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Law schools discuss loans, jobs

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As of Jan. 30, the New York Times Jan. 8 article, “Is law school a losing game?” was the second most e-mailed story during the last 30 days, according to the Times’ website. That article was also likely one of the highest e-mailed and shared articles in the Indiana legal community that week, if not for the month of January.

For the most part, Indiana lawyers and law school administrators agree that the Times article focused on the extreme ends of the story and that while the Indiana law schools are not entirely immune to what the article discusses, including high student loan debts and a poor job market for recent law school graduates, they are also being pro-active in working with their students on debt counseling and preparing them for their careers.
 

Roberts-DeanGary-mug Roberts

The article offers a look at the value of a legal education in a recession economy. It brings up a host of issues that are likely not news to most members of the legal community from the perspective of law school graduates and administrators, including one recent graduate of a school in California who owed $250,000 in debt after graduation and had no plans to repay it because he hadn’t been able to find work.

But whether the debt is $250,000, or the national average of at least $100,000 when students graduate – which is comparable to what students of law schools in Indiana owe at graduation – the article explains that there is no guarantee a student will get a job that meets the income expectation they had when they applied to law school.

Administrators at law schools in Indiana said they often explain to students how much debt they can expect to have at the end, including any school loan debt they already have, and what the job market has been like for their alumni and recent graduates. This can also include giving students information about loan repayment assistance programs for public service jobs if that’s their interest, or to give students an out if they need it.

For instance, in most cases of drop outs, which can have reasons that include a student needing to move or leave for family reasons or because they realize they simply don’t need a law degree for the career they’d like to pursue, some students figure out in the first year of law school that they want to quit, sometimes even as early as orientation, said Leonard Fromm, associate dean for students and alumni affairs at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Fromm has been with the school since the 1980s, and said he hasn’t noticed new trends in terms of more people dropping out or dropping out earlier due to the economy. He said some students do get an increased sense of awareness of the realities of the job market after they enter law school.


Leonard Fromm Fromm

In one example, a law student realized she could probably make the same or more as an accountant, which was her background, and she left the law school early. As occurred in this case, he added, he would rather see a student figure out early that law school wasn’t for her than to continue to make a large investment of time and money without knowing for sure if it was right thing to do.

During his speech at his installation luncheon on Jan. 19, Michael Hebenstreit, the new president of the Indianapolis Bar Association, mentioned the article and said that he and Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis Dean Gary Roberts had discussed how to help students.

While the IBA already works with students at the law school, including discounted membership for students, networking opportunities, and the chance to attend continuing legal education classes for little or no fee, Hebenstreit said he and Roberts hoped to offer more information about the job market to students, giving them a better chance of getting a job when they graduate.

Hebenstreit also mentioned the IBA offers information sessions to students in their first year of law school that include strategies on time management and outlining. Second- and third-year students can receive information from the IBA on how to take the Indiana Bar Exam, as well as loan forgiveness, forbearance, and deferment.

Roberts said that law schools aren’t entirely blameless for some of the issues mentioned in the Times article.

“Law schools need to look at their business models and the way we’re preparing new members of the legal profession,” he said. Since the changes in the economy have affected the job market for lawyers, “there has been a lot of reflection and self analysis not just by the law schools, but also by the bar associations and members of the legal profession.”

Roberts explained that one of the reasons law schools are expensive is that they are offering opportunities, particularly legal clinics, which require more resources than the traditional classroom lectures. IU Maurer School of Law, Notre Dame Law School, and Valparaiso University School of Law offer extensive clinical opportunities for students and work with bar associations.

Heritage Hall at Valparaiso University opened its doors at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year as the Lawyering Skills Center. Students can learn pre-trial, trial, appellate, and arbitration skills, such as client interviews, and work with real clients in one of the center’s eight clinics.

Notre Dame Law School also offers various opportunities to students through its legal aid clinic.

That law school has also added an additional career services counselor, and will soon have four full-time counselors available to classes that are around 200 students, according to Chuck Williams, the dean’s executive administrator.

NDLS has also created a program to place graduates in government service or in nonprofits for up to six months for internships that sometimes lead to full-time positions. Students are also required to prepare a budget in order to obtain a loan, and they have access to loan counselors.

Efforts to keep law school loan debts low are also paying off, Williams said. Students of the law school have a default rate of around 1 percent, less than the national average of 7 to 10 percent, and the loan repayments are less than the average debt at all other top 30 private universities.

So with schools offering opportunities and information to current students, the question is how to create a pool of better-informed law school applicants, Fromm said.


Robel Robel

Dean Lauren Robel of IU Maurer School of Law and Bill Henderson, a professor at the Bloomington law school and a nationally recognized expert on trends in the legal profession, said that students should do more research before making such a large investment of time and money.

Henderson, who was quoted in the Times article, told Indiana Lawyer that most potential students only know to compare law schools based on the U.S. News& World Report rankings, and he said very few applicants take the time to contact the individual schools for more information during the application process.


henderson-bill Henderson

And, Robel added, “They wouldn’t necessarily know the right questions to ask.”

But if applicants did choose to ask, Michael Keller, assistant dean for the Office of Career and Professional Development at the Bloomington law school, said he would be happy to explain the school’s employment statistics. He added that all law school career planning offices should be willing to do this for potential students, and that he’ll tell applicants if other schools don’t share this information, or if they claim to have nearly perfect numbers, “not to buy anything else they might be selling.”

Roberts agreed that potential students are better off doing some research during or before the application process.


Michael Kelle Keller

“If you’re going to invest three years of your life and more than $100,000 in education, you need to do your homework,” he said. “The majority of our students work for government, nonprofits, solo and small firms, and many work in small towns around the state. They are making $40,000 to $60,000 a year. If you’re a law student and think you’ll make $140,000 right out of law school, you’re an idiot.”

He added that this not only applied to his law school, but to even the most prestigious law schools given the current economy.

“But we also have a responsibility as a law school to keep costs down,” Roberts said.

He explained that about 80 percent of the school’s students save money because they are in-state residents and pay less than out-of-state residents. The law school in Indianapolis is also the only law school in the state to offer an evening program for students who prefer to continue working while attending law school, which is another way to keep costs down.

“Many law students are like high school basketball players,” he said. Even though the odds are against them, “They all think they’ll play for the NBA when they graduate.”

Henderson and others interviewed by the Indiana Lawyer said they expected the conversation to continue, and that the Times article probably made more potential law school applicants aware of the realities of debt and the job market.

However, he said there would need to be a change system-wide, not just among individual law schools, to get the ranking system to change and ultimately provide a more accurate portrayal of the job market and law school debt for recent graduates. It is unclear, he said, if or when that would happen.•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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