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Monday, August 13, 2012

Federal Judge Blasts Law Schools for Burdening Graduates With Oppressive Debt

Considering college or law school? Ann Aiken, U.S. District Court of Oregon chief judge, has some strong words of warning.

In an extraordinary March 5 opinion, Aiken departed from the particulars of a student debt collections case to rip the U.S. higher education system in general and the nation's law schools specifically for burdening a generation of graduates with oppressive debt. "Students with advanced degrees, specifically juris doctorates, are facing a quagmire," Aiken wrote. "Attending law school was a guaranteed way to ensure financial stability. For current graduates, however, this is no longer true, due in large part to the high cost of law school tuition." To cover those ever-escalating tuition, graduates commonly borrow $100,000 or more these days, after which many promptly borrow another $15,000 to see them through a bar exam review course and the necessary months of study. ... First-year lawyer jobs are few and far between. Aiken noted that in 2010, 382,828 applicants sought less than 2,700 clerkships with federal judges.

Aiken included her four-page rant in an opinion in the case of Michael Hedlund, of Klamath Falls, has fought for nine years to get some or all of his law school student loans legally discharged. Aiken reversed a lower-court ruling allowing Hedlund to discharge about $50,000 of his $85,000 in law school debt. Hedlund attended Willamette University Law School in Salem in the late 1990s. He failed to pass the bar in two tries and gave up altogether after inadvertently locking himself out of his car while enroute to his third attempt. He works as a probation officer in Klamath County's juvenile department.

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Comments

This is a very worrying problem. Here in the UK a recent survey discovered that fewer students were going to University because of high tuition fees. (These were introduced 2 years ago) Interestingly, the argument runs that as students from poorer backgrounds can get grants assistance etc the middle class are now suffering. This is the group choosing not to go to university.

Law students have always had problems in finding their first job due to aggressive competition and high standards etc. However, with high tuition fees and extra-qualified lawyers, I am not sure where this leaves us? The standard argument that is always churned out that “the legal profession will only be open to rich white males’ seems not to hold water now. The issue is becoming much more complex.

Posted by: Tim Barker | Aug 13, 2012 11:33:20 PM

Judge Aiken has the power to discharge the students' debts if she thinks they constituted an undue hardship. She chose not to do so, which means she didn't think the loans were an undue hardship.

The attack on law schools seems inappropriate and out of place in this kind of opinion. If the judge actually believed the debts represented undue hardship, she would have discharged them.

This is called "passing the buck."

Law school helps most graduates succeed and more than pay for their law degrees. Bankruptcy discharge is supposed to be the safety value (along with IBR) for the few who don't.

Judge Aiken shut down the safety value--her decision, and hers alone.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 14, 2012 6:40:50 AM

Anon,

Your continued trolling for the cause of law schools is the only thing out of place. For that matter, why in the hell are you trolling on Taxprof and similar? Prospective law students to read these blogs. Go take your babble, outdated statistics of dubious-to-fraudulent methodology, and ample time over to Top Law Schools or Above The Law or somewhere you might stand a chance of luring new marks to whatever bucket employs you.

Posted by: Ugh - | Aug 14, 2012 11:32:25 AM

Which "outdated statistics" would those be? The ones from 2011, the latest year available, and the only ones I've been citing?

What "dubious-to-fraudulent methodology" are you referring to? The same ones used by the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Commerce Department's Census Bureau? Or perhaps the ones used in every financial institution in the world to calculate loan payments and net present value?

And which scam blogger are you "Ugh"? Paul Campos? DJM? Brian Tamanaha?

I guess I've rattled your cage enough with real facts that you aren't using your real name anymore.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 17, 2012 8:27:16 AM