Making things work with debt

A forum for applicants and admitted students to ask law students and graduates about law school and the practice of law.
piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 1:58 pm

I'm planning on taking the LSAT in October, and hoping for NYU where I might get $45,000 in financial aid. I work as a teacher in a private high schoool, get paid very little and really don't like my job.

I know I probably won't be cut out for big law longterm. My plan was to work as an associate for several years, then move to a corporate counsel position with more control over my schedule. Because of my age, I'll be 33 when I start in big law, which doesn't leave me much time if I want to get Associate work out of the way before starting a family.

How feasible a plan is this? With law school expenses totaling $81k a year, even with considerable financial aid, I would leave with $200k in debt. Would it be enough to commit to big law for just a few years? Or would I have to stay in for longer? How easy is it to pay off loans working in-house counsel somewhere?

Also, are there alternatives to starting in big law that would allow me to pay of loans and still be well off financially? The more I read about these firms, the more I'm afraid to work at them.

User avatar
Clearly
Posts: 4165
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:09 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby Clearly » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:08 pm

piney wrote:I'm planning on taking the LSAT in October, and hoping for NYU where I might get $45,000 in financial aid. I work as a teacher in a private high schoool, get paid very little and really don't like my job.

I know I probably won't be cut out for big law longterm. My plan was to work as an associate for several years, then move to a corporate counsel position with more control over my schedule. Because of my age, I'll be 33 when I start in big law, which doesn't leave me much time if I want to get Associate work out of the way before starting a family.

How feasible a plan is this? With law school expenses totaling $81k a year, even with considerable financial aid, I would leave with $200k in debt. Would it be enough to commit to big law for just a few years? Or would I have to stay in for longer? How easy is it to pay off loans working in-house counsel somewhere?

Also, are there alternatives to starting in big law that would allow me to pay of loans and still be well off financially? The more I read about these firms, the more I'm afraid to work at them.

If I might make a suggestion, worry about all these things in reverse order. First worry about acing the LSAT, then look at your options and weigh your debt, then graduate and worry about getting biglaw at all, then worry about exit options.. Also, whats your undergrad GPA?

J. R. Capablanca
Posts: 38
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby J. R. Capablanca » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:11 pm

200k is an absolute crushing amount of loans, while biglaw, literally your ONLY chance of paying off that amount is a 50 % crapshoot at any school below HYS AT BEST.

Think harder.

User avatar
Clearly
Posts: 4165
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:09 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby Clearly » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:14 pm

J. R. Capablanca wrote:200k is an absolute crushing amount of loans, while biglaw, literally your ONLY chance of paying off that amount is a 50 % crapshoot at any school below HYS AT BEST.

Think harder.

You should check your data, and keep in mind self selection.

J. R. Capablanca
Posts: 38
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby J. R. Capablanca » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:19 pm

Clearlynotstefan wrote:
J. R. Capablanca wrote:200k is an absolute crushing amount of loans, while biglaw, literally your ONLY chance of paying off that amount is a 50 % crapshoot at any school below HYS AT BEST.

Think harder.

You should check your data, and keep in mind self selection.


Ok, so instead of 50 % it's 55.342234 % that you're gambling 200k (and your life) with.

I like those odds!

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:27 pm

Clearlynotstefan wrote:If I might make a suggestion, worry about all these things in reverse order. First worry about acing the LSAT, then look at your options and weigh your debt, then graduate and worry about getting biglaw at all, then worry about exit options.. Also, whats your undergrad GPA?


LSAT pts are 170+, 3.54 GPA. But taking the LSAT doesn't even make sense if the best case scenario won't even work. If I can't find out how I would pay back debt with exit options, there's no point in dropping $243k for law school, or even the $180 to register for the LSAT.

User avatar
justonemoregame
Posts: 1160
Joined: Fri Jul 01, 2011 3:51 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby justonemoregame » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:28 pm

I had similar concerns, being of similar age - I passed on the 200K+ bomb. On top of the practical considerations, like not being able to save for retirement until age 40 or beyond, I think it would add a ton of pressure to a life experience already prone to stress inducement. As an above poster said though, you have to worry about the LSAT first - it's tough to get a great bargain. Nobody pays COL, so even a half-ride leaves you with 150K.
Last edited by justonemoregame on Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:29 pm

J. R. Capablanca wrote:
Ok, so instead of 50 % it's 55.342234 % that you're gambling 200k (and your life) with.

I like those odds!


Only 55.3% of NYU grads who try make it into biglaw?

User avatar
Clearly
Posts: 4165
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:09 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby Clearly » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:35 pm

J. R. Capablanca wrote:
Clearlynotstefan wrote:
J. R. Capablanca wrote:200k is an absolute crushing amount of loans, while biglaw, literally your ONLY chance of paying off that amount is a 50 % crapshoot at any school below HYS AT BEST.

Think harder.

You should check your data, and keep in mind self selection.


Ok, so instead of 50 % it's 55.342234 % that you're gambling 200k (and your life) with.

I like those odds!

To say those are the odds of all schools except HYS AT BEST simply isn't true. Penn places 66.7% biglaw, plus another 10.4 in clerkships that will end up in biglaw anyway. 77%>55.34

Chi biglaw+clerkships = 70%, NYU = 65%

Look, law school isn't always a wise decision, but hyperbole isn't helping anyone.

OP, you have a below median GPA. Even with a 175 NYU wouldn't likely give you much money, even if you got in.

NYstate
Posts: 1566
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby NYstate » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:45 pm

piney wrote:
Clearlynotstefan wrote:If I might make a suggestion, worry about all these things in reverse order. First worry about acing the LSAT, then look at your options and weigh your debt, then graduate and worry about getting biglaw at all, then worry about exit options.. Also, whats your undergrad GPA?


LSAT pts are 170+, 3.54 GPA. But taking the LSAT doesn't even make sense if the best case scenario won't even work. If I can't find out how I would pay back debt with exit options, there's no point in dropping $243k for law school, or even the $180 to register for the LSAT.


Because law school admissions are so number based it is impossible to advise you without a score.

You are correct. Biglaw is the only way to pay off this debt unless you opt for a 20 year repayment plan coupled with loan forgiveness and tax liability.

Law school is just too expensive.

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:53 pm

NYstate wrote:
piney wrote:
Clearlynotstefan wrote:If I might make a suggestion, worry about all these things in reverse order. First worry about acing the LSAT, then look at your options and weigh your debt, then graduate and worry about getting biglaw at all, then worry about exit options.. Also, whats your undergrad GPA?


LSAT pts are 170+, 3.54 GPA. But taking the LSAT doesn't even make sense if the best case scenario won't even work. If I can't find out how I would pay back debt with exit options, there's no point in dropping $243k for law school, or even the $180 to register for the LSAT.


Because law school admissions are so number based it is impossible to advise you without a score.

You are correct. Biglaw is the only way to pay off this debt unless you opt for a 20 year repayment plan coupled with loan forgiveness and tax liability.

Law school is just too expensive.


Since I'm asking about exit options, not about my chances at a particular school, what options are there for someone with $200k in debt who makes it into biglaw?

Also, what is the average amount of debt people leave with?

User avatar
IAFG
Posts: 6665
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:26 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby IAFG » Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:59 pm

So graduate at 33, then do, say, 4 years of biglaw until you're 37, then start trying to have a baby? I sure hope you're a dude.

NYstate
Posts: 1566
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby NYstate » Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:02 pm

piney wrote:
NYstate wrote:
piney wrote:
Clearlynotstefan wrote:If I might make a suggestion, worry about all these things in reverse order. First worry about acing the LSAT, then look at your options and weigh your debt, then graduate and worry about getting biglaw at all, then worry about exit options.. Also, whats your undergrad GPA?


LSAT pts are 170+, 3.54 GPA. But taking the LSAT doesn't even make sense if the best case scenario won't even work. If I can't find out how I would pay back debt with exit options, there's no point in dropping $243k for law school, or even the $180 to register for the LSAT.


Because law school admissions are so number based it is impossible to advise you without a score.

You are correct. Biglaw is the only way to pay off this debt unless you opt for a 20 year repayment plan coupled with loan forgiveness and tax liability.

Law school is just too expensive.


Since I'm asking about exit options, not about my chances at a particular school, what options are there for someone with $200k in debt who makes it into biglaw?

Also, what is the average amount of debt people leave with?



Those are good questions. There is no solid data on exit options. I don't know of any solid data on average debt, though it might exist somewhere.

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:29 pm

IAFG wrote:So graduate at 33, then do, say, 4 years of biglaw until you're 37, then start trying to have a baby? I sure hope you're a dude.


Yea, I am. Maybe it's not a good idea, but I don't like the idea of raising kids when I have to work 100 hour weeks.

NYstate
Posts: 1566
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:44 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby NYstate » Sat Aug 03, 2013 3:59 pm

Do you want to be a lawyer or are you looking for a high paying job?

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:10 pm

NYstate wrote:Do you want to be a lawyer or are you looking for a high paying job?


Both, but if I could find a high paying job without going to law school (e.g. finance), I'd take it. And honestly, of the successful lawyers I know who work at the top NY firms, most went in for the money.

User avatar
okinawa
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:45 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby okinawa » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:12 pm

You need to not be so caught up in the idea of going to NYU before you've even taken the LSAT. If you are a woman and wish to give birth to children in the near future, you're better off limiting your debt and going to a school in a market that is halfway to family friendly (so cheaper than NYC and without preschool related insanity). Penn? Chicago? Duke? Texas if you're a texan?

If I were in your shoes, I'd be trying to limit my debt to 100k or 150k, which is easier with a better scholarship and a lower cost of living during the 3 years of law school. If you graduate with 100k and get big law even in a non-160k market, you can work there for 2 years, get pregnant and go on maternity leave, then come back for a few months to a year while you look for something less time intensive. You don't need to get them down to 0 before you leave, just a manageable level (maybe 50k-80k).

But with 200k+ in debt, it'll be really difficult to leave after a few years, it'll be difficult to stay past a few years, and you'll still be drowning in debt even if you're one of the 50% or 70% or whatever that gets a biglaw job. I don't think it's worth it, given your goals, to take on that much debt. Take the LSAT. Apply. Be ready to say no to any school that is going to leave you in an untenable situation at graduation, either from student loans or job prospects or both.

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:24 pm

This is helpful, but I said above I was male. I mention family because I think it would be very hard to be a good father ir husband in biglaw. Apart from family, my concern is how much debt would hurt future earnings.

User avatar
Tiago Splitter
Posts: 15475
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:20 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby Tiago Splitter » Sat Aug 03, 2013 4:55 pm

If you can really destroy the LSAT you might have a shot at Northwestern's Early Decision, which comes with a full ride. Short of that you're probably looking at 150K+ in debt if you want a worthwhile chance at BigLaw even if you score a 180.

User avatar
jbagelboy
Posts: 9635
Joined: Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:57 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby jbagelboy » Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:24 pm

IAFG wrote:So graduate at 33, then do, say, 4 years of biglaw until you're 37, then start trying to have a baby? I sure hope you're a dude.


And even then.

Men who have children after 40 carry a substantially higher risk of having a aspergers/down syndrome child.

piney
Posts: 60
Joined: Sun Mar 11, 2012 8:06 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby piney » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:06 pm

So what I gather is:

1) Pretty much anyone who goes to the top law schools with less that $100k in financial aid should expect to have to spend several years in biglaw paying off their debt. (NYU yearly student budget = $81k, times three = $243k)

2) People who go to these schools in their late twenties either don't have children or raise their children while working typical biglaw work schedules.

Both of those seem pretty messed up to me. How are people even attending these schools without upwards of $200k in debt? Most of the people on lawschoolnumbers who get accepted here aren't offered any financial aid, which should leave them $240k in debt by the end of 3L. Or is is that most people turn town their top admits to go someplace more generous with aid?

User avatar
Tiago Splitter
Posts: 15475
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:20 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby Tiago Splitter » Sat Aug 03, 2013 6:28 pm

piney wrote:So what I gather is:

1) Pretty much anyone who goes to the top law schools with less that $100k in financial aid should expect to have to spend several years in biglaw paying off their debt. (NYU yearly student budget = $81k, times three = $243k)

2) People who go to these schools in their late twenties either don't have children or raise their children while working typical biglaw work schedules.

Both of those seem pretty messed up to me. How are people even attending these schools without upwards of $200k in debt? Most of the people on lawschoolnumbers who get accepted here aren't offered any financial aid, which should leave them $240k in debt by the end of 3L. Or is is that most people turn town their top admits to go someplace more generous with aid?

1. It's often even higher with interest factored in.

2. Those are the two choices.

Some people have significant personal/family savings and won't leave with 200K in debt, others will choose a school which gives scholarship money, and many will have a combination of those things. With your GPA you can land scholarship money at NYU, but yes the debt will be substantial regardless. Keep in mind, though, that you don't have to have it paid down to 0 when you leave BigLaw.

dixiecupdrinking
Posts: 3139
Joined: Sun Oct 26, 2008 2:39 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sun Aug 04, 2013 5:08 pm

It doesn't really sound like you should go to law school.

The best way to look at the path you're describing is by analogy to med school. Rack up a ton of debt over three years at a T6. Then go to biglaw, but don't be fooled by the salary figures; just like there's "sticker" prices and "real" prices in law school, there's "sticker" salaries and "real" salaries after law school. Best to think of your biglaw years like a residency. Pay your dues, don't expect to come out ahead financially if you had to borrow to get there. The problem, and the divide with med school, is that there aren't enough good options out there anymore to swallow up all the people who go through the biglaw machinery and come out the other side. It would be like you did med school and a residency and then found out that instead of being a doctor, you'd have to go work as a physician's assistant in a hospice in Nebraska for $50k.

Point being, forget the money, and only do this if you think you want to be a lawyer 6-7 years from now bad enough to spend that much time busting your ass to accrue a ton of debt and then get back to where you started. And hope that the profession looks better, not worse, by then.

blsingindisguise
Posts: 1296
Joined: Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:08 am

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby blsingindisguise » Sun Aug 04, 2013 5:23 pm

There are student loan calculators all over the internet. I don't understand why more people don't just google one and put in their debt amount at realistic interest rates. Then you see what you actually have to shell out per month after graduation. For example, if you want to pay off $200K debt in five years (an OPTIMISTIC run for biglaw, many are pushed out sooner), you'd need to pay like $4,000 a month to your loans. That's probably half your take-home pay in biglaw.

User avatar
IAFG
Posts: 6665
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:26 pm

Re: Making things work with debt

Postby IAFG » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:14 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:It doesn't really sound like you should go to law school.

The best way to look at the path you're describing is by analogy to med school. Rack up a ton of debt over three years at a T6. Then go to biglaw, but don't be fooled by the salary figures; just like there's "sticker" prices and "real" prices in law school, there's "sticker" salaries and "real" salaries after law school. Best to think of your biglaw years like a residency. Pay your dues, don't expect to come out ahead financially if you had to borrow to get there. The problem, and the divide with med school, is that there aren't enough good options out there anymore to swallow up all the people who go through the biglaw machinery and come out the other side. It would be like you did med school and a residency and then found out that instead of being a doctor, you'd have to go work as a physician's assistant in a hospice in Nebraska for $50k.

Point being, forget the money, and only do this if you think you want to be a lawyer 6-7 years from now bad enough to spend that much time busting your ass to accrue a ton of debt and then get back to where you started. And hope that the profession looks better, not worse, by then.

How many people leave biglaw for $50k NE insurance defense? I've never even heard of it. When I was summering I always asked where former associates where when it came up. The answer was never shitlaw.




Return to “Ask a Law Student / Graduate”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest