Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less


with 55 comments

Total Black: $88.81
Total Red: $229,590.92

Manna from heaven.  Yesterday the clouds parted and down fell some wonderful news.  In threes I might add.  A trifecta of vindication!  Let me explain.

While working at the contract attorney position yesterday, I received an unsolicited email from a former colleague with whom I worked back at the law firm.  Something prompted him to email me; I’m overjoyed that he did.  With slight editing to account for any identifying details (as to the colleague or me), the email is reprinted below:

[Laid-off Lawyer],

A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally discovered your “confessions…”
blog. . . .

I now feel compelled to tell you this: I am awe-struck by your
fortitude, candor, and resilience (as well as your incredibly engaging
writing).  Most people in your shoes — I emphatically include myself
among them — would rend their clothes, cover their heads with ash,
and wait for a tsunami of self-pity to swallow them whole.  It is your
critics who have a lot to learn from you and not the other way around.
They — or I — could never be as magnanimous in spirit nor as stolid
in their determination as you are.  You do not need their
understanding, much less their pity.  You do not need anybody’s pity.
In the long run (and, no, not when we are all dead), you will do
better than all of them combined.

Let me buy you a non-virtual beer when I am back.

All the best,
[Law Firm Colleague]”

I’ve wandered in this desert of disapproval and despair, wondering whether any of the hundreds of daily visitors are not waiting for blood to hit the water.  I received one comment from Angel the Lawyer recently that pushed back against naysayers and wet my parched throat.  But beyond that, it’s just been a constant barrage of criticism and disgust.  Enter this email.  Thank you, Law Firm Colleague.  I needed that.

Then, a few hours later I received another email.  This time from a former law school colleague who forwarded me a link to an article by MP Dunleavey on MSN Money titled: “How To Pay Off $10 Million in Debt.”  All this time I never knew that hundreds of women, self-dubbed Women in Red, chat in electronic rooms about their debt and problems related to it.  A small subset formed for those interested in debt-payback discussions.  According to the article, these women are known as Racers and they’re doing exactly what I’m doing: “Their mission: to help people ditch their debt once and for all, by racing against themselves.  Their method was deceptively simple: Add up what you owe, and post it for all to see.  Be honest, record every dime you pay down, and admit when you backslide.  Be kind to others who are struggling to reach their own finish lines.  And hang in there.”  I suppose one difference between my project and theirs is that many dropped out once the Great Recession hit whereas I only started mine then.  That certainly hasn’t made it easier, but I welcome the challenge.  And, of course, they have each other whereas I’m pretty much alone here.  Frankly, reading this article—even rereading it now just as I write this post—brings tears to my eyes.  I’m flashing back to high school, being the only gay kid for what seemed to be miles and miles, alone and lonely, with no one who could understand what it felt like to be so different or so ostracized.  Or so it seemed, of course.  We’re never as alone as we think we are.  Thank you Law School Colleague.  I needed that too.

After these two amazing occurances, yet another occurred, albeit one that is still in the works but hopefully it will materialize into something meaningful.  I’ve taken to scrolling Craigslist ads on my iPhone during my day at the contract attorney position.  There’s often time lags as documents upload or the computer system drags so I use those moments to thumb through the latest gigs posted.  Yesterday, while searching for “law” in “All Gigs” I came across a very interesting project: a local student at New York University is working on a documentary with a filmmaker, currently titled “Over-Educated & Unemployed: Waking from the American Dream During a Recession.”  They want to interview highly educated people who are laid-off or unemployed.  I reached out to him to toss my hat in his ring.  Maybe I’ll end up on the silver screen after all.

It was a good day for the blog and this project.  A shot in the arm full of good stuff.  Total black is hovering: hasn’t gone up or down much.  All but about two dollars is in mutual funds, which I’m not touching.  So, I’m roughly at zero there.  Total red is also up, but that’s ok too.  I get paid this week from the temp attorney position, the theatre gig, and the medical experiment.  I’m also on track to max out my hours at the temp job.  Another attorney on the project with me, and one quite a few years older I must add, put in sixty-nine hours last week.  Currently seventy-eight is the maximum we can do: thirteen hours at six days a week.  Last week I only got in about fifty-one.  As they say in the temp attorney world, that’s money on the table I’m leaving there, so I’m upping my ante.  But, as he cautioned, it’s a marathon not a sprint and since I’m fairly new to this world, I do need to pace myself and slowly work up to the maximum.

Of course, all that said, I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek with this entry’s title.  True vindication will only come when I’ve finally brought total red to zero.  I’m getting there though.  Slowly but surely.

55 Responses

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  1. This is not meant to be coming down on you or anything, but if you have been trying to cut expenses, perhaps the iPhone and related expensive monthly fees might be an option?

    Although some people on here are blunt or even downright mean to you, you should realize that many of them are simply pointing out the obvious to you. Your debt is beyond the point that you can defeat it on your current path (unless you can pull those 100 hour doc-review weeks for a few years straight).

    Why don’t you apply to the NYPD or NYFD… does that count for the 10 year public service debt forgiveness deal? You probably won’t get in to either, but what’s the harm in filling out the application. You’re relatively young, in shape (since you go to the gym all the time, right?), etc. so you’d probably do well in one of those jobs.

    Sit back, rent some “Rescue Me” DVDs, and get fired up about being a future hero with a future debt of zero!


    January 20, 2010 at 08:55

  2. So a personal opinion, the shocker that other people are in debt and trying to get out of it, and a posting on craigslist that may or may not pan out? That’s your trio of vindication? Do you even know what vindication means? When you have a $0 debt balance doing only what you’ve been doing to get out of debt, you’ll be vindicated, but we can all see that’s not going to happen, and certainly not by your deadline.


    January 20, 2010 at 09:04

  3. You can not really be this deluded, can you? Can you not see the desperation you are illustrating by getting excited over these things?

    Look, there is a difference between optimism and naivety. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you naive are not a complete fool since you do have an extensive education, but please…it is becoming more and more painful by the day, and I only come back in the hopes that one day you will see the light or admit that you have been pulling our legs all along.


    January 20, 2010 at 09:22

  4. When I saw the title of this I immediately thought “HALLELUJAH he got a steady job!” and the “unsolicited email” was from another lawyer looking to hire you! :/

    I have to tell you, what you call naysayers is actually real people like me who have been in debt and got out of it telling you how the real world works and you don’t seem to be getting it. Head. in. the. clouds.


    January 20, 2010 at 09:29

  5. Guess no one read the last lines of my post. Or maybe y’all don’t understand “tongue-in-cheek”?

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 09:38

  6. I stopped reading after the pity party letter


    January 20, 2010 at 09:40

  7. Getting a “steady job” is no panacea, man. In fact, it would be more like an albatross. I can’t afford a steady job. It doesn’t pay enough. That was one motivation for starting this project: so I could afford to earn $50,000 a year. I can’t make ends meet on that salary now. Not with all the monthly minimums I have now.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 09:43

  8. Wow! This is the first time I’ve read the comments – people are quite mean without giving you any kind of concrete advice. This is a good blog, that is probably helpful to a lot of people not making comments.

    With the iPhone, I kind of agree with Wally. While, I do think there is a lot of benefit for someone in your position to have some kind of smart phone, you might want to downgrade from the priciest one. I think basic data plans are cheaper for other phones.

    The other thing I would suggest is to try to get your own clients – form an entity. You’re probably already paying malpractice insurance, and the other overhead can be low if you do it right. You can look for smaller clients that need transactional work, and, if needed, there are places in most cities where you can rent a conference room for a couple of hours if needed. Just a thought.


    January 20, 2010 at 09:57

  9. UGGHHH…you have to be kidding. We already gave him concrete advice many times. Jesus….have you not scrolled back thru past posts and comments???? He doesnt listen and its frustrating to readers, he just obliviously keeps driving down debt hell road, not getting it.


    January 20, 2010 at 10:02

  10. like I said – first time I’ve read the comments


    January 20, 2010 at 10:03

  11. Then dont say “people are quite mean without giving you any kind of concrete advice.”

    This statement is not true. We have been giving real world advice to this guy for days and it seems it will never sink in.


    January 20, 2010 at 10:07

  12. it is true based on this post


    January 20, 2010 at 10:09

  13. The iPhone is not really negotiable. I do need a smart phone and I’d just have to buy another type if I dropped this one. I have calendar appointments, emails, telephone numbers, maps for direction, etc. It’s just become an expense like electricity we have to have to stay competitive in the 21st Century.

    I don’t have malpractice insurance. Yet. I do need to get it. Just in case. I’ve also picked up a research assignment that should net me about $250. Pretty straight-forward. A former law firm colleague (not the one noted above) reached out to me with the opportunity. But otherwise, taking on individual clients isn’t really an option right now because I need a steady stream of income. Solo practice work typically pays in stops and starts. That just won’t do right now.

    Thanks for the comment though. I appreciate it. I do try to get one-off legal work. That’s how I found that documentary opportunity.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 10:09

  14. Should have read the other blog posts before commenting on this one guy.


    January 20, 2010 at 10:21

  15. Watch out! They’re even nasty to other commenters who don’t agree with them. Too funny.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 10:27

  16. Any possibility of debt consolidation/interest rate negotiation to help out?

    What are your rates like?


    January 20, 2010 at 13:23

  17. Well, by the looks of your “in the black” numbers, you probably are not in much of a position to take advantage of my new blog (I think my name links to it), BUT assuming things go well, it might be of interest to you in the future.

    There isn’t a whole lot of info there yet, as I’ve just gotten through posting my account statements for 2009, but I’m trying to get some background up there first to see if there is much interest.

    I wish you luck, but you’ve got a long road ahead of you, my friend (longer than later this year, I’m afraid).

    Take care,



    January 20, 2010 at 13:25

  18. Well, I don’t want to come across as being mean, so I will keep my tone down as much as possible. I just ran through some of your blog posts, and more importantly, I checked your initial balance. As far as I can tell, and after 5 months at this, you actually have MORE debt than when you started.

    What exactly is your plan to get out of debt in the remaining ~7 months? I guess I am just not following you on how you are really doing much to get that debt down. You made a comment about the Iphone. You really don’t need any kind of smart phone. Honestly. There is just no need for it. You mentioned “I have calendar appointments, emails, telephone numbers, maps for direction, etc. It’s just become an expense like electricity we have to have to stay competitive in the 21st Century”, but NONE of those things actually require a smart phone. The closest would be the emails, but even that can be figured out with a bit of ingenuity (cafes, call your friend and have him read them to you, etc.). It just seems to me like you are making very little headway (and to be honest you haven’t made any, but I’ll give you a bit for something of an effort). Do you really think you are going to get that debt down?


    January 20, 2010 at 13:47

  19. Jesus Christ, this is why you’re not a practicing attorney. You make ridiculous strawmen while COMPLETELY missing the point. Did Bobalino say a “steady job” is a “panacea”? NO. Let me repeat: NO. Is it worth more than a “keep your head up” e-mail? To every sane person besides you.


    January 20, 2010 at 16:47

  20. Seriously, it took us months to talk him into cancelling cable and a newspaper subscription he never used, among other totally basic steps toward paring down a budget. This boy is DENSE.


    January 20, 2010 at 18:26

  21. you don’t need a smartphone as expensive as an iPhone, you just want one


    January 20, 2010 at 18:29

  22. He doesnt need an iphone, NO ONE “needs” an iphone. The world ran just fine before the iphone was invented. I am living proof….I got rid of my iphone because there are internet hotspots all over so i use my laptop if i need to look up something, and for god sakes he lives in NYC, internet hotspots are everywhere! It cuts $35 off my phone bill every month.


    January 20, 2010 at 19:53

  23. You got 2 e-mails and saw a Craig’s List posting? Sweet sweet manna from heaven. This blog gets funnier by the day. If you have an average interest rate of 7% you probably add atleast $40 to your debt. My guess is a lot of your rates are above that, besides mommy which you will probably never pay back. I’m also not going to apologize for “being mean” like a lot of other people, because you can’t be mean to idiots. They don’t understand.

    Reality Check

    January 20, 2010 at 20:18

  24. I noticed an interesting pattern … you are trying to throw a pity-party and only the fag hags came … oh woe is meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee … pay attention to meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee … you are truly willfully ignorant and delusional.

    The only way for you to pay off this debt is to move home, work all the time, and spend all your money on the debt. Within 7-10 years you may be debt free.

    You may also move to Canada.

    You may also investigate loan forgiveness. This is a guarrantee of poverty since you will have to make a minimal amount workng for the gov but at least the debt will go away.

    Or, and most probably, you will continue to fuck around for another 10-20 years and then finally decide to just go to your grave with your debt.

    Boring boring boring.


    January 20, 2010 at 20:37

  25. First thing I suggested months ago was that Laid Off should get out of his $2000/month apartment. I know it’s hard – but moving into s share with another lawyer/med student/decent professional would not be so bad.

    One year I had to do that – trust me that was motivation enough to get a job!!

    Prince Michael III

    January 20, 2010 at 20:47

  26. Man, I re-read your original post … you’re inspired (and presumably took seriously) ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ … how the hell did you ever get accepted into law school, even a bottom tier toilet like Howard? Arg, your poor Ukrainian mom back home in Pa … you’ll spend your whole life squandering what little she has been able to save up through her (and your adopted fathers) hard work in the mines and factories of Pa. … sad, sad, sad …


    January 20, 2010 at 20:49

  27. Ridding yourself of debt is not much different than ridding yourself of unwanted pounds. Instead of ensuring an overall caloric deficit, you must ensure an overall expense deficit.

    Easier said than done, I know. However, what really helps with dieting is calorie tracking. You’ll think twice before eating that KitKat when you have to type that 300 calories into FitDay or whatever program you use to keep track…especially when you realize from the day before that you only burned 280 calories during that 30 minute jog you took.

    Mr. Laid off Lawyer–you need to lay it out the same way. Do you have your entire budget, down to the penny, in a spreadsheet or computer program somewhere? Do you know exactly how much interest you’re accruing on each of your debts each day and are you focusing on the debts that are, relatively speaking, accruing faster than the others?

    Your debt is pretty huge, but I’m afraid that you might not be disciplined and organized enough to get on top of it. Since it has not really gone down since you started, that should be a wake-up call that perhaps you need to re-evaluate your strategy.

    If you have debts with interest rates low enough, the best thing to do might not be to pay them down any faster than you have to. If you can earn 10% on your money but are only paying a 6% interest rate, then paying that debt might not be financially sound.

    What you should be looking at is your NET WORTH, not your debt. And what you should be doing is focusing your efforts on growing your NET WORTH in the most efficient way, not just reducing your debt.

    Feel free to contact me if you have any questions (you can to go my web site by clicking on my name), and with some additional information maybe there are some things you could do differently that would help you more.



    January 20, 2010 at 20:57

  28. I meant to say $40 per day or about $1200 a month.

    Reality Check

    January 20, 2010 at 20:58

  29. If you got money for each negative comment you could pay your debt down in no time!

    The Truth

    January 20, 2010 at 21:01

  30. Start a lemonade stand, people love lemonade. Consider that a quad-fecta of vindication. I know quad-fecta isn’t a word, but it’s almost as ridiculous as this blog. Just sayin’.

    Internet Oracle

    January 20, 2010 at 21:05

  31. “Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less”

    How exactly does one blog away their debt? My creditors still require money, not blogs.


    January 20, 2010 at 21:10

  32. Im convinced “Laid Off Lawyer” is trying to get this circus side-show blog/trainwreck/pity party popular so that gawkers and rubber neckers driving by this terrible scene will start “donating” his way out of debt. If thats the case, Ive got news…it wont happen, sorry, the world doesnt spin in that direction. You have more formal education than most (WAY more formal education than me). Its too bad that doesn’t mean you have common sense.


    January 20, 2010 at 21:54

  33. That is exactly what he wants, he even says it in some of his blogs. The only person who may give him more money is his mommy of course.

    His Empty Future

    January 20, 2010 at 22:16

  34. 165 years 11 months 364 days until Debt Freedom


    January 20, 2010 at 22:32

  35. Yo. Minnesota man. Your IP address comes through when you post. I get to see where in the country you are. You’ve posted like 10 comments under different names. Move on to another whipping boy. It’s pathetic already.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 22:35

  36. He absolutely refuses to create a budget! Not even a basic one, let alone one that tracks everything to the penny.


    January 20, 2010 at 22:35

  37. I have suggested the same. $2000 a month for an apartment all to himself is a luxury, not a need. Not that he bothers to pay his rent. Anyone want to take bets on when he gets evicted? My money is on March.


    January 20, 2010 at 22:37

  38. You’re the pathetic one!


    January 20, 2010 at 22:40

  39. Then stop reading and go away. Who asked you to comment on my blog? Who asked you to read it? You’re like uninvited guests who’ve overstayed your welcome.

    Move on. No one’s glued your eyes to my blog.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 22:43

  40. I have been exposed! Just like everyone has exposed you in this ridiculous ‘blog’ that you are the ‘author’ of.

    Minnesota Man

    January 20, 2010 at 22:46

  41. Because every single day you teach me what not to do. Seriously, I used to root for you. Then it became clear your attachment to reality is tenuous at best. I have a tiny shred of hope you’ll wake the fuck up and get it together, but that’s getting smaller every day.


    January 20, 2010 at 22:48

  42. We are uninvited guests on the internet? Interesting.

    Minnesota Man

    January 20, 2010 at 22:51

  43. My money’s on end of February!


    January 20, 2010 at 22:54

  44. What the fuck would you have me do, eh? Lay it out there for me if I’m so dense. Give me bullet points. Lay it out for me. If you get it in in time, maybe I’ll use tomorrow post to reply. Currently I’m working two jobs. Two. I’m currently earning roughly $2,000 a week. That’s about $100,000 a year. I don’t have control over how long projects last. And I’m not mathematician, but 100K is clearly better than any 50K or 70K job. I’ve cut expenses down to bare minimum, minus the iPhone (which everyone seems to jump all over) and the gym and rent. And I’ve commented ad nauseam on how leaving my apartment just yet isn’t an option. You can see total black. Not much there for first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit. I signed up for a medical experiment to bring in additional money. I’ve taken on a legal research assignment to make more money. I’ve pestered the Colleague repeatedly to get the money I’m owed—whether that’s an additional $500 or something more. I’m doing more to get out of debt than anyone I know. Most people work a freakin’ job each day and then come home and sit around and get fatter and repeat the same thing the next day. What else would you have me do to pull in more income? What? I’m at a loss to see the logic of any of these posts. If you’re reading along day by day, then you see that I’ve already brought my debt down a bit. I have to wait for paychecks to come in before I can hit it again. But each week I’m doing my best to keep it steady or bring it down.

    You guys are truly pathetic. And I’m going to bed. I’ve got to be up at six am to get in to the job for 7 am. Carry on the conversation without me. You’re all doing a good enough job at it. Either with yourself, like Minnesota Man, or with each other.

    It’s deep how shallow you all are. And stunning that everyone else just sits back and watches this whipping unfold without a counter point. Nod to Anda though.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 22:58

  45. Thank you. Seems these buffoons haven’t heard of honey or carrots.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    January 20, 2010 at 23:00

  46. Like we’ve been telling you for weeks, you need to cut your expenses drastically. Move in with your mom and sublet your apartment, and that’s $2000 a month right there. Get rid of the expensive gym, go running, and do push-ups and sit-ups at home, and that’s $100+ a month. Stop eating out so much, don’t buy coffee out (especially when it’s free at work), stop getting expensive massages, cut down on your cell phone plan, and eliminate your landline phone, and that may add up to $200+ a month. Finally, create a budget that lays out in detail your monthly expenses and income to help you better manage your cash flow. You throw a big drama-filled fit and say “I simply can’t do anymore! I’m doing everything!” when you haven’t even come close. There are many ways to go about eliminating debt, but taking responsibility of your spending is key to nearly all of them (the exception being paying off your debts with lottery winnings).


    January 20, 2010 at 23:28

  47. Oh, and investigate cheaper health insurance, and that’s another $200+ a month.


    January 20, 2010 at 23:32

  48. THis blog is going viral (47 comments !!!) … having been here for a while now, I almost feel a sense of … pride 🙂

    (Obligatory jab) You are earning $100k/annum (claim in your comment above) and your debt has been ‘reduced’ by -$3k since the blog has started (in other words, your debt is higher by $3k) … damn you are pathetic.


    January 20, 2010 at 23:54

  49. I’m really disappointed at the nastiness and negativity which has started to pour in here. Maybe I’ve missed something here, but I don’t think that the point of this blog is to outline a straight line from problem to solution, but rather to share a candid self-examination of the process. I feel like L-o-L is delivering on his promise.

    Many people out there got roped into easy to attain but hard to pay off debt starting in college. Who remembers those tables with the VISA reps giving away a free frisbee or t-shirt with every credit card application filled out? Student loans were easier to get a few years back too. Nobody seemed concerned with the feasibility of repayment. L-o-L isn’t the only one out there who fell into this trap. I’m sure that most of us know someone who is in over their head in debt, except that most of those people aren’t talking about it publicly.

    Oh, and all of the iphone/rent etc poo-pooing is silly too. Once your credit is bad it is hard to switch phone providers, plus having a smart phone is important for staying in touch while looking for other employment opportunities. Yes, rent could possibly be cut, but moving is expensive, so making the switch while broke may be hard to do.

    L-o-L- thanks for continuing to share your journey with us!


    January 21, 2010 at 00:35

  50. scroll to the top…did you notice the title of this blog???? Its not “The journal of a laid of lawyer” its: “Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less”

    This blog is advertised as a journey specifically focused on getting out of debt and this guy is doing anything but. Then theres the donation link…dont even get me started on that. We continue to read about all the financially irresponsible things hes doing with his money while “trying” to get out of debt and its getting him flamed…we want to see this guy climb out, we are the canary’s in the coal mine dropping dead like flies and hes not listening.


    January 21, 2010 at 00:50

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