The New York Times is reporting that the recession is causing a boom for some lawyers:
As millions of Americans have fallen behind on paying their bills, debt collection law firms have been clogging courtrooms with lawsuits seeking repayment.
Few have been as prolific as Cohen & Slamowitz, a Woodbury, N.Y., firm that has specialized in debt collection for nearly two decades. The firm has been filing roughly 80,000 lawsuits a year.
With just 14 lawyers on staff, that works out to more than 5,700 cases per lawyer.
While reporter Andrew Martin makes much of the shock value of the numbers and implies that there is no way such large-scale suing could be done responsibly, these numbers don’t strike me as inherently extreme. While I am sure that abuse can and does happen in debt collection, consider the following:
- 5,700 cases per lawyer works out to just under 3 cases per billable hour (assuming a 2000-hour working year).
- Collecting a debt is not like proving that someone committed a crime. It’s not like creditors have to prove to a jury that debtors owe money beyond a reasonable doubt.
- These lawyers are using automation software.
- These lawyers have a large support staff (who presumably handle most of the clerical work).
Via Yahoo! Finance, the New York Times looks at the costs of living in the suburbs vs. living in the city. The verdict: unless a family is sending kids to private school (particularly at middle-school age and above), the suburban life costs about 18% more.
The basis for the analysis – and Manhattan is not part of the figures:
While our analysis was by no means scientific, our goal was to recreate the type of decision a hypothetical family of four earning $175,000 a year might encounter. We chose an upper-middle-class income because that’s generally what our family needs to earn, conservatively, to afford a median-price home in Park Slope, a section of Brooklyn that is family-friendly, has good schools and is generally more affordable than Manhattan.
The two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-operative apartment that we’re using as a model in Park Slope is listed at $675,000, close to the median price for the neighborhood, as calculated by Zillow.com.
We stacked that against a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home in South Orange, N.J., just a 30-minute train ride from Manhattan, where the two parents work. The house is selling for $595,000.
Some experts have been talking a long time about the hidden costs of suburbia due to more driving and sprawl. Homes may be cheaper (and bigger) but there are added costs from lower density living.
If homeowners were presented with this sort of evidence (assuming it would hold up across cities), would they chose the suburbs in lesser numbers? Or would people still be willing to pay a premium for the amenities that suburbia can offer?