Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi Defends Student Loan Repayment Program; Ignores Realities of the Attorney Job Market

The Indianapolis Star reports:
Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said whoever succeeds him next year will have a tougher time finding talented young lawyers if city officials don't find a way to keep a student loan repayment program in the 2011 budget.

"The student loan program concerns me the most," Brizzi said Wednesday after a hearing before the City-County Council's Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee. "We're asking lawyers to take a $2,200-plus pay decrease. That's a pretty significant hit when you're making $45,000 a year."

...

Under the loan repayment program, deputy prosecutors receive about $2,200 a year to make payments on their student loans. Law school is expensive, Brizzi said, noting most newly hired prosecutors are saddled with student loan debts of $100,000 or more.

The cut would mean 98 of the county's 168 prosecutors will have to find other ways to repay their student loans next year, Brizzi said. The move likely would force some talented prosecutors to take better-paying jobs with private law firms, he said.

The loan repayment program costs about $170,000 a year, Brizzi said. The prosecutor's office is trimming about $460,000 from its 2011 budget of $23.6 million.

Brizzi, a Republican who will leave office when his second term ends at the end of the year, said he wrote about the possible effect of cutting the loan repayment money to the men hoping to win his job in the Nov. 2 election -- Republican Mark Massa and Democrat Terry Curry.

City-County Council President Ryan Vaughn, a former deputy prosecutor, said the student loan program helped him repay some of his student debt of about $80,000. Vaughn said he would try to find a way to fund the program in the final budget.
To see the rest of the article, click here.

While I can't blame Prosecutor Brizzi for fighting for better pay for his staff, he grossly misstates the realities of the legal job market. The fact is that a $45,000 salary with government benefits straight out of law school is a far better employment situation than most new lawyers receive.

When I graduated from law school in 1987, law firms provided the best salaries. The situation has changed dramatically. Public sector attorney pay have risen while the pay in the private sector has remained flat for 20 plus years. Private law firms remain notoriously bad about paying benefits.

The fact is there are plenty of law firms paying associates salaries of $30,000 to $35,000. It's gotten even worse though - some law firms will not even pay a salary or hourly rate - they'll just pay the associate a portion of whatever legal fees he or she is able to bring into the firm. Recruiting new clients and getting paid by them can be a very difficult thing for a new attorney with little in the way of legal contacts. As a result, associates can find themselves working at a law firm for months, making only a few thousand dollars during that time.

The notion that the Marion County Prosecutor's Office is facing stiff competition for new attorneys from law firms is laughable for anyone who knows what the job market is really like for attorneys. So, on the one hand while I applaud Brizzi for standing up for his attorneys, the fact is he's being very dishonest when he says the student loan repayment program is needed to prevent attorneys from leaving his office to go to private law firms.

As a side note, I found Ryan Vaughn's comment interesting. Here's a guy who had no problem cutting the law library out of the budget, even though the library was of vital importance to the public and downtown lawyers. Vaughn continues to show how out of touch he is with real practicing attorneys.

11 comments:

Indy Student said...

I don't know if you tuned into Obama's meeting that was broadcasted on CNBC, but one of the questioners was someone who had just graduated law school and was disappointed at the job market for those with JDs.

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS,

I'm going to write another piece detailing how and why law schools have been lying about salaries JD's get. The problem is they are not being told the truth by these law schools that want their $$$.

Advance Indiana said...

Paul, Did you see where Congress spent tens of millions of dollars this past year paying off the student loans of their staffers? It wasn't just a little assistance; it was outright paying off loans in their entirety.

Paul K. Ogden said...

AI, I remember the USA Today article that talked how federal salaries have skyrocketed during the recession. It was unbelievable the increases. The Department of Transportation, I believe it was, went from a handful of people making over $150,000 to something like 50,000. Nearly 20% of the fedeal workforce I believe makes over $100,000 a year. I'm going from memory on the numbers. I blogged on it.

I remember seeing salaries in the AG's office during Carter's term. Those DAG salaries have gone well past private sector salaries. You have regular deputies now pulling in $70K or more a year with great benefits. I'm not sure why Carter increased salaries so much. The job market didn't really require him to.

The funny thing about the AG's office though is that, despite the great salaries and benefits, so many attorneys were so unhappy working there under Carter, they were leaving even though they didn't have other jobs lined up to go to. I only knew one deputy - a mutual friend of ours - who had nice things to say about the AG's office.

Downtown Indy said...

That picture of Brizzi looks like he's burning in Hell. How appropriate.

Advance Indiana said...

I've been over Greg Zoeller after he gave a top job in his office to Mike O'Connor's wife. He'll never get my support again. Hell, if he is going to give top jobs in his office to Democrats, then let's just elect a Democrat. He shit all over the good Republicans in his office to the point they left for other jobs.

Cato said...

$45K, with full benefits and job security, is pretty good for an attorney, especially in Indiana.

These attorneys should be happy to have a job.

Being a lawyer is now like being in social work. You need an advanced degree just to get the job, and the job doesn't pay that well.

The average paralegal has better job security, better working conditions and more professional satisfaction than the average lawyer, all at a comparable or better salary than a lawyer.

The few lawyers making big bucks give false optimism to the bulk of students who enter the profession and have little hope of making much money in it, while being saddled with a mountain of student loan debt.

FOXP2 said...

Attorney job market is an oxymoron. I graduated about when you did, Paul. I spent 12 good years in law until I moved into healthcare information technology.

Law is moving into a job market environment not unlike sports, arts or entertainment. I few top or lucky people make huge amounts of money, while the vast earn little. Yet people continue to aspire to these careers because of inner, personal reasons which I find laudable.

But to spend seven years in college, rack up student debt and come out into the legal market is utterly illogical. One must question the reasoning skills of those who go to law school.

There is a move by the Department of Education to requires proprietary colleges to comply with a "gainful employment" rule. meaning students could not take out hige loans for careers that would not pay a salary adequate to pay their student loan debt. I think that this rule makes some sense. The gainful employment rule would not cover private or state colleges, however. But I have seen analysts address this rule in the context of law shchool. I would wager that many law school grads are not able to pay their student loans with the meager, if any, returns on education they receive.

FOXP2 said...

Attorney job market is an oxymoron. I graduated about when you did, Paul. I spent 12 good years in law until I moved into healthcare information technology.

Law is moving into a job market environment not unlike sports, arts or entertainment. I few top or lucky people make huge amounts of money, while the vast earn little. Yet people continue to aspire to these careers because of inner, personal reasons which I find laudable.

But to spend seven years in college, rack up student debt and come out into the legal market is utterly illogical. One must question the reasoning skills of those who go to law school.

There is a move by the Department of Education to requires proprietary colleges to comply with a "gainful employment" rule. meaning students could not take out hige loans for careers that would not pay a salary adequate to pay their student loan debt. I think that this rule makes some sense. The gainful employment rule would not cover private or state colleges, however. But I have seen analysts address this rule in the context of law shchool. I would wager that many law school grads are not able to pay their student loans with the meager, if any, returns on education they receive.

Djonni Smith said...
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Eddy Gooper said...
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