Thursday, January 16, 2014

One Crushing Tale and a Letter to a 0L

File this one under “there but for the grace of God go I.”  Here’s a profile of Andrew Carmichael, a “whiz kid” who racked up law school debt totaling $215,000.  Yep, that’s not a typo.  Two hundred fifteen large.  Continue reading here

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Podcast Episode 3: WWJD?

This week, I discuss the impact that declining law school enrollment has had on Catholic University's budget.  (Spoiler alert: they're going to continue feeding at the law school loan trough, but some art courses and such are on the chopping block).  Also, part 2 of my interview with Howard, a former law school classmate who is now working in a non-legal position.  Howard and I discuss his first lawyer gig, and why he got out.  And finally, click here to continue reading and go to the podcast

Monday, April 8, 2013

Damaged: On Legal Mythology (or, Why Do We Watch This Stuff?)

A promotional poster for Damages (FX)
*** Warning: This post contains spoilers for the pilot episode of Damages. ***

When I first quit law, I avoided watching any movies or TV shows involving lawyers or police procedure (since I mainly practiced criminal law).  It was a painful reminder not only of what I’d left behind but what would never be.  I guess you could call it nostalgia for a past that never was.  Before and during law school, I would watch The Practice and Law & Order, and feel hopeful about the adventure on which I was about to embark.  It was sort of like when I was a preteen, flipping through Sassy magazine and eagerly anticipating all of the wonderful changes that would occur once I finally became a glamorous young woman like the ones depicted in all the tampon and deodorant ads (which were peppered in between articles about teen suicide and my favorite young heartthrobs).  The reality never quite lived up to the hype.  Much like being a lawyer, being a teenager mostly involved continue reading here

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Podcast Episode 2: All Over But the Shouting

My second podcast is now up and running!  In this week's episode, I discuss an LA Times article regarding the class action lawsuits that have been filed against numerous law schools.  Plus, part 1 of my interview with a former law school classmate, in which we discuss why he went to law school.  Also, I read an excerpt from Will Meyerhofer's book, Way Worse Than Being a Dentist: The Lawyer's Search for Meaning.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Beginnings

I recently changed my blog to Legally Obligated.  Since I still feel like I need to tell my story about quitting law and getting out of student loan debt, I decided that name would be more appropriate.  This week, I worked on a podcast, which I have released on my new blog, plus I am doing my first ever blog giveaway.  I hope you enjoy it, and thank you for reading!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

Our dog, on a post payoff walk
I haven’t updated on my job situation in a while, so I thought I’d put together a little timeline of events, from when I first got out of law to our recent debt freedom.  It’s kind of fun to look back at how far we've come.

Mid 2009:  Gee, this law thing really sucks.  I should find another job.  Shouldn’t take too long since I have a JD, which is truly a versatile degree (it must be true – they told me that at law school orientation)!  (Good grief, I was so naïve. I wish I could go back in time and punch myself in the head.)

January 2010:  As a backup plan, I applied to a healthcare program at my local community college a few months prior and was accepted.  I had to complete some prerequisites, though, so I began taking a chemistry course at night.  

March 2010:  Shit, no one wants me because of my JD.  I’m too ‘overqualified’ apparently.  Or maybe they think I’m nuts for leaving such a ‘lucrative’ and ‘prestigious’ field?  If they only knew how not lucrative it is.  I don’t make much more than someone with a BBA, but I have twice the student loan debt.  And there isn’t anything prestigious about answering discovery in a slip and fall case, or arguing a sentence for a DUI when the statutory guidelines dictate the outcome.  Maybe it’s time to take up drinking to get through it.  A lot of attorneys do that, don’t they?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Old School: The Outdated Law School Model

Photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com
I came across this recent post in Outside the Law School Scam, a blog you should definitely check out.  The post was a call to action on the part of scambloggers - what are they/we looking for exactly?  I then remembered that I wrote a post about the flaws I see in the current law school model, as well as some changes I'd like to see (scroll to the bottom of my post if you want to cut to the chase) about a year and a half ago.  I think it's worth re-posting, since it could benefit anyone considering going to law school.  My ideas for change are simple, although probably difficult to implement.  So just to keep the message going about the potential financial and career pitfalls that await newly minted JD's, here you go: The Flawed Law School Model (October 2011).

What changes would you like to see implemented?  Shutting down all law schools?  Shutting down all for-profit law schools?  Caps on tuition?  Student loan reform?  I'd love to hear them!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Something Amazing Just Happened

I wrote a couple weeks ago about our progress in paying off the last of our debt, my federal student loan.  Well, since then, something really great has happened.  As of today, we are officially debt free.  How did this happen?  Well, we had saved up about $20,000 and we had $50,000 more to go.  When we moved across the country a couple years ago, we did so because my husband took a job with a start-up company.  His compensation package included stock options.  The company has since gone public, and in February, we were allowed to exercise the options.  After taxes, they were worth just over $50,000.  We took it as a sign from the heavens to cash out and be rid of the debt, so we did.  Today, we mailed the payoff. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Pizza Diaries, Part 10: Sleepless in Seattle


By spring, I was tired. 

I’d been moonlighting as a pizza delivery driver for five months, five nights a week.  The original plan had been three nights a week, but given inflated fuel costs, it was tough for the pizzeria to hold on to drivers for any meaningful period of time.  Hence, more shifts to go around.  More nights sweeping Parmesan shavings and cardboard chads from underneath the prep area while waiting for the delivery screen to light up with orders.  More nights divvying up the last of the deliveries with Lou, my favorite driver (the Thai man who spoke kitchen Spanish).

“How long you plan on being here, Lou?  Delivering pizzas, I mean.”

“Eh, six month maybe.  Saving money to retire back to Thailand.”

“And you can’t just go now?”

“Nah, gotta pay the ex-wife.  She get everything in divorce.”

Monday, February 18, 2013

Disclosure

"Wait, you've got a doctorate?  I didn't see that on your resume."

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from law school graduates who are wondering whether to disclose their JD’s on resumes when looking for non-legal work.  There are many opinions out there on whether the practice of omitting advanced degrees on a resume is ethical.  A lot of people who rode out the worst part of the Great Recession in grad school are now struggling to get past HR screeners, who likely believe that those with advanced degrees will demand higher salaries.  Here are the main arguments I’ve found against omitting advanced degrees, along with my thoughts. 

1.  Failing to disclose an advanced degree is akin to lying if the candidate knows that disclosure would affect the employer’s hiring decision.  For example, if an employer is looking for someone with a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position and the candidate knows she’s not going to get hired with a Ph.D. on her resume, she shouldn’t remove the Ph.D. because this might deceive the employer into thinking she’s less qualified for the job than she is. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Crock Pot Versus the Microwave



Savings, October 2012 – January 2013: $18,402.33
Average savings per month: $4,600.58
Savings goal per month: $5,400.00
Missed goal: $3,197.68
Accounting for missed goal: unforeseen vet bills, insurance premiums, holiday travel

Accountability is key when you’re getting out of debt.  So, for the past few months I’ve been tracking our debt snowball goals versus our actual savings.  For the months of October 2012 through January 2013, we have saved $18,402.58.  That seems like a lot, but our goal had been more.  We missed the mark by about $3,200.  Ouch!  Here’s what happened, judging by our bank statements.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Question of Why


One woman paid off Christmas layaway accounts for complete strangers.  What would you do if you had money instead of debt?


Getting out of debt is hard.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  When my husband and I first started following the Dave Ramsey plan, I often heard him say that knowing why you’re getting out of debt is important.  I didn’t fully understand what he meant until recently.  For the first year that we followed the debt snowball plan, my husband and I were paying off debt to gain some peace and simplicity in our lives.  We didn’t really articulate this out loud to each other; it was more of a quiet understanding.  

But then we got down to just my federal student loan, the payment of which is under $400 per month.  At that point, I could sense my motivation waning a bit.  Why did we have to pay off this loan so quickly, considering the interest is under 3% and the payment is such a tiny portion of our income?  We were already experiencing peace and simplicity, since we didn’t have a lot of debt payments anymore.  Couldn’t we just put my loan on the back-burner, while at the same time swearing off any future debt?  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Thing That Couldn’t Die, Part 3: “I’m So Bored!”



Lindsay Lohan, in a still from Liz and Dick

When we first decided to get out of debt, I thought the hardest part would be finding enough extra money in the budget to actually put a dent in our student loans.  We always seemed to just break even with our income and expenditures, so I figured it was going to be tough finding more than maybe one or two hundred dollars to spare at the end of each month.  That certainly wasn’t going to get us out of $100K in student loan debt any time soon.

It turns out that finding extra money wasn’t that difficult.  Once we drew up our budget, got on the envelope system, and cut out most unnecessary spending, we found plenty of money to roll into our debt snowball.  When we paid off our car in only a few months, I felt like we were really on a roll.  And then, as we got to the bigger loans, the ones that were going to take more than just a few months to pay off, I realized I had been completely wrong about why getting out of debt is so difficult.  

It’s not the money.  It’s the sheer, unadulterated boredom. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Money Doesn't Fix Poverty



Has anyone else out there read John Cheese’s article on “The 5 Stupidest Habits You Develop Growing Up Poor?”  I highly recommend it, particularly for those of us who grew up never knowing when the electricity was going to get shut off (hopefully not when a friend was visiting) and/or were taught how to dodge collection calls from the time we first learned how to use a telephone.   

Cheese’s theory is that those of us who grew up poor developed a certain mindset that stays with us, even after we land good jobs and have the ability to stay on top of our bills.  I have always wondered whether poverty is hereditary, and I have come to believe that it is.  Not because money eludes us, even after we grow up, but because money does not fix poverty.  I’ll give you some examples from my own family’s experience.

When I was growing up, my family was constantly in a state of financial crisis.  It always seemed to surprise my father when the electric bill came in the mail, or when my mom had to spend money at the grocery store in order to feed us. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Signing Your Life Away

One of the benefits of apartment living?  We don't get a lot of trick-or-treaters.  Hence, the teeny-tiny bowl of candy, which might be all mine by the end of the night.

Now for something appropriately spooky: the Wall Street Journal has created a list of five things you should know before you cosign for a student loan.  In reality, there's only one thing you should know before cosigning for any kind of debt - DON'T DO IT!!

I think the biggest myth out there regarding cosigning is that you're simply being a reference for the person who is going to benefit from the loan.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When your idiot brother-in-law asks you to cosign for that speedboat he's been dreaming about, he is really asking you to assume his debt.  In the meantime, when he loses his job due to "back pain" or whatever lame excuse he comes up with, you are going to be stuck footing the bill.  And you're not even a boat person, are you?

And if your nephew can't afford tuition at the overpriced private school from which he's chosen to earn a useless degree in anthropology or underwater basket weaving, don't cosign for a private student loan!  If he needs private loans, it means he's exhausted his federal grant/loan limit, which means he is being price gouged with respect to tuition.   

Anyone out there have any cosigning horror stories?  I'd love to hear them.

Happy Halloween!