Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Street Lawyer: Don't Pull the [Well-Tailored] Wool Over Us!

The Street Lawyer is the Cultured Barrister’s necessary counterpart. Offering a viewpoint sometimes at odds with CB’s, the Street Lawyer takes a no-nonsense approach to the realities of law practice. Sometimes cynical, usually irreverent, and occasionally serious, the Street Lawyer welcomes your feedback.

I distinctly remember the day I went for my student-loan exit interview. It was a beautiful day on campus: the sun was shining, the birds were chirping, the trees were coming to life after the long winter, there was a soft breeze at my back. I walked into the loan officer’s temporary on-campus office smiling.

The loan officer seemed like a kindly older man. He was balding a bit, wore ill-fitting glasses, and seemed somewhat scattered as he shuffled through papers to find my information. I sat down in the chair he indicated with an absent-minded brush of his hand and said, “So what’s my monthly payment?”

Smiling—I will always remember that he was smiling—he said, “Oh, about [more than I’ve ever made in a month in my life].”

Note that I have not edited out the amount he spoke for your benefit; I am just trying to avoid getting charged with obscenity for putting it in print. Obscene might be too mild a word. And I am sure my alma mater’s admissions office would not appreciate such disclosure.  

Suddenly this kindly old man looked different—as if he had grown horns, a tail, and a little goatee right before my eyes. You know that old saw: “Don’t shoot the messenger”? Well, if I had had a firearm . . . .  

“Ha ha,” I said nervously, “You know I don’t have a job, right?”

“Well,” he said, “There are options . . .” He then proceeded to tell me about some Ponzi schemes involving student loans, how much I might be able to get for my first-born child, and where I could sell organs on the black market. He also told me how I could reduce my monthly payment by about six bucks by doing an “extended” repayment plan. Eventually, the buzzing in my head drowned him out and I went into a state of semi-catatonic shock.

You might be chuckling, but the amount of money it takes to become a lawyer these days is staggering. While the economy has tanked, the price of a legal education has soared. At least the student-loan people are not sending out “enforcers” to bust kneecaps—yet. I would encourage anyone thinking about going to law school to think long and hard about it before enrolling. By your third year, you might be contemplating knocking over the local bank to pay off your loans. These are not good thoughts to have. Besides, you will have to knock over more than one bank. They just do not keep that kind of cash lying around. 

Several people believe that all lawyers are well to do. They tend to forget that some lawyers—new lawyers especially—have crushing student loan debt, cannot find jobs, and are struggling just like everyone else.

So, while Cultured Barrister is busy picking out brand-spanking-new overcoats and Brooks Brothers suits (and using obnoxious words like “sartorial” when he means “clothing”), some of us are saving up for . . . our student-loan payment. Like CB, however, we do need professional clothes. So while your paycheck is too small to even get you onto the mailing list at Armani, here are a few practical ways to save money in that department.

Kohl’s is a decent store. If you are patient enough, and willing to sort through the gaudy yellow-and-black-checked golf shirts and fitting-room castoffs on the clearance rack, you can usually find what I like to call “grown-up clothes” at very-affordable prices. A good tactic is to look for a concentration of 90%-off clearance stickers, yell “Fire!” and, in the confusion that follows, calmly pick through the items, placing the nice stuff in your size in your cart. Of course, this can also be accomplished without yelling “Fire!” but what fun is that?   

Thrift shops can be alright too. I used to be mortified that I might be seen in a thrift shop with my mother when I was a kid. Now, I have no issue with shopping in thrift shops. “Vintage” clothing shops are all the rage these days. Vintage clothing shops are just higher-priced thrift shops. The better choice is probably the shop that is honest about what it is. Thrift shops, incidentally, are great places to find overcoats.  

—The Street Lawyer


  1. A sort of sartor resartus. Which, incidentally, was a favorite book of Gen. Eisenhower. Do the clothes make the man or the woman? Are clothes simply new bottles for the old wine? Is the Cultured Barrister an idealist, a Hegelian? Is the Street Lawyer a romantic, a realist, a bronze-class member unfit to climb out of the cave and see the sun?

  2. Great comment, Kevin. Except I feel like I need to take another four years of college so that I can decipher it. I'll be in my cave reading up if you need me.

    Best regards,


  3. in re:"some Ponzi schemes involving student loans," see pgs. 6-7, in the referenced 12(b)6 order, below.

    Also, if 31 U.S.C.§3729 doesn’t apply, why not try 18 U.S.C. 1961?

  4. Indict the law schools under RICO. Brilliant! Now all you need is a federal prosecutor (presumably with massive law school debts) who is interested in taking up the issue.