I recently received an email asking for my thoughts on how an aspiring law student should handle the finances of law school. Given the extraordinary cost of tuition, I’ve previously written about why students should think twice (and perhaps three or four times) before enrolling in college and law school.
But students should not consider the cost as the most important factor. Should you go to law school? Here is the way to think about it.
Setting a budget may is tough already but following a budget requires a never-ending slew of decisions and judgments. Budgets are cruel dictators, mean CEOs. They don’t care about us, the little guys, the minions that are carrying out their wishes. But even though we may all complain about how arbitrary and unhelpful our bosses are (I know I do), we may not all question our budgets. Even the best laid plans need to be evaluated and revised as conditions change. Budgets are no different and this is the perfect time to determine whether your budget is ailing from one of the following three mistakes that mess up budgets for lawyers.
Law students dream of big starting salaries – but will high salaries be enough for a comfortable lifestyle with law school loans? This post intends to find out.
Law school is billed as a “safe” bet but I’m telling you – don’t go to law school without a financial plan! When I looked at law school tuition prices recently, I was shocked. Prices have doubled since I went to school 10 years ago. And even when I was in school, the tuition prices and student loan loads were burdensome. Meanwhile, BigLaw salaries (the highest salaries a law graduate can expect when she graduates) have only increased slightly.
The rising cost of law school tuition should give any potential law student pause. My last post touched on how the rising cost of college should encourage more students to think critically before attending – and the same is true for law school.
What I hope you’ll find by the end of this post, is that even if you end up with a high salary, attending law school is a risky investment. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go, but you must go in with open eyes and a financial plan.
Many Internet articles inexplicably conclude that college is a must for your child. But based on basic economic facts, college is NOT worth the cost.
Costs for four years in college average between $44,000-165,000 (public to private schools) JUST FOR TUITION. Adding minimal living costs, this total could easily balloon to $84,000-$205,000 at 5% interest. Meanwhile, the median entry-level salary for a college graduate is only $48,000. But, more and more college graduates are stuck in low-wage jobs when they can find a job at all.
Going to college could be the single worst financial decision of your life. If you look at it honestly, you’d be hard pressed to make an economic case for college.
Step one to pay off law school debt, is to reduce law school debt. That is, take out fewer loans. Though it doesn’t seem like you can do much to improve your debt while you’re in school and not working, but there you’re wrong. There are lots of strategies to decrease the loans you take out, and thus decrease your debt burden when you graduate. Here are the seven strategies I used to reduce my debt by tens of thousands of dollars while attending school.
I managed to save $65k over two years for law school, but I did so in a dodgy way. I utilized tax savings and retirement accounts to up my savings. Did I miss out on huge growth?
Paying for higher education is a huge obstacle these days – and graduate school is the worst. Graduate education typically does not have the scholarships or need-based aid given in undergrad. This leads to graduate students typically borrow three times what undergraduates do. I knew I was on my own saving for law school. Thus, I worked after college and saved $65,000 to pay for law school. However, my method of saving was a bit dodgy/controversial. Read on to see if you think this was the right approach.
I was fortunate enough to graduate from college debt free. Then I had to go and attend law school where I racked up $112,000 in student loan and credit card debt. So you can add this to the unremitting list of “student loan debt payoff” stories. I will admit that my story is more boring than most:
My secret is that there is no secret: I got paid a salary that made it possible to pay off the debt while living a reasonable lifestyle. There are no magical tricks herein. My story is completely mathematically realistic.
Personal finance is different for each person, and that’s especially true for women lawyers. Factors like giant student loan debt, no work life balance, lack of financial confidence, the glass ceiling – are just a few things that make navigating finances as a woman attorney different from others.
It’s called personal finance because the principles are not universal. There are many unique financial challenges for female attorneys. If you’re a lawyer, you will likely accrue a lot of debt and no earnings while attending law school. If you’re a woman, you are likely to experience career breaks and disproportionate family burdens.
You might ask why this site focuses on women lawyers. It’s because female lawyers face unique financial challenges that male lawyers or women in other professions might not, due to a variety of systemic problems and societal norms. These differences are not necessarily night and day from other people’s experiences, but it’s different enough to warrant different advice. Below I explain some of the financial challenges for female attorneys.