Thursday, August 15, 2013

"I'm Ten Times Richer Than My Big Brother Bob"



Ever since I quit my law job three years ago, I have noticed a disturbing trend.  People seem to have more respect for unemployed JD’s who are looking for attorney gigs than for gainfully employed JD’s who work in non-legal positions.  I’m not sure why.  Growing up, I got the impression that becoming a “productive member of society” included bringing home a paycheck and paying taxes.   

These days, though, people are preoccupied with labels and appearances.  A few weeks ago, I was at a birthday dinner for an older lawyer.  He got a little tipsy and asked me, “Do you ever wonder what a brilliant attorney you might be today if you just stuck with it?”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the more appropriate question was how much happier I’d be today had I quit sooner, or never went to law school to begin with.  The point is, this man didn’t care what I was doing with my life; he was only concerned with what I wasn’t doing – practicing law.  He couldn’t get over the fact that I gave up the "prestigious" title of Attorney.  In his mind, the title should be worth it, no matter how much I hated practicing law with every fiber of my being.  (His line of thinking betrays a deeper insecurity of many attorneys: Why don’t you want to be like me?)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Podcast Episode 4: "Money, Get Away"

I know the feeling, man...
Apologies for my absence!  I'm still alive and kickin', and I offer you the final installment of my interview with Howard.  Enjoy.  Also, I talk about what I've been up to the past few weeks (saving money, finding holes in my shoes, etc.), and another encounter I had with a 0L [sigh...].

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The $1,400 Credit Score

Photo courtesy of stockfreeimages.com
Ever since my husband and I became debt-free back in March, I have been trying harder than ever to cut back on expenses so we can try to finish saving for our emergency fund.  So I decided to run a little audit on our bank statements, and I came face to face with one cold, hard fact: I am a complete f***ing idiot.

Why, you ask?  Maybe it's because I wasted $90K on a law degree that I no longer use?  No.  Maybe it's because I quit my secure law job at the height of the recession so I could take a decidedly less prestigious job, and eventually deliver pizzas in order to pay off my law school debt?  No.  It all started when my younger sister came to live with me and my husband.

She's one of those sisters.  The kind who's never had a real job, who dropped out of high school because

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, a segment on

Sunday, April 7, 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 horrible skin issues, insecurity, cramps, and a lingering uncertainty regarding any interaction with the opposite sex

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Podcast Episode 2: All Over But the Shouting

This week, I discuss my take on an LA Times article regarding the class action lawsuits that disgruntled grads have filed against a number of law schools.  I apologize for some indelicate language I used, but I was a bit worked up.  Also included is part 1 of my interview with "Howard," a former law school classmate of mine.  He recently transitioned to a non-legal position, and in the first part of the interview we discuss why he went

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blog Giveaway Winner and a Heartwarming Student Loan Story

Congrats to Susan Smoaks for winning the Dave Ramsey giveaway!  Be sure to look for my email asking for your delivery address.  Also, if you entered the giveaway, I'll be emailing you as well with a small token of my appreciation.

Look how happy Dave looks, Susan!  Well, he never really looks happy, but I know that's how he feels on the inside.  I hope you find the book motivational, like I did.

Also, here is a touching story I read regarding a single mother in Rhode Island whose student loans were

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Beginnings, a Podcast, and a Giveaway...

You may have noticed that I changed my blog name from Attorney to Temp to Legally Obligated.  I did this because I am no longer a temp, and I'm no longer just transitioning out of practicing law, but I still feel compelled to tell my story and to support other people who are deep in student loan debt.  So I thought Legally Obligated would be a more appropriate name.  Anyway, here is my first podcast!  (Scroll to the bottom to listen.)  Hopefully it will help me reach more people who are going through the same things I did.  I experienced some technical difficulties, but I think the next one will be smooth sailing.  So apologies for any volume level variations and such.

My first podcast includes my take on the U.S. News Law School rankings that were released last week, plus a story about an encounter I had with a woman who is considering going to law school, and some other

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Ides of March

I’ve heard that when you go on the Dave Ramsey plan (or any kind of plan for that matter), anything that can go wrong, will.  In terms of the baby steps, I think a lot of people experience Murphy’s Law in the first month of baby step two.  You get all excited about saving money to put toward your debt and then all of a sudden, boom!  Your water heater breaks, or the transmission on your car bites the dust.  It’s sort of the universe testing your resolve to get out of debt. 

We experienced a bit of that in the beginning of our debt snowball plan, but for the most part we didn’t have too much bad luck during baby step 2.  And then, a few days after we mailed our final payoff, I was driving home from work and heard a small crack! sound.  In the corner of my windshield was a little star-shaped chip, no more than a half inch in diameter.  It’s ok, I thought.  We can get that repaired.  No big deal.  And then, a couple minutes later, I heard a much louder crack! and saw that the star-shaped chip suddenly spread a foot across into my line of vision.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

"Don't Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining"

Can anyone say it better than Judge Judy?  More shenanigans by law schools desperate to inflate job statistics.  The George Washington School of Law is hiring graduates to work in temporary positions for up to 48 weeks.  Well, at least that'll help indebted law grads ride out the legal job market "slump" (which has been occurring for years).  Except that these lucky lawyers will be earning just $15 per hour (up to 35 hours per week).  A little quick math for you - that's $25,200, pre-tax, for the maximum 48-week period.  A graduate with $100K in student loans with a repayment period of 25 years and a 5% interest rate will be required to pay $584.59 per month. On a $25,000 salary, that's 28% of gross pay.  Which is totally doable.  Most people can swing student loan payments that are the equivalent of their housing costs, right? And I'm sure that by the end of the 48 weeks, most of these grads will be gainfully employed.

In other legal news, Northwestern has decided to cut its incoming class by 10% (while still raising tuition).  This is due in part to the declining number of law school applications (slow clap for the early scam bloggers).

The Lonely Lawyer

A law school friend of mine (we'll call him "John") called me tonight, in need of some support.  He was feeling bummed out about not having a girlfriend, about his job (as a bankruptcy lawyer), and about his law school debt.

"I can't believe how stupid I was to drop computer engineering for a history major.  And going to law school was such a huge mistake.  But what else was I going to do with my worthless BA?"

"It's ok.  We all did stupid stuff when we were younger.  Just 'cause you dropped engineering back in college doesn't mean you can't go back into that field now."

"Yeah, but I'm afraid if I leave my law job, I may never be able to go back."

"What are you talking about?  Are they going to take away your law license if you try to be happy?"

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 na├»ve. 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. 

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 whyyou’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.