With graduation fast approaching, maybe people are coming to the startling realization (what took you so long?) that they’re going to have to figure out a way to pay off their student loans. Sure, it was fun to have government monopoly money to play with while you were in law school — maybe you had a weekly shoegasm at DSW; maybe you repeatedly blew your wad at Game Stop — but now it’s time to face the music.
Unfortunately, when it comes to debt repayment, the soundtrack that’s playing on an infinite loop in your mind is from the shower scene in Psycho.
Whether or not you’ve got a job lined up, you know for sure that your starting salary is nowhere near high enough to allow you to both live indoors and make monthly payments to your loan servicer. You’re scared that you’re going to have to moonlight in retail, or worse yet, move back in with your parents.
All you know is that you really, really don’t want to default on your loans. Your credit will be shot. Your phone number will be scrawled on the bathroom walls at collections agencies. Your life’s work will be all for naught. What the hell are you going to do?
Don’t worry, friends. Your loan servicer has a secret to share on how to avoid the disaster of default….
If someone asks you whether they should go to law school, here is a very safe response: “Sure, provided that you get into a top law school and can go for free.” Even the biggest critics of legal education would admit that, assuming you want to be a lawyer, going for free to an elite law school is not a bad idea. See, e.g., Professor Paul Campos, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link).
How can this be achieved? It’s not impossible. As we’ve mentioned before, more than 10 percent of law students graduate with zero debt, and another 5 percent or so graduate with less than $20,000 in student loans. Some of these students receive generous scholarships from their schools; others have savings or come from well-to-do families.
But there are other options. For example, does your employer offer tuition reimbursement?
Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Mansfield J. Park gives some practical advice to prospective law students on how to finance their education.
Law school scholarships are the most important way you can fund your painfully expensive legal education. Law school grants are more rare and not much different than scholarships.
Otherwise, you will — as with most law students — fall back on law school loans to fund your education. Be very, very, very careful with this route. Let me say this in all caps and bold so you can hear me:
DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL WITHOUT A CLEAR PLAN TO FUND YOUR EDUCATION!!!
Yesterday we asked you to advise a prospective law student choosing between NYU Law School, at full sticker price, and UVA Law School, at half price. You overwhelmingly voted in favor of UVA. (Some of you suggested in the comments that he try to use his UVA scholarship to wrangle some scholarship money out of NYU; he did, but NYU said no.)
Today we bring you another 0L choosing between some excellent law schools. This individual has narrowed his decision down to three places: UVA, Northwestern, and Minnesota. For those of you who slavishly adhere to the U.S. News rankings, the three schools check in at #7, #12, and #19, respectively.
So what makes this choice more challenging? The differing scholarship amounts they’re offering this candidate….
Going to law school is a smart choice for many people. It’s not a smart choice for all people or probably even the majority of people who end up going, and it’s not a decision to be entered into lightly. But if you want to be a practicing lawyer, based on an informed view of what lawyers actually do, and if you’ve concluded that law school is right for you, after a rigorous process of psychological and financial self-examination, then by all means, matriculate.
(We are not uniformly anti-law-school here at Above the Law. I’ve written many times in defense of going to law school, provided you’ve done your research. See, e.g., here, here, here, and all of these law school success stories. And Elie’s on vacation this week, hahaha….)
The question then becomes where you should go to law school. It’s a timely topic, since now is the time of year when prospective law students or “0Ls” must decide where to put down their deposits. So help a brother out and offer some advice on the following situation….
Amid a jobs and loan debt crisis, the push for legal education to reinvent and remodel itself upon the medical school paradigm continues to grow. From a reduction in years of schooling to legal residency programs, these and a slew of other ideas are looking better and better.
Next up to the plate: monetary incentives to practice in no man’s land. Doctors have been getting loan repayment incentives for four decades in exchange for practicing in underserved rural areas.
Why can’t lawyers do the same thing?
In recent weeks, South Dakota’s innovative plan to keep lawyers in the state and practicing in rural areas has gotten a great deal of media attention. If you’d consider hanging a shingle in a small town for five years in exchange for a yearly sum of $12,000 to pay off your debts, then this is a great idea.
Now that my wife and I have a baby, people keep telling us that we shouldn’t just find a bigger rental, we should buy something and put down roots. My wife, politely, laughs and says, “We’re thinking about it.” I angrily roll my eyes and say, “Why don’t you think about going and f**king yourself.”
You see, we are both law school graduates who debt-financed our educations and now live in New York. Property ownership is not something that will happen for us… unless we just want to give up and move to an oil-soaked subdivision in Arkansas.
But I am not alone. A law professor has crunched some quick numbers and determined that at least half of the class of 2011 wouldn’t be able to own a home….
Biglaw firms are busy — busy making money, of course — and very reputation-conscious. They don’t want to be distracted by litigation, and they don’t want their white shoes sullied by grime. They will pay good money to make headaches go away.
But suing a scrappy plaintiff-side firm is an entirely different story. They will hit back — and hard.
Do any of you remember the set up of Northern Exposure? It was a decent enough show where a “city slicker” doctor had to practice in small town Alaska to pay off his student debt. Aidan from Sex in the City was on it.
Anyway, the point was that the state of Alaska paid for Rob Morrow’s medical school. In return, he had to work wherever Alaska sent him for five years.
Subject, of course, to the restrictions outlined in the Thirteenth Amendment, I’ve wondered why this isn’t an actual thing that more states do in order to help underserved communities. Why doesn’t New York pay for a bunch of people to go to medical school, but then they have to practice in poor areas for a term to work off their debts?
One state is giving it a try. And why not? I mean, it’s not really like peonage, is it?
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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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 six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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