Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

We're All Gonna Die!

My Fellow Americans (and foreign people who speak English),

It has come to my attention that we have been misled and bamboozled. We trusted the people in charge of our money, and unwittingly took on thousands of dollars in bad loans. Our return for this investment was promised to be boundless. Instead, it turns out that we will be hopelessly shackled with debt for the rest of our lives.

No, I don’t mean the national debt. I don’t mean the mortgage-backed securities crisis that is currently imploding our national credit markets. I speak, of course, of the crisis to our nation’s most valuable commodity:

Law students! You see, I’ve been bedridden all week with a horrible cold. (I dragged my zombie-esque self to the office yesterday, and came back home to snuggle up to a Nyquil smoothie, but let’s not split hairs.) So I finally wake up to a morning where my sinuses aren’t attempting to choke me, and I read the news.

The Wall Street Journal has a nice little article about how the aforementioned Creditpocalypse is impacting student loans. With credit for big companies being hard to come by, who wants to lend money to a guy with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a resume full of “waited tables in college?” Banks are being a little more shy with their money, and law students have to borrow quite a bit.

sidebar: If you’re not and never have been a law student, you might not understand a couple pieces of jargon: “Biglaw” a big law firm that can afford to pay big salaries to starting attorneys. “T14” is the top fourteen law schools in the country.

But the anonymous commenters to this article are the brave prophets of a doomed world. Much like Jor-El, only they truly understand the horrors that await the blissfully ignorant.

Here’s the deal: there are lots of law students in America. There aren’t enough new hirings at Biglaw for all of us. So the law students that go to T14 schools get first dibs on Biglaw jobs. The anonymous commenters get up in arms, griping about New York Law School (which is not one of the T14) and how expensive their tuition is. They reason that schools shouldn’t charge a lot of money if they can’t guarantee that their students will land jobs with Biglaw:

Matasar should be ashamed of himself. Most New York Law School grads can look forward to years of debt, stress and low income, while Mtasar enjoys his six figure income.

It’s hard to imagine an educational institution where the dean doesn’t make more money than the graduates. I’m not sure what this one is trying to say, actually.

Any tightening of loans that disuades potential law students from going to a rip off school like NYLS should be encouraged. They are a lower tier school charging $40,000 a year in tuition. Nobody should go there unless they know they will be top 10% (doesn’t everybody think that?!), has solid connections in law, or does not have to take out loans to pay for law school. Otherwsie you are commiting financial suicide.

This is another of the “Biglaw or bust” crowd. Maybe he’s one of the people that thinks the world is ending in 2012. If you don’t have a job with Biglaw, yes, you probably won’t pay off your $120k in loans before 2012. But I plan to be employed for a while. (If the economy doesn’t collapse, mind.)

If the market worked properly, then NYLS would have only filled 20% of its incoming class this September.

Actually, if the free market worked properly, lawyers wouldn’t have a monopoly on the practice of law. Lawyers would have to compete against non-lawyers to provide legal services. (more on this another day)

The single best part about all these comments is that these folks are wrong: Biglaw is far from the only option available to pay off huge student loans you’ll run up financing your law school education.

The College Cost Reduction and Access Act was signed into law last year. The article I’ve linked to does a wonderful job explaining how the law works. (Seriously, go read it right now). Basically, if you work in public service or non-profit, and make modest loan payments for ten years, your loans will be forgiven after the 10th year. This is huge news for anyone with an interest in public service work, but too many student loans to afford the smaller paycheck.

So if you go to a “lesser” school that doesn’t qualify as T14, and you’re not likely to land a Biglaw job, it doesn’t mean you’ve committed financial suicide: it just means you should strongly consider doing some public service. (Heck, if 90% of the law students in America went into public service, lawyers might not be so reviled.) It’s a good deal.

I can work for the government or for a non-profit group for a while, and then be just as free from student loans as the lawyers that went to work for Biglaw. So Biglaw isn’t my only option for paying off my student loans, despite the fact that I’m not a top 10% student at my lower-ranked school.

What do you say, anonymous trolls? Can we at least agree that there are options for people who want to work somewhere besides Biglaw, and that lower-ranked schools aren’t committing financial homicide on their students?

For instance, you could have sex with strangers for money to pay back those loans.