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6 Ways to Save Tuition Money before Beginning Law School

  • You may be beyond the question of why law school is so expensive.
  • In your journey to becoming a lawyer, the reality of debt from law school may now be an acceptable evil as you prepare yourself as a legal practitioner.
  • But if you could have saved money during law school, making your tuition and its pending debt more tolerable, would you have?
  • For those starting their first year in law school, as well as those already attending law school, this article offers tips to help mitigate the enormous financial debt law school can cause.

There’s no doubt about it: Law school is expensive. In fact, law school can be one of the single greatest expenses a person can take on aside from purchasing a home or raising a child.

With less options toward relief for today’s law students as opposed to other tuition relief programs universities give their students in other majors, particularly their undergrads, law school students have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to tuition costs.

Sure, some schools may offer scholarships to their top-notch law students. Stipends of other sorts may also be available, or depending upon the popularity of a law student’s practice area, he or she might be provided some type of financial relief toward their legal education, but honestly, of the 205 ABA-accredited law schools in the US, finding a law school that offers a break in the cost of its tuition is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Yes, when looked at in the big picture, it does seem unfair that a large number of law schools do not give out as many scholarships or, at least, financial aid as they can. This becomes increasingly discriminatory when across many campuses on the exercise field, scholarships and financial aid are readily rewarded to athletes whose career in the long run, will never last as long as that of the committed attorney.

Undoubtedly, there are discrepancies that affect no one but the future attorney who unfortunately has to endure expensive graduate classes geared toward a long-term career, and not a sport where longevity translates into roughly a handful of seasons of skinny posts, down-and-outs and alley-oops.

Thus the university priority seems askew: Sports, research, influential alumni who desire fame and notoriety within their university major, as well as many other concerns can take precedence over long-term careers designed to help an entire generation of potential clientele who need legal help. And why does this happen on the (post-graduate) university circuit? Well…
 
  • In football, a strong goal line stance is much more exciting than a word slaughter during a mock trial.
  • In basketball, a three-point shot is much more beautiful than even the most brilliant of briefs written in prose that would make Robespierre weep.
  • A university’s multiple Nobel prizes in fields such as literature and science mean much more on a world stage than a strong litigator who has won multiple settlements.
  • Even in some universities – USC for example – their world-renown fine arts programs easily outshine anything that entails USC’s law school.
  • Any major within any university that has helped propel that university to a prestigious level, will always get the big donations, good news coverage, and in the end, attract powerful students.
  • If a university’s law school is not at that level, then there is a strong chance that law school will not be as compelled to offer scholarships of the same value or as many scholarships as those of more successful majors.

To be certain, most noted universities hold their law programs in very high regard. The names Harvard, Princeton and Yale have always been associated with the prestige of their law schools, while decidedly traditional “sports colleges” like USC and UCLA, have also had their law schools touted as some of the best in the country, though not always on the same level of the ivies as well as other schools that are not part of the ivies.

Even so, none of this solves the problem of law school expense, as it were, and the average law student whose next decade or so of a professional career will be catered to and eaten up by law school debt.

Honestly, all that can be done from the law student’s point of view is to look out for themselves financially, and hope to not go too far into debt regarding their law school expenses.

Toward My Law Degree I Do Pay

Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? “Toward my law degree I do pay.”

Law school is a rough, if not raw reality that becomes even more abrasive when you finally need to figure out how you’ll pay for your law school student debt.

Not to say that anything suggested in this article will completely mitigate your law school student debt – not with private law schools costing on average $40,000 a year and public law schools ranging from $23,000 to $36,000 yearly – no one’s student debt is about to disappear into thin air.

However, there are some ways we can somewhat alleviate our law school debt, or at least prepare ourselves for it.

In 2016, U.S. News and World Report listed steps law students can take to financially ready themselves for law school.

Whether you are beginning law school, or well entrenched in its three-year system, you still may be able to take advantage of some of these suggestions to help bring relief to your pending law school debt.
 
  1. Check out your personal finances

While few other than the overtly affluent are prepared for the financial rigors of law school, it still helps for every law student to know what they are up against financially when it comes to attending law school.
 
In this, it’s a very good idea to double check your finances only to see what you have to work with in the future as far as paying off your law school student debt.
 
Financially assess yourself ahead of your initial (or next) year of law school by studying what your costs may be outside of your core tuition. Learn what you’ll need toward food, transportation, living expenses, classroom expenses such as books, electronic equipment such as a computer and printer, and anything else needed toward your law school education.
 
Look for deals on computer equipment, preferably after Christmas; when/if possible, buy used books to save even more money in lieu of student debt. And you feel particularly deficient in a subject area, join a study group instead of paying for a tutor or extra classroom time.
 
With these savings added up, you could have a nice healthy chunk of dough to place toward this year or your next year of law school.
 
  1. Take Advantage of Law School Scholarships

You may not consider yourself a strong enough student to qualify for a scholarship, however on that same page, you never know until you try.
 
The adage of the starving student is, of course, to try to get everything they can to pay toward their eventual student debt. The problem is most law schools have a predetermined number of scholarships that can be awarded.
 
Another problem, at least with some law schools, is those scholarships last one year, and not the duration of an entire law school education. Thus, a law student who receives a scholarship as an L1 will have to reapply for an L2 scholarship when they reach that level. And even with that, there are no guarantees the student will receive anything from their law school.
 
One’s best bet in this situation is to apply early, be spot-on accurate with all the needed items and forms, and with that, go on about your education. Don’t harbor as to whether you did or did not receive a scholarship. Just plow ahead with school, knowing that if you did receive a scholarship, it’s just icing on the cake toward obtaining a strong legal education.
 
  1. Money might also be found outside of school.

In some cases, for the enterprising legal student (or any student for that matter), money toward tuition can be more plentiful outside of school than inside school.

For law students, there are several outlets that are known providers of money to future attorneys.

For instance, there’s the Federal Circuit Bar Association and the American Bar Association, both of whom award money to future attorneys of promise.

Corporations and organizations have also been known to assist budding lawyers with their law school expenses, while some law firms may reward (or even offer) tuition relief to law students.

This advice is extremely important to minority students who have an interest in law as many law-oriented schools and organizations seek to make the law practicing community more diverse.
 
  1. Two Year Option vs. The Three-Year Tradition

We all know law school lasts three years. Well, as far as our bank accounts understand, that’s three years of what is more than likely spiraling debt.
 
If you fall into this category, and feel three years in an accredited law school program is beyond your means to pay for it, you may want to consider a two-year option while in law school.
 
As law schools realize the expense of what they offer law students, a growing trend among these institutions is to offer their services as a two-year option as opposed to the traditional three years.
 
Fact is, while time is saved in a two-year program, that same program doesn’t always save money for the legal student. This is true because some schools charge by the degree, not by the time spent in lectures, classroom training and mock courts.
 
According to Steven Sedberry, author of “Law School Labyrinth” the law student who seeks a two-year program due to financial hardships, may not always get what they want, and in that, have to be very careful as to what programs they enroll into.
 
  1. Make your Financial Scenario part of your Career Goals

Your law school finances can have (and quite possibly should have) a direct bearing on your career goals as a lawyer. In other words, you may want to pick a practice area in which you are most likely – and more readily – able to get a job.
 
The faster you nail down a position within a law practice, the faster you will be able to pay off your law school student loans.
 
However, you should also bear in mind that not all types of law pay the same. Double check to see how well your practice area pays, particularly in lieu of what you will owe in student loans.
 
You might want to adjust your major to an area of law that will quickly get you off the financial aid hook.
 
  1. Consider where you may and can practice

The practice of law can be a little like the military; after three (or two) years of basic training, there’s really no way you are can tell where you will end up next, just in the same way a soldier has no idea where they will be fighting once they’re finished with their training.
 
Of course, this isn’t a comparison of practicing law and fighting in a war. In war, you have no choice of where you are to be shipped to fight, while in law school, as to whether you do or do not have a choice where you will practice, depends solely on your practice area and the economics in that particularly section of a city, state or the country.
 
If you’re saddled by student loan debt from law school, you may want to consider a portion of the country where living expenses are not as high as larger cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York.
 
To not have exorbitant day-to-day costs within the city where you choose to practice, can greatly assist you with your law school student loan debt. The rents will not be as high, nor will the properties if you seek to own your own place. Food, gasoline and other staples of modern life can be made to coexist with your pending student loans as long as you remain conservative with the items you need as opposed to the items you want, but aren’t necessarily needful of.

In Conclusion

As has been said, and experienced by many law students, law school can be a very pricy endeavor for a majority of those who want to establish careers in the legal sector. And yet, there is no other option for today’s law student to bypass the expense of law school; they have to go to law school in order to become accredited as a lawyer, financial costs notwithstanding.
 
As more tips become available for law students as to how they can mitigate their law school debt, the main issue a law student needs to remember is to select a practice area in which their services will be needed in addition to being paid well for those services, so they can get a head’s start on the student loan debt that plagues so many other undergraduate and advanced degree holders in this country.
 
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6 Ways to Save Tuition Money before Beginning Law School