Average law school debt for graduates of private universities hovered around $122,000 last year. With only 57% of new attorneys actually obtaining real lawyer jobs, recent graduates have a lot to consider when it comes to managing their student loan payments. Thanks to our friends at SoFi, today’s infographic takes a look at student loan debt, including the possible benefits of refinancing for JDs…
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Alison Monahan provides some advice for optimizing your law school grades.
It’s a fresh semester, a new year, and you’ve resolved to get better law school grades. Great! How are you going to do that? If you’re like most people, you resolve to “work harder.”
For a few days, or maybe even a couple of weeks, you spend extra time in the library, making sure you’re well-prepared for class and don’t fall behind on the reading. Inevitably, however, things get in the way and you start slipping. Maybe your favorite TV show is on, or a big ball game, and your study time gradually drifts back to about what it was before.
There’s nothing really wrong with this approach, except for the fact that it’s unlikely to improve your outcome. What will improve your results is a new approach — iteration.
It’s that time of the year when law students should start preparing for on-campus interviews. They’re straightforward, right? Wrong. ATL’s recruiting experts have designed this challenge to help you determine whether you really know how to nail the interview. Take the On-Campus Interviewing for Law Firms challenge and find out if you are truly ready for OCI season.
(This challenge is brought to you in partnership with our friends at CredSpark.)
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Adam R. Banner explains how the bar exam is a microcosm for legal practice as a whole.
Just took your state’s bar exam? Good Luck.
I remember hearing that same ominous warning from many of the attorneys in my community directly after taking the Oklahoma bar exam. Now, I wasn’t TOO worried about my prospects for future employment. I was already set on hanging my own shingle, and I was full of naivety with a dash of piss and vinegar. I had practiced (with a limited license) through the local public defender’s office, and I had a part-time gig interning for another solo practitioner. I chose this set-up to help pay my way through school, but also to gain any type of experience I could since I only really knew two things in law school: criminal procedure, and the fact that I needed some courtroom experience and some small-business guidance. I was lucky enough to get both.
That isn’t the case for everyone. I distinctly remember one of my buddies (a fellow class mate) walking up to me a few days before graduation and asking me if I knew of any places that were hiring associates. I didn’t, so I asked him if he was interning anywhere.
Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.
Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)
So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?
The average debt load of law school graduates is well over $140,000. That’s roughly the cost of purchasing a Maserati, or 88% of your first-year Biglaw salary. Couple that with a notoriously grim employment outlook and law school grads often find themselves tethered to mortgage-sized repayment plans, minus the actual house.
One thing law school doesn’t teach you is the variety of loans that are available and the advantages and disadvantages of each loan type. With a little foresight, law school students can select the proper loan and create a repayment plan that is best aligned to their career and lifestyle post-graduation.
Let’s start by breaking down each type of loan to better understand consolidation after graduation…
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ian E. Scott offers 10 valuable pieces of advice for Biglaw summer associates.
While a full-time job at a large law firm is not for everyone, a summer at one is highly recommended. Even if you are not sure if you have an interest in practicing at a large firm after the summer, a summer at one is a great experience and you will be paid around $35,000 for the summer. You should be careful though, because many who have summered at large corporate firms and swore that it was just for the summer, often must have drank the Kool-Aid and went back after graduation. If you have decided to work for a top law firm during the summer here are a few things to consider.
1. You will likely get a job offer but do not take it for granted.
I previously wrote about the depressing prospects for graduates of all but the top ten or twenty law schools (“Two Law Grad Markets”). And yes, these were statistical generalizations, and the experience of specific individuals with particular skills and backgrounds will always be different, pro and con. But as an industry, if you care about our supply chain for talent, many law schools are burning platforms.
There are actually some closely connected problems driving this dynamic:
- More JDs are being turned out each year than there are (a) full-time, (b) long-term jobs, (c) requiring bar passage, (d) at current salary levels;
- perhaps the primary reason for the mismatch between supply of JDs and current demand for them (about two supplied for every one today’s market is demanding) is that clients increasingly resist paying for junior associates, which makes it uneconomic for firms to invest in traditional training;
- but/and at the same time, every sentient observer is painfully aware that vast segments of the U.S. population — consumers and businesses alike — remain underserved by lawyers.
This would prompt any economist to ask, almost instinctively, “Why isn’t there a market-clearing price where supply and demand can meet?” Which is another way of asking, “What if there were a way to address both these problems at a single stroke?”
Non-lawyers are often surprised to learn of the lockstep salary schemes of large law firms and the near-perfect information we have about them. (Recall Kevin Drum’s befuddlement at the bi-modal distribution of law graduate salaries and the “weird cultural collusion” it suggested.) Even annual bonuses are frequently spelled out in what amounts to public memoranda and are typically some variation of the “market” dictated by our Cravath overlords. Of course, there are some “black box” firms and a few gilded outliers such as Wachtell Lipton or Boies Schiller, but generally speaking, the world of large firms practices a degree of relative transparency around compensation that is unsurpassed outside the public sector.
In order to distinguish among firms, we have to look to the margins. For example, law firms vary quite a bit when it comes to paying for the bar and living expenses of incoming associates. Some firms may reimburse for covered expenses after the fact; others may pay some expenses directly to the provider. Some may give a stipend to cover living expenses, whereas others may offer the ability to take out an advance on salary.
Greater transparency (or, at least, aggregated information) on these questions might make one firm’s offer more attractive than another’s, or perhaps even give an offeree some basis for negotiating a package upgrade (but of course tread very lightly there)….