Thursday, December 30, 2010

Labor Department Cracks Down on Unpaid Internships

According to this article, the Labor Department is going after people who can't even be bothered to pay someone minimum wage for their work!


I personally don't like the tone of how the article is written myself.  IMHO, it comes off a bit, "those dastardly feds are going to misunderstand your good intentions if you aren't careful, you poor, poor struggling businessman who only wanted to help that sorry unemployed person gain some valuable experience in their field!"

Yes, because a for-profit business who refuses to pay any sort of wage really does have a heart of gold.  Even Ebenezer Scrooge paid Bob Cratchit something for the work he did.  After all, we were treated to a scene where Bob went to the butcher's and used the meager wages he had to buy the sorriest goose to bring home to his family for Christmas dinner.  Imagine this scene in 2010 where Bob Cratchit doesn't even have the moth-eaten 5 bob note to buy dinner with!

Hooray for cracking down on this mess!  As bad as unemployment is at the moment, you can't tell me that a chunk of it comes from employers who are sponging off of free labor.

And this is where their arguments about entitlements fail miserably.  They all say that they want people to get up off of it and find a paying job because people should take care of themselves.  Yet, here they are, helping to create a system where they get free labor while the government and charitable organizations pick up the cost of that person's salary and health care.

It's not like that person working for free in that office can march on over to the unemployment office and tell them to stop their benefits because they are making a grand total of zero dollars working for Scum & Lord, P.C.  It's not like this person can walk into a clinic for a minor cold instead of wasting space in an emergency room where they will be treated for free.

Yet, those people doing a lot of the bitching and moaning don't want to put their money where their mouths are.  If you think that a person should be rewarded for getting up at 5am every morning and slogging through traffic to help you turn a profit as opposed to getting food stamps and welfare, then you should actually realize that utopia by paying that person a wage and providing them with health insurance.  You can't expect people to work for free and then shake your finger at them for having the nerve to find a way to pay for groceries and utilities.  People aren't robots that live on air.  Unless they are planning on living in a shack in the woods like the unabomber and foraging for berries, then they will need money.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Film School Inflates the Numbers

While a degree from just about any film school around the country can be considered as ranking alongside degrees in Renaissance literature as being one of those "No shit?  You seriously can't find a job in your field?" learning pursuits, there are some schools out there who haven't yet figured out that they don't need to artificially inflate their employment stats.

Take this from tidbit about the Los Angles Film School and the Los Angeles Recording School.  They got students to take jobs with The Guitar Center and Apple and got them to fib in their surveys about these jobs being "relevant" to their degree:

It's not just the University of Phoenix, baby!

First of all, I don't know why this school needed to lie about their stats.  Surely, there are plenty of burnouts, sheltered 18 year olds, and manic-depressives who woke up yesterday morning and decided that it makes complete sense to throw $20,000 at something that calls itself a "film school."

And when you think about it, should these people be fingered for doing something that many accredited universities also engage in?  And I don't mean "inflating the numbers."   What I mean is, creating a charade that someone in New York is going to look at a resume of a potential production team member and say, "Hmm....filmed two episodes of a television show set in a dorm for public access television....but wait, film school at the University of Iowa? And a bachelor of science in this field to boot?  Why hell!  Let's bring in young Ted and let him direct the next 'Spider-Man' sequel!  And good thing he didn't go to that stupid Los Angeles School of Film.  Those extra classes in gender studies that he used to fill the 120 hour requirement means that he's going to be extra-sensitive to gender stereotyping in the script.  We trust that he will avoid turning the Arabs in this story into one-dimensional stereotypes.  I mean...Thank God this guy applied!  Could you imagine the alternative?"

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blockbuster Syndrome

You may remember shopping here:

Do you notice anything odd about this picture?

Look closely.  Through the window.  What do you see?

If you said, "there are people inside that store!" then drive down to the local Sonic and purchase yourself a sundae in celebration, because you are right!

I'm waiting for the day these people finally teeter into bankruptcy and never emerge. 

And it will happen. 

Yeah, I know that almost all businesses will one day cease to be due to the passage of time, but Blockbuster will cease to exist long before the demand for movie rentals ceases to exist.

I think of Blockbuster the same way I think of AT&T and Dell.  Blockbuster had a product everybody wanted, and grew to need.  But they didn't win by being the first to rent videos.  They did it by seeing what local video stores were doing, and created a monstrosity that was guaranteed to kill off the existing competition.

And how could the local stores compete?  Why, Blockbuster had 50 copies of "Drop Dead Fred" on the shelves!  You were practically guaranteed that you would find the movie you wanted, because, if they didn't have "Drop Dead Fred," then they had "Ishtar" and "Soap Dish" that you had thought about watching, but now had an excuse to pick up a copy because you were already in the store. 
However, as the patrons began to use Blockbuster, they began to discover a few annoying things about it. 

"Ted promised to drop off the movie last night, but left it in his car and Blockbuster is charging me an arm and a leg in late fees."

"I swear I dropped this movie off, but Blockbuster says that it is missing and now they're charging me a lost tape fee."

On top of that, they had the disappearing deals.

"If you come to the store and we don't have 'Three Kings,' we will give you a free rental of that movie!"

"No more late fees!"

They made these deals sound permanent, but it wasn't long until they quietly disappeared and left perplexed renters standing at the counters wondering "what happened?"

Maybe it was legitimate protectionism that Blockbuster was engaged in, but it became a bit of a hydra.  It wasn't quite as bad as AT&T, who would suddenly do away with a long distance plan that you signed up for 3 months ago, notify you of this on page 7 of your bill, and start charging you the flat 10 cent per minute rate so that you would be surprised with a large bill the following month.  Nevertheless, Blockbuster started to amass the bad will of the public in the same way that school yard bullies can beat you up for your lunch money:  you were forced by law to attend school, and so it meant your choices at recess were to either hide in the bathroom the entire period and have no friends and be laughed at as the weirdo who hid in the bathroom the entire recess period, or you can take your chances in trying to use the playground equipment. 

Blockbuster knew how to seclude themselves off in the Ivory Tower and beat back the barbarian hordes.

Then, one magical day, Netflix arrived.

There were no late fees!  The prices were reasonable!  I can ask for a movie and actually get it instead of playing roulette with what is on the shelves!


They aren't complete bastards!

Netflix, combined with Redbox, were like the barbarian tribes who steamrolled over Rome in its last days.  Blockbuster was worried about combining forces with those up and comers called Radio Shack because they got it in their head that their customers actually want to shop for a $300-$1,000 piece of technology while picking up a copy of "In Her Shoes" for date night, and have only the teeny tiny selection buried in the back of a video store to choose from.

Sadly, there were not enough hoarders and bipolar impulse buyers to keep that venture going, so it folded.  Netflix pushed forward and looked ahead to what people would be doing within a few years, and their business grew.  Soon, people were freed of the schoolyard and finally had somewhere else to go.

And why do I mention that?

It's because its what happened to the legal profession.

Legalzoom and form books helped kill off a lot of our business because it was a monopoly.  Even if people don't understand where the money is going, they see that they're written a check with money that could have paid bills or bought a car and watched as some burnout who hadn't returned their calls over the last month, roll into court and put on a half-assed display.

And maybe its the system in general that wears the attorney down.  Day after day of craziness.  Sometimes, the legal system can be a bit Dickensian in how it dispenses justice.  So, even if the attorney had the best intentions and things still turned out shitty just because of other factors, it still plants the seed in people's minds as to why they are paying us to do anything.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Free Labor

Do you need a job upon graduation? Internships and Networking are the answer. And don't forget perseverence. You'll finally be marketable by the time you finish that 11th internship.

PBS Does a Story on Underemployment

Per PBS Newshour, half of college graduates under age 25 are working in a job that requires a college degree.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

In the Spirit of "Stuff White People Like."

A Newsweek story about What Food Says About Class in America, tells us that the problem of obesity in America can be placed mostly upon the lower-class who ruin their bodies with fast food and pre-packaged groceries because of social policy that makes farmer's market foods too expensive to be purchased by the underprivileged.

(To fully understand what Newsweek is trying to say, see Stuff White People Like categories #132, #119, #112, #94, #90, #63, #59, #48, #6, #5, #1).

Why would I write something about eating habits in a blog about the law?

Well, many of the people who hang around these blogs are on public assistance, or those who come home after a day of work and shove that Little Debbie chocolate round into their guzzle before watching some TV and surfing dating websites for their latest 3-month long relationship (it takes some people that long to figure out that you are neither a millionaire, nor that simply changing what area of law you want to practice is going to turn you into a millionaire. Some might take longer to dump you and the relationship will last until shortly after you start meeting their family and the feedback from Aunt Sally start flowing in as she can't figure out why their niece is dating an attorney that drives a beater), I felt I would share my big "what the f**K?" reaction that I got from reading the content of the article.

I have to give a hand to the author of the article. They go for the kill and start with the absolute first thing on the list of "Stuff White People Like" in less than 10 words into the blog.

That's right. Coffee. And not just coffee. Cappucino. It's the kind of coffee-based beverage that normally needs a $700 machine that snobs insist is absolutely essential to bring out the "true" flavor of the bean. However, in this case, the author settles for a $200 Alessi Pot which apparently works just fine for a morning cup o'joe.

As this author describes the world, the Maxwell House krewe, who are denied Quinoa and macrobiotic cooking classes, are forced to either choose between the stinking, rotten piles of fruit foisted upon them by Walmart, or must go to McDonald's. Apparently, inner city grocery stores only take the reject fruit that is "too good" for its other customers and do not have a frozen food aisle. Therefore, the solution is to bring farmer's markets to the inner city, as their 9am-1pm hours on every other Saturday morning are convenient for all, and will provide enough sustenance to get the hapless through the next two weeks.

Ok, I might be hung for bagging on a good idea. Yes, to give everyone access to locally-grown organic materials is wonderful, but its the faulty logic of the article that gets to me.

In essence, the article says, "We can save [certain people] from themselves by trucking in organic bananas, and suggesting in a sensitive, but non-controlling, way that they should stop eating at McDonald's and start eating like the high-minded Europeans."

Yes, that's right. Obesity will be a thing of the past if only we brought farmer's markets to the inner city.

There is something interesting missing from this article.

Some of you who watch The Travel Channel or the Food Network might know what's missing in this article.

Yes, turn on either of those channels and see shows to see smiling faces hovered over two-foot long hot dogs from Mel's Greasy Spoon that are filled with a 1/2 lb weiner, chili, 4 kinds of cheese, and onion rings that are coated in Panko, deep fried in bacon grease, then coated in graham crackers and topped with marshmallows and chocolate. To make it a meal, you can ask for a bloom onion that is coated in honey barbeque sauce and served with blue cheese and ranch dipping sauce, and a the superfunkalicious malted milk shake, specially poured so that there are layers of caramel and whipped cream between layers of homemade ice cream.

Competing for bragging rights are chain restaurants. Yes, drink a soda or couple of mixed drinks to wash down about half of a loaf of bread and a plate of fried pickles and cheese sticks before the 1,000 calorie main entree rolls out.

Yes, hold up a McDonald's cheeseburger and marvel at the cracker-thin wafer of a patty held between buns smaller than a dwarf's ass, and ask yourself, "is this truly the cause of obesity?"

Yet, nobody bags on chain restaurants. Why is that?

Is it because this food perceived as "special occasion food" earned by a d a privileged and deserving group who worked hard all week? Is it because it's owned by Mr. and Mrs. Geezer and not a faceless corporation? Is it because those sorts of places conjure up good memories for the target demographic where they spent many afternoons or evenings going with their friends at least twice a week and seeing other faces like theirs around the restaurant that were bespecaled by black rims and that were hashing out "serious" topics like why aren't there more dog parks in the neighborhood?

You'll never see McDonald's on an episode of "Man vs. Food" because, chances are, the portion is still small enough that the majority of people could finish it, and that its cheap enough that you won't feel as bad leaving half of your french fries on the tray. It's not like spending $12 on a sandwhich that will, at best, only remain half-eaten by a reasonable person who will be in pain for the rest of the eveningm, or will cause gawps of disbelief at those with guts huge enough to hold the entire monstrosity.

Yes, in spite of the fact that fast food restaurants were brow-beaten into giving up frying things in lard or super-sizing french fries and drinks because of one too many news segments showing exhausted 30 year olds lugging their massive, jiggly bellies covered in sweatsuits and muu-muu's down the street, it is a bit curious that barbeque huts and diners are absolutely ignored when applying this standard because asking them to make healthier choices such as cutting portion size or doing away with the 7 lb quintuple meat barbeque sandwich smothered in Swiss and topped with beer battered jalapenos, and served with an over-flowing plate of steak fries and a 10 scoop of Kahlua ice cream banana split that measures a foot tall robs the consumer of an "authentic" eating experience.

Ok, maybe you're not exactly convinced that there are just some really bad eating habits out there, so let's forget restaurants for a minute. If you went to a Thanksgiving potluck, did you see many dishes that consisted of just "plain old" green beans, or "plain old" vegetables? No. That dish was magically morphed with the aid of Velveeta, mushroom soup, and a stick of butter into a magical dish that friends smacked their lips over.

Not that I'm any better when it comes to cooking habits, but it makes the point of the pointlessness of why San Francisco feels the need to remove toys from Happy Meals. Even if you watched Super Size Me, and rightfully feel that over-consumption of McDonald's can destroy your liver, would Morgan Spurlock's argument carry the same weight if he decided to go on a 30 day food bender of renowned dives across the US that had "infamous dishes" on their menu?

It's easy to hold your nose in the air when it's a place you already don't go to, and is associated with clientele that you tend not to hold in high regard. The fact that a city like San Francisco thinks it is their business to eliminate toys from Happy Meals implicitly says something about the way they think about the people they think they are trying to protect.

However, it is an admittedly complex issue because we all end up paying for our food choices. If a person has to get thousands of dollars in health care because of knee surgeries, complications of diabetes, and heart attacks, that cost is spread amongst everyone, whether it be private insurance or Medicaid or Medicare. Admittedly, there is a temptation to go through the restaurants and make them cull their menu of nasty offenders because its hard to watch sluggish people who don't have any energy because of obesity lug around. But what can you do? Nutrition classes?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merry Christmas! And a Highly-Indebted 30 Years!

This lucky lady is going to have to pay back $200,000 for an undergraduate degree!

What $200,000 in Student Loans Looks Like.

She's asking for donations from the public. Ummmm....yeah. I can't get that excited over sending someone a dime for an undergraduate degree. Is Northeastern University worth that much? Even if it was OK, something tells me that I would be sending money to cover the cost of 4+ years of jello shots and pizza. It's a lot easier to manage your costs for undergraduate degrees simply because that person can knock out course credits at community college or arrange their schedule so they can work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Put Your Hands Down, Fools!

It was bad enough in law school having to sit through "intellectual exercises" thrust upon us by overly-zealous students who think they are now qualified to teach the class. However, you could understand their zeal just a little bit because they drank the same Koolaid as the rest of us and thought that there was still time left to work their way up the ladder and get that letter of recommendation from Professor Ascot that will give them a prestigious clerkship with Federal Judge Senior Status.

What I don't understand is attorneys who are well-established shit law attorneys who think that shooting their hand up and asking bizarro pseudo-intellectual tangent questions during CLE being given by the one Cooley Grad who wasn't working as the parking lot attendant at the hotel is going to finally get them places.

Friday, October 15, 2010

S**t Rolls Out the Door

Tonight, I was reminded what a terrible, terrible place shit law can be.

And sometimes, the shit overfloweth so much that it needs to be swept out of the door.


An ex-paralegal shared a story of one firm that she worked at for several years. As is typical with the power structure of a sizable percentage of shitlaw firms, the firm is helmed by Dickensian misers who earned their money -- not from their vast and impressive legal knowledge that set the wrongly accused free and set new precedent that left the Supreme Court stripping themselves down to their tighty whiteys and 18 hour support bras -- but by selling a large volume of services with reduced overhead costs and a sizable markup.

One weekend, the gods didn't feel like there was enough shit law being created in the office. To fill the quota that made the difference between whether the boss would go to Cancun or to New Zealand on the latest biannual vacation, Osiris thundered from beneath, causing the sewer to back up and create a mess in the hall and kitchen.

When the mess was discovered the following Monday, it was not a special cleaning crew with rubber suits and special chemicals that were called to remove the biohazard that lurked in the hallway. It wasn't even the managing partners that threw themselves upon that stink bomb of a grenade while chivalrously saving the ladies from harm. Yes, mes amis, why on Earth would you call a professional and unnecessarily pay more money to clean out shit you are already paying a support staff $10 an hour who are already pros at taking your shit and shoveling it out the door onto unsuspecting clients? Yes, why not? The office staff comes properly equipped for the job of sewage removal since they each have two working arms to work mops and brooms. Women are genetically engineered to clean sewage because they have cooked and cleaned since caveman days. They also have special E. Coli-resistent high heeled shoes that will provide the backs of their legs a two inch separation from the waste even though their leather-covered tippy-toes dance so tantalizingly close to that corn and peanut riddled graveyard of feasts from days gone by.

Ah, but only if we had the ability to shovel a pile of this effluent and trot it before a room full of aspiring 0 L's! It's time for them to see the physical evidence of what most of their working careers are going to look like. Maybe 5 members of their little group will be running about the halls of Congress or taking a break in the firm gym at 3am when they are in between writing their 8th summary judgment for the day. The rest of them will receive the honor of working in portable buildings or offices that look like they are the waiting rooms of 3rd world physicians.

That is, if they find a job at all.

"Sirs and madams. Do you see this bucket of pallid water with what looks like coffee grinds in the bottom? This is what the staff of a law firm actually cleaned off of the floor of their office after the sewer decided to make a deposit and the lead partners decided that hiring a professional crew of cleaners was not in the budget. They were given the choice of finding another job or taking a mop in hand and getting to work. The good news is that their mopping activity meant that they got to delay going to the dry cleaner's to pick up the boss's suits for a little bit. And before you tell yourselves that you need to shovel a little shit at the beginning of your career to 'make it' within the law and that you have to do this sort of thing to prove your worth as a valuable employee, stand not amazed when a contributor to the clean up effort quit at some point in the future when they found another job and were replaced by somebody who agreed to work $3 an hour less than they were making. Have a nice day."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Legal Dollar and BIDER have shared with us this commentary from a University of Chicago Law Professor regarding his poverty in spite of being above the $250,000 bracket:

Read here for the full text.

I liked this passage in particular:

The problem with the president’s plan is that the super rich don’t pay taxes – they hide in the Cayman Islands or use fancy investment vehicles to shelter their income. We aren’t rich enough to afford this – I use Turbo Tax. But we are rich enough to be hurt by the president’s plan. The next time the president comes home to Chicago, he has a standing invitation to come to my house (two blocks from his) and judge for himself whether the Xxxxxxxxxs are as rich as he thinks.

The irony is that this professor specializes in economics, security regulation, and other subjects that should touch upon the tax code at one of the top law schools in the country....yet, he has absolutely no idea how to hide his money and needs freaking Turbo Tax to tell him what to do!

Wow. If that isn't a damnation of law school.

I heard that at the University of Phoenix, someone from higher up outlined the entire curriculum, while they hired an adequately-credentialed talking head to purvey the information. I can't help but think there are many law school professors who got stuck teaching a subject that they don't know anything about.

Imagine if a Medical School were run like this:

"Can you teach me about dysfunctions of the adrenal gland?"

"That's not really my area of specialty, but I read something about it in a book once. Here's a link to WebMD. By the way, here's the bill for $250,000 for having me and my ilk grace you with our presence."

But why is that?

In spite of the Tier System cooked up by U.S. News and World Reports, schools ultimately "teach to the test." It also helps the bottom line of lesser schools if they can take the emphasis off of recruiting professors with real world experience and basically hire anybody who is capable of using a textbook to teach the U.C.C. The irony is that this professor's academic credentials are impressive overall, but they don't actually have any insight to contribute into the body of law that they've been recruited to teach.

And, if we are going into the whole "are you being paid what you're worth?" argument, it is kind of ironic that his job as a talking head could be done by an adjunct for a fraction of the cost, but his salary and work schedule are artificially regulated by the ABA (and to an extent, by U.S. News and World Reports).

Yes, what a sad gnat who is being pummeled by the establishment while everyone else sails off to the Cayman and has their masseuse rub them with oil-soaked $100 bills. If only he had actual knowledge of economics and the tax code, then he might not have gotten into this predicament.

He also states that his money is better spent on a nanny, gardener, and housekeeper rather than sending it to Washington because he has direct control over how the money is spent and that it is better for these people to earn a wage rather than be on welfare.

All of his hires are recent immigrants. Is it a mere coincidence that he hired recent arrivals from Mexico and Poland because he loves the American dream? Or is it because they work for the least amount of money?

The irony is that it is fairly likely that none of his employees have health insurance, and if they were sent by an agency, the likelihood that they are covered by worker's comp is fairly small. The minute Pedro cuts his hand on the lawnmower blade, he will be dumped at the emergency room where the taxpayers will pick up the tab. If Marie the housekeeper becomes ill with the flu, she will probably not be paid sick leave and will probably show up at his house and spread the disease to the inhabitants before she becomes so run down that she acquires secondary infections like pneumonia. She will then visit the local emergency room and receive free treatment from county services. She will probably also need handouts from charitable organizations to help pay rent, food, and medical bills.

In the end, it's hard to become too excited that Professor Henderson is doing his part to keep the economy going. Yes, he spent $300 that month to keep somebody employed, but he also used the cheapest services and avoided paying many of the necessary costs to keep these people housed, fed, and healthy and conveniently spread the rest of the cost onto the taxpayer.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

More Blood Money

After writing my last blog entry in which I calculated how much more a person would pay for their law degree thanks to a 1-2 punch of rise in tuition and student loan interest rates, I decided to take a visit to my alma mater's website to see what they were charging the poor people who signed up for the once in a lifetime opportunity to be an attorney.

The incoming class is now paying $200+ more than I did in my first year! And I started school in 2006!

Seriously? After an entire year of hearing about the crummy jobs (or no jobs) many alumni have scrounged up! This is how the school responds?

Where does it stop? Where will tuition be in 5 years? Will it be $1200 per semester hour? Right now, they are clocking in at owing nearly $90,000 in tuition and books alone!

And I can see why they needed to increase tuition. Those podiums the professors use are so out of date! And those copies of 1934 real estate form books... Why, it's about time that students will have access to form books that don't contain language about making it illegal to sell houses to the colored people. And let's not forget that tragic moment when career service's fax machine broke. That event completely shot OCI all to hell. They were left scrambling and the only employers they could manage to invite to OCI were the legal aid office. Poor kids. They certainly would have been scooped up by the understaffed top 250 law firms.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Buy Your Law Degree Now Before the Cost Rises Another $50,000

9/16 Update: Correction of Numbers using proper amortization calculator

In my mind, people go to law school in the same way that people bought all of those houses during the bubble. Were the houses as expensive as hell? Yes. Were the mortgage payments overwhelming? Yes. But goddamn if it wasn't your own personal piggy bank!

Entire neighborhoods in foreclosure do not suggest that a group of people teamed up and decided to be stupid together.

Where was I?

Oh yes. Personal piggy banks.

People who attend law school generally think that an attorney job is their own personal piggy bank. It's easy money. It's a place where you sit out 3 years of your life and pop out on other side with great earning potential.

Student loans don't even make you feel the gravity of your investment. You got the paperwork in the mail showing what your monthly payments will look like, but you don't actually look at them. For one thing, you can't do much to control how much your monthly payments will be. Even if you lived cheaply, there is still the question of both tuition and the interest rate on those loans. What was the lending rate just a few short years ago for graduate students? It hovered somewhere around 3-4% (the same rate applying to all students regardless of being a graduate or undergraduate) And not only that, tuition skyrocketed over the past few years. Together, the interest rate and tuition have made law school tens of thousands of dollars more expensive for the average borrower. Even if your tuition "only" went up a measly $200 a semester hour over the course of your stint in law school, thanks to 6.8% interest rates, you will end up paying substantially more for your education over the following 10 years than somebody who graduated about 5 years ago (in 2005).

Let's say that you borrowed $100,000 at 6.8% and paid it off over 10 years. According to calculators, you will have paid a grand total of $138,100 at the end of your loan.

If you borrowed $100,000 at 3.6% (which is an average of the interest rates between 2002-2005), you will have paid a grand total of $119,225.99 at the end of 10 years.

As you can see, you are paying an extra $19,000 for borrowing the same amount of money over the next ten years for interest alone!

Yes, that presumes that tuition was exactly the same as it was 5 years ago. Now, you will have to borrow even more money to buy the same product.

Let's pretend that tuition is now (when averaged over 3 years) is about $150 a semester hour more than what a 2005 graduate had to pay. Let's also say that a 2005 graduate paid $700 a semester hour while a 2009 graduate paid $850.

$700 X 90 hours = $ 63,000
$850 X 90 hours = $76,500

Subtracting the difference:

$150 X 90 semester hours = $13,500.

Yes, the recent graduate paid an extra $13,500 in interest-free tuition.

Of course, that presumes that the student paid cash up front.

If the student borrowed money, at my chosen interest rates, here is what it would look like:

$700 X 90 hours X 3.6% interest over 10 years = $89730.09

$850 X 90 hours X 6.8 % interest over 10 years = $147697.78

By the time that the loans have been paid off, the new graduate has actually paid $57,967 more for their schooling than the 2005 graduate!

No, wait. That isn't right. That figure is actually too low!

Granted, I simplified things and didn't calculate for the fact that you obviously won't borrow the full 90 hour amount in the same year, and I didn't calculate for the fact that interest begins accruing on Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and private loans while you are in school!

But the figure is obviously on the cheap side as I presumed that all of the tuition expenses would be fully covered by Stafford loans, which is a lower interest rate than private loans. When tuition is cheaper, more of it can be covered by government subsidized loans as opposed to having to borrow more money in expensive private loans with interest rates at 8%+ (depending upon your credit score. I've heard of cases where the interest was 12%). If you are capped at $22,500 per year when borrowing federal loans, tuition is $850 a semester hour, and you want to borrow the entire tuition amount of $25,500, then you will need to take out an additional $3,000 in private loans just to cover the shortfall (at $700 per semester hour, the cost would have been $21,000 per semester, which would leave $1500 of federal loans before being maxed out)....never mind that you will need to take out money just to cover books for class, living expenses, suits for work, food, and the occasional social activity. All of that money will be borrowed at private loan rates.

So, what, exactly, are the totals for a year of schooling for a 2005 graduate vs a 2010 graduate (without counting for the accrued interest while the student is in school)?

2005 Graduate
$21,000 X 3.6% Stafford Loan over 10 years of repayment
$29910.03 per year.

2010 Graduate
($22,500 X 6.8% Stafford Loan over 10 year repayment) + ($3,000 X 8.5% PLUS loan at 10 years repayment)
which reduces to:
$43440.52 + $6782.95
$50,222 per year.

That is a difference of $20,300+ per year!

Multiply that number by 3 years of law school, and you actually end up paying $60,000+ more than a 2005 graduate from the start of your repayment!

Ok, the addition of PLUS loans 'only' tacked on an additional $3,000 in interest, but still...

(Naturally, this number balloons if you have to defer your loans, go on Income Based Repayment, or any other graduated repayment option because interest continues to compound on top of your owed amount!


Yes, you get the picture.

On top of that, chances are fairly slim that you'll acquire any employment in law school that will lessen your need for borrowing money. Remember: the rules state that you CANNOT work in your first year, and chances are, unless you got a job waiting tables at Chili's, the chances are small that you're going to see very little income from any of your clerkships. You're either going to be working for free in an internship, or making $10 an hour working for a solo. Depending upon which school you get into and your grades and connections, you MAY land one of those BIGLAW jobs where you clear 5 digits over the course of the summer.

Obviously, people don't think about the interest rate and loan repayment because they have it in their heads that nobody would charge that kind of tuition or interest if you can pay it back. A big part of the draw of law school is that people view it as an "easy" way to start making good money. To them, it's like purchasing an annuity at 15% interest. "I may pay you $100,000 for my education, but my income will not only cover the amount of the loan, it will be significantly enough to completely increase my standard of living over what it would have been had I not attended law school."

(I'll save "how many hours/days/years you need to work to pay off $100,000" for another time).

And without further adieu, this is where I proudly introduce (for your own reading and my own vindication) a blog that I have just found:

Shit Law Jobs.

Yes, reading over these tasty morsels of actual jobs makes any person want to fork out that extra $30,000 over the next 10 years....let alone $100,000, or $200,000.

These are not outliers or starting salaries, people! After a year of fruitless job search, I am now a proud expert in the "there ain't no jobs out there" field. I can tell you that these are the jobs that most of you will be LUCKY to get.

And that additional $60,000 that you paid over a 2005 graduate? That is if you are on standard repayment. At $35,000 per year, if you want to eat, you will probably have to find alternative payment options. Imagine that $60,000 compounded over an additional 20 years (my calculator just broke at hearing that) if you switch to a 30 year repayment plan or a graduated payment option. Or the interest that accrues if you can't pay because of economic hardship. I'll let your imagination run wild with what you could be paying, which is probably the sensible thing because nobody can foresee what life is going to be like for you. Whether you become ill and go broke because you have no health insurance, your employer runs out of work and has to let you go, or you work for somebody who decides after two years that they can hire a new graduate for much cheaper, it's hard to say. All I know is that, on the whole, there are a lot of hard luck stories, and that you either really need to be an opportunist or know how to take advantage of that one opening if you really want to get anywhere.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gone, Baby, Gone!

These past few days, I have taken to sorting through all of my garbage and cleaned out most of my law school papers.

Admittedly, I'm a bit of a pack rat, but I felt a particular need to keep the wonderful lecture notes, note cards, supplements, and even unsold textbooks because I had bought into a crazy concept that all of these notes would be useful in my future law practice. After all, juicy tidbits of law that were previously chewed, semi-digested, and regurgitated by great legal minds for the nourishment of younglings in the nest sounded like a goldmine.

It especially sounded good whenever professors would encourage us to call them with questions during our subsequent law practices about the actual law. It sounded better than any court on this land. They got a ruling from Professor Schmidt on non-conforming use, which is like waving a cross at a vampire on the opposing side.


The funny thing about calling up professors with questions to basic legal concepts after you've passed the bar is that it demonstrates the worthlessness of law school if they can't even spend more than a semester teaching you how to research, or that more than a few non-gifted people slip through the net who are either too lazy or just don't have the ability to spot a basic issue (or just don't have access to a thesaurus if their favored search terms aren't working). If you don't know how to schmooze with a judge or make your filings conform with the local rules, you obviously need the help of another attorney since it is all the unwritten social context that nobody wants to really admit exists. If you're 3 years out of Property I, and still need to call Professor Dumbledore because you still can't figure out Google enough to explain a basic legal concept....


"So, there is like this thing where some guy didn't mean to cause an accident, but he wasn't paying attention to the road because he was reading a magazine and drinking a beer while he was driving, and he forced my client off the road and into a ditch. Can you help me out? I tried searching Westlaw for terms like 'all over the road,' 'ditch,' and 'magazine' but I just can't find any case law that explains to me if my client has a good case. I don't think the courts have tackled this issue yet, so this one might be turned into a movie like Amistad."

The funny thing about calling the professor is that sometimes it could backfire. You never know if the professor you are seeking to talk to is actually the expert witness for the other side.

So, I cursorily looked at my notes. Not only can I not tell you what I had written anywhere (which would make my search that much more difficult than just typing the phrase in Google), I realized that cobbled bits of law from God knows where do not make the current law in my state. They might make a general concept, sort of like how high school teaches you "standardized" German and Spanish, but it's nothing I can cite to any court.

Yes, see My Stack of Old Torts Lectures on Contributory Negligence that I condensed into flashcards, Fall 2006.

Besides, after taking BarBri, I began to realize that law school made the law much more difficult than what it is. I guess they had to do something to explain why we were in law school for 3 years instead of 6 weeks.

When you look at what law school accomplishes, why not make it a 6 week program? All the core curriculum of law school does is teach towards the bar anyway. Sometimes, the school is successful in brainwashing the students into believing that this method is in their best interest and they shouldn't burn any of those precious 90 hours taking clinic and instead use that time to take a random class that will consist of a grand total of 1/2 of an essay on the bar exam. You may not know how to go to court and are hobbled out of the starting gate, but you really overkilled that Secured Transactions question that an examiner spent 30 second reading.

I can fault many programs for taking the approach of making the coursework "cost effective" to the point of being useless by using outdated equipment and methods that aren't actually helpful in the working world. However, law school is so much more expensive and the practice of law carry many more demands on the employees

I'm sure that about 1/4 of my notes have question marks written beside them. In my first year, the question mark was a result of a genuine "WTF?" because the way they teach law, it is sort of like bringing an elephant into a darkened room and you having to guess that it's an elephant from touching its tail. In my second and third years, the question marks appear in the margins because my mind wandered and I snapped back into focus somewhere around prong 3 of a 4 prong set.

The good old days of memorizing "three prong tests." It's funny that I had to learn that stuff when judges were constantly misapplying the standards even with a book open in front of them.


Tons of paper is in the recycling bin. In a few short months, somebody will be wearing a paper hat made from my old law notes. There will be a smile upon the face of an innocent child as he plays with his origami giraffe made with UCC notes. I had a brief spike in hope that companies were still making toilet paper made from recycled paper like they did years ago, but that brief hiccup of caring for The Last Rain Forest has passed quietly away in the dead of night somewhere around 1994. Damn. No more biodegradable trash bags or paper towels made of recycled paper and their brown, course texture wiping away pizza sauce that you spilled on the counter. Back in the day, it could have been possible that somebody was going to literally wipe their bottom with "last shot doctrine" lecture notes. Yes, that was their last shot at being useful for anything.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sallie Mae, I Can't Wait Until You are in my Rear View Mirror

I'm a person who has been fairly successful at paying my bills over the years. Maybe I've forgotten to pay my phone bill once or twice, but I've never had problems with a system where I was actually trying to pay my bills.

I have not consolidated my loans, and I was in that weird transition period where some of my loans are still with Sallie Mae and some are with Direct Loan. In just the past few months, I've had a false belief that I had hit the "confirm" button on my payment. The button was buried at the bottom of the screen, so I forgot that even though I told them to pay a certain amount, that I still had to confirm that I wanted to pay that amount.
This problem got me into the habit of paying early enough so that I could revisit the website in a few days to see if I could catch problems before they turned into issues.

This system is paying off....slightly.

Earlier this month, I had typed in the dollar amount to pay. I looked on my bank account, noticed that it had actually posted, but went back to see if the payment actually took.

For some reason, both my Stafford and Plus loan on that one website were a few dollars short! According to them, I still owed about $17 for the month. I felt that was weird, but I compared what went through the bank to confirm that they didn't take out the full amount, but lost $17 in the process. Seeing that the dollar amounts matched, I went back, added in the extra money, and then went back and made sure that the dollar amounts actually read zero. I'm not sure what happened, but since it's a computer, it's hard for me to argue that I typed in the right dollar amount, even if it is fishy that the payments I made for both loans were just a few dollars too low.

As I feel the annoyance, all I can think is that I'm looking years into the future and having these problems haunt my every step. All I'm doing is very base line activities. I can't imagine what a mess it is for people who fall behind. Seriously, people, you can't even effectively tell your computer how to remove the set amount of money that I owe from my bank! All I need are these jokers trying to ruin my credit.

I can't wait until I become employed. I'm going to live in a tent and eat bread and beans until I get rid of you people.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Work Smarter; Not Harder

I caught this gem of a story that covers the fact that the United States is slipping in the world rankings for churning out college graduates:

We are now ranked 12th in the world for creating college graduates.

Yes, in spite of the rise of for-profit schools, it appears that people aren't bothering to finish their degrees!

The math of this article is fairly simple: College Degree = Success.

And, as usual, southerners are blamed for dragging down this great nation.


Nowhere is that trend more apparent than in Arkansas, a state of deeply entrenched poverty, where just over 40 percent of students finish college with bachelor’s degrees in six years or less. Arkansas is one of several southern states that have seen college enrollment rates increase, even as college completion rates remain stubbornly low. The contradiction has frustrated education officials and prompted calls for action at the highest levels of state government.

Hmm. Maybe we should be giving them a medal for doing their part in not contributing to the number of people filing for bankruptcy. If you're in Arkansas, and your job options include being a pig farmer and running the General Store, I don't think that racking up $30,000 in student loans is going to help your situation that much.

People in large metropolitan areas are used to having a wide variety of careers to choose from. Chances are, you can do something with that Economics and Advertising degree. In many areas that are relatively sparsely populated, the food chain looks like this: Doctor, Lawyer, Business Owner, Health Care Professional, Realtor, Cop, Home Construction/Repair, Low-Level Bureaucrat, Car Sales, Auto Repair, Retail Worker, Bus Boy.

Yes, identify which of these lines of work needs a college degree to successfully complete the job. Either you completely bite the bullet and give nearly 10 years of your life to rotting in college and graduate school, or you take a couple of semesters at the community college before the light bulb pops on that Intro to British Literature has nothing to do with selling houses or taking drivers license photos at the DMV.

You can't really blame some 18 year old Arkansan who was the first in their family to proudly go off to college to suddenly give up when they see that it is a road to nowhere. Not only are they already leery of the amount of debt they will have to take on thanks to skyrocketing tuition, they have seen for themselves that their older friends who have already graduated are moving back home and have resumed their former jobs at the local Sonic. Other than a few degree fields like nursing, there is very little opportunity that makes relocation a viable option.

If there were recruiting fairs or stories about how their friends had jobs lined up from the beginning of their senior year, there would see a lot more interest from the students in actually finishing their degrees. Instead, they get a year or two in their studies, figure out that they aren't Rhodes Scholar material, know that the job banks are nearly empty, and realize the remaining two years of their degree is a waste. In some ways, they end up being more marketable by simply giving up on their degree rather than being branded as a graduate who will probably try to leave the minute a "good" job opens up.

It is also not surprising that students would quit going to college since many of the jobs that created the economic base that funded their schooling have moved out of the country. If mom and dad's job at the sock factory is now in China, and the rules require that parents become partially responsible for repaying many of the loans that their children are taking out, it is fairly likely that there have been many serious talks where mom and dad have had to break the news to their children that they can no longer afford to pay to send them to college.

So where is the incentive to actually finish?

Unfortunately, it is too expensive for the average person to be educated just for education's sake. When the expense of an education can't be parlayed into an economic benefit, it simply becomes a luxury that many people can't afford. We can't simply make it a goal to have a better-educated society simply for its own sake if we are going to turn around and crush the students who step up to the plate with ungodly debt and no prospects for paying their bills.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Don't Let the Salaries Fool You

The other day, I read a very entertaining article which suggested that we do away with the bar exam.

Everybody has their opinion on the bar. I waffle too much to even address if we should have a bar exam, so that will be left for another day.

I'm going to address a side point that the author raised about attorney salaries.


More importantly, I think that the high salaries of lawyers combined with the high cost of even very basic legal services show that we have too few lawyers rather than too many, and that the best way to determine the “right” number of lawyers is through market competition, not government mandate.

I clicked on the bio of this writer. Surprise, surprise, they are in academia! And instead of using personal anecdotes, or even questioning why this urban legend of thousands of unemployed attorneys exists, they reach for NALP numbers.

The professor/blogger says this bon mot in another blog entry:

I should note that the NALP and Labor Department data do not account for lawyers who are unemployed. Unfortunately, neither these sources nor others I have looked at have shown anything approaching a good estimate of the unemployment rate among lawyers. However, it seems unlikely that there is large Marxian “reserve army” of unemployed lawyers out there. If there were, one would expect lawyer salaries to drop substantially as competition from the unemployed drives down the pay of those who have jobs, especially at the lower ends of the distribution (e.g. — the 10th and 25th percentiles noted in the post).

According to this professor/blogger's theory, absolutely nobody should have been an unemployed attorney working the perfume counter at Macy's. Third year law students should have not had to even think about finding a job once they graduated. They should have their pick of desperate employers long before they were measured for their tams. They should have been begged to start work early by those who are swamped with work. Even if BIGLAW was making a few cuts, it doesn't mean that there aren't severely understaffed areas like small firms or public interest groups who have had to turn away cases because they just don't have the labor resources to take them.

I thought an actual clue that there are many unemployed attorneys would be hearing that there were well over 100 applicants for the same low-paying jobs that I had been applying for, but apparently not. Those numbers can be apparently explained away by assuming that there are over 100+ attorneys out there who are unhappy with their current employment and who have decided to lateral over into something that pays less than $40,000 per year.

But let's not stop there: Let's define non-saturation. If the professor wishes to talk about salaries, then we should also speak of what is missing in the compensation packages. If the legal profession were not overly saturated, a good majority of employees would get compensation packages that includes:

Signing bonuses
Paid moving expenses
Company housing
Paid vacations
Health insurance
Offers to pay for travel expenses for interviews
Week-long wooing sessions where they take you (the POTENTIAL employee, not the ACTUAL employee) and your spouse out to 4 star restaurants and Broadway productions
Retirement plans
Reimbursement on your student loans


The biggest sign of non-saturation?


I don't think anybody who has been on a job hunt recently can claim that they were engaged in skillful negotiations to get a great salary. All I've heard about is people who were in a take-it-or-leave-it position who chose to walk away. To me, that doesn't sound like a desperate employer who absolutely can't anybody for the job. It sounds more like an employer who has a large stack of resumes on their desk from people who were just as competent as the person they were offering the job.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

It's Too Soon.

Sometimes, I link articles that seem relevant to the unemployed-attorney plight. Today, truth is stranger than fiction, so I included a link to a job-hunting article on "The Onion."

It's not quite as funny as that sitcom "Outsourced," but a chortle in itself.

And speaking of "Outsourced", does anybody find this premise funny?

Do the networks view this as the same kind of funny-haha that people experience when watching home videos of some guy getting racked in the nuts by a 2X4?

Is this supposed to be like "Hogan's Heroes" where the audience at home finds comic relief in watching prisoners of war trying to escape the Germans?

I'm sure that John McCain enjoys his box set with a few tall ones on those nights he can't quite go to sleep.

While watching somebody get racked in the nuts is funny, we know that the pain is temporary and the guy will be up and walking again tomorrow. There isn't a Detroit-sort of outcome where the guy is going to go on unemployment, develop a drinking problem, and then wind up in prison after assaulting the neighbor.

Somebody will point out that I haven't "seen" the show. That's true. But it sounds vaguely racist in that many of its chortles come from watching the Indians try to learn American culture. Maybe they see it is a modern "Perfect Strangers" where they figure Americans are resentful enough in this climate that we'll have a bit of joy poking fun at the new equivalents of Russian yokels. Still, it's still a bit like making a sitcom about 9/11 or mortgage foreclosures.

"Coming this fall on NBC, a new comedy called 'Life Savings.' Watch as the residents of Barstow engage in humorous antics to delay the repo man for yet another week as Dave Johns, who was laid off 16 months ago after the State went bankrupt, tries to get his cupcake mobile business off the ground."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fun Reading for 0L's: What, Exactly, is a Personal Injury Mill?

Dear 0L:

I know you are currently investigating which kind of law you would "like to go into" once you graduate from law school.

If you go to a lower-tier school and don't end up in the top 5% and law journal, your best bet at employment is a mill.

And there are many kinds of mills. There aren't just the personal injury mills who run their ads on television during Jerry Springer. You also have divorce mills and real property mills (they will search title and sell you title insurance).

What they all have in common: Phone numbers you can spell out (1-800-AMPUTEE), television advertisements during Judge Judy, and a staff filled with new graduates who are being worked 10-12 hour days for little pay.

Read more about mill structures here if you think you still think you will be able to "practice law" when you graduate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If Medical Schools Didn't Have to Find Residencies for Their Students, it Would Resemble the Legal Profession

Upon graduation, the medical student and newly christened Dr. Don, one in a class of 300 students, ranked 47% of his class, was one of 80% of his class without a job and saddled with $250,000 in debt. He began to wonder how he would repay his loans because the search for a residency was not going well.

After initially believing that he was one of "the chosen ones" (or one of the "lucky bastards") for getting into medical school, his search for a residency was quickly sucking the life out of him. He sent his resumes to OCI, but nobody offered to even interview him. Career services had spammed his inbox every semester and assured everybody that even somebody in the 99% once got a job interview so nobody should "worry" because they will all find jobs eventually. However, at graduation, only 8 members of his class had landed residencies with "prestigious" medical facilities. Another 23 landed something at the free clinic. Another 27 were still planning to work at their old internships and hoped that the newest batch of resumes that they were mailing out would land them "something." Another 15 had taken various positions such as food sample presenter at the grocery store and perfume counter assistant at Macy's. Another 19 were going to get their business degree.

Months later, his bills becoming due, one deferment down, and the latest batch of 230 resumes being ignored, Dr. Don decided to create his own residency.

It's what people told him to do. Why, he was now a doctor who had graduated from medical school. Plus, it was his own fault that he couldn't find a residency. He should have "tried harder" while in medical school to get into the top 10% of his class. Besides that, he should have "tried harder" to get a residency. It isn't enough that he sent out 300 or even 500 or 1,000 resumes and chased down every last residency position in a mall in the bad part of town in the middle of Butt Feck Idaho. (Actually, he let that one go and didn't apply for it because it was clear across the country. Now, he wonders if he's completely missed his one opportunity to ever have a residency). He needed to call and harass these employers to see if they got his resume, otherwise they wouldn't know that he really wanted this job and he wasn't just simply spamming them. He needed to redo the margins on his resume and properly space the dates because the employers would automatically throw it in the garbage can if they figured out that he wasn't insanely dedicated to detail. He needed to qualify his "interests" section and specify where he liked to travel because its not enough just to say that he liked to travel. He needed to write the name of his medical school organizations on his resume in bold and italics, otherwise, the employer who was absentmindedly scanning his resume for the exactly two seconds they dedicate to each individual resume might miss that he was "involved" while in school and was simply a loser who went home and took a nap after class. He needed better "Thank You" notes, otherwise, they will think he is insincere about wanting the job. He needed to fold his hands in a particular way during the interview because if he gestured too much, he would look a bit threatening and maybe like he didn't even want the job. He needed to go to more medical conferences and meet other practicing doctors because nobody likes to hire people who they've never met. He needed to show up at happy hour with the local medical association because he needed to pass out business cards like candy. He needed to shine his shoes because dirty shoes suggest disorganization and inability to take his image as a successful attorney seriously.

This guy was a complete failure because he only did about half of it.

Where he went to school and the sheer lack of residency positions had nothing to do with his unemployment. He was just a creep. A loser. What in the hell is he doing here? He doesn't belong here. And if he can't dedicate every breathing second to making himself the perfect candidate in the way that Nicole Kidman should have tried harder to be a Stepford Wife (for even if she was a Stepford Wife, she obviously still wasn't Stepford-y enough). If it means slapping on a little rouge and pretending like he watches Boston Red Sox games, it didn't hurt a damn thing because he would be a complete moron if he didn't do it. This is a competition, my friends. Perfect resume margins said everything that the employer needed to know about Dr. Don's ability to diagnose cancer. If he didn't correct those margins, the employer would take notice and draw an immediate conclusion that Dr. Don was just the kind of guy that missed those subtle symptoms that House would catch.

He also wasn't applying for nursing positions. Or jobs for orderlies, medical billing, or lab technicians. He was told by the nay sayers, "Hey, you have a medical degree, which allows the possessor to pursue a wide range of employment because it is still a science degree. They would appreciate your medical skills and ability to 'think like a doctor.'"

But it wasn't reality.

An employer looking to fill a $10 an hour job will be weirded out by having a medical doctor on the staff. He knew it. But he applied to those nursing assistant positions anyway. It didn't hurt because there were many days that there were no doctor positions posted on the job boards. It was better to apply to A job rather than NO job.

Tired of hearing criticism and feeling like he wasn't doing "enough," Don created his own residency position out of the bedroom in his apartment.

He would be the head of his residency. For the next four years, he would train himself to diagnose and treat patients. Who cares if most of his experience has come from cutting on cadavers while in medical school? This shouldn't be too bad. He put in a few hours as a volunteer at the clinic where he was treating V.D. and ear infections. He would simply open up his very own V.D. and minor respiratory infection practice. He would then work his way into more complex diseases at some point.

Dr. Don visited the Office Max where he purchased stacks of generic billing receipts and card stock to print his business cards (he discovered to his delight that they now make special printing paper that doesn't leave perforated edges).

He went home and purchased medical supplies off of Ebay for $15.73. They were slightly used and came from an estate sale from the untimely death of Dr. Geezer McGee. Dr. McGee did things the "old" way, so the supplies were slightly dated, but they would do the job. Dr. Don would have purchased better supplies, but he is severely in debt and had to go for what would do the job.

Dr. Don went home and set up his home office. He couldn't yet afford an office because he was in a Catch-22 where he needed income in order to afford an office. He thought about running a virtual office with an answering service and where he would either meet patients at their homes, in the hallways of the hospitals, or in the special office that he could rent by the hour like he was in Hollywood and Vine. He contacted a guy who graduated two years ahead of him for advice who then put him in touch with Dr. Louise. Dr. Louise has practiced medicine for 15 years and frequently allows new doctors to use her office to meet patients in exchange for free help from the new doctor in diagnosing the occasional cold when she was backed up.

Dr. Don picked up his first case.

He went down to the hospital and waited in the lobby. He saw many of his old classmates hanging around in their JC Penney suits. Their entire conversations revolved around which emergency rooms were filled with the most uninsured people. They were all giving each other tips on what forms to fill out and what time they needed to show up in order to hit the rush just right.

Dr. Don saw a guy who was bleeding out of his ear, high as a kite, and who had no health insurance. He tripped over his other classmates who clamored for the work and found a social worker who offered to get the state to pay $200 to diagnose and treat the crackhead.

Dr. Don took the crackhead back to his "office." It turned out that the crackhead had gotten into a knife fight and had a cut in his earlobe that required stitches. He got right to work sewing on the ear.

Due to his inexperience and the adrenaline rush, Dr. Don not only forgot to clean the wound, but mistakenly prescribed an antibiotic that only works on pneumonia. The crackhead got a major infection where he lost part of his ear.

Dr. Don was then sued for medical malpractice by the crackhead who would have otherwise been tossed out of the hospital that day for not having health insurance. He lost and his premiums skyrocketed thanks, in part, to the fact that he also failed to miss tell-tale signs of an obvious heart attack in another patient, and spinal meningitis in another.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Discussion: Frontline Episode About For Profit Schools

A couple of weeks ago, PBS's "Frontline" aired an episode about for-profit schools like The University of Phoenix.

Not Quite Ave Maria, but Getting There.

(Ironically, I could not watch it when it first aired. I was working at a temp job, and all I have is a VCR when it comes to recording television. I'm still miles away from getting a DVR, and am probably further from having a DVR in my lifetime thanks to the debt of advanced schooling).

Frankly, I'm not sure what compels people to choose University of Phoenix over the local university or community college, although its not as mysterious as people who would choose ITT Tech over a community college.

I knew a person who went to ITT Tech nearly two decades ago. He couldn't find the promised "good job" with the amazing "skills" that they taught him. He defaulted on his student loans. The government garnished his wages, and it was no small cry of victory when he finally paid off his loans.

One of the more interesting parts of the "Frontline" piece is the explanation about how schools hide the default rates on loans. Schools like University of Phoenix boast a repayment rate of 90%. According to one interviewee, the schools lobbied Congress to define a default as failure to pay WITHIN two years of going into repayment.

That means if you get in trouble four years after you went into repayment, you don't count as a statistic. Therefore, the populace at large is led to believe that college is still a great investment. Otherwise, how else would everybody get the money to make those payments of hundreds of dollars per month?

It is interesting, isn't it? I keep hearing statistics that over 40% of student loans are currently not being paid for some reason or other, but I'll bet the vast majority of schools boast a 90%+ repayment rate just like University of Phoenix.

I suppose a scenario can play out like this:

When you reach the end of your six month grace period, you will probably not have a job. You can ask for a deferment which will give you another six months to look for a job. In the meantime, hundreds of dollars continue to pile on your unpaid loans. At that point, you will probably find something menial and start repayment....which, in your mind, is OK because you are new in the job market and you're young which means that you don't have major expenses like a house or family. A few years later, you morph into a true adult with obligations. The car breaks down. You have a child. Your rent increases.

Your salary, however, stagnates. You might get a cost of living raise, but it only covers inflation of what you were already buying. The "upward mobility" that you thought was going to come thanks to your college degree doesn't exist. Your superiors are holding onto their jobs because there is nowhere to go, and there are cuts everywhere else. Those two years you spent working as a receptionist in a doctor's office is not going to count for crap in jumping careers to "what you majored in" because they can already find somebody with years of relevant job experience to fill that spot. Your salary won't increase to take into account for the fact that you need to feed others in the household.

That is...IF you get to keep your job. They may run you off from your job, and that point, if you slip up and miss a payment in the melee, you can't defer your loans unless you are in "good standing."

But then, the first payment you miss won't count as a default. You will be "delinquent" for a while. I'm not sure where the magical threshold appears, but the chances are, this shit storm won't hit until well after the two year "statistic" period is over. You'll try to keep up as much as you can in the beginning because you have heard how the Student Loan People are just like King John's tax collectors in the newest "Robin Hood" movie where they go through the countrysides and pillage their own citizens for their last penny. After a while, it's too overwhelming for most of those people to keep up with and that's when they shut down.

More than a few of those people become so embittered for being sold a shit sandwich that they just quit paying.

Not that I advocate not paying, but what does it truly say about this great country when the education machine is trying desperately hard to hide the fact that student loans are being defaulted upon at an incredible rate?

"Oh, we don't need changes in the bankruptcy laws! See the statistics? Over 90% repayment rate! YOU are the only one who can't pay back your loans! And why is that? YOU are a deadbeat! You should try something like getting a roommate and stop eating as much. Try remaining sedentary as you may hurt yourself and need medical attention (which is expensive) and avoid expenses like the occasional cup of coffee from Starbucks. We know that you went to school to 'better' your standard of living, but WTF? As a side note, schools do not charge unconscionable rates of tuition because the students are obviously doing well if they can take on a loan payment of a few hundred dollars and still live not live in a cardboard box."

What I want to know is, how did the schools sell this to Congress?

"Hey, could you limit your statistics on student loan defaults to the first couple of years or so after repayment?"

"That's a weird request. Why?"

"No particular reason."

"Come on! There must be some reason."

"Defaults that happen later on are obviously for some other reason than the cost of tuition. Instead of remaining childless and living in a bad neighborhood and working three jobs to pay us back, that person obviously chose to have a life, which is highly irresponsible."

"Sounds reasonable."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Stories Wanted: Asking For Your Old Job Back

Since there are many people kicking around here who had established careers before law school, I'm interested to know who went back to their "old" line of work and how they handled questions about why they went to law school.

I knew a few people in law school who were non-traditional and had other lines of work. Mostly, they did stuff like consulting, running their own business, or were involved in the health field where they could pull the occasional shift on nights or weekends while they were in law school. I haven't really run into anybody who had a mediocre past where they could say, "well, at least I could get my old job being a receptionist back."

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Advice? How does one get document review gigs?

I'm trying to join your ranks. Not because I'm hoping for matching decoder rings and to be invited to your weddings, but because I discovered places in my hometown that have document review gigs.

I interviewed with a staffing agency a month ago. I sent another email to follow up, but I haven't heard anything else even though I saw stuff posted on Craigslist from them.

Is there a particular way to handle these agencies so that I get jobs? Do I have to call them on a regular basis? I'm trying not to annoy them or anything.