In the legal profession’s “new normal,” it’s not uncommon for recent law school graduates to have hundreds of thousands of dollars in educational debt, all for a piece of paper that grants them the right to try to become practicing attorneys. With the employment landscape being less than desirable, the high debt that comes with a law degree can seem all but insurmountable, and at times, completely soul-crushing. Living paycheck to paycheck to pay down loans with what little money you earn is unbearable, and doing normal adult things like getting married, buying a home, and having children are nigh impossible — the albatross of law school debt will always be hanging around your neck.
How can you possibly survive in this world with six figures of law school debt? Well, it helps if you’ve got a generous friend who’s willing to pay off your loans in full — under the cover of secrecy, of course.
With six figures of law school debt of my own, I can’t help but be incredibly envious…
Between 2008 and 2012, the median debt burden for newly minted JDs increased by 54 percent, from $83,000 to $128,000. (That compares with a 22 percent increase in medical student debt.) It is the responsibility of every aspiring law student to understand the implications of taking on such a financial commitment. For law grads who have already accumulated the debt, there may be options for you to better manage repayment. Thanks to our friends at DRB, today’s infographic takes a look at law student debt, including the possible benefits of refinance or consolidation. Click here for more details.
Back in March, we brought you news on the law schools with the most heavily indebted graduates. It was quite shocking to witness the depths to which these poor souls went to finance their legal educations. Take, for example, the average graduate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, who has $180,665 in debt — and also has a 29 percent chance of working as an attorney nine months after graduation. That’s absolutely terrifying.
But in a world where the average class of 2013 law school graduate carries a debt load of $108,815 (up from an average of $108,293 for the class of 2012), there must be a few schools out there that won’t destroy a would-be lawyer’s financial footprint forever.
Which law school graduates have the least debt of all? U.S. News has a ranking for that…
As we mentioned in Morning Docket, one New York law school just decided to cut its yearly tuition by a whole lot — 15 percent, actually. That’s right: a top 100 law school is reducing its tuition, across the board, in a move that will take it from being the second-most expensive private law school in New York City to being the cheapest of its kind.
Of course, by “cheapest,” what we really mean is “still prohibitively expensive,” but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is a trend in the making for the rest of New York City’s law schools.
So, which law school is helping its students take on a little less debt?
* Scared of an audit, were we? With the unsealing of the case against Dewey’s former finance director comes greater insight into what was really going on behind the scenes at the failed firm. [DealBook / New York Times]
* The American Bar Association is willing pay up to $15,000 to organizations that match unemployed law grads with jobs to serve the legal needs of the poor. So, how much do the poor law grads get paid? [National Law Journal]
* Tenure may be “under fire,” but law professors are fighting back — and hard — because law school deans seem unwilling to speak up on their behalf. Let’s face facts though, tenure isn’t going anywhere. [Forbes]
* It figures one of the faces of America’s $1 trillion of outstanding student loan debt is a lawyer. Hey, heavily indebted lawyers make great headlines and even better first paragraphs. [Big Story / Associated Press]
* Jordan Graham, the newlywed who pushed her husband of eight days off a cliff, was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison. Protip: an annulment would’ve been a better option than second-degree murder. [CNN]
Yesterday, we brought our readers some “startling” statistics about law student debt levels. It seems that average indebtedness for law graduates increased by more than $50,000 between 2004 and 2012, with a typical law student saddled by about $140,000 in loans.
In fairness, those statistics probably weren’t all that startling to our readers — many of them are heavily indebted themselves. In fact, we know that many of them are carrying debt loads that surpass even that six-figure number.
Which law school graduates have the most debt of all? U.S. News has a ranking for that…
Ed note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Ann K. Levine, a law school admission consultant and owner of LawSchoolExpert.com, offers helpful tips for law school applicants.
Law schools have been increasing their scholarship opportunities in order to lure applicants. Why? Because law school applicants are in demand. Applications are down yet again, and law schools are scrambling to fill their seats. (See TaxProf Blog for exact numbers and trends, year over year.)
As law schools compete for qualified applicants with better scholarships, it may be easier to consider criteria like debt alongside rank and prestige when choosing a law school. As part of this new trend, law schools are adding on scholarship programs to make attending law school more affordable. Villanova Law recently announced an initiative to add 50 full-tuition scholarships for three years, and in-state students at Penn State are being offered $20,000 per year as part of a new scholarship program.
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi of Ms. JD suggests five New Year’s Resolutions for every associate’s wallet.
Being financially conscious requires a disciplined mind and willpower similar to what you would need to succeed at losing weight. You’re not going to lose those 10 pounds by carving out an exception, for say, your daily caramel latte from Starbucks. No ifs, ands. or buts when it comes to meeting financial goals. If you’re ready for the challenge, here are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions that you can tailor to your personal financial needs.
1. Aim for quarterly progress in paying down your law school loans.
Some guy on Twitter was complaining that Above the Law focuses too much on the negative side of going to law school. Apparently this person mistakes us for a law school admissions office — people who ignore facts when they don’t fit their happy-clappy narrative. We do bring you some law school success stories when we hear of good ones. Do you know why those stories are “news”? Because law schools are so effective at leading people down a path of career frustration and financial ruin that when somebody beats the odds, it’s mildly noteworthy.
Law school is a good investment for some, and a terrible one for many. We say that all the time. The problem is that law schools do not give people enough information to assess whether or not they should go. The problem is that some law schools actively mislead people who are trying to make a sound decision. The problem is that even when law school “works out,” the tuition charged often vastly outstrips the value of the degree.
Sure, some people will succeed despite the high cost, misleading information, and weak job market. Law schools want you to think that those successful people are the norm, but really they are the outliers. (And, given the events of today, I guess I have to say that the folks who contemplate suicide are also outliers.)
This guy who recently bared his underachieving soul to Business Insider is the norm. This guy making $45,000 while carrying $200,000 of law school debt has the kind of life law students should prepare themselves for, regardless of what the admissions brochures and the guy on Twitter who made everything work out will tell you….
Despite calls for change from the highest of authorities, law school tuition is still too damn high. In fact, for most recent law school graduates (myself included), it’s financially crippling.
Sure, class sizes have gotten smaller — whether due to law schools’ attempts to rightsize or due to lack of interest from prospective students — but tuition hasn’t. Some schools have managed to keep it flat (albeit at too high of a level), but others have had the nerve to dramatically increase tuition in these trying times for legal education.
Given how resistant the old and gray occupants of the ivory tower are to change, perhaps some frightening predictions about the future of law school tuition will help them open their eyes. If you think you’re hurting for students to fill the seats now, just wait until it costs $78,000 a year to attend…
Professor Joel P. Trachtman has developed a unique, practical guide to help lawyers analyze, argue, and write effectively.
The Tools of Argument: How the Best Lawyers Think, Argue, and Win is a highly readable 200-page book, available for about $10 in paperback or e-book. Chapters focus on foundational principles in legal argument: procedure, interpretation of contracts and statutes, use of evidence, and more. The material covered is taught only implicitly in law school. Yet, when up-and-coming attorneys master these straightforward tools, they will think and argue like the best lawyers.
For most attorneys, time spent managing the books is a necessary evil at best. Yet it is undeniably a crucial aspect of running a successful practice. With that in mind, we invite you to view or download a free webinar by Above the Law and our friends at Clio to learn how to better manage your finances.
Take this opportunity to learn what it takes to streamline your accounting and get the most out of your time. The webinar agenda:
● The basics of accounting for lawyers.
● How legal accounting differs from regular accounting.
● Report and reconciliation issues surrounding trust accounts.
● How to pick and integrate the best accounting tools for your practice.
● Steps to prepare your tax return for your firm’s income.
Do not miss this crucial chance to optimize your accounting practices. Save time and get back to billing!
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!