now LawProf and the big dogs, or at least the ones with a conscience, are barking too,and very loudly, and sounding the alarm about an unsustainable money making system.


  45. JD Painterguy:

    You and Nando started this ball rolling which is a good thing. If it was not for you two, I am not sure where I would be in all this....

    I found this on Google, after a five second search, third comment down. I am sure there are more. In my mind, making threats like this is unacceptable.

  46. Sure, advocating that we bomb the schools is a little extreme. And I would never condone killing INNOCENT people.

    Now criminal law deans and professors on the other hand...I advocate keying their cars, destroying their property (nice Porsche you got there Dean Nance?) and putting them in jail.


    Because an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

    Do you have *ANY* idea how many LIVES they have completely ruined? Remove these miserable frauds. They are ruining our kids and our nation. They ruined me, didn't they?

    And the fact of the matter is, I am not paying 1 dime of student loan debt. I'll let it sit there. Good luck collecting from me! I have my own law firm. I don't pay taxes, so no tax refund to garnish. I get no wages, so no wages to garnish. My ONLY bank account is my IOLTA account. AKA other people's money. Immune from garnishment.

    So you see. I win.

    Need a loan? No problem. I have strawmen to get the loan for me. Is my car title in "my name"? No.

    But do I drive the car around and other than that, "own it"? Yes.

    You see, the law has taught me how to skirt the system. Law school didn't teach me. The law taught me.


  47. @ 12:50PM

    If being married is causing problems with IBR and such, then simply get a "divorce" but continue to stay together as though you were married. Its what I would consider doing. (Although I do realize that when it comes to things like family visits if the other is sick, health insurance, etc these things would get complicated so not quite without complications...)

    And for couples not yet married, you could always just live together but stay unmarried. You could even have a full fledge "wedding" but just not file with the state so that technically you are still not married (but you would be married in your mind).

    Anyway just food for thought.

  48. 10:26 a.m., defending the need for diversity programs is not the same as holding them sacrosanct. I don't oppose cutting some staff from every program in the university (including diversity if there's excess there), but I wouldn't hold diversity out as the poster child for worthless programs--as Reynolds' rhetoric seems to do.

    OSU's diversity initiative includes programs related to international affairs, veterans, single mothers, religious groups, and sexual orientation--in addition to race and ethnicity. A series of race-based hate crimes underscored the need for the latter just this spring.

  49. @ 3:19:

    So you blame criminal law deans and professors for saddling you with debt and minimal job opportunities (which is somewhat true) and in turn you advocate keying their cars because it is an "eye for an eye."

    Are you drunk?

  50. Doc @2:20, I'm not sure what part of the country you're in (or in what field you work), but I would take another look. Years ago, Walmart and several other large corporations started very tough programs requiring outside law firms to demonstrate diversity in staffing--and to give women and minorities origination credit for handling files. The Gen Xers and Millenials, who will soon be calling the shots as clients, care a lot more about diversity than the Boomers did.

    Perhaps most important, foreign companies and investors play a larger role in our economy almost every day. The importance of this dawned on me about 10 years ago when one of my husband's friends (a foreman in a small, southern Ohio sheet metal company) casually announced that he was going to South America on business. Why? A Brazilian company had bought his local company. When your bosses (or clients, in the case of law firms) speak a different language, live in a different country, and grew up in a different culture, you better be comfortable with diversity. Increasingly, I think businesses get this.

  51. DJM is exactly right. Diversity is a huge issue with corporations and has been for a number of years. The world of business in the US is becoming more complicated as globalization transforms what was national into the international. The ability to work with people of different cultures and skin will continue to be critical.

  52. @3:06PM

    Yeah, we are all way out there.

    Nando and the Jobless Juris Doctor showed me, after 10 years of feeling like an extremely isolated outcast as an overqualified JD that nobody wanted to hire and about ready to shoot myself in the head because of deep debt in 2009, that I was not the only one with the problems associated with the LS scam.

    But Nando can tell you of others that have paved the way for even him.

    The rest of American society does not want to hire out of work lawyers, and the myth that one can do anything or go anywhere with a law degree is simply not true.

    But No, I do not condone that statement by AtheistATLlawyer and will tell him or her to cut it out and stay sober, which is probably the underlying problem or, conversely, the substance abuse social problem brought about by the underlying life of debt.

    Which can never be proved. But there are days that I am so despondent over my debt that all I want to do is to disappear into a fog of drunkeness and forget about my debt for a while.

    I also do not condone the nascent and contradictory Occupy Wall Street Movement in that one logo has a ballerina on a bronze bull statue, and another less benign logo has a clenched fist.

    Maybe the solution is as simple as being able to know where to go from here, and knowing that there is leadership that has a humane remedy and a method or rather procedure for people situated such as myself.

    As it stands now, yes I have ICR, but the interest upon interest will not be tolled, and I will owe income taxes, as a prior commenter said, on a wildly inflated amount of debt when I am into my 70's.

    Does that sound problematic to you? A little bit?

    A tiny little bit?

    Because by now I really do feel a deep and ever present sense of shame and failure over my debt and like I have led a worthless law school outcast life and am now an indebted 2nd class citizen and human garbage and a societal pariah

    God how i wish I could tell you I really don't mean that, but you will have to take my word that that is what hopeless debt does to the mind.

    Any society that places its citizens in debt for life with no way out from post adolescence to the grave will have to be judged by the rest of humankind in years to come as a rogue regime and despotic, and one to be feared.

    What has happened to America? And why are its Law Schools leading the way and with a right good will towards these ends?


  53. "Where public universities are concerned, interested citizens can go straight to the trustees, and the legislature, to demand more value for the money. Would you rather see money go for more engineering professors than for a new football stadium or a vice-chancellor for diversity?" Is the curriculum useful? Are courses rigorous enough? Let ’em know."

    As most of you know, I'm for anyone critical of the Higher Ed scam, but this statement is just unbelievable, considering where Glenn Reynolds teaches: the University of Tennessee (AKA "Rocky Top"). As some you know, I'm a little bit familiar with the University of Tennessee. Football is what that "university" is about. As one of my die-hard UT fan-friend says: "We want a University the football team can be proud of."

    The "Vols" have the third biggest football stadium in America (after Michigan and Penn State). Tennessee's coach, Dooley, makes 2.1 million dollars, a year. Seems like a good place to implement Mr. Reynold's plan, doesn't it?

    Mr. Reynolds, if you read this blog, this next part is for you. If you want interested citizens to change public university priorities, why don't you lead by example? Why don't you start a movement on campus to sell Neyland Stadium, hire a $100,000 dollar a year football coach and use the money saved to enlarge the Engineering Building. Call the Governor. He is head of the Board of Trustees. Tell him what you think. Go ahead. Follow through on your own suggestion at your own "university". Then, let’s see if tenure protects your job. You will be lucky if you only lose your job. Those yahoos up in Knoxville will hang you from a lamppost on Cumberland Avenue before the night is over.

    Do most of you professors know how you sound, sometimes? Do you live only in your head? Sheeesh. Do something practical. Forgo your raise this year.

  54. "Social Security would be fine if we lifted the income cap."

    Just to take up the side issue of social security mentioned a lot earlier, if you need additional funding from current or future payors because it's presumably needed to give to prior payors, why doesn't that fit the definition of a pyramid scheme?

    Maybe the rules that apply to Bernie Madoff don't apply to the federal government, just like truth-in-advertising rules that apply to for-profit companies don't apply to law schools and other institutions of higher learning.

    But regardless of what you call social security, it isn't sustainable as it is now, pretty much like the current state of legal and higher education.

  55. You paid $10K to consolidate a $69K loan? Holy crap you are a moron.

  56. Why pay 10k to consolidate a loan when you don't have to pay at all? It IS an unsecured debt after all.

    JD painter cannot buy a house because he cannot qualify for a loan. But if I was "making" 10k a month (underground economy) I would simply use a strawman to get that auto loan.

    The autoloan has a 1k a month payment for 3 years.

    I pay my strawman 1k a month for 3 years. Now I have a car, and an auto loan with a strawman.

    Don't let "debt" beat you. If you're smart, you can survive and win.

    Screw these law school criminal scammers.

  57. Sorry Law Prof:
    Why is taking the Hamilton at Columbia a bad idea? I missed that part. I don't think that going to Yale at full tuition is smarter than taking the Hamilton. Why is this wrong boomer wisdom?

  58. Because columbia is shit.

  59. I would like to point out that the only way to pay sticker at Yale is to be under 29 and have wealthy parents. Most students get financial aid, and many who don't get help from their (wealthy) parents, so only a small minority will be graduating with $200k or more in debt.

  60. DJM, you state that "A series of race-based hate crimes underscored the need for [a race and ethnicity diversity initiative] just this spring." When has a hate crime ever been prevented by a diversity initiative? In my experience, mandatory diversity programs -- and they're always mandatory -- deepen racial resentment amongst whites and heighten racial consciousness amongst minorities. "Diversity initiatives" are simply cover for bureaucrats who don't want to be held to account for having admitted a race-hater.

  61. Tdennis -- once a stadium is built, what sense would it make to sell it? Who is going to buy a 100,000 seat stadium on the Tenn campus?

  62. 6:59

    I don't know. Tear it down and sell pieces of it to the crazy fans. When they got rid of the turf, the Vols sold 4 inch square pieces for $50 dollars a piece. They raised millions. People are crazy about that stuff in Tennesse. Sell the stadium to Knoxville for a baseball/country music arena. (Being a little facetious) I'm not the one that suggested public universities shouldde-evolve from football schools.

    Perhaps you missed my point. I was suggesting Mr. Reynolds take the plank from his eye, before he criticize the moat in his neighbor's eye. I was also suggesting that perhaps he wanted to come up with realistic, doable suggestions to reduce the cost of a university education. (And I'm not defending UT football---I hate the Vols--Vandy is my team.)

  63. @6:35 PM, I have never attended a mandatory diversity program at OSU, and I've been here 17 years. I chaired the university's committee on race relations in 2000-01 (created in response to a number of ugly incidents) and I don't recall that we required anyone to participate in any type of program. Diversity initiatives are far broader than mandatory training sessions. There is an extensive, and ever developing, psychology literature about what works and what doesn't--if you're truly interested in exploring the issue.

    I agree that no diversity initiative will end hate crimes; there's just too much hate out there. But when someone uses permanent marker to write "nigger" and draw a swastika on the dorm-room door of a young African-American woman, I think it's a good thing that she has a hotline to call and a campus office that stands up for diversity and tolerance. (I spelled out the objectionable word because I think that's necessary to underscore its harshness. I understand why the press blanks out letters, but that does tend to gloss over the full effect of what minority students experience.)

    I think many diversity programs do increase tolerance; prejudice didn't magically disappear with the Civil Rights Act. But the programs are even more important to respond to acts of intolerance.

  64. 6:13,
    If you were making 10K per month why would you have to finance a car?

  65. Because I drive a 100k car. Thats why.

    I also have other expenses, food, rent, etc.

    (not student loan payments) i would never pay a dime of that.

  66. Yeah I'm a moron because I consolidated a bunch of loans and had faith in the future and the value of what proved to be a worthless law degree that was shunned by the larger non-legal job market.

    Corporations and people generally do not want or even like lawyers and try to avoid them.

    And as I was later going through a divorce, I defaulted, and the default made my debt go from 210K to 260K in 2009.

    That was because the private company Collection Agency, GC Services, added an 18.25% collection cost.

    I have no problems with capitalism when it is regulated and has consumer protections in place. Nor do I have any problems with the GOP, or with the Liberals or Yale, or football stadiums or diversity programs.

    My problem is the debt.

    As far as marriage and SL debt goes, it definitely does involve the spouse, because the creditors want to know the household income.

    If you want to do the person you love a big favor, do not marry them and bring your student loan debt into a marriage and thereby drag your spouse down with you.

    You are now a debtor, so say goodbye to your liberty and pursuit of happiness, and try and enjoy what is left of your life as a 2nd class Student Loan indebted educated citizen as you watch others all around you with no higher education raise families and buy homes and cars and plan for their retirements.

    Oh its useless, and hopeless to continue posting about this stuff anymore. No one cares.

    Good Times.
    Any time you meet a payment.
    Good Times.
    Any time you need a friend.
    Good Times.
    Any time you're out from under.

    Not getting hastled, not getting hustled.
    Keepin' your head above water,
    Making a wave when you can.

    Temporary lay offs.
    Good Times.
    Easy credit rip offs.
    Good Times.
    Scratchin' and surviving.
    Good Times.
    Hangin in a chow line
    Good Times.
    Ain't we lucky we got 'em
    Good Times.

  67. Paying several sets of bills was confusing to you so you decided to increase your balance by over 14% (10K)? Jesus Christ please tell me you haven't brought children into this world that are as fucking stupid as you.

  68. @10:26PM

    Dear Motherfucker:

    My primary reason for doing it was because I had exhausted all of my forbearance life and I desperatly needed more.

    The consolidation offered 24 months or so of that, but it was gonna cost me 10K.

    I took the consolidation, and FUCK YOU!

    You are an Anonymous coward and a Cocksucker

  69. 10:26:

    Every night at about the same time an asshole like you shows up. WTF? Is it asshole hour?

    Eat shit.

  70. Who on Earth struggles through law school just to avoid "D" grades?

    I guess things must have been way, WAY more difficult in the past because law school is a joke today.

    Nobody gets a D, unless maybe you don't take the exam.

  71. Correction, D+ grades, and they were very very common.

    I recall a large class NY Practice class where about 1/3 of the grades were D+

    Was was not so common or perhaps never happened were grades of F.

  72. PBS Show about Student Loan Debt. Paul Krugman is featured too:

  73. 0256 here: By the way, JD Painter, I didn't mean to knock your aptitude. I was commenting on what has apparently happened to what used to be a rigorous law "education"

    I suspect, as schools open their doors to less and less LSAT inclined students, this trend will continue. However, at least at my law school, it seems that the program is set up to ensure that everybody gets the privilege of paying their 3 years of tuition.

    It's a shame, really, because even though the law school curriculum may have become a joke (at least in some schools), that fact is hidden by relatively high bar passage rates. But the bar passage rates come from BarBri, et al., not from the law school!

    I truly wish someone could/would do a study that compared bar passage rates between recent grads with BarBri, recent grads without BarBri, and with those that took no law school classes and just went through something like BarBri.

    I think the results would further illustrate how crazy it is to spend $100,000+ on those 3 years.

  74. A long time ago a lawyer told me that someone could come fresh out of High School, and then take a BarBri Course or PMBR or both, and then pass the bar exam. All without going to Law School.

    That would make a good experiment.

    As far as the Socratic method goes, it didn't really happen at my school. Sure a few questions were asked, but nothing really in depth that could be said to have taught anyone to "Think Like a Lawyer" as they say.

    I remember people being bullied about class preparation, and being marked absent if they hadn't briefed a case for class.

    And one Professor actually said: "If you think I'm tough, wait until you go before a Judge"

    But as we all know by now, not many law grads ever get beyond six figure debt and a menial job, let alone the chance to go before a Judge.

    How bitter it all is.

    And watch that PBS show. (Leslie Stahl is married to Alan Greenspan BTW)

    Just testing to see if you are awake, actually it is Judy Woodruff that is married to Greenspan, and not Barbara Walters.

  75. @DJM:

    Somehow I knew I was going to get mostly-irrelevant anecdotes. You picked the most visible, criticized retailer in the country and a management-level employee of a company big enough to be bought by Gerdau. A few immediate comments:

    1. 99 percent of "employers" in America, representing an overwhelming majority of employees, are small and mid-sized businesses, companies whose size and operating budget prevents them from spending a dime on diversity or from caring whether their workplace is diverse. Many are quietly hostile to diversity and would laugh if you asked them to give a seminar.

    2. For restaurants and large retailers, there's not usually "diversity" on the individual store basis, but there is if you company-wide. At three different McDonalds within driving distance, one is staffed exclusively by blacks, one is staffed exclusively by lower-class white people, and the third is staffed exclusively by Hispanics. A firm-wide audit would show this area is incredibly diverse; actually going to the stores is a different reality.

    3. This: "When your bosses (or clients, in the case of law firms) speak a different language, live in a different country, and grew up in a different culture, you better be comfortable with diversity." shows a naivete on your part about the psychology of the average worker. Because most don't actually work with the uber-bosses, most couldn't care less. Strange powerful white man in suit is little different than strange powerful Brazilian man in suit. "Diversity" couldn't bridge the class gap between them and the old board of directors, how exactly is it going to bridge the culture gap, too? Anecdotally, I've known people who work at the major car plants, and when they talk about their overlords, it's sardonic remarks about "the Japs." You think they're more open to Japanese customs and social mores? Nope, the opposite; authority and subservience can breed bitterness, especially to the sect who thinks Americans should be in those positions. Their bosses might learn some Japanese or gain token respect for the culture, but for 95% of the employees, it's not a meaningful enough relationship to have any diversity benefits.

    (The idea that law firms are comfortable with diversity because their clients are diverse is ridiculous. Clients are nothing more than walking dollar signs. At every firm I've worked at, making fun of the more extreme clients and their stupidity is a sacred pastime. Do you really think white attorneys are more "comfortable" with diversity when they represent black males in child support, marijuana, SSID, etc. cases? Really?)

  76. 4. Since we're full of anecdotes here, I'll give you mine: In undergrad (about 10-12 years ago), I had two days of orientation devoted solely to diversity issues, spent four years surrounded by innumerable student groups advocating for every major ethnic group in the world, read a campus newspaper that was over-sensitive to diversity issues, etc. My freshman year, by pure chance of the lottery, I lived on a floor with people of most of the major ethic groups in the college (Hispanic, black, Chinese, multiple strains of South Asian, etc.). The lobby of almost every building had a posterboard for diversity issues and half the faculty was, like you, expressly concerned with making the place as diverse and diversity-friendly as humanly possible.

    At my first job after undergrad, I worked in mid-sized business with a large proportion of white people, a handful of black people, a token East Asian, and a computer programming staff imported from India. On paper, the business probably looks swimmingly diverse. If you actually go there, no one talks to the Indian people and the place is a hotbed of stereotypes. I heard managers rip on Jews and blacks in ways that would have gotten them black-listed from my college.

    Maybe we just have different perspectives, but I look at it from the ground floor worker, and it's hands-down, night-and-day the universities that "get it" when it comes to promoting and encouraging diversity. Businesses will begrudgingly do it to the extent the law requires, but to them it's all economically-motivated. The schools, it seems, have diversity-for-diversity's sake as a legitimate goal.

  77. This does serve a purpose, though, even if the example of "Take Columbia on a full ride over any school except for maybe Yale" is laughably inapplicable to more than a few hundred of the 40,000-odd matriculating law students every year.

    If more prospective law students start bargaining more carefully with law schools in light of bad publicity about job outcomes (thank you, scamblogs and precious few others), then more law schools will have to live on their endowments while marking down tuition and fees as much as possible for the students whose GPAs and LSATs will ensure solidity for their USNWR rank. Downward transfers will become more likely as 1Ls who strike out at OCI sell their GPAs and LSATs down-market to minimize debt in 2L and 3L.

    LSATs are down 20% and several schools are trimming enrollments, because of a few blogs and articles in the NYT. Imagine what actual transparency would do.

  78. "one Professor actually said: "If you think I'm tough, wait until you go before a Judge""

    I remember another Professor claiming that as well.

    I would guess 80% of the faculty at my law school had never been to a low-level civil court hearing/trial, so I'm not sure how they're competent to testify to that.

    A smart law student would snap back that the "cruelty" of some judges and the bullying of holier-than-thou law profs is radically different. Most judges are former practitioners who are, at root, just sniffing out the BS that they would have argued, knowing full well that it was BS. The harshness comes from buying only a fraction of what's being sold and having to be stingy by trade.

    Law professor "harshness" comes from hiding the ball and believing one is superior for knowing the hidden quirks in a Tort law outline, or maybe having read a case that you didn't assign to the students. So when the student is asked "how would you rule?" and is given 5 seconds to answer, the law professor has put the student in competition with an appellate panel who had two months to decide the case, and when the student gives a gut reaction that is wrong, the professor has a ready-made answer to tell them why they're wrong and look incredibly intelligent.

    Don't get me wrong, some judges get off on power trips, but for many, it serves a useful function in teasing out arguments that the attorneys know are bogus and reaching a bit. Professors, it seems, are more often than not just trying to humble students, with the dickishness serving little other purpose.

  79. This comment thread was not as good as the comment thread in the previous post.

  80. Doc is right:

    I get so tired of the diversity discussion just for the sake of diversity. I listened to DJM's crap from all my undergrad professors for years. Nobody in the business world cares too much about these least the 99% of businesses that form the backbone of American businesses. Academics seem to care because it makes them look tolerant and open-minded. Whatever laws get passed impact business, not them because diversity is only enacted in an academic's workplace just to celebrate it. In the real world, most people don't give a fuck.

    DLM sounds like just another professor. Out-of-touch, disconnected, and rambling out about topics, that while important, are not important enough to really matter. This is proven not only by her long-winded discussion of diversity (for diversity's sake) but also shown in how she perceives, analyzes, and proposes solutions to the law school scam.

    Neato from an academic point of view but totally useless in the real world.

  81. ^Bingo. I’ve seen all types of professors try to pull this shit. I took an art history class as a non major elective and the prof was so full of himself because he knew some esoteric detail that no one else in the class knew. Hopefully Wikipedia and the general, more availability of information has cut down on this shit.

  82. DJM - your views reflect the progressive echo chamber, and it is why so many professors are tagged, even if unfairly, with being elitist and out of touch. You presume that a diversity office is somehow necessary to prevent acts of bigotry and hate. I am not sure that they accomplish that objective, and indeed because they so often, even if unintentionally, promote a form of separatism and focus on all the evil "isms" in the world, they may end up creating a more fractious campus than would be the case in their absence. Moreover, if there is an incident of bigotry and hate, well, that is a job for the dean of students to investigate. There is no need for a body of diversity monitors to handle incidents like these. Universities must begin to do more with less, and become efficient, like it or not. Make the administration lean, efficient, and responsible for running the university well. You can aver that diversity offices add a lot of value, but really, at the cost of assistant chemistry professors? You have a right to your views but good luck selling that value proposition to an ever reluctant student/parent consumer.

    The other "big" job of diversity offices is to hector departments to hire under-represented minority candidates. Note that I really don't include women, because like it or not, women are succeeding at the college game far more than men by any statistical measure, and at some schools, there is a need for "male" diversity. That will only continue. Diversity hectors or not, the problem with under-represented minority hiring is that there are way too few qualified candidates, especially in the sciences and engineering. No bloated diversity staff can solve that problem.

  83. DJM is an idiot.

    That is all.

  84. DJM Wrote

    "Universities are as resistant to change in this area as in others; employers are far ahead of most universities in terms of their needs for a diverse, cross-culturally adept workforce."

    Hilarious. Utterly hilarious. Child-like ignorance.


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