Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

National Jurist: Law School Faculties 40% Larger Than 10 Years Ago

National Jurist, Law School Faculties 40% Larger Than 10 Years Ago:

The average law school increased its faculty size by 40% over the past 10 years, according to a study by The National Jurist to be released in late March. This increase in staffing accounts for 48% of the tuition increase from 1998 to 2008, the study shows. Tuition increased by 74% at private schools and 102% at public institutions from 1998 to 2008. ...

Law school observers say the dramatic increases are related to two things — an increased need for specialization and the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools. “Law schools tend to believe that their faculty reputation is driven by scholarship and they are very interested in U.S. News,” said William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law. “Lowering your faculty-to-student ratio improves your [U.S. News] ranking and increases time for scholarship.”

Henderson said the typical teaching load has dropped from five courses a few generations ago to three courses today. “Professors are spending less time in the classroom,” he said. “Now whether that is a smart use of a social resource is another question. It is very expensive to pay for faculty research.”

From 1998 until 2008, the number of law faculty at 195 ABA-accredited law schools grew from 12,200 to 17,080 — a 40% increase. A subset of that total, the number of deans, librarians and other full-time administrators who teach more than tripled — from 528 to 1,059. ...

All of this has lowered the average student-to-faculty ratio from 18.5-to-1 in 1998 to 14.9-to-1 in 2008. It was an estimated 25.5-to-1 in 1988 and 29-to-1 in 1978. In other words, there are twice as many law professors per student today as there were 30 years ago.

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To JR--the son got a written evaluation in Torts that was equivalent of a D. Yes, indeed, Northeastern doesn't give grades as such.

Posted by: Orwell46 | Mar 14, 2010 3:52:30 PM

If we weren't already overlawyered, I'd make the case for 2-year law schools.

Posted by: Despistado | Mar 14, 2010 12:03:13 PM

I feel bad for the dad whose son has 150K and I don't doubt that the college just tried to get as much money out him but there is a general rule: 18 and over you're an adult. Your son was 22-23 and with a college at that point, be mad but know that ultimately he is responsible. Had he gotten a cool Wall Street job you would not have blamed the Law School. Things happen

Posted by: Passing By | Mar 14, 2010 1:39:59 AM

I have my doubts about whether Orwell46 is telling the truth. He claims that his son went to Northeastern for law school, and he correctly cites Emily Spieler as the Northeastern law school dean. However, he claims that his son got a D in his first year Torts class. The problem is that Northeastern doesn't use grades. Instead, students receive written evaluations in each class.

Posted by: JR | Mar 13, 2010 8:05:40 PM

My son, about whom I have written, got a D in his first-year torts class. He obviously was completely over his head that year. Did the school say "We're not letting you borrow money right away. You have to get your grades up. You have to take a year off. You are not heading toward being a real lawyer at this point. We are slowing you down." Did the school do anything to slow down his emotional binge of borrowing? Not at all. It never occurred to them--though I tried to bring the subject up. My son's unwise borrowing supported the salaries and perks of the faculty and administrators, and they were captive of their own self-interest.

Bill's comment about median salaries is also to the point. The youth was taken over by fantasies of big money. He was too immature to understand the biases in the information about median salaries. The news (!) that he could be making $80K when he graduated just lived red-hot in his mind and squeezed everything else out. There must be thousands like my son, maybe tens of thousands.

I am thinking of writing a book about the law-school loan debacle. It's a real scandal. It would be a public service to tell the truth about the scams,the distortions and the predatory exploitation of immature applicants. If anyone here wants to be interviewed for this project (assuming I get some funding and/or free time for it) reach me at argives AT hotmail etc. Use a subject line like "law school debt." I will be careful of your time and privacy.

Posted by: Orwell46 | Mar 13, 2010 3:51:38 PM

I see a bunch of comments responding the the original "moral responsibility" comment. Let me point something out I don't see mentioned...

I'm currently 120k in debt and work as a Software developer. I can pay back my loans and making minimum payments costs me less than I spend on eating out each month. However 120k is nothing to sneer at. The interest alone is enough to really hurt you.

If I lose a job and had to defer for a few months, the debt would accumulate really quickly.

Here's my big point. I didn't go into that debt to become a software developer. I did it earning a LLM and MpAcc - I was going to work in international tax law. I really hated it and opted to do what I loved. The only reason I went into the debt though was b/c I was convinced it was the track to easy street. Why? B/c I read all sorts of University marketing pr stuff. I saw all the "Median income is 70k the first year and 110k within 3 years of graduation". This stuff was so pervasive, it's virtually axiomatic.

I'm a big boy. I made my bed and I'm laying in it. It's no one else's fault but my own. but I do think the universities should stop all the Median Salary BS. Those numbers are inflated greatly b/c many people going into the program already have decent/high paying jobs. You're made to believe that right out of school, just the degree will earn you that kind of money. And you really want to believe it. Sure, that's not the school's fault but they are really preying on the vulnerable. I think the ethical thing to do would be to cut that crap out. They should show stats of both "no experience" first year salaries (which would be a big wake up call for many and point out that these numbers are not what most people think in the first place) as well as "already employed' first year salaries.

No one is owed this. I wouldn't favor compelling universities making these disclosures by law. But I think it's the right thing to do. If they did that simple step - I think they'd be 100% absolved of all responsibility for people getting into debt.

I also think that your grades should have some effect on your ability to borrow. you shouldn't be allowed to take out 30k a year for class, drop most of them and do it all over again until you get near your debt limits (I had many classmates that did precisely that. They'd take out the loan and drop classes right before the latest refund date. The school would keep a good percentage b/c the longer you wait the less is refunded- but they'd pocket a cool 15k a year over the year).

Student loan money is too easy. Not everyone should be able to take out that kinda money. Although I'm guessing any attempts to change this would result in claims of discrimination or unfairness. Anyway, if the schools just stopped the "You're gonna be rich if you get our degree, Trust Us" routine, and just told it like it was (I know people can argue about what that means but it's easy enough to come up with something that applies across the board), they'd be completely absolved.

I know too though that no matter how you account for it, schools will manipulate those numbers to their advantage. So the ultimate solution is for people like me and others in the same spot to point out to grad/prof /med school students that going into that kinda debt shouldn't be done casually.

Posted by: Bill | Mar 12, 2010 4:47:24 PM

Do not fear Obama is here to help. He'll forgive all your debts upon your completion of 10 years public service (community service? What's the diff?)

Posted by: ic | Mar 12, 2010 2:56:35 PM

I spoke with a prominent bankruptcy attorney about my student loan debt a few years ago -- he said I had less than a 30% chance of getting a hardship discharge and it would require $5000 up front just to start the case. I'm disabled and work as a group home caretaker making less than $20K a year. I would not be as angry as I am except I graduated in 1995 and the bankruptcy provisions were changed ex post facto in 1998, effectively condemning me to involuntary servitude for the rest of my life. I have garnishments taking more than my housing and car expenses combined, and cannot leave my home phone plugged in without getting at least 8 or 9 calls a day from collectors. This is America, isn't it?

Posted by: abused | Mar 12, 2010 2:01:33 PM

okay, go wait 2 or 3 restaurants.

waiting around for a job pays what again?

Posted by: bigJohn | Mar 12, 2010 12:54:17 PM

Yes! Graduate Law School and flee the country! $150k is cheap to get rid of a lawyer.

Posted by: The Other Jay | Mar 12, 2010 12:40:00 PM

Actually, there is a way to get student loan debt discharged during bankruptcy in some circumstances. If you can show undue hardship, you can discharge student loans. The definition of undue hardship varies from court to court.

Posted by: JC | Mar 12, 2010 12:28:20 PM

Last summer, I found out that I qualified for a program to discharge my law school student loans based simply on a form completed by my doctor stating that I was disabled (which in my case is true.) You don't have to be on Social Security Disability to qualify. The paperwork is only a page or two, signed off by your doctor and mailed in. A month or two later, you get a conditional discharge notice, and three years after that if you are still earning less than some amount ($15,000? $18,000?) you get a final discharge.

I made payments on my student loans during law school, and for years after law school while I was employed, but ended up with medical problems as well as underemployment and unemployment, and the loans that started off at $30,000 ballooned up to $120,000+, after deferrments, etc., ran out., even though I paid tens of thousands of dollars toward their repayment. My life is still filled with problems, but it is a huge relief to be able to open the mailbox and know that there will NOT be any collection letters from Sallie Mae & Friends.

I'll give credit where credit is due: somebody at Sallie Mae told me that my issues were probably serious enough for me to qualify for the program, and she even sent me the paperwork when I was unable to download the form off the internet.

If my law school hadn't kept jacking up the tuition each year that I attended, I would have graduated with less than $15,000 in debt, which I would have been able to pay off completely before my life fell apart. Legal training should be a combination of genius law professors on DVDs plus practical supervised real-life experience for a couple of years. If I had had to work in a real law office for six months before starting law school, I doubt that I would have gone to law school at all, because a law office is an incredibly unpleasant and stressful work environment.

Posted by: Laura | Mar 12, 2010 12:03:46 PM

I suggest we spend a few moments looking at Taiwan. Law is an undergraduate degree. The bar exam is basically open to anyone, but only the those who score in the top 2% are granted a license to practice law.

Result: costs less to go to school (yea), fewer lawyers means higher wages for lawyers (yea!), and since the ability to pass a test in the top 2% highly correlates to intelligence, society is rewarded with a lawyers of the highest intellectual caliber.

Posted by: Chris_LLM | Mar 12, 2010 11:13:57 AM

anon needs to get out of his/her room and find some clients. There are lots of people in need of legal services. It's much easier, with modern computer technology, to practice from one's home and keep one's overhead at essentially zero. anon could volunteer at legal aid, etc., and become known in the community. Just sitting there isn't going to accomplish anything.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 12, 2010 10:50:38 AM

College in general is an overpriced waste of money. I was an A+ student my whole life, went to an expensive college (on scholarship) and know a lot of very, very smart and educated guys.

Of all the people I know, guess who makes the most money? Plumbers. People who aren't afraid to get their hands dirty. A guy running his own roofing and siding business.

And to top it off, since they know all about construction, they can buy a run down home and fix it up. All these guys own anywhere from 8 to 12 rental properties on top of making a small fortune in their trade.

One of the plumbers I know makes $300k a year. Another has so much cash he has $80,000 sitting in desk drawer in his basement.

College is a waste of time and money. It's sold to people who would rather talk or sit in front of a computer all day long than do some actual work.

Posted by: John | Mar 12, 2010 10:30:45 AM

The world is full of perfectly serviceable law degrees earned at night and on weekends while working full time. Very small or no loan required. It's the urge to a "name" law school that left your son with 150,000 in debt, despite your screaming. He didn't want to work - he wanted to stay in school. I have a nephew with 90,000 in debt and an MBA specializing in Finance. He's coaching high school sports part time.

Posted by: kisrum | Mar 12, 2010 10:07:44 AM

Income Contingent Repayment plus public sector or non-profit job for 10 years equals freedom.

Much better than bankruptcy or skipping the country.

Posted by: George | Mar 12, 2010 9:42:47 AM

"Go wait tables and earn an income. No one is entitled to work a cushy job just because they went to graduate school. That debt is sitting there gathering interest while they all sit at mom's house waiting for someone else to get them a job.

You are your own economy and if you are struggling to pay the debt, man up, WORK and make an income, and knock it out."

This is bullshit. No one is paying off $100K, $150K of student debt by waiting tables. Not at 8, 9% interest. Monthly payments for those sort of loans these days can easily be upwards of $1500 a month. You either find a job that can make headway against the interest, or you sink.

Furthermore, with the mind-blowingly massive federal seizure of student loans underway, most graduates are going to be in debt to Uncle Sam. And guess what - Uncle Sam has decided that they have the right to change your promissory note however they please, including retroactively. Like, say, changing the forbearance and deferment requirements. Not to mention ping-ponging your loan between one of several federally contracted (and grossly incompetent) loan servicers every 2 months or so, guaranteeing that half your payments are lost or not credited towards your account. A contract means nothing when the government can move the goalposts at will.

Simple fact of the matter is, if you do not have a deferment or forbearance, you're going into default, at which point you're going to get slammed with penalties that can add tens of thousands of extra $ to your debt. What, you mean you can't wait tables 300 hours a week to pay that off? Who knew.

You can't qualify for a deferment unless you make less than about $1300 a month, and you have a limited amount of deferment time anyways. After that, your wage garnishments will crippling to anyone trying to find a "real" job while flipping burgers and keeping a roof over their head, yet not enough to make headway against the interest payments. Good luck carrying on a professional job search, interviewing, etc., while being stuck living in a ghetto, living off ramen, working 80 hours a week and wondering when your car is finally going to die.

The federal government is operating on the assumption that a sizable fraction of graduates are going to be paying wage garnishments for the rest of their lives. This is by design.

When I took out my loans, the paperwork I signed said that I had a certain amount of flexible deferment time at my disposal - all I had to do was ask. If the job market sucked, well, you could take on a part time job to have food and a roof while you spend a few months focusing on finding work.

In comes the government to "help" me by stripping that away. They even have the nerve to send you a letter telling you how wonderful it is, and how Obama is doing it because he cares so much about higher education. I do what I can to try and find a good enough job to repay the loans - doing literally anything - but it's a losing battle even when crammed into cheap housing and not being able to buy food for weeks at a time.

Interestingly enough, the government now offers to let you prevent default with "income based repayment" by agreeing to pay "only" 25% of your gross income for 25 years (or, technically, until it is paid off, but that won't happen). I guess there is a sucker born every minute.

I have one wish left, and it is that I live long enough to see these people crash and burn horribly. There are still wheels left to fall off, and fall they will.

Posted by: reality check | Mar 12, 2010 9:09:19 AM

I borrowed $90k for law school in the mid-to-late 90s. My bad for poor financial planning, because I thought I would come out owing about $50k but I didn't count on my tuition being jumped 60% over the 3 years I was there, and I didn't know interest was being capitalized from the moment the loan issued, even though I wouldn't be in a position to start paying on it for 3+ years. I own those errors.

What still rankles me is that when I graduated to that $35k per year job, I tried to do the right thing to avoid non-payment, so I consolidated all my loans into one 9% (I envy the Dude's 8%) 30 year Sallie Mae Loan, that had the interest so front loaded that 10 years later I had paid back more than I borrowed yet still owed more than I borrowed. And from what I hear from young associates, they are even more hosed.

I take ownership of my mistakes here, but honestly, if it wasn't for a wife and kids, I probably would have skipped the country myself.

Posted by: Seamus | Mar 12, 2010 8:52:24 AM

All debt should be noncollectable. That's right - noncollectable. But all payment history should be publicly visible too. Someone stiffs you for a loan - you report it, with documentation. Next time you get get ready to make a loan, you'll adjust your risk parameters based on the next borrower's payment history. Next time the 'bad' borrower needs money - he has to hunt harder for it. Eighteen year olds can't borrow money for college because of no payment history - then someone with a payment history cosigns, whether it be an individual or a firm willing to take a chance based on their own criteria. This puts the burden of knowing the quality of the borrower where it belongs - close to him.

Posted by: thrill | Mar 12, 2010 8:38:15 AM

I can understand people saying, "Your son was an adult, he's responsible for himself." It's true. And yet...there are callow teenager-like young adults who are signing into law school without any real desire to practice law...who do not know what a $150K debt means in reality...who do not know what practicing law is. For law school administrations to pay no attention to this fact...or to have any plan to deal with it...or to feel nothing about the possible life-crash that is coming for some of their callow in some simple sense, at least a little bit wrong. I have my own responsibilities here--and I will not give more of my family's story away--but a father concerned about his unwary son's blindness to debt should get more than a cool brush off from a law-school administration. That's what I am saying. And in my son's situation, it may all work out. But the question "Are law schools conning unwary kids?" should be raised repeatedly.

Posted by: Orwell46 | Mar 12, 2010 8:13:00 AM

Two points.

1. What you pay for something, is not always directly correlated to what that something is worth. You can buy a 13$ pair of blue jeans at Costco to cover your nakedness, or buy a 130$ pair of fancy blue jeans to do the same thing.

2. I am a pilot (for fun)and I was reading a magazine this morning (in the can of course) and saw an add for a national pilot training school. The special posted was for pilot training, roughly $46,000.00 would pay for all the ground instruction plus close to 300 hours of flying time to turn someone into an Airline Transport Pilot. (IE, flying for a living) While $46,000 is a lot of money, consider that just the fuel costs alone will be close to 20k, plus the airplane maintenance and depreciation would be another 20k.

So for the cost of one year in law school, one could start on a career as a pilot. With most of the money spent going to 'real' costs related to your education (gas and plane, which equals time in the air).

Posted by: Boca Condo King | Mar 12, 2010 8:06:17 AM

Having student loans dischargable in bankruptcy would be one of the best ways to lower the overall costs of college education. Colleges have been able to raise tuition far in excess of the inflation rate precisely because the source of the money is so great and the risk to the lender is so small. With the normal risks to the lender, the availability of the excessive money goes away, and so does the excessive tuition costs.

Costs longer have the revenue that is now risk free.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 12, 2010 8:00:43 AM

You're overlooking another important factor--opportunity costs to society as a whole. I graduated from law school with about $120k in debt because I didn't have the right pallor for scholarships back when starting salaries at the top firms were in the $70-$85k range. After graduating I landed a job in Southern California at $74k and consolidated all my loans into one 8% (yes, back then a good rate was 8%) 30 year Sallie Mae Loan, and joined the ranks of the "evil rich." All I could afford after making my loan payments and being raped by the government (treated as though that money had all been handed to me and given no tax deductions for my loan payments because I was "too rich"--never mind I was living in California not Mississippi) was a one bedroom apartment in a bad area--they wouldn't even deliver pizza there. Thank god for the radical salary boost of 2000 or I would still be paying. As it is, I paid it all off in 9 years--no thanks to the government, which not only took my money but continually characterized me as the evil rich and denied me virtually all tax deductions or credits. So what's my point? All this time I didn't buy a house, a new car, a stereo, a t.v., a washing machine, etc., etc.--could not have children, was not stimulating any part of the economy other than the student loan and the one-bedroom apartment industry. Of course I didn't benefit from the great appreciation in home prices (or stocks for that matter) because I couldn't buy a home--I was "too rich" be allowed to keep enough after taxes and non-deductible loan payments to buy one. People who are deeply in debt--even if well employed--don't stimulate the economy and can’t take advantage of opportunity. And I was one of the lucky ones! I graduated from a top 5 law school and have been steadily employed and never lacked for the necessities (those 60 hour billable weeks were fun anyway), and managed to get out of debt hell in less than ten years (I woke up many nights in a cold sweat out of nightmares related to my debts and work situation). Now I'm a 40 year old and financially in the same position the average 25 year old would have been in 25 years ago (and burnt out to boot), when scholarships were handed out for reasons unrelated to race and where people had two or three kids and owned a house by the time they were that age. If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't, and I wouldn't wish the legal profession (at least as it is practiced by those of us forced to stay in the trenches) on a dog.

Posted by: Davidicus | Mar 12, 2010 7:40:45 AM

Why not just make it dischargeable in bankruptcy, and then see how many banks want to lend $100k to 22 year olds who lack income or assets? None would. Suddenly, law schools et al have to /gasp/ provide services to students based on what students can pay, not what they can borrow via undischargeable debt.

Schools and lenders rely on unsophisticated young people who over-estimate their ability to earn and pay back the debt. In short, it is a con, and 22 year olds are the mark.

I don't jump all over conned people to honor their obligations to the con men.

Posted by: The Dude | Mar 12, 2010 7:35:56 AM

unless they reform bankruptcy laws and allow you to discharge that debt.

Sorry but why would they do that? You know contracts, agreement to repay and all that.

Posted by: bandit | Mar 12, 2010 7:11:34 AM

"A subset of that total, the number of deans, librarians and other full-time administrators who teach more than tripled — from 528 to 1,059. ..."

Do lawyers choose that profession because their math skills are not sufficient for engineering or computer careers?

Sorry, please forgive snark, I couldn't resist.

Posted by: justMe | Mar 12, 2010 7:06:44 AM

Why not auger for some sort of forbearance on private-bank originated loans?; or a Chapter xyz semi-bankruptcy- especially from financial institutions that were in TARP (CITI - I'm talking to you because of the 49K I still owe!). That will make the private sector wary of investing in any loan programs and resultingly do to the education marketplace higher loan standards did for the housing market. My plan would also include a sweetener for those who did pay back private loans either a one-time tax free payment or permanent dwelling in a lower tax bracket.

Posted by: urbanleftbehind | Mar 12, 2010 7:00:12 AM

"But I'd have to lay off administrators to do that."

The stats above give the increase in law faculty, but what's the increase in administration over the last ten year?

I wonder whether it's anything like universities in general, where administration has exploded and consignment of teaching to adjuncts has also exploded, to the point where I'm predicting in another ten years the only full-time exployees at most universities will be administrators. It's the same mentality - "we can eliminate tenure lines to save money (and have the classes taught by adjuncts), but God forbid we lay off any of the many Compliance Coordinators, Diversity Officers, Student Life Overseers, or any of these people's support staff".

Posted by: jaed | Mar 12, 2010 6:57:24 AM

it's not just limited to JDs.

while my master's was not nearly the expense of a JD, I rarely have sympathy for people who chose to take on such debt. Yes, it's a gamble, and yes, NEVER regret getting an education.

but to complain about the debt?


Go wait tables and earn an income. No one is entitled to work a cushy job just because they went to graduate school. That debt is sitting there gathering interest while they all sit at mom's house waiting for someone else to get them a job.

You are your own economy and if you are struggling to pay the debt, man up, WORK and make an income, and knock it out.

Posted by: bigJohn | Mar 12, 2010 6:57:03 AM

Hyperinflation. That's the answer to everything that ails us: high consumer debt, student loan debt, the national debt, the real estate crash, how to "fix" social security and entitlements ("hey you old greedy lazy socialist bastards, here's you $10 a month in 2005 dollars, just like we promised!").

I never thought, when I reached thirty, I'd never thought I'd be watching the collapse of the American socio-economic-political system. Let alone cheering for it to happen.

Posted by: TheAbstractor | Mar 12, 2010 6:54:39 AM

If I were a young professional staring continuing unemployment in the face, I would suck it up and go back to grad school in either pharmacy, radiology or some other technical health care field short of an MD. After a few years, you will have a 100k income, decent hours and unending demand for your services. Hell, I am a 47 year old commercial real estate attorney and seriously considering pharmacy school.

Posted by: aljesq83616 | Mar 12, 2010 6:52:50 AM

suck it up people... Join the Marines and then you, too, can say... "Semper Fi"
How to Become a Marine Corps Lawyer...
I don't vouch for the exact accuracy of this post but you'll figure it out when you get serious...

Posted by: toes192 | Mar 12, 2010 6:45:44 AM

....and another thing, had the young law students emerged with big paying jobs, I presume that would have been considered 'Just reward for hard work'. Taking the upside and running away from the downside? hmmmm...

one last note- if you want to eliminate the debt, gain experience, and do something of value- join the military. Maybe the JAG corps or OCS will take you, maybe not. It is worth a shot. Either way, 3 years of active duty qualifies you for the new GI Bill which can knock that huge debt down significantly. You may have to go to Afghanistan, but hey, c'est la guerre. As an added bonus- people will respect you instead of thinking of you as someone who runs away from their problems.
Brazil? Really?

Posted by: Marcus | Mar 12, 2010 6:39:59 AM

I would open a practice focusing on student loan debt collection.

Just throwing that out there. ;-)

Posted by: Jason Van Steenwyk | Mar 12, 2010 6:28:19 AM

When I find young people that really insist on law school, I suggest they find a state like Virginia that allows essentially apprenticeship and then find a lawyer who'll accept them. Not only is it way cheaper, you come out a much better lawyer in the end (and if, after a year, you decide you don't want to be a lawyer, you've got a year of experience under your belt).

Posted by: ElamBend | Mar 12, 2010 6:18:05 AM

I notice that the option of bankruptcy seems to float easily in the comments. I'm no legal scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but getting out of debt easily by just letting the legal system step in between one and honestly incurred debts seems to border on fraud. The fact that it is available as an option does not make it "right." Unlike debt that can be secured such as home or automobile loans, education loans are dependent upon honest contractual intent. Nothing is available for reclamation by the lender other than repayment.
In my case, seven years of undergraduate and three years of graduate school were paid for by (perish the thought) working full time during all except my first semester. When I walked away from school, I owed nothing. And, following that same standard, my wife, in order to get two separate bachelor's degrees, did the same thing. During that time, we had no phones, no cable television, no spring break trips, etc.
During that time, many of our fellow students were racking up mountains of debt. They got out of school and generally whined about how little they got in return. It's no different now. It's just another generation of folks looking at how tough it is to be "me."
If you think that law school is an atrocious problem, look at the trade school game. Many of those students are led to believe that repaying those grants and loans will be simple because of the high pay they'll receive after they become drafters or electronic specialists or whatever. They best that they might do, assuming that they finish at all, will be to gross annually about what one year of tuition cost them. Law school looks pretty good compared to that. Or maybe not!
Perhaps approaching education as a choice and giving up a few luxuries during the process would both make the debt load somewhat lower and weed out a few of the less committed.

Posted by: ORWoody | Mar 12, 2010 6:18:04 AM

We all live with the consequences of our choices, and those who incurred huge debts expecting to end up rich are paying the price for their poor choices. For those of you with law degrees, this is something the rest of us deal with every day, and it is called REALITY. I find it ironic that someone who is a lawyer is looking for a way to get out of paying a lawfully incurred debt (take that, deadbeat!) and quite amusing that someone with an advanced degree isn't savvy enough to find a job. Myself, I earned a Computer Science degree at a state school, worked 2-3 jobs to pay for it and I'm doing just fine, thank you.

Posted by: Jim | Mar 12, 2010 6:08:35 AM

No extradition treaty?

Posted by: Eric Blair | Mar 12, 2010 6:07:46 AM

OK- I must comment on the infantilization of young adults. This quote from a previous poster burns me up:

"The administration of that school never acknowledged any moral responsibility for assisting an immature young man to get so deeply into debt."

Did not the young man have the primary 'moral responsibility'? When I was the same age as a new law student, I was commanding a platoon of troops in battle. The Army demanded maturity from me and my peers- we rose to the challenge. If you treat young adults like children, they will act like children. This decision was your son's. The debt is your son's. Don't pawn it off on the law school. And don't encourage folks to run off to Brazil to escape their obligations. It is disturbing to hear Americans sound like a bunch of Iraqi's- passing blame and responsibility off to anyone but themselves. At the end of the day, those young folks have law degrees and a presumably intelligent. There is work to be had- maybe not high paying, maybe not what they want to do, and maybe it will mean deferred gratification and living at a lower standard, but, that is life. In the end, they will be stronger for it.

Posted by: Marcus | Mar 12, 2010 6:07:00 AM

Have you ever seen Brasilian women? If I'm going on the lam's going to be high on my list! I spent 6 months there on business attempting to not get whiplash!

Posted by: Cro | Mar 12, 2010 5:55:10 AM

To anon:
Believe it or not, it's not the end of the world. I have been there with crushing debt (not your level, but >$60K), default, phone calls and letters from collection, etc.

You can leave the country of course, but if you want to stay, I'll pass along my 2 cents based on my experience.

The most that can be garnished from your wages is 15% from a reasonable take home amount, not the pre-tax amount. Given that is the ceiling, you need to adjust your lifestyle to incorporate that expense that will always be off the top.

If you ever get married and have kids, and then get divorced, the percentage forcibly taken from you can be MUCH, MUCH higher. Plus, you can't go to jail for not paying your student loans, but in some places you can for not paying child support. So don't get married unless you are really sure the woman won't hose you or she is wealthier than you.

Since 15% is the most that can be taken, don't let the situation get to garnishment. When you get ready, do call back the collection folks and agree on the 15% payment you would have to do anyway.

Also, with new legislation, if you work for an approved non-profit or govt work, that debt might be able to be discharged in 10 years of working at the non-profit and paying the 15%. So become an ADA or a cop, or whatever.

Or you can hang out your own shingle, incorporate, and pay yourself a low salary and keep the profits in your company as retained earnings. Of course, paying the correct corp income tax.

Posted by: WJ | Mar 12, 2010 5:55:07 AM

"The administration of that school never acknowledged any moral responsibility for assisting an immature young man to get so deeply into debt." The school has no moral responsibility for your son's actions. Your son is an adult and bears the rewards and consequences himself. Too bad adults sometimes make bad decisions.

Posted by: RKV | Mar 12, 2010 5:51:41 AM


Do you have a reason for recommending Brazil, or was that just a guess?

Posted by: Orwell46 | Mar 11, 2010 3:33:45 PM

I have a son who despite nearly hysterical objections from me took on $150,000 in debt to gt a JD. ("What do you know, Dad?")

He is working, but who knows for how long. The law school that helped put him so much in debt was Northeastern. The administration of that school never acknowledged any moral responsibility for assisting an immature young man to get so deeply into debt. When I talked to Dean Emily Spieler and said she had to take in fewer students or lower tuition, she said, more less, "But I'd have to lay off administrators to do that."

In other words, "Protecting youngsters might cost our institution something, so it's out of the question."

My anger about this is intense. Some day someone will write a play about this kind of situation. I envision a very angry Al Pacino or someone playing the father enraged that his child has been led astray and into a lifetime of debt by self-centered law school administration vacuosities.

Posted by: Orwell46 | Mar 11, 2010 12:40:36 PM

It is time for law schools to provide a solid 3-year education for all that does not provide for specialization--a true liberal arts law education. After that, as it is with an LLM in Taxation, provide "graduate" level law school courses for specialization. Law school does not teach the practice of law in any event; provide practical law education and specialization at an "upper" level. All of us would be better for it (schools, lawyers, law firms, etc.)

Posted by: Barry Rose | Mar 11, 2010 11:42:36 AM

Anon, be prepared to leave the country, unless they reform bankruptcy laws and allow you to discharge that debt. After a few years of no employment or the typical attorney wage, you will be so much more in debt, repayment will be well-nigh impossible.

Seriously. Look into simply dropping out and leaving the US. If I was 25, single and that far in debt, I would be buying a one-way ticket to Brazil.

Posted by: The Dude | Mar 11, 2010 11:18:12 AM

As someone who has spent over $250,000 of borrowed money on a JD & LLM, only to sit here unemployed (albeit without much worry due to housing provided by my childhood room and no asset to my name, TAKE THAT LENDERS!) . . . I have to wonder if this increase is partly due to a desperate demand for law related jobs.

Posted by: anon | Mar 10, 2010 4:38:43 PM