Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

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CA2CO
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Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby CA2CO » Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:02 pm

Hi there,

I'm an undergrad in California, but graduate this May. I'm accepting a job that is moving me to Denver, Colorado and will likely live there until I attend law school (if I attend law school). I've been looking at going to law school my entire life and have been doing some intensive research in the last month or two. What I can't seem to find out is what price tag can justify law school. That is, how much debt is worth taking on from law school to justify attending in the first place?

I keep looking at scholarships statistics and 9-month employment statistics for law schools (obviously grouped together), combined with employment prospects for the region. I can't seem to come up with a reliable way to determine if the median debt can justify the median first year salary out of law school. Any opinions on the matter?

TL;DR

what is the maximum debt worth taking on from law school in relation to their employment/salary prospects?

Schools I'm looking at (if it matters at all):

University of Denver
University of Colorado
Southern Methodist University
University of North Carolina

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OhBoyOhBortles
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby OhBoyOhBortles » Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:08 pm

CA2CO wrote:Hi there,

I'm an undergrad in California, but graduate this May. I'm accepting a job that is moving me to Denver, Colorado and will likely live there until I attend law school (if I attend law school). I've been looking at going to law school my entire life and have been doing some intensive research in the last month or two. What I can't seem to find out is what price tag can justify law school. That is, how much debt is worth taking on from law school to justify attending in the first place?

I keep looking at scholarships statistics and 9-month employment statistics for law schools (obviously grouped together), combined with employment prospects for the region. I can't seem to come up with a reliable way to determine if the median debt can justify the median first year salary out of law school. Any opinions on the matter?

TL;DR

what is the maximum debt worth taking on from law school in relation to their employment/salary prospects?
Schools I'm looking at (if it matters at all):

University of Denver
University of Colorado
Southern Methodist University
University of North Carolina


"The general rule of thumb for student loan borrowing is that the total amount of student debt should not exceed the borrower's anticipated annual salary for the first year out of school," says Allesandra Lanza, spokeswoman for American Student Assistance, a nonprofit based in Boston.


Quote taken from (a number of sources, really, but in this instance):
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/college-finance/how-much-college-debt-is-too-much-1.aspx

FloridaCoastalorbust
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby FloridaCoastalorbust » Wed Apr 22, 2015 4:09 pm

It depends on what kind of life/job you want, where you want to live, how much debt you're willing to take on, and so on. Nearly everyone here will tell you almost all of these schools aren't worth it at any price.

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twenty
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby twenty » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:44 pm

I would pay somewhere in the region of 70k-100k for any school on that list. Closer to 70k if you're a K-JD with no other marketable skills, not really sure what kind of law you want to do, etc., and maybe closer to 100k if you have several years of work experience you can fall back on, have an SO that can support you if the shit really hits the fan, etc.

Keep in mind that's 70k-100k total, so if you're thinking 20k-25k a year in cost of living and interest alone, that basically mandates a full ride scholarship.

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Capitol_Idea
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby Capitol_Idea » Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:55 pm

Prevailing wisdom (crudely dumbed down) is either decent money at a t20 school if you want BigLaw (sliding scale from any t6 money to better-than-half-ride from t20), or full ride from a decent regional if you want anything less preftigious.

Nuance comes in around the margins depending on personal circumstance but the advice above has been pretty spot on.

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downbeat14
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby downbeat14 » Wed Apr 22, 2015 7:09 pm

.
Last edited by downbeat14 on Tue Apr 28, 2015 11:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

BigZuck
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby BigZuck » Wed Apr 22, 2015 7:21 pm

Probs any of those are fine on a fully but I wouldn't go more than 100K into debt for suresies

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gnomgnomuch
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby gnomgnomuch » Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:18 pm

This is a very very hard question to answer. It depends on your GPA/LSAT, how much debt you currently have, how much debt you are comfortable with having, family obligation, preferred location, desired work outcome - and even thinking ahead in terms of what kind of career do you want 20 years after you get your JD, because 20 years down the line, where you went to Law School might STILL matter.

Of the 4 schools you mentioned, I would cross of SMU completely.
The other three - you'd need connections, and I wouldn't be comfortable having more than 50-60k TOTAL debt. (Full COA + previous debt.) And, if I had a family, that number would go down to like 20-30k.

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CA2CO
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby CA2CO » Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:13 pm

thanks for all of the comments and replies. I've been struggling lately the more and more time I spend reading on this forum. I've wanted to go to law school most of my life and obviously become an attorney, but tuition is getting scary expensive. I'm still pretty sure I want to be an attorney, but I'm at the point of trying to justify it financially before I make the leap to study for the LSAT.

gnomgnomuch wrote:This is a very very hard question to answer. It depends on your GPA/LSAT, how much debt you currently have, how much debt you are comfortable with having, family obligation, preferred location, desired work outcome - and even thinking ahead in terms of what kind of career do you want 20 years after you get your JD, because 20 years down the line, where you went to Law School might STILL matter.

Of the 4 schools you mentioned, I would cross of SMU completely.
The other three - you'd need connections, and I wouldn't be comfortable having more than 50-60k TOTAL debt. (Full COA + previous debt.) And, if I had a family, that number would go down to like 20-30k.


UGPA is going to end up 3.15. LSAT, no idea because I haven't even begun to prep yet. I will do my due diligence and score as best possible, but I haven't even taken my cold test yet. I'm not debt averse, but I also don't want to put myself in an unmanageable debt situation. That's basically the point of this entire post, I want to see if there is any hard line way of determining what is unmanageable...

Interesting that you crossed off SMU, but my only connection would be to Colorado. I'm moving there for work and already know an attorney in the area. Would attempt to network from there for the 2-3 I'm working prior to entering law school.


BigZuck wrote:Probs any of those are fine on a fully but I wouldn't go more than 100K into debt for suresies



I don't think I'll get a full scholly from any of them even with a 180 LSAT. However, I do know the applications have been trending down; I guess anything is possible. But see above, 3.15 GPA and unknown LSAT.


twenty wrote:I would pay somewhere in the region of 70k-100k for any school on that list. Closer to 70k if you're a K-JD with no other marketable skills, not really sure what kind of law you want to do, etc., and maybe closer to 100k if you have several years of work experience you can fall back on, have an SO that can support you if the shit really hits the fan, etc.

Keep in mind that's 70k-100k total, so if you're thinking 20k-25k a year in cost of living and interest alone, that basically mandates a full ride scholarship.


I'm not going to be K-JD, I'll have solid full-time work experience prior to entry. I would venture to guess that I'm ball parking 100k debt after those schools, so I guess that's a comforting thought. As far as type of law, I think I want to get into some type of health law. I had a heart attack at age 21 (never done any drugs in my life) from random causes and I've since been interested in the medical field i guess. Aside from that, I have no idea what I want to practice.

omegaweapon
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby omegaweapon » Thu Apr 23, 2015 2:48 am

FTR, if you got a really high score, you would probably get pretty good money at a bunch of schools: http://mylsn.info/6rb7f7/

Northwestern with 30k or Mich with 50k wouldn't be crazy depending on your career goals.

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jbagelboy
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby jbagelboy » Fri Apr 24, 2015 7:55 pm

first year salary (multiplied by chance of landing an offer for that salary) is actually a pretty decent proxy for acceptable debt load, for most people.

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mt2165
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby mt2165 » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:05 pm

jbagelboy wrote:first year salary (multiplied by chance of landing an offer for that salary) is actually a pretty decent proxy for acceptable debt load, for most people.


Yeah I like that too-sad thing is that means once you're in the t-14 (maximizing dem variables) you still need like a half scholly or be independently wealthy to satisfy that formula.

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gnomgnomuch
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby gnomgnomuch » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:09 pm

CA2CO wrote:thanks for all of the comments and replies. I've been struggling lately the more and more time I spend reading on this forum. I've wanted to go to law school most of my life and obviously become an attorney, but tuition is getting scary expensive. I'm still pretty sure I want to be an attorney, but I'm at the point of trying to justify it financially before I make the leap to study for the LSAT.

gnomgnomuch wrote:This is a very very hard question to answer. It depends on your GPA/LSAT, how much debt you currently have, how much debt you are comfortable with having, family obligation, preferred location, desired work outcome - and even thinking ahead in terms of what kind of career do you want 20 years after you get your JD, because 20 years down the line, where you went to Law School might STILL matter.

Of the 4 schools you mentioned, I would cross of SMU completely.
The other three - you'd need connections, and I wouldn't be comfortable having more than 50-60k TOTAL debt. (Full COA + previous debt.) And, if I had a family, that number would go down to like 20-30k.


UGPA is going to end up 3.15. LSAT, no idea because I haven't even begun to prep yet. I will do my due diligence and score as best possible, but I haven't even taken my cold test yet. I'm not debt averse, but I also don't want to put myself in an unmanageable debt situation. That's basically the point of this entire post, I want to see if there is any hard line way of determining what is unmanageable...

Interesting that you crossed off SMU, but my only connection would be to Colorado. I'm moving there for work and already know an attorney in the area. Would attempt to network from there for the 2-3 I'm working prior to entering law school.

Not to be that guy, but a 3.15 is pretty low. For all I know you're majoring in Chem.Enj and a 3.15 is actually an astoundingly great GPA - but law schools won't see it that way. A 3.15 shuts you out at MOST schools worth going to, unless you're above the 75th percentile in LSAT. Even then, you're looking at minimal scholarship money.

You'd actually get in at schools like UVA/U.MICH/NU with a 170+ LSAT and work experience (especially NU).

BigZuck wrote:Probs any of those are fine on a fully but I wouldn't go more than 100K into debt for suresies



I don't think I'll get a full scholly from any of them even with a 180 LSAT. However, I do know the applications have been trending down; I guess anything is possible. But see above, 3.15 GPA and unknown LSAT.


twenty wrote:I would pay somewhere in the region of 70k-100k for any school on that list. Closer to 70k if you're a K-JD with no other marketable skills, not really sure what kind of law you want to do, etc., and maybe closer to 100k if you have several years of work experience you can fall back on, have an SO that can support you if the shit really hits the fan, etc.

Keep in mind that's 70k-100k total, so if you're thinking 20k-25k a year in cost of living and interest alone, that basically mandates a full ride scholarship.


I'm not going to be K-JD, I'll have solid full-time work experience prior to entry. I would venture to guess that I'm ball parking 100k debt after those schools, so I guess that's a comforting thought. As far as type of law, I think I want to get into some type of health law. I had a heart attack at age 21 (never done any drugs in my life) from random causes and I've since been interested in the medical field i guess. Aside from that, I have no idea what I want to practice.



Why not pursue something medical, if that's what you're interested? Masters of health policy? Good luck with whatever you decide, and feel free to PM me, if you want.

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jbagelboy
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby jbagelboy » Fri Apr 24, 2015 9:42 pm

mt2165 wrote:
jbagelboy wrote:first year salary (multiplied by chance of landing an offer for that salary) is actually a pretty decent proxy for acceptable debt load, for most people.


Yeah I like that too-sad thing is that means once you're in the t-14 (maximizing dem variables) you still need like a half scholly or be independently wealthy to satisfy that formula.


well the upshot is that's not an entirely false statement. the metric's certainly not exact, but this would be the discrete expected value sum of all outcomes, not just the best. consider. summer associate + first year compensation pretax is $205,000. a harvard, columbia, ect. student has a ~90% chance of hitting that outcome if they wanted it, 10% chance of something substantially less attractive (call it $50,000). So acceptable debt for those schools on that model would be $190,000. For a michigan, berkeley, ect. you're at 70-75% chance, so ~$160,000. For UCLA/UT/ect, call it 40-45% chance, rest in the middle hitting $50k with maybe 10% coming up with zilch, so $100,000.

I've done more complete EV computations on this in other posts in the past so I won't belabor the point

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mt2165
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby mt2165 » Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:19 pm

jbagelboy wrote:
mt2165 wrote:
jbagelboy wrote:first year salary (multiplied by chance of landing an offer for that salary) is actually a pretty decent proxy for acceptable debt load, for most people.


Yeah I like that too-sad thing is that means once you're in the t-14 (maximizing dem variables) you still need like a half scholly or be independently wealthy to satisfy that formula.


well the upshot is that's not an entirely false statement. the metric's certainly not exact, but this would be the discrete expected value sum of all outcomes, not just the best. consider. summer associate + first year compensation pretax is $205,000. a harvard, columbia, ect. student has a ~90% chance of hitting that outcome if they wanted it, 10% chance of something substantially less attractive (call it $50,000). So acceptable debt for those schools on that model would be $190,000. For a michigan, berkeley, ect. you're at 70-75% chance, so ~$160,000. For UCLA/UT/ect, call it 40-45% chance, rest in the middle hitting $50k with maybe 10% coming up with zilch, so $100,000.

I've done more complete EV computations on this in other posts in the past so I won't belabor the point


Oh ok that makes a lot of sense-good stuff. Though I feel like the 10% of the less attractive job shouldn't even enter the equation because unless you were a do-gooder (in which case none of this even really applies) and had the goal of riding LRAPs, you're in a pretty shitty spot cost-benefit wise. But yeah you're right, the numbers look pretty ok now that hiring is back up.

CanadianWolf
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby CanadianWolf » Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:27 pm

As you already know, your GPA is on the low side for getting generous scholarship money at any law school with strong placement numbers. You need to sit for the LSAT exam to get a more realistic picture of your likely options. You may realize that law school is not a wise investment if you score below the mid-160s on the LSAT.

To answer your question: The maximum debt worth taking on is in the $40,000 to $60,000 range assuming that you have no other student loan debt or significant financial obligations.

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UnicornHunter
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby UnicornHunter » Sun Apr 26, 2015 6:31 pm

If the job you have lined up in Denver is a professional one, just forget about law school for a while. It will always be around if you want to go later on in life. Assuming you're not moving to Denver to work at a McDonalds or something, the opportunity cost of law school prep + law school alone isn't worth it right now, never mind actually giving money to those places.

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CA2CO
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Re: Debt/First Year Salary Worth it

Postby CA2CO » Mon Apr 27, 2015 12:57 pm

CanadianWolf wrote:As you already know, your GPA is on the low side for getting generous scholarship money at any law school with strong placement numbers. You need to sit for the LSAT exam to get a more realistic picture of your likely options. You may realize that law school is not a wise investment if you score below the mid-160s on the LSAT.

To answer your question: The maximum debt worth taking on is in the $40,000 to $60,000 range assuming that you have no other student loan debt or significant financial obligations.


Ya... Unfortunately, I screwed myself my first semester of undergrad. I got a 1.62 and LSAC counts that semester against me even though I retook the courses I failed. So my UGPA before LSDAS calculation is 3.3, but sadly, that doesn't matter much. I'll definitely do my due diligence with LSAT prep. Obviously going to shoot for 170+ like everybody else on this forum haha.
Thank you for the response, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that you're right. So I am going to take the time off to work and see where that takes me. If I score super high on the LSAT and I'm not happy working a normal job, then I'll reevaluate my situation in a couple years.

TheUnicornHunter wrote:If the job you have lined up in Denver is a professional one, just forget about law school for a while. It will always be around if you want to go later on in life. Assuming you're not moving to Denver to work at a McDonalds or something, the opportunity cost of law school prep + law school alone isn't worth it right now, never mind actually giving money to those places.


I have a very good job lined up in Denver, which is why I'm planning on waiting regardless. My original plan was to apply for the Fall 2017 semester (C/O 2020). However, after spending so much time on this board, I'm sadly rethinking law school or at least the timeline I was sitting on. My biggest concern with waiting is missing this huge drop in applications where law schools are giving out scholarships excessively. So we'll see...

Thanks for the replies




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