Should You Go To Law School?

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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.

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How I Afforded a Year Off from Law

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Over a year ago, I quit my steady well-paying law firm job. Despite not having a full-time job for almost 14 months, I haven’t worried about money. Here’s how I afforded my year off from legal work.

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3 Devastating Mistakes Lawyers Make When Creating a Budget (and How to Avoid them)

3 devastating mistakes lawyers make when creating a budget
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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.

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Don’t Go To Law School! (Without a Financial Plan)

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.

don't go to law school (without a financial plan)
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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.

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Why College Is Often Not Worth the Cost

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Most articles addressing whether college is worth the cost inexplicably conclude “of course!” But based on basic economic facts – college is often NOT worth the cost.
Costs for four years in college average between $44,000-165,000 (public to private schools) JUST FOR TUITION.  Adding minimum living costs, this could easily balloon to $84,000-$205,000 at 5% interest. The median entry-level salary for a college graduate is $48,000. Even entry-level salaries at the high end are $71,000 (pre-tax).

The Math of College Costs

In the BEST case scenario, college is spending $84,000 (let’s say $44k tuition and $40k living costs for 4 years and no financial aid) and four years of hard work on college, likely not learning relevant job skills. For all this effort, you must then APPLY for, and get hired to work a job that will take you, 40+ hours a week for 52 weeks in order to earn $50,000 after taxes to pay off your loans (and you might not even like this job).
The worst case scenario is that you spend $200k in loans to attend college and end up at a job you could have gotten straight out of high school.

College in the Age of COVID Makes Even Less Sense

Finally, people have a lot of fond memories for their colleges, clouding their rational judgment. But colleges do not care about you.
If ever there was a sign that no matter how much money you give colleges, they do not care one lick about you, your health, your career, or your life, it’s how they treated their own students during the pandemic. Because of the COVID-19 Pandemic – students are questioning the value of a college education more now than ever before. College students say that online classes aren’t worth the high cost of college.
And colleges, for their part, do not care. They unceremoniously kicked their students out of their dorm rooms – rooms that these students paid for in advance, forcing students who may have contracted coronavirus over spring break to travel in crowded airplanes and trains during a pandemic likely infecting themselves and the rest of the nation including their potentially elderly parents or grandparents, and refused to give exemptions to many students who had nowhere to go. (Also how embarrassing to be a student who has to explain a bad family situation to a random administrator just so she won’t be homeless).

College Doesn’t Care About You; You are a Number to Them

I know people are going to disagree with me, but kicking college students out of their dorms is no different than kicking people out of their apartments. It’s not that the colleges cared about their students’ safety – the colleges just wanted to avoid liability.
Even with millions or billions in their endowment funds and hundreds of six-figure salaried administrators, college students were forced to figure their way home by themselves. College students and alumni raised money to help, which is wonderfully heartwarming, but good god schools, have you no shame?
Going to college could be the single worst financial decision of your life, and here I will tell you why.

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7 Tips to Reduce Law School Debt

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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.

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Saving for Law School?: The Dodgy Way I Saved $65k in 3 Years

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?

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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.

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How I Paid off $112,000 in Law School Student Loan Debt in 18 Months

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.

The high income was the most important key to paying off my debt. Still, there were a few basic guidelines I followed that helped me pay off the debt.* Continue reading “How I Paid off $112,000 in Law School Student Loan Debt in 18 Months”

15 Financial Challenges For Female Attorneys

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.

via GIPHY

Female lawyers face their own unique personal finance challenges. They call it personal finance because the principles are not universal. If you’re a lawyer, you will likely accrue a lot of debt and no earnings while attending law school. It might still be a good decision because you are pursuing the career you want and are potentially setting yourself up for higher earnings. If you take a pay cut so that you can care for your family, that also might be the right financial decision for you, even though you are not saving.

Personal finance looks different for each individual depending on their circumstances and the stages in their lives. You might ask why this site focuses on women lawyers and it’s because female lawyers have different financial circumstances than male lawyers or women in other professions, 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 these differences.

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