Saturday, August 7, 2021

Law today: unmanageable debt, low to zero income

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reveals (surprise!) that a legal career ain't what it used to be. Many graduates leave with a mountain of debt overtowering a paltry or non-existent income.

Data from the Department of Education show that "[o]nly a dozen of the nation’s law schools leave students earning annual salaries two years after graduation that exceed their debts". Indeed, "the value of a law degree from nonelite schools has diminished. Salaries haven’t kept pace with inflation over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, tuitions have soared. A three-year juris doctor program, including living expenses, now can cost more than $250,000 at private law schools." The median salary has been stagnant over the past decade, while debt has continued to rise from an already obscene level.

The article focuses on the law school at the University of Miami, which, among the so-called top 100 law schools on the bogus "ranking" published by You Ass News, has the greatest gap between median debt at graduation and median salary two years later. Here is a sample of typical lemming-like foolishness inspired by delusions of prestige:

Laura Cordell, a 2019 graduate, said she chose Miami for the prestige, particularly within Florida. “You go to any courthouse in Miami and the judge went to UM, the judge is a teacher at UM, there’s some sort of connection to UM,” she said.

“When I was looking for law schools, I wasn’t looking at price as much as what would be good for my career,” said Ms. Cordell, 30 years old, who said she turned down another school that offered her a large scholarship. “I didn’t have an understanding of the gravity of the amount I was borrowing.”

Ms. Cordell owes $334,000 in federal loans for her time at Miami. She now makes an $80,000 base salary, with a bonus of about $12,000, working at a firm that specializes in insurance. Because her debt load is so high, she said, she can’t afford more than the minimum payment on an income-driven plan, which sets her monthly payments according to her income.

Now, let's get one thing straight, Ms Cordell: the U of Miami is in no way prestigious. Maybe the local bench features lots of graduates of your humdrum toilet school, but that doesn't mean that going there "would be good for [your] career". Those judges graduated long before you did, many of them at a time when the law-school scam hadn't fully bloomed into the monstrosity of today. You also wrongly attribute their apparent success to the law school that they attended. More likely, they succeeded despite going to a no-name law school, not because of it.

And anyone who admits "I wasn't looking at price" is not, in Old Guy's book, cut out to be a lawyer. Certainly she shouldn't have been allowed to contract a third of a million dollars in student loans underwritten by the federal government. Sorry to be frank, but failure to look at a price tag of that size manifests a shameful lack of intelligence, prudence, or both.

Dylan Boigris is similarly delusional:

“I had no work experience, life experience, anything like that before I signed on to this quarter-million-dollar loan,” said Dylan Boigris, a 2016 Miami Law graduate, who began his career making about $45,000 as a public defender. “I thought I would come out making much more than I did.”


Mr. Boigris, the 2016 Miami graduate, said he didn’t receive counseling about what borrowing roughly $240,000 would mean for his financial future. He now owes nearly $300,000, including interest and undergraduate debt.

“You tell them, ‘I need assistance,’ and they’re like, ‘OK, here’s a loan,’ ” said Mr. Boigris, who is 30. “It was just an endless supply of money.”

In February, he was surprised to learn that he and his fiancée couldn’t get approved to borrow as much as they wanted to buy a home. Though Mr. Boigris was making $120,000 after moving to the private sector, the lender told him his debt load was too high.

Yes, believe it or not, the borrowed funds were not Monopoly money: they do have to be paid back when the law-school game is over, and you can't buy a house on the same state-guaranteed never-never. But another graduate of toilet Miami has a different plan: stick the public with the cost of her folly:

Before Maria Rodriguez started at Miami in 2016, she and her mother visited the law school to discuss their concerns about affordability. The student had immigrated from Colombia as a child and grew up in a low-income family. She needed to buy books totaling about $1,000, she said, but her student loan money wasn’t yet available.

A school official told her there were no need-based scholarships available for her, and suggested she consider getting a credit card to buy the books, recalled Ms. Rodriguez, now 27.

Ms. Rodriguez said she didn’t blame the school for the timing of when loans were processed. She ultimately found a bookstore that gave her the books up front after she promised to make good when her loans came through.

She had a great educational experience at Miami, she said, though she now owes $300,000 in loans for her law and bachelor’s degrees. She works as a public defender, is enrolled in an income-based repayment plan, and expects to have her loans wiped away through a federal public-service loan-forgiveness program after paying for a decade.

Her "great educational experience" didn't teach her such frivolous lessons as responsibility for her personal finances or discretion when borrowing a third of a million. Mommy apparently dragged her to the campus "to discuss their concerns about affordability", yet those concerns weren't significant enough to keep her from taking an on assload of debt for her "great" overpriced toilet school.

Zigan Danklou, a Togolese immigrant who apparently graduated at age 35, went to the dean with a couple of dozen classmates "during his final year to voice financial concerns. The students hadn’t gotten their loan money as soon as they expected and were struggling, he said." They didn't voice concerns about the amount that they were bothering (just funny money to them, bien sûr); they only complained about the delay in getting borrowed dollars into their hot little hands. The dean served them pizza and a line about the bright future that allegedly lay ahead. What happened?

Even with a partial scholarship, Mr. Danklou borrowed $138,000. He struggled to find a permanent job after graduating.

After a brief stint working for the federal government, he has begun working as a solo practitioner in Jacksonville. He currently has zero income but hopes to make money from cases taken on a contingency basis. His student-loan balance, with interest, has risen to $155,000.

I don't feel so sanguine about Mr Danklou's prospects of making money on a contingency basis. Leaving aside the important issue of his competence as a lawyer, I wonder who would take a lucrative case on contingency to a nobody who can't make a penny "as a solo practitioner". Unfortunately for him, he—like Old Guy—was too old to find work in the legal "profession", a veritable warren of age-based discrimination.

Scam-professor Anthony Alfieri of the U of Miami states, correctly, that "[l]aw schools encourage a kind of magical thinking in order to keep the lights on" and a "kind of cruel optimism"—Old Guy would say delusion—about the prospects of six-figure salaries. But while the high debts are a certainty, the six-figure salaries are a will-o'-the-wisp. Consequently, only 15% of recent graduates of his toilet school had begun to repay their loans within two years of graduation. Although that figure is "the lowest rate among law schools at elite private research universities" (pardon Old Guy while he barfs over the "elite" bit), most other law schools differ only in degree. There are only fourteen law schools where most graduates repay any principal within two years of graduation.

None of this is news; we at Outside the Law School Scam have been reporting it for more than eight years, and many noble anti-scam activists were doing so before us. Though we be the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, we insist:

1. You should not go to law school unless you can pay in cash and do not need income.

2. The government should greatly restrict, or even abolish, federally guaranteed student loans.