Monday, October 20, 2014

Gen-X as the Canary in the Coalmine

Demographically, the members of the scamblog movement are, by-and-large, from Gen-X. By most definitions, the "last" of Gen-X hit the legal market right before the 2008 financial crisis, and the "lemmings," by the same analysis, are mostly from the Millennial camp.
 
Well, of course Gen-X are the scambloggers, I hear some people say - that just fits the form. Gen-X is full of materialistic, slacker, lazy bums who got participation trophies for just showing up (amirite?), so of course they mumble and complain about law school outcomes. In fact, they've been angry people all along and they just generally hate life, so they need to just buck up and take personal responsibility for their actions whilst generally being ignored.
 
(As an aside, the exact same accusations have been leveled towards Millennials lately by Boomers, but who is keeping score, anyway?)
 
I've heard those empty accusations my whole life, and I suspect many of you have as well. Truth be told, however, Gen-X went to college in larger numbers than their Boomer forebears, and generally went further by obtaining multiple degrees and credentials. Some credit Gen-X with a now-more-than-ever-needed spirit of individual effort and business entrepreneurialism (in national hind-sight, of course). While Millennials are lauded for their volunteerism and community focus, Gen-X weren't completely "slackers" in that area, either.
 
Do you know why?  Because every generation has to work, muddle their way through, and try to make the world a better place in the process.  Gen-X in particular is "all grown up," with families, careers, and real-world responsibilities, but the unwarranted stigma and out-of-hand dismissals still persist. Yet this cohort decries the law school scam for what it is, because we don't want others to go in blind, as we did.
 
Further, we know what we are talking about, as evidenced by the latest report from the Pew Charitable Trust. I'll just start with the conclusion:
 
Generation X is discussed significantly less in the media than are baby boomers or millennials, the much larger generational cohorts that bookend it. Despite its small size, however, Gen X provides critical insights for researchers and policymakers into changing family balance sheets. Gen X may also be a harbinger of declining opportunity for many American families now and in the future.
 
The findings of this research are that Gen X reflects the growing divergence of economic fortunes for American families. Many Gen Xers have been exceptionally prosperous, reaping the successes of the economy and benefitting tremendously from being raised by families at the top of the economic ladder. But many other Gen Xers, like their parents, have failed to gain an economic foothold and remain stuck at the bottom of the economic ladder with few prospects of moving to the top.
 
However, across the economic diversity of Gen Xers, a common thread exists relative to the preceding generation. Although Gen Xers have outpaced their parents in terms of income, they have fallen far short on accumulating wealth. Their debt burdens and inadequate savings cause a ripple effect throughout their balance sheets. Low levels of savings mean that many Gen Xers could have difficulties weathering unexpected and costly life events such as unemployment or a health issue. An inadequate financial cushion could also put Gen Xers’ future economic security at risk, given that they are already behind previous generations with respect to their
retirement preparedness.  The drag of student loan debt could prevent many Gen Xers from providing for their
own children’s college aspirations, creating an intergenerational reach of student debt.
 
Without adequate wealth among Gen Xers, the mobility of not just the current generation, but also the next, could be at risk. Exactly how all of this will affect equality of opportunity in the future is unclear, but it indicates a strong need for policies that create wealth-building opportunities for Gen Xers and the younger cohorts who are following them into financial maturity.
 

 
Further, many continue to voice concerns about ever-increasing student loan debt along with Pew.  ZeroHedge has some interesting facts on the subject, and the CFPB has something to say as well:
 
 
CFPB PRESSES CONGRESS TO CHANGE BANKRUPTCY CODE
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is urging policymakers to reconsider how student loan debt is treated under the Bankruptcy Code, American Banker reported today. In the agency's annual report on student loans, released today, it said that there are severe roadblocks for struggling student borrowers in getting modifications or other flexible options to help them pay off their debt. As a result, the CFPB said Congress should revisit a 2005 change to the Bankruptcy Code that made most private student loan debt and other "qualified loans" exempt from discharge. The agency is also recommending more favorable tax treatment on any debt that is forgiven. "Unlike mortgage servicing, there are no specific laws or rules that require specific procedures on loan modifications and the laws we administer," said Rohit Chopra, the CFPB's student loan ombudsman. "That is something that we are going to take a very close look at . . . We are going to weigh every option to see that these problems are corrected." The CFPB noted that the 2005 amendment, which raised the threshold to discharge student loan debt, made it easier for debt collection firms to increase recoveries on defaulted private student loans compared to other types of unsecured debt. Read more. (Subscription required.)
 
 
Why do we scamblog? Because we know. Because we have been and continue to live economic reality. Because we have seen the writing on the wall for some time, but when we tried to bring it to light we were dismissed out of hand for being a smaller, "know-nothing" cohort whose only original sin was being born between the early 60s and the early 80s. Yet we still speak out, regardless.
 
Read the report. The economic trends are sobering, and I guarantee you there is a Gen-X JD or two buried in the statistics, trying to pay off massive debt while struggling to make a living. Millennials, we have already been through the wringer of false employment statistics, ever-increasing tuition, and overproduced graduates, so when we say "law school is a scam," we are saying it for your benefit. Do not go to law school, with its non-dischargeable debt in a saturated, shrinking market that is increasingly being outsourced and automated, unless you have the social means and financial backing to do so.
 
Do not rely on "wanting it bad enough." Do not rely on IBR/PAYE to see you though, as those programs are in the crosshairs. Do not rely on romantic visions you see on TV. All of this is what the Law School Cartel is counting on you to do - to "follow your dreams," to "engage your passion," to "pursue liberty" and "defend justice," while ignoring all the other important data.
 
To your detriment.

48 comments:

  1. I’m a Gen Xer. Born in 1968. Graduated from a TT in 1993. Many of the things that we talk about here today were not only true when I graduated - they were common knowledge. Too many law schools, too many JD’s, too few jobs etc ... I think the main difference is that in 93, if you lost at the law school game (and many did), it was something that you could recover from because the debt load was much smaller. For example, I had a good friend who (due to poor grades and lack of connections) never found a legal job. In the end, he ended up working in a family business (a job he could have walked into right out of college). Today, he is married with kids and lives in a house in the suburbs - your basic middle class existence. For him, law school is just a distant (albeit unpleasant) memory. Had he graduated with 200K in debt instead of 20K, things might have turned out much different for him.

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    1. No doubt about anything you said, other than I wonder how much of this was truly "common knowledge" in the early 90s. Probably hard to say, but when your sources at the time were only the law schools, word of mouth, and USN&WR, I don't think the knowledge was as widespread as now. I'm hardly an hipster internet cheerleader, but I do think the internet helped get the word out in ways that were not as available previously.

      Spot on about the debt. While no debt is ever pleasant, its all about the percentages as to whether people can move on with their lives or not.

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    2. @6:57, I have posted this concept before. I graduated in the 1980's. It was common knowledge then but lemmings still chose to ignore those cold, hard facts. What then changed was that to which you have alluded - USNWR came out with placement stats that were fabricated by the schools to enhance their rankings. Then the schools started directly publishing their own doctored numbers to convince lemmings that the common wisdom didn't apply to the special snowflakes who had earned the right to admission to their hallowed halls. To the best of my recollection in the early 1980's schools did not publish employment statistics. Thus the lemmings of that era were far more culpable in their own fates, but as @5:56 correctly notes (not in so many words) gambling is about two things: The odds and the stakes. Even if the odds were the same back then the stakes were nowhere near so high.

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    3. 5:56, I too graduated at the same time when gasoline was $1.09 a gallon, two liter bottles of Coke on sale was 3 for a dollar and tuition was under $10k a year. I can certainly agree that if I graduated with $200k in debt, my life would be much different. In fact, it would be better because there would be no way I would have gone knowing how much debt I would be in.

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  2. I am not wholly unsympathetic to bankruptcy reform proposals. I do, however, fear that they may simply give the schools the coward's way out. Justify any increase by saying "oh, well, does it really matter? Little Johnny and Mary will just make low fixed payments and then the rid themselves of the debt. That may be nice for Johnny and Mary but it still involves a massive wealth transfer from taxpayers to schools that charge unjustifiably high tuition. Let's not get the cart before the horse. If the loan fire hose were shut off tuition would plummet as scamdeans and lawprofs fought to keep their no-work jobs. This might leave the Gen-X types holding the bag, but it was not Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Taxpayer who chose to borrow a fortune for law school. And I would also note that the generation before the boomers had to endure the Great Depression and then go out and get killed and maimed to defeat the Nazis and the Japs. Some generations will always get it worse than others in the larger scheme of things.

    What concerns me the most is a seemingly growing mindset that one just has to except giving up a percentage of one's paycheck every eek in order to feed the beast.

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    1. Typos: "accept giving up . . . paycheck every week"

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    2. I agree--bankruptcy reform, for its merits, does not address the root of the law school scam, e.g. the schools can charge ridiculous tuition rates without being accountable for poor outcomes, and the taxpayers are left holding the bag. If the federal government stopped making student loans that were unlikely to be repaid then many if not most law schools would have to shut down.

      It would be interesting to know the true default rate on law school student loans. By "true default rate" that would include deferral, forbearance, hardship, IBR/PAYE, PSLF etc--in other words, all loans that are not being paid back according to the originally agreed upon terms.

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    3. I dunno, I think "...paycheck every eek" would have been okay with an exclamation point following the "eek!".

      I'm also not sure how the plan of making edudebt dischargeable would be handled. Would it be only on a going-forward basis, and would the lenders again become mainly private in nature? If so, there would be impacts on tuition as those lenders would start actually underwriting the loans (vs. Unca Sugar's current method for example with grad plus - loan whatever amount is sought).

      Or if the gov't remained the big lender of edudebt, would it start applying underwriting standards for any loans which could be discharged?

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  3. FWIW, I consider myself a strong scamblog supporter, and I'm a boomer (although most of my law school classmates were in Gen X). I know, n=1 and all that.

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    1. I don't think I'm alone when I say we welcome support (and constructive criticism) from Boomer attorneys who follow the scamblogs, so thank you for commenting.

      It's the "get off my lawn" Boomers, who want to pretend the last 40 years didn't happen, that are tiresome from the scamblog point of view.

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    2. I'm a Boomer, and I support the movement. It's not generational, except in the sense that a lot of Boomers are simply ignorant. I think that it's more political - some people (in every generation) think 'I've go mine, f*ck you', or 'I'll win, so f*ck you'.

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    3. A lot of Boomers think college degrees are magic, so criticism of higher ed is heresy of a sort. It takes work to bring them around, and when you get a Boomer willing to examine the evidence of today's education cartel, and not just wax nostalgic about how wonderful college was in the '70s, then they should be supported and encouraged to speak up. Boomers put more faith in the words of other Boomers than those of the damn kids with their music and such....

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    4. In the 1970s, when the boomers were attending university, tuition was dirt cheap and jobs abounded. Not so by the second half of the 1980s, when Old Guy matriculated. It was so expensive that even with large scholarships (the real endowed kind, not the Cooleyite LSAT-buying discounts) I nearly had to drop out for inability to pay. But I did finish somehow—and had to pay student loans for eleven years, during three of which I was unemployed (jobs too had dried up).

      Fast-forward to my early forties, when law school finally seemed manageable. I knew better than to borrow money again, and I certainly wasn't going to attend any toilet. No, I went to an élite school, and paid my way with savings and scholarships (real ones). And I excelled by any measure. Yet I rarely got an interview, and never a job other than a federal clerkship. Apparently age trumps everything else—something that the dean himself confirmed towards the end of third year, when he advised me against trying to become a lawyer at my age.

      Several times I came close to dropping out. Even after graduation, I came close to giving up the clerkship, as there seemed to be little point in prolonging my ill-fated efforts to work as a lawyer. I don't know what I'm going to do when this job is up.

      I'll say this, though: I wish that I had never set foot in a university.

      Old Guy

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    5. Old Guy, I'm sorry that your plans didn't work out. It appears that you really tried to do things right.

      Could there have been a problem with your definition of an elite school? If you somehow thought that Notre Dame or Emory or Minnesota was an elite school, you were almost guaranteed to fail, perhaps without realizing it.

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    6. "...something that the dean himself confirmed towards the end of third year...
      Did he have a smirk on his face, as he told you that they had sold you fool's gold for $1,000/oz.?

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    7. "...something that the dean himself confirmed towards the end of third year, when he advised me against trying to become a lawyer at my age."

      Ah, sorry to be slow on the uptake. I didn't realize that this is who you (you as "Old Guy") were until I read this part above.

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    8. Barry, it's true that a lot of boomers are ignorant. It's also true that a lot of students are ignorant, or the law school scam would have disappeared by now.

      These days, there are students who complain when their boomer parents won't pay for them to attend inferior law schools. So it cuts both ways.

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    9. That dean was despicable. Why didn't he offer his advice before you ever enrolled?

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    10. No, my definition of élite school does not encompass Notre Dame and such. I put those in the fourth tier.

      Old Guy

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    11. Old Guy,

      I think the only thing we can do is keep spreading the truth about age and legal emplyoment; namely, that you should not go to any law school if you will graduate in your 30's or older. This is a particularly pernicious and underreported feature of the Scam. If I could stop just a few older people from considering law school, I would be happy.

      I graduated at the age of 35, but no one told me I would be unemployable due to my age. Sheeeeeeeeeeet ... I thought my life experience and perspective would be valuable as I could better understand my clients. Nope. Doesn't count.

      The rule should be "if you're over 28, do not go unless Daddy has a job lined up or you are independently wealthy." That's it. Don't go to a T14, don't go to a Toilet, don't go even with a full scholarship. Just don't go.

      We have this idea here in America that it's possible to reinvent yourself, that you can do anything you put your mind to. Not correct. Unless you're an entreprenuer or a small business owner, you still need to convince an employer to hire you. Those employers lie thin on the ground if you're in your 30s or older.

      Germany and India and other countries have it right. They have cut-off ages for accepting higher education applicants.

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    12. In Democracy in America de Toqueville remarked that in Europe a farmer who went broke would turn to drink while an American would load up what was left in his wagon and head west to take up new lands. It's deep in our national character, we need to fight it, hard.

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    13. That's all true, 8:33. But what exactly are we supposed to do when we're dumped out of work at age 28 or whatever? I lost my job in IT at age 31 and never could find another; it was a hard time, and after a couple of years of unemployment the door to IT is closed. For that matter, IT is another age-discriminatory line of work. What else was I supposed to do?

      I have concluded that the real issue with law is not age-based discrimination but class, for which age is just a proxy. Law firms want kids with connections at the yacht club, and it's a safe bet that a student of your age or mine does not come from big money. Discrimination may be less of a problem in government, but very few jobs are open these days.

      So, yes, by all means we should warn people to stay the hell away from law school after age 28 or 29. But that suggestion will ring hollow to many unless it is bolstered with recommendations of other ways to make a living. We can't just advise everyone to lie down under a rock and freeze to death—appealing though that option seems.

      And I don't want to hear the usual tripe about driving trucks in North Dakota or fighting fires in New York City. Those options too are unrealistic, particularly at our age.

      Old Guy

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    14. "A lot of Boomers think college degrees are magic"

      A lot of people of all ages think college degrees are magic. "Send everyone to college, and everyone can get a nice cushy prestigious white collar job" so the thinking goes. The corollary of this is that if you're "stuck" doing a more menial job, then that's your own damn fault for not getting enough education, or the right education, or not networking enough.

      Instead of reducing the wage gap and increasing minimum wage, which would be hard and smack of socialism, its easier to just magically laud the value of education. This also plays into the age-old prejudice against people who work with their hands instead of their minds, which you see pop up time and time again in every society. It must be something in the human genome.

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    15. Old Guy,

      Well, when I was unemployed for 2 (long) years after graduating law school, I hustled. I worked as a handyman, did some document review, bought and sold things on Craigslist (that was difficult - there are a lot of hinky people on Craigslist), etc. I debated selling my bodily fluids, but didn't go through with it.

      I sold a lot of the things I had accumulated before law school. I tried to make do with less. A lot less. I ate a lot more beans and cheap cuts of meat. I didn't go to the doctor or dentist at all, drove a very cheap car with only liability insurance, etc.

      The real answer is "you're fu*&ed" if you go to law school as an older student, especially if you have a family and can't go to North Dakota, teach in Japan, or volunteer for the Peace Corp.

      What's also aggravating is that it's so hard to get data supporting this. I know from my Toilet who got good jobs and who didn't, but it's very difficult to tease out data supporting an age discrimination theory. Maybe if someone interviewed about 15-20 Biglaw partners on their thoughts it would provide qualitative support.

      In my case, on at least a couple of interviews I'm pretty sure it was just one hiring partner saying "well, he looks good, but he's a little old...."

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  4. Even if the schools were off the hook for defaults, the high discharge rate of the loans would make the DoE's position untenable. They would have to get rid of the bankruptcy option or hold schools accountable for student loan bankruptcies.

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    1. @9;25, you grossly underestimate federal governments' willingness and ability to borrow money and give it to people who do little or no work. Even if the money passes through the conduit of a deluded student loan borrower.

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  5. This blog was metioned in my CLE as an example of negative Nancy talk out there about law schools. It was gen x presenter, I think he worked for a for profit lawl schools. Money talks and bullshit walks even for gen x.

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    1. If you can share the info regarding the CLE, we here at OTLSS would love to see that! Thanks.

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    2. It was NC new admittees 12 hour marathon. The scum prof was giving 1 hour metal health presentation. Pointed out that it is easy to get depressed bc of tough job market and internet and this blog essential clowning on law school but we should still focus in being happy first. Its not all about money. Of course student debt was only discussed in passing. Idiots at Charlotte school of law were still unaware on what about to hit them although some of them did have jobs.

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    3. "1 hour metal health"

      LOL, that's the kind of health you need in order to thrive in this profession.

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    4. They make brand new admittees take 12 hours of CLEs? lol, they sure have a lot of confidence in the law schools there. That's probably a side effect of having so many infilaw graduates in the state.

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    5. Many states offer (and many require) a so-called "bridge the gap" CLE program* for new attorneys, excepting previously barred attorneys coming from other states with more than X years of practice. These are 1, 2 or even 3 day programs.

      (* not to be confused with "bridge the gap" fellowship/intern stipend programs, which many of those same states confusingly offer by that same name.)

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  6. And the Boomer pigs will continue to bleed this country and future generations dry, before the bastards leave the scene, via entitlement programs that we cannot afford. Oh well. That's someone else's problem, right?!?!

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Nando, you got a scholarship for tuition, didn't you? You're just angry that you had to borrow for your own living expenses while in law school. But if someone else paid them for you, that would clearly be an entitlement, and people like you would be bleeding the country dry.

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    3. 5:44 PM / 8:55PM, the Boomer/Gen-X line is not set in stone. Two years is splitting hairs and missed the point.

      In any event, Boomer or Gen-X, Demleitner has certainly made her position plain over the years - she is fully ensconced in the scam camp, and her record speaks for itself.

      As for "hateful ignorance," you've got that in spades yourself.

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    4. There is a strong argument to be made that Gen X begins with those born in 1961. The reasoning? First ask yourself the question, where does the term come from? The book by Douglas Coupland? If so he was born in 1961. Oh, you take it from Billy Idol's band's name? He was born in 1955. If you are talking about the 1965 UK book -- then we are talking about the 'Mods,' who slightly predate actual boomers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_X_(1965_book)

      These labels, and arguing about who belongs to what generation detract from this movement IMO. This about those in a position to profit from their position who gleefully do so without regard to the consequences for others. Boomers are a sickening lot for the most part. Truly. So please don't tar-and-feather us born 1961. We are the original victims, not the enemy.

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    5. Well 8:00, I've got to say that OTLSS is one of the least racist blogs I've ever seen. Most of the members--those not consumed with hatred--are tirelessly working to protect young minority students from the law school scam. So your racist rant about "spades" is totally out of place here.

      However, your reflexive hatred of boomers is quite similar psychologically to your malignant racism, so I've got to give you credit for being consistent and somewhat honest. I just wish I had a name, even a fictitious handle of some sort, that I could use to hold you accountable for trying to undermine the purpose of this blog.

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    6. Wait, what? 7:57, you are either trolling or you are a Law Professor, and I hope the former. When someone says they have something "in spades", its a cards/poker term. You know? Hearts? Diamonds? Clubs? Spades? There is also a card game called "spades" becuase, you know, the spades are valuable cards.

      Don't take my word for it, I Googled it for you:

      http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/in-spades.html

      http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/in+spades

      http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=In%20Spades

      Oh, but by all means, interject racisim into a conversation where there was none in the first place and then claim a fallacious victory. Take your limo-libby axe-to-grind someplace else where the open road narrative is welcome. (Axe-to-grind was another idiom, by the way, in case you missed it.) I look forward to you next law review article about how you beat down "racism" on the interwebblogs.

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    7. "In spades" comes from bridge, in which spades is the highest-ranking suit. The expression may make more sense to people of my age, who are more likely than the millennials to play bridge.

      Old Guy

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  7. What about this blog is incompatible with personal happiness? You can be a happy person and still be pissed off about the scamming scammers.

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    1. I'm a bit slow tonight. What is it you're referring to? (the sarcastic "angry" comment in the OP?)

      Sincerely,

      Imagining The (happy!) Open Toad

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    2. Well, Epicurus the Greek Philosopher said that happiness came from achieving three pillars: Companionship, Freedom (particularly economic independence), and Self-examination. Being surrounded by people that give you joy, having the means to live free from dependency on others, and a chance to think about your place in the world and live in accordance to your nature, ethics, and desires.

      Law school, by its very nature, chops all three to bits. You graduate buried in debt, in desperate need of any employment of any kind, often at work that means nothing to you or may even run counter to your personality, and the strain of it all damages all of your personal relationships.

      Seems this blog is a warning to avoid the rocks and shoals of misery.

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  8. We of Generation X have been fucked. Even some baby boomers admit that.

    Old Guy

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  9. In a coincidence, Salon has also run an editorial today critical of the baby boomer generation's general attitude toward Generation X and Y. Actually it was much more critical than this was, it came off as more accusatory than I'd have liked and made no mention of the positive contributions they've made to society. (Yes, there are some.)

    I prefer to think of my attitude as much more adult. There's a scene in the movie American Beauty where the main character catches his wife having an affair with another man and, instead of getting angry, says something to the affect of "you don't get to tell me what to do anymore."

    In other words, don't hold us to certain expectations when the social contract (for lack of a better term) that those expectations were created under no longer exist.

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  10. I'm not sure if I'm a Gen-Xer or a Millennial. What's the cut-off?

    Some Boomers may be malicious in their criticism, but I think many others are just completely clueless.

    What has made me the happiest in life is letting go of what my family expects of me. In their eyes, I will probably always be a loser. I don't care. I'm happy with the life I've chosen, and it IS what I've chosen.

    When it's all over, I don't think God will care what job you had, how much money you made, or what your flippin' LSAT score was. IMHO, the value system they preach in law school is completely toxic and leads to misery. It ain't the scamblogs.

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    1. If you have a poor LSAT score you just go to third tier heaven - its in the Bible, let me check my blue book on how to cite to that . . .

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