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January 10, 2008

Lawyer Auctions His Diploma on E-Bay for the Price of his Education

A very angry new lawyer decides to auction his diploma on E-bay hoping to recoupe what he perceives as a miserable investment:

So America... just how much is an education worth? Let's find out. Up for sale is my law degree.

Yes, you read correctly. Three years and $100,000 plus of debt for your pleasure. Please note that I am in no way claiming that by purchasing this degree you will be given credit for having attended an accredited law school and completing its course of study nor will it give you the necessary credentials to take the bar exam. You will not be able to become a lawyer by purchasing this degree. However this would make a great collectible if your name happens to be David Wold.

Why am I selling this great item? Because it has been nothing but a curse and aggravation in my life. Going to school for this degree has been a joke, and has only brought me stress and misery. This degree has been a great invitation to work at least 60 hours a week at a place where I don't want to be for people that I don't care about. It has helped me develop great relationships with bill collectors as I can't afford the cost this great privilege has afforded me. It has limited my abiltity to pursue other work options as people just can't understand why someone with a law degree wouldn't want to be a lawyer.

Believe it or not, the extensive job dissatisfaction amongst lawyers, high suicide rates, and failed personal relationships that lawyers have isn't enough to convince others that it's not a healthy, worthy pursuit. And of course even if I would be happier as a bartender, I couldn't afford to pay back the loans needed to earn this degree. Though that's true of many that I graduated with. Individuals that wanted to practice law for the benefit of the poor or impoverished or those who can't afford legal counsel are having a hard time too because they aren't paid enough. But that's justice.

The only thing this law degree has been worth to me has been to reinforce my belief that America's higher educational system is another vehicle for driving the economy. Honestly... if education were a priority in this country, wouldn't we make it affordable? No... because if you create an expensive educational system, you endorse the instutionalism of professions which may have no reflection of your actual skill or abilty, and you coerce people to get higher paying jobs needed to pay the high cost of education which further pumps dollars into the economy and creates a higher tax base.

But David... what about the great education and experience you earned with this degree? Surely this is something you respect and a buyer can't get with the purchase of this degree. Oh but wait... If you purchase this item, I will also throw in all the law books I have from this program. Sure you don't get the instruction from the professors, but anyone can tell you which pages to read each day and ask you randomly a few questions about what you read and call that instruction. So you're not missing much.

But what can I possibly do with this degree? Well, the same thing I do with it. Let is sit in your closet as a constant reminder of three years lost in your life or how you could have used that money for educational loans to start your own business or buy a home. Perhaps I have used it quite well. Since I got a degree in screwing people for money, I thought I'd use it for such. My girlfriend have started our own adult site www.(Deleted).com. Perhaps this degree will equally inspire you! So come on America... what is an education worth?

Is a law degree really worth $100,000? I know many of you will say that an education is priceless. For argument's sake, let's say priceless equals $1,000,000. As an incentive for interested buyers that really think an education is worth something, I will make a promise to create a $100,000 scholarship with each $100,000 increment that I profit from (less fees and taxes) with the sale of this degree over $500,000. But isn't that greedy on your part, David? The educational costs weren't that much. True... but the misery I've been honored to experience and the opportunities lost do equal about that amount. And it is my degree, so there.

Surprisingly, I sympathize with this man, but not for the reasons you may think.  We all have responsibilities for our debts and we should have some knowledge about the costs associated with going for a graduate degree.  But like many, he has been sold a bill of goods about job prospects and not been provided reasonable alternatives during the course of his education which included entrepreneurship with his degree.  He came to believe, as many, that going to law school is a ticket to making money and that jobs abound.

I agree with his take on the costs associated with education.  Other countries build into their tax system free higher education.  Maybe their economies have different challenges but their citizens are educated.  Higher education is a money machine starting with all the student loan and private loan agencies, to the government as lender and the inability to discharge the debt even in bankruptcy yet we are told over and over you can't survive in this world without a higher education.  This makes the garage-billionaire very attractive and why so many are trying to bypass higher education.  The debt and servitude to that debt, the parents sacrificing retirement to provide that education, is terrifying to everyone.  And for what, no job prospects?

David claims to be an entrepreneur?  While he builds his porn site why isn't he using his legal degree to build his own legal practice?  Probably because noone taught him how or he went to law school for the wrong reasons or he's just a pissed off person trying to garner some attention or all three. I don''t know.  But the points he brings up for all of us are valid.

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Lawyer Auctions His Diploma on E-Bay for the Price of his Education:

» The Diploma Doesn't Know You Own It from Business Development
There was a perversely fascinating post on Susan Carter Liebel's blog yesterday about some guy named David Wold who's auctioning his law degree off on eBay. Susan's comment is evenhanded, gracious and thoughtful. Mine won't be. The diploma seller, who [Read More]

» Auctioning Professional Misery on eBay from Simple Justice
This post [Read More]

» Lawyers Against the Blawgosphere from Simple Justice
Over the past year, we've had a number of "run-ins" with lawyers who were clearly unfamiliar with the blawgosphere, how it worked and how best to accomplish their purposes. [Read More]

Comments

Mike Anderson

I read every one of your posts. I practice law alone and have done so for 11 years. I have paid off $160,000 in student loan debt in that 11 years of practice while raising four children.

Money can be made in the solo practice of law if you are hardworking and make good decisions.

Having said that, the current law school and student loan situation is a scam brought on by the government guarantee of the debt. "Lower Tier" law schools are in the business of making money. What better way to do so but then to make the average, gullible 24 year old liberal arts graduate believe that a law degree is the ticket to wealth and beautiful women (or men as the case may be). The money is there for the lending, thanks to the guarantee system, and as a result the price of the education is not kept in check by any real competition.

Having gone through the process of borrowing inordinate amounts to go to law school, being unable to pay for a few years and watching the interest add $60,000.00 to the base debt and than successfully paying it off, I can say with all sincerity, that if you have to borrow more than $40,000 to get through law school, don't do it.

Just a thought. Thanks
Mike

Chuck Newton

Although I agree with many of David's points, I would suggest that someone who identified a piece of paper as the goal in the first place and who now wishes to trade a legal education for a porn site might not have been well suited for this profession in any event. I think the objective cannot be education for prestige or a piece of paper, or image or anything else other than wanting to accomplish something in the area of law. It is not fair that it costs so much. That said, good luck with the auction and the porn website.

Rochelle

My take on it is this: People tend to go to law school because they can and because they see no other route to even the chance at having the glamorous life, being James Bond, having lots of beautiful women, etc.

The problem really isn't law schools, in my view. The problem is with the people. By and large, most folk who go to ABA schools pass the bar. This is the law school's essential function: to prepare one for the practice of a profession to a minimum standard of competency. It is not the law school's fault that people really don't want to be lawyers, but, instead, want a fat job with a fat check in a 9-5 environment (or less) with champagne lunches, gorgeous secretaries sitting on the desk...and whatever other image one might dig up from old LA Law episodes. What may be the law school's fault is catering to this misperception. But, in and of itself....that people don't get what they want, probably begins with the fact that they are not HONEST about what they really want out of law school---women, money, power, status, etc.

Now, I don't suggest that we all are like that. To the contrary. But, we don't all complain either. Simply put, law school should be for people who want to be lawyers.

The problem, for me, actually precedes law school. Why does someone go to college and get a B.A. in poli sci...and then think that there is some way to become a political scientist other than by investing in a PhD, publishing, etc.? Higher education needs retooling. The sorts of positions that such "Bachelor's Degree" folks get simply do not require a college degree. Sure, we all value education. There is an inherent value in it. But, to pursue it without regard to one's economic situation, LIKELY outcome, and the subsequent career/professional development is foolish. Simply put, when I was a student at a rather pricey undergrad institution, we were told.. A BRANDNAME education is luxury. In short, anyone who went there could have saved a lot of money and received a quality education at MY STATE U. But, the price of BRANDNAME...SHOULD pay for itself in other ways. And, for most of us, it did. Now, for students who contemplate...MY STATE U at 3k per year vs. EXPENSIVE BUT NOT IMPRESSIVE PRIVATE U at say...45k per year...well, if you have to look at the price tag, then you need to do the math. Cost and Value. PERIOD.

Personally, I went to a lower-tiered law school. I also went for free. I also went to graduate school at MY STATE U. This, I did on a fellowship. (TRANSLATION: I got paid to do it.) And, I also went to a top private undergrad school---with a whole lot of MERIT based awards from a whole lot of corporations and government entities. But, this is not about me. I don't complain.

In the end, we all need to be responsible for our choices. And, while the gullible and less intellectually gifted among us may have a hard time understanding the most basic of mathematics, this is not applicable to your typical law school student. The bottom line is this: Law school can't make you James Bond. It can only give you the opportunity to practice a profession.

Larry Brown

From lawyer to porn star. That alone should pretty much sum it up. I think the lure of potential riches was this man's primary (if not only) motivation for attending law school. He evidently decided that porn pays better, which (sadly) it probably does.

Regarding Mike's comment about not attending law school if you must borrow more than $40,000, ouch. This would be a great idea if we wanted to eliminate America's lawyer population by more than half. But that is just my opinion.

PerGynt

It's a mistake to feel sorry for this guy. I'm sorry that the real world world did not allow him to extend his irresponsible youth beyond law school, but he is being a baby and it is wrong to encourage him, or anyone like him. By the time you are qualified to attend law school you are an adult with a college education, and you can just as easily go into bad debt purchasing trucks, heavy equipment, chinchillas, or capitalizing any other kind of start-up business. What he is doing is whining, and he has obviously gotten good enough results and positive reinforcement from it that he is now stepping up his efforts to include self destructive behavior.

I'd say it's likely that he has carefully calculated the amount of sympathy and acknowledgment he is likely to receive from his acting out, and the sad part of it is that he is likely to get it.

He obviously has no idea what kind of asset he actually possesses. Excusing him by saying that he was somehow tricked into spending the money on a law degree doesn't do it. The legal profession is notoriously demanding both in law school and afterwards. You can't blame law school for a defeatist attitude. You have to bring that with you, and it's yours!

I really don't expect much out of this guy, and really hope that nobody encourages him any further. Apparently the only way he can convince anyone that he is a grown man is to show them his body parts, and that's sad. I sure hope nobody wastes another minute of their lives feeling sorry for him.

P

Dave Redden

It sure would be easier to feel sorry for this guy if he wasn't going into porn. It also seems like maybe he's given up a little early, but who knows.

I agree with Mike: student loans are a horrendous scam. USNWR rankings, the prospect of repaying massive loans, and the legal industry's elitism work together to narrow choices for pretty much everybody except the truly gifted who really nail the LSAT and the loaded kids.

Prospective students feel a ton of pressure to attend the highest ranked school possible, which will probably give less (if any) scholarship aid, which in turn leaves students a very narrow range of realistic choices after graduation because they have to pay the bills. In the end they're servants to the people behind the lender and to the people who own and/or run their employers, which is not really what they signed up for.

The situation reminds me of the Fast Food Ads vs. Reality website - http://www.thewvsr.com/adsvsreality.htm . Educational consumerism looks very different after you buy it and peel back the wrapper. And they don't give you fries with that.

Even if you attend a lower-ranked school to cash in on a nice scholarship you'll reportedly have a limited selection of potential employers by virtue of the lower rank, though I don't know that for a fact. In retrospect, I might have done that instead of head into $60k of unforgivable debt. Ah well...I have 2.5 more years of school to mull that over.

Peter Olson

Let me preface this comment by saying I'm only 33 and just entered by sixth year of practice nearing my third as a sole practitioner (in other words there's still a lot of life left to live and change the below) & my life as always been fairly pleasant with a good family background, etc.

But, all that being said, if I was asked what was the worst decision I've made in my life I'd honestly answer, attending law school. I enjoyed my previous careers more (high school teacher and journalist) and I was in MUCH better financial shape.

Just being totally honest. I expect some great things as a lawyer and with my practice and in other areas going forward. But the above is my honest opinion sitting here today. Maybe it's just the supposed "first five year" misery.

scotty

But how can one start a law practice of one's own paying 1000-1200 a month in loans, and earning an entry level salary in a small firm of 35-45 K? Just making ends meet, much less saving the money needed to go solo, is all but a pipedream. Going solo involves malpractice insurance, purchase of your own health plan, office supplies, advertising, telephone answering service, fax machine, etc. These costs alone easily run 10-15 K.

And provided you could "go solo," how would you ever get sufficient, steady business to earn a living? There are already hundreds of lawyers even in rural areas and small towns, and simply not enough work to go around. Open your local yellow pages and count the number of lawyers in there, and then ask yourself how often you've ever needed a lawyer in your life? Get the picture? It's our old friend supply and demand.

Fact is that a law degree in these times is worthless if not from a Top 14 school. Period. The only chance of making decent money from a 2nd tier or below school is to make the Top 10%, and 90% of the class won't!

I'm currently interviewing at small firms in NYC. I have three years of insurance defense experience, including depositions, trials, motion practice, etc. The best offer I've received three years out of school is 48 K!

It's a brutal bear market for the average law grad. Unlike finance and real estate which have their ups and downs, law consistently sucks. There is no "market" for 2nd tier law grads, period.

Susan Cartier Liebel

Scotty, you ask the classic questions, present the definitive conundrum most law students face...if you were shown how to manage your student loans properly so they weren't bearing down on you the first few years, understood how to use technology to your advantage, understood about not necessarily investing in 'things' to get your practice going and were shown where in fact you will get your clients, you would not feel like you are caught between a rock and a hard place. It's not the school you attend; it's understanding you need to rewrite the script for your situation and then make it work for you.

Bert

I graduated from a second tier private law school less than 5 years ago, having graduated at age 40. I was an engineer for several years in the rough and tumble world of high technology. In other words: I was in the Real World for quite a while before law school.

In the Real World, especially in engineering, your ability to earn is directly related to the value you can bring. With high tech companies going on hiring and firing binges, your survival depends on culturing some expertise and delivering value for the time you are employed.

When I entered law school, I slowly learned that about 5% of the class was there because they had a yearning to be a lawyer. Of the remaining 95%, half were there because mommy, daddy, or the trust fund was paying and they wanted another three years of undergraduate partying. The remaining people were those who got some useless liberal arts degree and were tending bar, waiting tables, or managing a 7-11. These remaining people had no other career path other than law, and had no particular aptitude, desire, or calling, other than they thought they might get rich.

In the end, very few of them realized that the bar exam is graded on a curve and that there is a guarantee that a third of them will never practice law. Neither did they realize that lawyers as a profession never add value, they merely serve as a person to blame if something goes wrong.

I practice as a patent attorney and started my solo practice as a patent agent during law school. I had been a patent agent for a few years before law school and had planned on going solo at some point.

Each of us is responsible for our choices. For someone considering the legal profession as a career, I suggest doing a thorough investigation, understand your competitors, and know what it will take to reach whatever goal you may have set. I would be wary of anyone who is going into the profession for the sole idea that it is lucrative or prestigious, because they may ultimately be disappointed. In the experience of many of my classmates, the practice of law is neither.

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