Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

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brownpride
Posts: 154
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 4:01 pm

Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby brownpride » Sat Oct 20, 2012 9:27 am

Background on me: Grew up in Canada in an immigrant family, so going to a good school was always my dream. Won a full scholarship to undergrad at my city's university, where I finished with near-perfect grades. Got a spot at Harvard Law, which I deferred for a year to complete an intensive master of public policy at Oxford University in the UK, where I am currently.

My interest lies in international relations and human rights. That's why I chose to study public policy before law school - so I could get a better understand of economics, government, and the political system to better arm me with knowledge relating to what I want to do. I don't have a clue about where I'd like to work though - government, NGO, diplomacy, foreign service all remain options. My ultimate goal, even if it takes me years, is to work in alleviating human rights issues in some way. But I'm slowly realizing that I don't think I'd like to work in DC/New York/London, but rather to return to Canada and perhaps help to establish greater awareness of international issues there. A big factor here is my family - my whole family and girlfriend live in Calgary, Canada (a city with nothing whatsoever in the international affairs industry), but I want to live close to them. Finally, I also have an obligation to help my parents out financially and with their mortgage, and while I accept that I won't be able to in the next couple of years, it's ultimately going to be my responsibility within 5 years. So I've realized that after law I probably won't go for a public service job in an NGO or government, but rather seek a well-paying job for a few years to tend to loans and earn decent money.

But, I'm wondering how feasible the financial timeline is here. At the end of my current program I'll already be tens of thousands in debt, and adding on law school debt I'll probably be looking at around 300k when I graduate. As an extremely debt-averse person this scares me a lot, especially looking at the interest. People say that biglaw will enable you to pay off that amount, but how realistically possible is this and in what time frame (considering interest as well)? As well, as I want to return to my city in Canada (which has no biglaw jobs, though I'm hoping I might be able to land some sort of job with a firm or an oil company). I'm even more worried about my ability to take care of that - I don't want to live in NYC or elsewhere to work biglaw for a few years, only allowing me to return home 10 years from now. At the same time, I don't want to go to law school and indebt myself just to find that debt crushing me for 20 years afterwards.

Do you think it's worth it to attend law school under these financial circumstances? Are there any financial options I might be able to consider to make this a little easier (the school's financial aid won't be helping)? I don't want to attend another law school, both because Harvard is my dream school and because I want the prestige/network/credibility of the degree as I seek to make a difference in the future. But I'm just really worried about the next ten years financially and logistically, as I don't just have to think about myself.

TL;DR - Deferred at HLS and really want to go, but worried about money as I want to move back to Canada after law school and because I need to be earning enough to help my parents out. Looking for advice.

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unc0mm0n1
Posts: 1714
Joined: Sat Dec 25, 2010 1:06 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby unc0mm0n1 » Sat Oct 20, 2012 1:42 pm

brownpride wrote:Background on me: Grew up in Canada in an immigrant family, so going to a good school was always my dream. Won a full scholarship to undergrad at my city's university, where I finished with near-perfect grades. Got a spot at Harvard Law, which I deferred for a year to complete an intensive master of public policy at Oxford University in the UK, where I am currently.

My interest lies in international relations and human rights. That's why I chose to study public policy before law school - so I could get a better understand of economics, government, and the political system to better arm me with knowledge relating to what I want to do. I don't have a clue about where I'd like to work though - government, NGO, diplomacy, foreign service all remain options. My ultimate goal, even if it takes me years, is to work in alleviating human rights issues in some way. But I'm slowly realizing that I don't think I'd like to work in DC/New York/London, but rather to return to Canada and perhaps help to establish greater awareness of international issues there. A big factor here is my family - my whole family and girlfriend live in Calgary, Canada (a city with nothing whatsoever in the international affairs industry), but I want to live close to them. Finally, I also have an obligation to help my parents out financially and with their mortgage, and while I accept that I won't be able to in the next couple of years, it's ultimately going to be my responsibility within 5 years. So I've realized that after law I probably won't go for a public service job in an NGO or government, but rather seek a well-paying job for a few years to tend to loans and earn decent money.

But, I'm wondering how feasible the financial timeline is here. At the end of my current program I'll already be tens of thousands in debt, and adding on law school debt I'll probably be looking at around 300k when I graduate. As an extremely debt-averse person this scares me a lot, especially looking at the interest. People say that biglaw will enable you to pay off that amount, but how realistically possible is this and in what time frame (considering interest as well)? As well, as I want to return to my city in Canada (which has no biglaw jobs, though I'm hoping I might be able to land some sort of job with a firm or an oil company). I'm even more worried about my ability to take care of that - I don't want to live in NYC or elsewhere to work biglaw for a few years, only allowing me to return home 10 years from now. At the same time, I don't want to go to law school and indebt myself just to find that debt crushing me for 20 years afterwards.

Do you think it's worth it to attend law school under these financial circumstances? Are there any financial options I might be able to consider to make this a little easier (the school's financial aid won't be helping)? I don't want to attend another law school, both because Harvard is my dream school and because I want the prestige/network/credibility of the degree as I seek to make a difference in the future. But I'm just really worried about the next ten years financially and logistically, as I don't just have to think about myself.

TL;DR - Deferred at HLS and really want to go, but worried about money as I want to move back to Canada after law school and because I need to be earning enough to help my parents out. Looking for advice.


First thing I'd do is analyze my situation. This means taking a complete look at my finances and where I'm at. How much do you have to help your parents out? Have you talked to them about finances? Are they telling you they need help or are you just looking at their finances in the third person? Do you know how much financial aid you're going to get from Harvard? How much loans you currently have. I'd answer all of these things come up with a round figure and then work from there.

timbs4339
Posts: 2733
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:19 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby timbs4339 » Mon Oct 22, 2012 3:05 pm

If you want to go to law school, you will almost certainly have to do biglaw for a few years OR get on HLS's loan repayment assistance program (do you qualify for U.S. federal government loans?) for ten years. HLS is one of the few schools that can get you into international human rights law. The very limited schools that will even give you a shot at this type of work leads me to recommend attending HLS over even a large scholarship at a lower ranked T14.

300K of debt will take more than five years to repay even living in Calgary. You need to find out what the starting salaries are for large employers in your preferred area. They are probably not 160K. This is going to make it very difficult to get out from under that debt in less than ten years. You may want to consider paying down as much as you can and making do with relatively more "manageable" debt like 100K.

Ultimately you need to flesh out more of what you want. Sit down and make an outline of your current loan obligations. Then calculate what you would have to take out to attend HLS. Then go year-by-year. What kind of job do you want to have after Y1? Where? What salary? How much debt paid off after that year? Then you need to start prioritizing. Is being debt free worth living 5 years in NYC? How much debt is manageable 5 years into your career? 10 years?

EDIT: I think you really need to prioritize. You won't be able to be debt-free in five years, live in Calgary, support your parents, and work in human rights law. Something's gotta give, and you have to make some hard choices. Is helping out your folks more important than living in Calgary, being debt-free, or both? How long will you defer your dream job because of financial reality?

You seem to be very concerned with the financial aspects of this decision. By the most generous of estimates, it will be eight or nine years from now before you are "back to zero" (three years law school + five years biglaw). Very generous estimate. A smart, hardworking person will rise very high in another field in eight years.

brownpride
Posts: 154
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 4:01 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby brownpride » Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:20 am

Thanks timbs. I totally agree - it will be a long time to get back to zero. Is it worth it? Because at the end of this year I'll still have an MPP and be able to pursue work for a few years, and hope to rise up with that, though I don't know how successful I can be. I do know, however, that not going to HLS would be one of my life's biggest regrets, for a number of reasons. You mentioned that something's gotta give re: the things that I want to do, and I'm totally fine with not working in human rights in the next few years. But do you think living in Calgary and dealing with my debt in a manageable period of time is doable? Thanks.

timbs4339
Posts: 2733
Joined: Sat Apr 02, 2011 12:19 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby timbs4339 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:22 pm

brownpride wrote:Thanks timbs. I totally agree - it will be a long time to get back to zero. Is it worth it? Because at the end of this year I'll still have an MPP and be able to pursue work for a few years, and hope to rise up with that, though I don't know how successful I can be. I do know, however, that not going to HLS would be one of my life's biggest regrets, for a number of reasons. You mentioned that something's gotta give re: the things that I want to do, and I'm totally fine with not working in human rights in the next few years. But do you think living in Calgary and dealing with my debt in a manageable period of time is doable? Thanks.


Well, that would depend on what starting salaries are in Calgary for whatever their biglaw equivalent is. This is a big investment, so you should get in touch with attorneys in Calgary (preferably HLS alumni) and ask them some questions. If there are no HLS alumni in Calgary, then you need to figure out whether an HLS JD or American JD is portable to there. I'm sure it is, but I wouldn't wager 250K on the prospect.

If a "reasonable time" is five years, I don't think you will be out of debt by then, but you will have paid down a lot of it. Enough so that the monthly payments are low enough that you can stay current with those and still have money left over to help out your folks.

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby CanadianWolf » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:13 pm

Will you qualify for financial aid from Harvard Law School ? If not, then why take out such a large amount in student loans; if yes, then problem solved.

DMXdawg
Posts: 90
Joined: Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:18 pm

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby DMXdawg » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:36 pm

Why not go to a good but lower ranked school with a full scholarship? A top 10 school might still give you access to int'l law.

johndhi
Posts: 358
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2009 11:25 am

Re: Admitted to HLS, but what should I do?

Postby johndhi » Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:24 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:Will you qualify for financial aid from Harvard Law School ? If not, then why take out such a large amount in student loans; if yes, then problem solved.


This. I think your thread is generally a question better addressed to HLS' financial aid people. You won't be the first person they've met in this situation. If you can get LRAP up there, you'd be golden, but I don't know how that works.




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