Law School Discussion

poor lawyers

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #160 on: May 09, 2007, 07:38:37 PM »

Sounds like KK is on the road to become one of those "ignorant buffoons and at worst heartless manipulators of doctrine." This d**mn post is "devote of thousands of words in each instance trying to sound reasonable and consistent... [f]rom all th[is] verbiage."

Assuming, of course,  k k *is* in law school.

A Capitol Effort for Law Student Loan Reform
« Reply #161 on: May 10, 2007, 02:23:40 AM »
"If you told me three years ago that I would be working at a commercial law firm, I never would have believed it," confides "Karen," a second-year associate at a large New York firm. Karen, who requested anonymity for this article, is at the pinnacle of the legal profession: A graduate of one of the country's top law schools, she earns six figures representing corporate clients on challenging legal matters. But Karen's job represents a compromise of the dreams that led her to become a lawyer. "I entered law school with the intention of taking a public interest position in the field of human rights," she says. What changed her mind was the prospect of repaying $145,000 in student loans and $20,000 in credit card debt she accumulated during three years of law school. "I felt I had no other choice than to look for a job in the private sector," she says. "I have friends with this kind of debt who chose not to go to law firms," Karen adds. "But they either have someone providing financial support or a very different psychological relationship to this debt. Personally, I find it nerve wracking."

Karen's story is one of 400 accounts the ABA Law Student Division received when it solicited on its web site in early April "personal experiences or hardships relating to ... law school debt." On April 27 and 28, a delegation of law student officers took those stories to Washington, D.C., and visited the offices of 32 members of Congress. Their mission: to drive home the message that the high cost of law school loans is preventing a new generation of lawyers from entering public interest law. As one student account noted, "Not everyone in law school wants to make a lot of money. Some people see law as a means to getting people to listen, changing our great nation's public policy, and carving out a life we can look back on with pride." But at what personal cost, many are wondering. Take, for example, the typical legal aid lawyer, who earns a salary of $36,000, or $27,000 after taxes. If he has $100,000 in outstanding loans on a 10-year repayment plan, he will pay out $1,065 each month on student loans, leaving just $1,185 for all other expenses, notes Philip Schrag, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and an expert in student debt issues. Schrag, along with ABA past president Robert Hirshon, current president Michael Greco, Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), and former Law Student Division chair Chris Jeter, spoke at a program on student debt and loan forgiveness at Georgetown on April 26. The event, a kickoff to the ABA's related lobbying activities on Capitol Hill, was sponsored by the ABA Law Student Division, Young Lawyers Division, and Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

At the heart of the problem is the rising cost of tuition, which has "risen much more dramatically than the cost of living," says Schrag, author of "Repay As You Earn: The Flawed Government Program to Help Students Have Public Service Careers." From 1992 to 2002, as the cost of living rose 28%, tuition rose 100% for in-state residents at public schools, 134% for out-of-state residents at public schools, and 76% at private schools. Law students currently graduate with an average debt load of $66,810 from public schools and $97,763 from private schools, according to Schrag. That debt is manageable on the median law firm starting salary of $90,000, but it becomes overwhelming for government and nonprofit lawyers, who draw median salaries of $42,000 and $36,000, respectively, he adds.

What are the alternatives? More than 80 law schools and eight states have started loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to forgive the loans of graduates entering public interest or public service work. These programs lower interest rates on loans, defer loan payments, or forgive a percentage of loans for every year a lawyer works in a public-interest-related legal job. Their drawback, Schrag says, is that they have strict income limits: Lawyers can lose eligibility for a program after receiving a couple of salary raises. And many schools do not yet have these programs or have only a limited amount of funds to dispense. For broader relief, the ABA has been lobbying for changes in two federal loan programs: raising the annual limit on Stafford unsubsidized loans from $10,000 to $30,000 and improving the usability of the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) option of the William D. Ford Federal Direct Lending Program, which currently forgives federal student loans after 25 years of public service.

The Stafford program allows graduate and professional students to borrow $8,500 in subsidized loans and $10,000 in unsubsidized loans annually — an amount that Congress has not increased since 1992. Because $18,500 is insufficient to cover tuition at all but a few law schools, law students are forced to make up the difference by taking out loans from private lenders, which charge exorbitant interest rates. What makes the situation particularly unfair to proponents of law student loan reform is that the Department of Education raised the annual Stafford unsubsidized loan limit for medical and other health care students to $30,000 in 1999. The ABA argues that all graduate and professional students should receive the same treatment.

The ABA also is urging that student loans be forgiven after 15 years of public service and that the ICR program's marriage penalty be eliminated. Currently, the program limits annual loan payments to 20% of a lawyer's income, but married lawyers must pay 20% of their joint income. Whatever is unpaid each year is added to the principal. "You may actually have to pay more over time," Schrag cautions. The most significant drawback to the ICR program in its current state is its 25-year length. "Lawyers balk at paying off their student loans at the same time they are paying for their children's college education," Schrag says. The ABA House of Delegates made lobbying for these changes in the law a priority item in 2003. Two years earlier, then-ABA president Hirshon established a Commission on Loan Repayment and Forgiveness. It produced a report in 2003 titled "Lifting the Burden: Law Student Debt As a Barrier to Public Service," which included 19 recommendations to the ABA, states, and law schools.

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #162 on: May 10, 2007, 09:49:20 AM »
This is an interesting area.  One of my professors that I worked for does research into trying to improve the legal community, and more public service.  Law school debt is one of the areas she focuses on.  But are lawyers "poor"?  Depends upon your definition of poor.  The vast, vast majority are not.  Consider the median United States income was 46,326 for 2005.  Take this same number and compare to the average income for a lawyer as cited by the Department of Labor -- 110,520.  Lawyers are far above the national average.  Consider that most law schools in the nation graduate attorneys working for 50K or more a year, as first year graduates.  The salary looks even better if you view stats as having lawyers make 153,923.  Lawyers are not poor, but perhaps if you mistakenly thought you were going to make six figures at the tender age of 25 these salary numbers reflect attorneys being "poor."

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #163 on: May 10, 2007, 04:05:58 PM »
In debt, young lawyers struggle to make it
Young prosecutors and assistant public defenders are struggling to pay for even the bare necessities.


For Allison Haney, it's a good thing Publix takes credit cards. By the end of the month, she often doesn't have enough money left from her salary as a prosecutor to buy food.

Ayana Harris turns to Mom and Dad for help with the basics every month, and knows her parents will have to chip in even more when the brakes in her car go, or the dog needs to go to the vet. As an assistant public defender, she's also strapped for cash each month.

Haney and Harris are among dozens of young South Florida lawyers who have decided to sacrifice the comforts a law degree could offer in order to practice criminal law for the government. They are sharp, dedicated and idealistic, and their dreams are sinking them deeper and deeper into debt each month.

''I'm 27 years old, I shouldn't be asking my parents for money,'' Haney said. ``It's sad. I don't want them to give me money, but sometimes I do go to their house to eat.''

Haney is a top ''pit prosecutor'' in Circuit Judge Larry Schwartz's courtroom, meaning that with a little more than three years' experience, she's already trying rapists, robbers and even the occasional murderer.

She earns $50,000 a year to do it.

''It's financially irresponsible for me to remain here,'' Haney said. ``But it's socially responsible. I love my job. There's nothing else I'd rather do.''

She has about $130,000 in debt, mostly school loans she took out to get her law degree.


The issue of underpaid prosecutors and public defenders is getting attention around the country as the difference grows between their salaries and what they could make in the private sector and even in other government positions.

District and state attorneys and their counterparts, the public defenders, report losing staff attorneys at alarming rates, and recruiting for such low-paying jobs is increasingly difficult.

In Tallahassee, Rep. Ari Porth, D-Coral Springs, is sponsoring a bill that would at least help assistant public defenders and prosecutors pay their school loans, but he said it's not getting much support in a tight budget year.

Porth has been a Broward prosecutor for 12 years and says he's been able to stay in the office that long only because he doesn't have any school loans.


Help with her loans is exactly the kind of thing that could keep Harris in her job as an assistant public defender, defending the indigent people that Haney prosecutes.

Harris' debts -- about $140,000 -- are crushing when compared to her $56,000 salary.

She owed only $120,000 when she started working for the public defender's office almost six years ago, but the interest has added up as she's deferred her school loans. And she still owes taxes from 2001 and 2002.

Her parents regularly pitch in to keep her afloat.

'I don't think there are many people who go to school for seven years to live in their parents' pockets,'' Harris said over lunch in the courthouse cafeteria. ``It makes me feel like I'm not a complete adult.''

She's not even trying to live well at this point. She's basically given up vacations -- her parents pay for her tickets home and she doesn't travel anymore, even though she studied abroad and used to love to wander.

''I promised I'd take my mother to Africa for her 60th birthday. Now it's coming up, but I don't see how I'll do it,'' she said sadly.

Harris' father, Robert Harris, is happy to help his daughter, but he's not sure how long he can subsidize her.

''As a father, you want to be there for them but at some point you think you cut those apron strings and they'll be able to support themselves,'' he said.

``I don't mind doing it, it's just sort of unfair.''

And he worries about those looming loans and what they're doing to his daughter's credit.

''You mortgage your life away because you wanted to educate yourself,'' he said. ``I see someone like Ayana who's willing to work in a job that probably a lot of people don't like to do. I think she should be fairly compensated.''


The low salaries mean both offices are struggling to keep attorneys like Haney and Harris.

Consider the Miami-Dade state attorney's office. It has a staff of 291 attorneys and lost 126 of them in 2005 and 2006. The public defender's office, with a staff of 192 attorneys, lost 63 during the same two-year period.

Harris and Haney don't want to be part of those statistics, but they're realistic.

'The only thing that is keeping me here is my parents' ability to supplement my income,'' Harris said. 'Initially, they thought `how noble' to defend people who can't afford a lawyer, but quite frankly, both of them are a little bit over it now.''

''I can't do this much longer,'' Haney said. ``I keep meaning to put my résumé out, but the part of me that wants to stay here hasn't gotten around to it yet. . . . It's an amazing feeling when you get a guilty [verdict] in trial for somebody who is truly a danger to the community. I'll miss that.''

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #164 on: May 10, 2007, 07:31:42 PM »
I just thought I'd mention that I know a guy that went to a 4th tier in Boston, is $100,000 in debt from law school, has his own practice, but has to wait tables FT at night just to make ends meat. He has 2 kids he never sees.

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #165 on: May 10, 2007, 08:30:25 PM »

now someone post something so it will pop up tomorrow  :)

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #166 on: May 11, 2007, 07:30:21 AM »
I just thought I'd mention that I know a guy that went to a 4th tier in Boston, is $100,000 in debt from law school, has his own practice, but has to wait tables FT at night just to make ends meat. He has 2 kids he never sees.

Well that just sucks.   :P

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #167 on: May 13, 2007, 08:24:37 PM »

[...] Wall Street lawyers make the most money, but they appear to get the least satisfaction out of their jobs. They work extremely long days and many weekends, billing clients for 2,000 to 2,500 hours of work a year, and find they are given little responsibility initially. [...]

Excuse my ignorance, but why would the author consider 2000 hours a year too much? To bill 2000 hours, you need to bill only 40 hrs per week for 50 weeks. If you take an hour for lunch, that's 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5 days per week. No sweat. 

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #168 on: May 13, 2007, 09:32:37 PM »

Excuse my ignorance, but why would the author consider 2000 hours a year too much? To bill 2000 hours, you need to bill only 40 hrs per week for 50 weeks. If you take an hour for lunch, that's 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., 5 days per week. No sweat. 

cabriolet, there is a big difference -- a painfully big difference -- between the hours that you bill and the hours that you spend at work. If you're honest, you bill only the time that you spend working directly on matters for clients. Obviously, you cannot bill the time that you spend on vacation, or in bed with the flu, or at home waiting for the plumber. But you will also not be able to bill for much of what you will do at the office or during the workday -- going to lunch, chatting with your co-workers about the latest office romance, visiting your favorite websites, going down the hall to get a cup of coffee, reading your mail, going to the bathroom, attending the weekly meeting of your practice group, filling out your time sheet, talking with your spouse on the phone, sending e-mail to friends, preparing a "pitch" for a prospective client, getting your hair cut, attending a funeral, photocopying your tax returns, interviewing a recruit, playing Solitaire on your computer, doing pro bono work, reading advance sheets, taking a summer associate to a baseball game, attending CLE seminars, writing a letter about a mistake in your credit card bill, going to the dentist, dropping off your dry cleaning, daydreaming, and so on.

Because none of this is billable -- and because the average lawyer does a lot of this every day -- you end up billing only about 2 hours for every 3 hours that you spend at "work." Thus, to bill 2000 hours per year, you will have to spend about 60 hours per week at the office, and take no more than 2 weeks of vacation/sick time/personal leave. If it takes you, say, 45 minutes to get to work, and another 45 minutes to get home, billing 2000 hours per year will mean leaving home at 7:45 a.m., working at the office from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m., and then arriving home at 7:15 p.m. -- and doing this 6 days per week, every week. That makes for long days, and for long weeks. And you will have to work these hours not just for a month or two, but year after year after year. That makes for a long life.

Re: poor lawyers
« Reply #169 on: May 14, 2007, 06:07:00 PM »
There are quite a few horror stories about law firms that will not credit some important work toward billable hours. For example, one firm in this metropolitan area will not consider going to court billable hours. Now granted, litigating a case is not everything when it comes to how a lawyer does his job, but if that is not counted, then a lot of other aspects of your work shouldn't be, either.