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WASHINGTON—Under the provisions of a bill approved by Congress and signed into law Tuesday, every 25-year-old American, regardless of prior life commitments, is now legally obligated to enroll in a full year of study at one of the nation's accredited law schools. "This new measure gives us the means to compel 25-year-olds to simultaneously placate their parents, impress their friends with complex-sounding legal jargon, and effectively avoid any real-world responsibilities for another full year," said Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN). "We can think of no better way for our young people to squander their postcollegiate aimlessness." Congress is reportedly seeking further legislation that would provide for an additional nine months of grumbling over LSAT prep, and up to five years of whining about paying off student loan debt.
Law School vs. Business School? Or How to Get the Best Returns on Your $150K Tuition
How valuable is that law or business degree you want, really? It’s the time of year when aspiring business and law students are weighed down with standardized tests, recommendation letters, application essays, and ever-increasing application fees. I’m not here to talk about that. Instead I’m interested in answering the question – which one? Here are a few things to consider when deciding between law school and business school from a JD/MBA grad who chose both.
School is not the end, it is the means. I’m not afraid to admit that I went to law school without really knowing what being a lawyer would be like. Once I got into it and interned at several law firms, I realized law was just not for me. This is why people tell you to work before law school. I agree with them completely. It takes time to discover what you are passionate about. Don’t go into school without a plan. Talk to lawyers. Talk to law students. Talk to business students. Have a very clear post-grad goal in mind, even if it changes.
Cost v. Value
Comparing costs is difficult because of the wide range of schools and tuition levels, but in the end, law school is three years and business school is only two years. Not only does that mean potentially less debt as you emerge from student-life, it also means less time given up in school when you could be working and earning an income (those pesky “opportunity costs”). But in the grand scheme of things, you should worry less about how much you are paying right now, and more about how much that degree will pay off over the course of your career.
If the job you can get post-graduate school will give you a significant step-up in income, that will pay off for years to come. In this economy, there are a lot of people who go to law school and end up without a job. This is for many reasons, including the fact that there are too many law schools, too many students accepted to law school, and as many would argue, too many lawyers to begin with. Make sure you’ve done extensive homework on the employment opportunities of recent grads from any graduate school, law or business. The best source is the office of career services.
What are you going to learn?
Law school, as the saying goes, teaches you how to “think like a lawyer.” What does that mean? For some, it means learning how to effectively argue both sides of an issue, how to dissect your opponent’s argument and target its weaknesses. For me, it meant learning how to absorb massive amounts of tedious reading and distill it down to the key points. It meant learning how to have radar vision for loopholes in a contract, bond indenture, or merger agreement, and learning how to close them. The career I am going into does not require a law degree, but these are skills I will definitely be using for the rest of my life.
In law school, you are going to be studying a lot and you will be challenged and stretched to your mental limits. Your grades matter. There is a lot of stress on getting the best grade you can get. Business school is quite another story. You are going to learn a lot, but different things, depending on your interests. The most valuable things I have learned in business school are not finance-related (although I have learned a lot of that), but people-related. Businesses are made up of people. In business school there is a lot of focus on fun and having it with your fellow classmates. In a way, you are not only paying for a business education, but also for a diverse network of people. Business school gives you the opportunity to meet classmates with interesting backgrounds and make long-lasting friendships, along with people in the industry you are interested in moving into.
As a student, you always have an excuse to set up coffee with that alum who has your dream job. Law school has a network as well, but it is a network of lawyers, which is great if you want to practice law (or if you ever need a lawyer down the road, which you will).
I will leave on you on this note: There is a lot more out there than law school and business school. There are small businesses that need to be started, companies that need engineers and neuroscientists, high schools that need math teachers, non-profits that need employees. Before you hand over your next few years and borrow a lot of money, make sure you’ve thought it through carefully. This is a very personal decision and one of the biggest investments you will ever make. It is an investment in yourself. Choose wisely.
If you own a small business and are struggling with debt and considering declaring bankruptcy, you may wish to explore some options. There are a few different types of bankruptcy that may be appropriate for someone with a small business, but the option that is traditionally known as "business bankruptcy" may not actually be the best choice for you.
Small Business Bankruptcy Options
As a small business owner, the way in which your business is organized is going to make a significant difference in how bankruptcy works. If your business is organized as a sole proprietorship or as a partnership, then your business is going to be considered as one and the same legal entity with you (or with you and your partners). This means that a "business" bankruptcy could end up impacting your personal assets and your personal credit standing.
With that in mind, your options for business bankruptcy include the following:
- Chapter 11: This is only an option for large businesses and/or businesses with significant debt and assets. It is rare for a sole proprietorship to take advantage of this chapter of bankruptcy, as usually it makes sense only for corporations that are considered separate legal "persons" from their owners. Chapter 11 is a reorganization type bankruptcy that allows for debts to be repaid without affecting the businesses assets or operations, so a business in chapter 11 can continue to run. It is, however, very costly and complicated to file a chapter 11 bankruptcy.
- Chapter 13: This is one of the most common and best options for small businesses. You and your business will both be included in this type of consumer bankruptcy filing. There is no asset-sale in a chapter 13, but you do need to demonstrate that you have a sufficient income that will allow you to repay a portion of your debts. For sole proprietors or self employed individuals, this normally requires that you track your income for the six months leading up to the bankruptcy and that you have tax returns and other documentation to prove your earning capacity. With a chapter 7, the businesses and your personal debts will be included in a repayment plan all that creditors must approve. The plan could involve you repaying much of your debt solely over 3-5 years.
- Chapter 7: This is an option for businesses and individuals that simply do not have the income to repay any portion of their debts. You will have to provide proof of income to show that you do not have sufficient assets to repay a portion of your debts. Showing this involves proving you make less than state medians or passing a means test. With a chapter 7, there is a requirement that many assets be sold to generate some money to repay to creditors. There are exemptions to what must be sold that may cover some of the "tools of the trade" necessary to operate your business, but there is a good chance that many of the assets will need to be turned over. This can make it hard for the business to continue to operate, and it may involve the liquidation of the business.
Making the right choice for which bankruptcy option is right for you can be very difficult. You should strongly consider getting help from a lawyer to determine what options you have and what you should do based on the nature of your person and business assets and debts. Your lawyer will not only help you decide what chapter to file but will also help you with the logistics of the filing process.
If a car accident occurs while an individual is driving a vehicle in order to perform his or her work duties or to do something for his or her employer, there may be employer liability. This is most often a problem in cases in which a truck driver or a commercial vehicle driver causes an accident and his or her employer is sued. In any case, whether or not an employer will be liable depends on whether there is some legal reason for assigning responsibility to the employer.
When Does Employer Liability Arise?
There are two main ways that an employer can be held liable for a car accident caused by an employee: negligence on the part of the employer and vicarious liability.
Employer negligence may involve, for instance, negligent hiring of the employee or negligent supervision of the employee. When a company hires someone that they know will be driving a company vehicle, the employer has a duty to exercise reasonable due diligence in order to make sure that the employee is a safe driver.
At a minimum, if the employee is going to be driving a commercial vehicle, the employer should make sure that the employee has a commercial driver's license that is in good standing and that has not been suspended. Many employers also take additional precautions like checking a past driving record or performing drug testing.
Negligent supervision is another way in which an employer can become responsible for employee accidents. Employers should have reasonable safety policies in place and should make sure all of their drivers comply with safety laws. This means if an employer has truck drivers working for him/her, the employer should make sure the drivers follow logging requirements set by federal and state law and that cargo is properly weighted and loaded. If an employer fails to check and make sure that the employee is exhibiting reasonable care and skill in doing the job required, then that employer is liable for negligence.
Vicarious liability doesn't necessarily require that the employer was negligent in any way themselves. Vicarious liability is a doctrine of law that asserts that the actions of an agent are essentially the same as the actions of the principle directing the agent. This means that an employer is considered to be the "principle", and when the employer tells employees (the agents) to do something, it is just as if the principle is the one acting. Of course, this rule only applies if the agent is actually in the process of doing something for the principle at the time when the accident happened.
For example, if an employee is sent to the store to pick up copies and got into an accident on the way to picking up those copies, then the employer could be liable. If the employee decides to stop for coffee on the way back and gets into an accident while getting coffee, he/she isn't acting on behalf of the employer/agent, so the employer usually won't be responsible. There are also usually exceptions that an employer will not be liable for intentional bad acts done by the employee, so if the employee decides he wants to run someone over, the employer won't be at fault.
If you have been involved in an accident in which employer liability might become an issue, consulting with a lawyer is recommended. Your attorney can explain to you what liability rules will apply in your case and how your legal rights can be best protected based on the situation that led to the accident.
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The Supreme Court upheld a law Wednesday that extended U.S. copyright protection to books, musical compositions and other works by foreign artists that had been available without paying royalties.
The justices said in a 6-2 decision Wednesday that Congress acted within its power to give protection to works that had been in the public domain. The law's challengers complained that community orchestras, academics and others who rely on works that are available for free have effectively been priced out of performing "Peter and the Wolf" and other pieces that had been mainstays of their repertoires.
The case concerned a 1994 law that was intended to bring the U.S. into compliance with an international treaty on intellectual property. The law made copyright protection available to foreign works that previously could not have been copyrighted.
The court ruled in 2003 that Congress may extend the life of a copyright. Wednesday's decision was the first time it said that published works lacking a copyright could later be protected.
"Neither congressional practice nor our decisions treat the public domain, in any and all cases, as untouchable by copyright legislation. The First Amendment likewise provides no exceptional solicitude for works in the public domain," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in her opinion for the court.
But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for himself and Justice Samuel Alito, said that an important purpose of a copyright is to encourage an author or artist to produce new work. "The statute before us, however, does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work. By definition, it bestows monetary rewards only on owners of old works," Breyer said.