Saturday, June 1, 2013

Will Work for Loan Offset

Historically, one big difference between a professional and a tradesman is that the professional was supposed to provide pro bono services when he or she perceived a need and a wrong to be addressed while the tradesman was under no such ethical obligation. However, historically, law students and attorneys were not under such tremendous financial stress paying for their credentials as they find themselves today. Why do heavily indebted law students have to bear the costs of solving social problems?

There is a major push for debt servant law students and young graduates to provide pro bono services at law school clinics in order for the law schools to claim their students are "practice ready" and for everyone to "look good." Instead of law schools opening clinics to provide legal services pro bono at the expense of law students, why aren't they lobbying for increased government funding for legal services? And by that I don't mean solely to pay the law school clinic staff and overhead but also to provide actual paid employment to law students and young professionals or, better yet, credit against those federal student loans. Why is the cost of righting societal wrongs being carried by law students?

A case in point is a new push for law school clinics to be created to help reduce the VA backlog for veteran disability benefits. We as a nation are ending a decade of the war on terror. The VA is overwhelmed with processing disability claims as a result. The VA claim backlog reported is 570,000 disability claims are pending longer than 125 days. A large reason that the VA is overwhelmed is that each claim must be documented properly, the forms completed, and the paperwork properly pushed through the bureaucracy while someone advocates for the claim. When people who don't understand "the system" try to do this themselves, then delays and inefficiencies happen. Bureaucratic advocacy is exactly what lawyers do each and every day whether it be in the area of probate, personal injury litigation, social security or worker's comp, etc. Lawyers are uniquely trained, at considerable expense to themselves, to understand rules, apply a specific factual situation to those rules, and advocate for a particular result, all while paying attention to details so that the process runs smoothly.

William & Mary Law School has opened a pro bono legal clinic that between 2009 and 2012 has helped 46 clients with submission of 343 claimed injuries or illnesses for VA disability. Members of Congress are holding this clinic up as a "national model for inexpensively dealing with the Veterans Administration's backlog." Patty Roberts, director of clinical programs at Willian & Mary's law school, was quoted as saying: "At 50 clients you're directly representing at a time, that's certainly not going to impact the backlog in a way that it needs to be. But if you get more law schools across the country to do this work then you're exponentially leveraging the passion and experience of law students across the country to help with that backlog." William & Mary, after being contacted by White House officials to see if the program could be started in other law schools, created a "playbook" for starting similar clinics and forwarded that playbook to about ten other law schools.

A bill entitled "The Veterans Legal Support Act of 2013" has been introduced in the Senate to authorize the VA to spend up to $1 million a year to support to law school programs that provide legal assistance to veterans. Presumably, the funding will pay for existing space, faculty mentors, travel, out of pocket, etc. According to the article, William & Mary's program runs on a "shoestring" budget: "These clinics don't require that much of an investment, but they do require some." Thus, for a minimal $1M investment, the VA, the government as a whole, and the individual veterans, have shifted part of the cost to process claims onto debt servant law students who provide their services for free while their federal student loans add interest day by day.

Our veterans are heroes. These are volunteers who stepped up at great personal sacrifice at a time of war and are now bearing a more permanent cost in their lives from that service. The government should fully fund VA so that the infrastructure is there to process these disability claims quickly and efficiently. If we as a nation are going to engage in a war, we need to be prepared to fund both ends of it. However, funding should include not only $1 million to pay the law schools for overhead, but also sufficient funding so that the law students and young attorneys who have gone considerably in debt to polish the skill sets that are useful to assist in processing these claims are paid a living wage for their time and effort or at least given student loan debt relief for their services. Our Congressmen and their staff, the White House staff, law school staff, and the people who work at VA all are paid for their time. Law students and recent graduates who are using their education and skill sets to help process disability claims should also be paid a living wage, or at least a credit against their student loans, for their efforts instead of being treated like a free labor force to be called upon when the politicians don't want to properly fund a program.

Is the message we want to send our disabled servicemen and women that we value their service to their country so much we are going to find the cheapest solution we can to assist them in processing their claims? Is this even a sincere proposal to actually address the problem? Is the message our law schools want to send to their students that the skills that have acquired to this point and paid heavily for have no actual monetary value? Why do heavily indebted law students have to carry the cost of providing these services to society when everyone else in the system gets paid? Couldn't there at least be a loan reduction offset for amount of time worked? Seriously, if Congress and the American people don't want to fund a proper solution can't they at least give a loan credit?


  1. And law schools find another way to milk the gov for free money and show how selfless they are.

    As the article hints, everybody gets paid again but the law clowns, err students.

  2. Most tenured law professors are against legal clinics. First, clinics are often supervised or run by adjuncts or real lawyers who theoretically know what they are doing. Most law professors do not have the practical skills to operate a legal clinic. Secondly, clinics require work and a lot of face time. This is time that law professors are not willing to pile on their comfortable 4-6 hour work week. Thirdly, legal clinics are expensive. You need fulltime support staff, office supplies, operating fund (e.g., for out of pocket costs, filing fees, etc.). The allocation of monies for these operations are seen as a threat or encroachment upon law professor salaries and perks. The law school deans and faculty are hypocrites because on the one end, they preach "pro bono," "closing the gap to access for justice," and community service but are only willing to throw the law students under the bus while not willing to give up their time, salaries and benefits.

  3. I don't mean to be a dick, but:

    "Our veterans are heroes. These are volunteers who stepped up at great personal sacrifice at a time of war and are now bearing a more permanent cost in their lives from that service."

    Meh. For every 1 vet coming back from Iraq having done actual heroic military stuff, there's 10 who are guys and girls who were there collecting a paycheck, in no danger, and doing next to nothing. You guys do know the extent of the military-industrial complex, right?

    I'm a vet by the way. One of those who actually got shot at. Luckily, I came back in one piece.

    Just putting on the uniform does not make you a hero. For many recruits, it was either a military uniform or a McDonalds uniform. And to be honest, many McDonalds employees probably do far more than those who chose the enlisted route. And to be even more honest, seeing some of the shitbags coming back to heroes welcomes when all they did in the sandpit was as little as possible makes me a bit sick.

    And to take even more of a detour, it's many of the vets who did nothing who are now over here with no useful skills and who are clogging up colleges and boosting tuition costs with their milking of the GI Bill. Those who pushed themselves in the military are generally doing just fine back home, those who worked hard and gained experience and sought out skills. But the military is a great place to do nothing if that's your deal too.

    Enough said.

    I'm liking the idea of getting law students to learn the trade on vets and others who are big expenditures for the government. This stuff isn't rocket science. But like one other commenter pointed out, throwing money at law schools is asking for professors to stick their hands in the pot and grab that money. Those fuckers should be kept out of it.

    I'd modify RAB's suggestion: give the money straight to the VA, with the instruction that it hire law grads for one year or two year "clerkships" where they can hammer away at these backlogs. Change some law or procedure to make it easier to correct mistakes if (and when) they happen. No need to waste five times the hourly rate on scammy experienced lawyers either or throw the cash at scamking professors who know nothing.

    1. if we don't call vets heroes, how else would the government get men to potentially lay down their lives? that is the essence of controlling men: status.

    2. The comments on this blog are what make it so good. The best ones are brutally honest, good post.

    3. I'd love to hear your story and whether you are a lawyer.

      Also! I am glad you called bullshit because I get sick of the overcompensating taught to us by guilty feeling boomers who want to make amends for their treatment of draftees in the 60's. Only a vet can call bullshit like this without being labled a traitor or a hippie.

    4. Me again, 2:35pm.

      Yes, lawyer. Military during college, 1999-200......yeah. Called to active shortly after 9-11. Iraq, then got out 2006 (loved what I did, but it started to get shitty when the mission turned to that nation building crap and the tards and carpet baggers started to really flood in for the benefits rather than the mission). Law school 2007-2010, worst decision ever. Got a job in a small firm, miserable life since. Sometimes wish I would just get the f back into the military, but I just don't agree with the mission anymore, not after seeing the scammy shit that has happened over the past decade in both the military and the education world.

      Great life, huh? Yay us!

      Adam B, the boomers are the only people pushing this war. They had never seen a real war (too young for Vietnam most of them), and their parents are all about WW2. They have no dog in this fight apart from their stocks in Lockheed and Northrop and whatever. They know they will not have to fight, but they fucking know how to reap the financial benefits. So they brand it heroic to sign up and waste taxpayer money and perhaps shoot some people who don't even need killing. Boomers have literally fucked this country, and I hope this country fucks them in return.

    5. Fat chance. While we pay off debt for the rest of our lives, they will be spending their 401ks and home equity from houses that originally cost $8,000 and social security checks and living forever because of unlimited Medicare spending.

      Sorry, grump Saturday night after working all day...and yet I should not complain as I am one of the lucky ones...

    6. @616,

      Sounds like you have "reaped" a few "benefits" yourself - or did you refuse to accept any pay? I know this will come as a surprise to you - since you probably never served at all - but the military's "mission" really hasn't changed all that much since 1999 or whenever you claim you were in.

    7. Yeah thanks mofo at 6:36. I joined the military when it wasn't cool or action-packed or heroic. Back in 1999, there was no automatic hero bullshit for any fat fucker who puts on the uniform and parades around with boomers saying "than your for your service."

      My benefits were that it was a job and helped pay for college, like real college. Actually sitting in a fucking classroom instead of the "college" that most military "vets" do today, which is bullshit online crap.

      You know that benefits were ramped up high after 9-11, right? The benefits I "reaped", I earned by actually fighting (which happened to delay my graduation for many years), not sitting around pushing paper in a tent or cooking or being one of the millions of layabouts who didn't even carry a firearm because it was so safe where they were.

      And yes, the military's mission has changed. It's now run as a fucking business to make a few politicians and their buddies very rich.

      1999 to 2006 by the way, the last three in Iraq.

    8. Thank you so much for calling attention to this issue. I am also an Iraq veteran (one of the minority who were actually in combat). At my base, roughly 80-85% of soldiers never even left the premises, much less fired a shot in anger. (Notice how several studies have shown that 15-20% of Iraq vets have PTSD? What a coincidence.) It was like a YMCA summer camp, at which the participants spent their days playing video games, getting fat, watching movies, etc. The fact of being in Iraq seemed to give many people a license to slack off, since they were making such a sacrifice by just being there.

      Maybe if more people had been forced into combat roles, instead of "support" jobs like guarding the cafeteria, the war would have gone better. However, in the era of the all-volunteer Army, you put people into the jobs for which they are willing to sign up.

  4. LAW SCHOOL SCAM IS TRUE - I graduated at the end of Clinton Administration when the economy was booming. It had no impact on me getting a decent paying job at a law firm or anywhere for that matter. I found out the hard way that the time and money I spent on a law degree was completely wasted. I have continued to apply for jobs over the last 12 years. I have applied for about 10,000 to 12,000 jobs nationwide since graduating from law school. I have never had an interview for any of the jobs 10,000 to 12,000 jobs I have applied to over the last 12 years. The truth is that when you graduate from law school, if you can find a job anywhere, you are offered around $35,000 to be an Attorney at an average firm with 10 Attorneys or less. You will be expected to work 60 to 80 hours per week for that $35,000. 10 years later you will make around $70,000. That is after you worked 60 to 80 hours per week for 10 years, you will then make around $70,000. I've been out of law school for 12 years now and all of my friends are Attorneys. Not one Attorney I know makes $100,000. It is only a tiny fraction of the legal profession that makes a decent income. Could you make good money as an Attorney? Anything is possible, but it is not likely. It is a lot like playing the lottery. You could win, but it is not likely. You don't believe me, go right ahead and find out the hard way how worthless that law degree is.

  5. I am 35 years old, divorced, pay alimony and child support up the wazoo. After I graduated from college, I got a job working for UPS. I worked at UPS for 8 years climbing up the ranks to assistant regional manager. I was making about $85K a year plus annual bonuses when I left. I got married when I was 25 (mistake no. 1). I had twins by the time I was 27 (love my kids but this was mistake no. 2 as I had kids with a witch). At age 29, I enrolled in law school. My wife had urged me to go to law school because most of her friends were married to professionals. I was seen as a low blue collar worker. After I graduated law school, at the age of 32, I was working for a 25 lawyer firm making $60K a year with lousy benefits. I was considered lucky because I had a job when I graduated. I interviewed with several Biglaw firms but I get the sense they were just going through the motions. I was not a right fit due to my age. Hard to believe you are considered over the hill at age 32 for Biglaw but that seems to be the case.

    My divorce was finalized last month. My wife filed for divorce because I was working 70 hours a week and was barely making enough to keep her in a lifestyle she had grown accustomed to while I was working for UPS. I emptied my savings to go to law school and borrowed some money. My debt was $55K and I owe about $40K of it. I don't know when I will pay this debt off since I have been ordered to pay $2K a month in alimony/child support. I live in a studio and drive a used car. I barely have money to go out. I feel like such a chump right now. I am crying right now. I fucked up my life pursuing a legal career. They say the grass is always greener on the other side. Bullshit. I wish I was back at UPS. I could have been a regional manager by now pulling $150K a year with bonuses. I would probably still be married, living in a big house with my kids. I got taken by the law school scam--and yes it is a pernicious scam because so many people think being a lawyer is great. I would gladly trade in my suits for the brown UPS uniform. I can't travel back in time. What I can do is warn people. If you have a good job, don't throw it away to go to law school. If you are a tradesman, get over the blue collar chip on your shoulder. Appreciate what you have because once it is gone, it is gone forever. The law degree is a scarlet letter I will have to wear for the rest of my life. Thank you for reading this. I feel slightly better getting this off my chest as I am dusting off a bottle of cheap vodka.

    1. It was Saturday night blues for a few of us, huh?

      Not to placate, but all is not lost. You at least have a job and kids and you will find love again (if you keep up with the gym).

      Also - no drinking alone! At least share with a hot lady, as you are single!

    2. Thank you for taking the time to share your story.

  6. Very insightful post. It gets worse, however. Have any of you seen the recent letter written by the current ABA president advocating that private law firms be allowed to use law students and graduates as unpaid interns to do their pro bono work? It's seems the only good thing the young are used for nowadays is to subsidize the law schools and staff the pro bono clinics so that the legal profession can say that it is a fair, just, and balanced profession. And the fact that the young law students and graduates who are 'dedicating their time to ensure that low income individuals get representation' are low income themselves and in massive debt is the legal field's dirty little secret.

    So, Congress is going to allocate $1 million to help vets and everyone is going to get paid except the actual law students and grads doing the work. But they don't need to get paid because, after all, there students living high on the hog in debt and we don't need to think about that. Just one more way the legal field is stratifying itself. Because it costs so much to be an attorney nowadays, only the rich will have that opportunity in the future. The money the government saves today in not paying the grads will be lost in the future as less people will be able to go into the legal field to do public interest work in the future.

  7. "We as a nation are ending a decade of the war on terror. "

    someone should tell our enemies

    1. We're still fighting the war on the young. Now, get back to your share-cropping gig and pay for my benefits.