Friday, May 10, 2013

A Special Snowflake Turns 30

I went to buy an overpriced cup of Charbucks and started talking to the "help", and let slip that in the past I went to law school. The Frappuccino-Artist could hear the regret in my voice and took offense, and insisted that I made the right decision. In fact, said the Master-Barista, he went to law school as well. I told him about this site and dared him to read it. He apparently did, and has now written to me in response.  I thought I should post his message to hear the "other side" of the story: some people do enjoy their time in law school. I interspersed it with parts of the sender's actual day-to-day job he holds four years after graduation, of various things I overheard him say during my visit to his workplace.

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"My name is ____ [Redacted], and I object wholeheartedly to the message of this "site". Law School isn't for everybody, I admit, especially not for those who can't accept a challenge and adapt to circumstances. Myself, I just turned thirty years old and am happy in my career path, even if there have been some stones in the way that I have had to walk around.

Howdy, what'll it be today, folks? Exactly, Blonde Roast is our lightest. Me? I like dark roasts for this time of day. 

"As you can tell, I am typing this on my phone at work; multi-tasking is something that law school helped me learn, since it was a demanding course of study. You need to open your mind to make the most of it, I guess.
Macchiato is foam only; is that ok? 
"Just because your first job out of law school might have you wear a name tag doesn't mean you aren't building your career. You've got to start somewhere. Even Stan, our store manager, made it only after working here for five years. 
No Ma'am, a Caffè Latte is not the same as a Café au lait.
"I'm not a "special snowflake", so don't call me that disparaging term. I'm just a snowflake, like you, but different. I hope you and your friends will understand more that hard work does pay off, if you work hard enough.
Yes we can ice that Caramel Macchiato, and it is already sweetened. To go? Ok, $10.25 . . . yes, we accept AmEx.
"Remember, I hope if nothing else at least you learn that if half of law graduates don't get jobs, that still means that half do. If you only had a positive attitude, you would be putting that apron on and building your career instead of chatting online all day.

"Sincerely, [Redacted]."


_______________________________________

This can be you too! Rage, rage, against the drying of the paint.

39 comments:

  1. But does he have Sl debt and if so, how much?

    That's important to know I think.

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    1. Good question. On the other hand, maybe he can't pass the Bar Exam...

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  2. That story shows that some people, like the coffee shop employee, handle defeat better than others. Defeated and happy is better than defeated and unhappy. Undefeated is even better.

    If you aren't going to acknowledge you are undefeated, then if I was you, I'd find a way to be like the coffee shop guy and accept it and find happiness somewhere. Of course, it's okay to be disappointed and show it for a while.... but at some point, life has to move on toward happiness.

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  3. You should not completely overlook the fact that he at least has a place to go to and has structure in that he has regular hours and is getting a regular paycheck, and is interacting regularly with people and co workers, and getting his health benefits.

    Granted the human interactions (though they may seem silly or anticlimactic to some) are not in doc review or in the legal field at all, but anything is better than being unemployed or sporadically employed.

    And a little humility is not such a bad thing.

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  4. I'm just a snowflake, like you, but different.

    LOL!

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  5. Eh, well, this guy doesn't seem freaked out at all about law school debt, which makes me wonder if he even has any. If law school was paid for by family and if he's debt free, maybe he's content with minimum wage employment, who knows. Perhaps he is foolish enough to think everyone else had law school debt paid off by family, and doesn't see what the big deal is. His attitude would be radically different if he had debt.

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  6. Honestly, I would probably have the same attitude as this guy if I didn't have $200+k in non-dischargeable student loan debt. The simple life of a barista is not a bad one provided all your min wage pay does not end up in the pockets of Sallie Mae, etc.

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  7. Yeah, I'm thinking the student loan variable is a major element of the equation.

    Really, that is one of the core messages of the scamblog movement. If you can get your JD at little to no cost, then frankly it doesn't matter what you go do with it. In that case you haven't "lost anything" (except three years of opportunity cost), so by all means go be a barista, a music teacher, a contract administrator, or an attorney.

    The problem is the debt load shunts many, many people into certain trenches in order to service the debt, along with the attendant (negative) externalities such as suicide and alcoholism to name a few, assuming you can obtain said position or front the capital for the hang-a-shingle route.

    I'm all for Starbucks - they give benefits to part-timers. However, I doubt that person thought "JD ---> barista" when they went to law school. But if the positive attitude is truly legit and not an "I am the 53%" coverstory for buried rage, then Gawd bless I suppose.

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    1. Also, if this man does have six figure debt he might even be considered lucky to have passed a mandatory background/credit check by Starbuck's corporate human resources dept.

      If on the other hand he has no debt or a relatively modest amount of debt, then yes he will pass a credit check.

      In any event, there is nothing wrong with the choice to move on with life and do something else or try another career. I have known of lots of people, old and young, that have done that.

      But nondischargeable debt attached to a SS # along with the overqualification from too much education can hinder the ability to even get such jobs.

      Which is not a myth or a fable, and is old news maybe.

      Delete
  8. Meanwhile, over at Radio Shack.

    Nice post. I kept thinking of the "Hipster Barista" while reading it.

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    1. I remember that guy at Radio Shack. I also remember all too well doing odd jobs until I landed my oh-so-special "JD Advantage" position.

      I admire his stiff-upper-lip-approach, but seriously...as some point, the self-flagellation with "I'm not a whiner, I'm not a quitter" has got to stop. People in his situation don't need lashes, the stocks and rotten tomatoes flung at him, they need the kind of real help that some form of structured BK would afford. I can't see how $200k in debt is manageable at (maybe now) $10-12/hr.

      Of course, any mere mention of BK brings out the schadenfreudic haters, so here goes...I guess I should say instead that folks like Radio Shack guy deserve everything that happens to them, because they are terrible, terrible people, and they are not as great as I am, who deserves nothing but good things...or something.

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    2. ^ Reply to this got misplaced somehow. See below at 3:09 pm, thx!

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    3. Dude. I am supposed to be signing a contract to buy my first house right now and now I'm reading this stuff. It's depressing the hell out of me. Now I'm getting afraid. What if I get laid off tomorrow? I'd be totally screwed. I can't afford my house note without a job. I'm not making much for a lawyer ($70,000) but it pays the bills and I'm grateful for it. I graduated in 2008. It's been a rough climb for me, too. I have about $100,000 in student loan debt. Damn.

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  9. Regardless of debt or no debt, it is an abysmal failure of the system if a person with a legal education can do no better for himself than serving coffee. In the end, this person may end up parlaying his degree into a worthwhile career, but anybody who has the intellect and motivation to go to law school and pass the bar exam, who cannot find a job that even minimally challenges the mind, is a rare bird indeed if they are "happy" with their situation. The debt issue of course only makes things that much worse.

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    1. I agree with this except for one thing. He did not and will not parlay his legal degree into a worthwhile career. Whatever kind of career he ends up having, it will have nothing to do with his JD. Fact is, this guy should have donned a green apron they day after he graduated from high school. But he's either too stupid to realize it or too proud to admit it.

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    2. I'm sorry but there is something wrong with your mind if you graduate from law school, manage to pass the bar, and then are content with working at starbuck's. Hopefully it's because you have no ambition at all and not because you're totally crazy.

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  10. "If you only had a positive attitude, you would be putting that apron on and building your career instead of chatting online all day."

    If I had known that at 30 I would be putting on the apron, I would've put on the apron at 18 and really built my career.

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  11. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/11/business/economy/student-loan-debt-weighing-down-younger-us-workers.html

    "There might, however, be a slice of young workers who paid huge sums for degrees that prove less valuable on the job market, saddled by a debt burden that could end up holding them back for decades."

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  12. "In the context of the massive threats to revenues law schools are now facing, it’s easy to see why the degree referred to by critics as a “cash cow” is growing in popularity at schools around the country. Although LLM students comprise less than 7 percent of law school enrollments, the total number of LLM degrees has risen 65 percent in the past decade, including, since the financial crash, an abundance of new programs aimed at U.S.-trained lawyers, such as Nebraska’s LLM in space law or NYU’s in environmental law. Given the lack of data and their generally poor reputation with big law firms, most lawyers and law students who’ve heard of the degree tend to view non-tax LLM programs as cash grabs.

    Law schools seem to have earned this cynical evaluation. Even after the 2007 financial crash that decimated legal jobs and dried up pay, many institutions continued claiming 90 percent or higher employment, failing to differentiate between grads’ six-figure Big Law jobs from servers pulling part-time shifts in restaurants (of which there were many)."

    http://prospect.org/article/llm-lawyers-losing-money

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    1. "Nebraska’s LLM in space law" Oh yeah, baby. Now THAT's practical. When I need to know more Space Law (as I almost always do), Nebraska is the first thing that comes to mind.

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    2. A bit of "X-Files" trivia: Fox Mulder had an LLM in "space law." He made some extra side cash representing extra-terrestrials on DUI cases.

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  13. Don't you know that anything that criticizes large law firms and law schools is probably lazy and careless.

    http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2013/05/richard-epstein-on-harpers-the-lawyer-bubble.html

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  14. Just a thought:

    Maybe a new blog, or at least a weekly feature on this blog can post submitted stories similar to the experiences of the Starbuck's EE.

    Kind of like one of Studs Terkel's novels: Just factual tales about where the law grads ended up working within 5 years out of school or a little longer.

    If the stories are stories of success that is fine.

    If the stories are of incongruous and drastic or even not so drastic, underemployment, then that is fine too.

    But the stories of the latter might be of a nature that some may have felt very ashamed of sharing with their law school alma mater during the pre scamblog era, and in that sense full transparency could never have been achieved?


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    1. ^ Um, you DO realize that this post is a poorly executed satire. Right?

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    2. ^ Hi, dupednontraditional. Schadenfreudic hater here.

      It's not that I think the guy at Radio Shack is a "terrible person." It's just that I think the people who actually take out the loans probably deserve to pay them back more than I do.

      Basically the definition of pure evil, in other words.

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    3. Agreed - hearing the stories of these people could make for some interesting posts. What work they're doing now, how they feel about the scam, if they still keep the JD on their resumes or hope to ever work as a lawyer.

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    4. @3:20pm

      I think the stories should just be factual and without much moralizing.

      Just autobiographical stories of life experience looking for jobs and at jobs in the job market after law school.

      I recall stories about JD's delivering pizzas and serving pizzas in restaurants and so forth.

      And the Debt Bond traders that work for investment firms in Manhattan and that live in Summit New Jersey should be able to do all of the moralizing and make the personal attacks I guess, because that is what we call free speech?

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    5. @3:09 - fair enough, requiring Radio Shack guy to repay his loans sounds reasonable. However, some analysis of what he can actually pay has to enter in to this. Consigning him to a lifetime of debt-servitude that he can never repay has little marginal utility and smacks of holier-than-thouness. A free ride also has little marginal utility, at least from the taxpayer angle. So some sort of recaluclation is necessary.

      This happens all the time in the business world. Businesses fail (eveny historically good ones) and there has to be some method of winding it down and having everyone move on, ideally to be more productive than they were previously. As it stands, Mom and Pop Contractors, Inc. with $5mil in assests prior to some "bad jobs" have more legal protections than Radio Shack guy with his $200k. Mom and Pop get to move on, Radio Shack guy is in debtor's prison.

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    6. ^ What HE can actually pay?! You planning to pay off his student loans for him by dipping into the federal surplus? Or what?

      The people with $5 million in assets have "more protections" because those same assets can be sold off to satisfy their debts.

      Think of it this way - on this one special day of the year, when Venus and Saturn align, and the moon is in its final phase, I will lend you one THOUSAND times more money than your overall net worth. However, this wild, once-in-a-lifetime dispensation comes with a special price tag: you must sign an oath in blood and forever forgo bankruptcy on this one special loan.

      As I have said before, the debt is nondischargeable because it is the ne plus ultra, the Goliath of all unsecured loans. The taxpayers refuse to eat such a spectacular sum. And rightly so.

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  15. "It's just that I think the people who actually take out the loans probably deserve to pay them back more than I do."

    The weight of all unpaid student loan debt is yours to bear, Bankruptcy Jesus. Yours and yours alone.

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    1. ^ I'm not the only taxpayer in America. The taxpayers are not Jesus.

      And they don't owe you shit.

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  16. "I'm not the only taxpayer in America. The taxpayers are not Jesus."

    Yes, you are correct. You are NOT the only taxpayer. This is not all about you.

    American voters can be as much like Jesus as they want to be, through their elected representatives. In fact, forgiveness for student loans currently exists in the form of IBR discharge. After only ten years, in fact, for people in qualifying public service jobs.

    And lo, Bankruptcy Jesus wailed and gnashed his teeth, as he beheld the multitude of IBR welshers!

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    1. ^ Well, as a voter AND a taxpayer, I would prefer that the people who actually BORROWED the money step up and repay it. What an outrageous demand for me to make, right? Of course, the Bible is full of stories in which Jesus demands that people vote to give Him their money.

      Since you are so into Jesus, perhaps you will recognize this admonition: "Render unto Caesar's that which is Caesar's" - said SPECIFICALLY in the context of money bearing Caesar's portrait.

      Just pay your debts, dude. You aren't "voting like Jesus." You're more like Judas, counting out his pieces of silver. Making sure it's all there.

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    2. Acutally, the Bible is full of examples where Jesus exhorts people to forgive their debtors as they have been forgine their debts. "The parable of the shrewd manager", "the parable of the unforgiving servant," come to mind, let alone the Lord's prayer.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Unjust_Steward

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_unforgiving_servant

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    3. ^ Hm, I don't remember the one about the unjust steward off the top of my head. But the lesson of that second parable has clearly been lost on you.

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    4. Moreover, if you are filled with the spirit of Jesus, I suggest that you address your appeal to the people at Sallie Mae or wherever who actually OWN your loan. You seem to be asking the voters - who really have no skin in the game as far as your specific debt is concerned - to take something away from the shareholders of Sallie Mae and then give it to you. Which is not exactly what Jesus had in mind, I'm guessing.

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    5. Well I'm doing IBR, so I hope they serve cold beer in Hell.

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  17. "I would prefer that the people who actually BORROWED the money step up and repay it."

    This is such an obvious straw man. We'd all PREFER that debtors always pay their debts. However, we live in a suboptimal world, and sometimes people and businesses get hopelessly mired in debt. We can "prefer" a different outcome all we want, but reality doesn't always match our preferences.

    Your whole argument against allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy seems to be this ridiculous notion that doing so would somehow shift an unfair burden onto you.

    "Just pay your debts, dude."

    Ah, you are holy and wise, Bankruptcy Jesus! Why didn't I think of that?

    Primary breadwinner dies unexpectedly? "Just pay your debts, dude." Catastrophic illness? "Just pay your debts, dude." $250k student loan debt, and the best you can find in this economy is a $12/hr. job? "Just pay your debts, dude." Disabling workplace accident? "Just pay your debts, dude."

    Brilliant! Now we can fit the bankruptcy code on an index card!

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  18. One of the problems here is that you commenters above are assuming this guy could not get any other type of skilled or semi-skilled job if he had taken a different career path. That may not be true. He may have been a pharmacist or an engineer or a physician assistant, for a few. If he came from a top college with honors and had strong test scores, maybe he could have been a doctor.

    The opportunity cost here is real.

    The real oppotunity cost is not doing something else where there are better employment opportunities. That is especially true for those with strong college records and test scores who have many potential career opportunities.

    There may be three licensed lawyers for every full time permanent legal job, and five licensed lawyers for every full time permanent six figure legal job in the U.S. A lot of the high paying jobs in larger law firms are relatively junior, and do not continue long term.

    Agreed, it is much better having a job, even as a server at Starbucks, than spending one's days applying to jobs.

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