“Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

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“Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by Anonymous User » Sun May 31, 2020 1:48 pm

I’m currently a second year big law associate with student loans. I don’t feel fulfilled in my career and I’ve been thinking about alternatives (law related and others). Lately, I’ve been thinking about the quote in the title and whether it has any merit. Wouldn’t employers be skeptical of someone who has no direct relevant experience (thus limiting the “whatever you want” aspect)? And if so, what should I do to set myself for possibly leaving law once my loans are paid. Any advice is appreciated.


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Re: “Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by ClubberLang » Sun May 31, 2020 2:08 pm

This depends on what you want to do. If you want to join the PGA tour, for example, it will be quite challenging if you are not good at golf. But if that is your dream, you should start practicing!


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Re: “Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by BrainsyK » Sun May 31, 2020 3:04 pm

Let's amend that statement to: "Pay off your loans. When possible, slowly begin to practice an alternate skillset and developing networks and infrastructures in another profession or industry. Wait until you have a stable footing on said other boat with at least a mid-term plan for somewhat expansion. See if you have enough of an nest egg to retire modestly for 30 years assuming you don't touch it and let it grow. Then quit and pursue that alternative path."

Ironically, this would involve you paying off your loans then immediately stepping up your workload, but that's the price of financial stability and well-being.

Another thing to be aware of is that you don't really have to wait until you're an expert. You just have to read up on some basics then start doing (the most important part) whether it's networking or building a business. As long as you have stable cash flow, any screw ups that lead to financial damage can be fixed. Not taking action is what typically delays people the longest. Once you take action, you'll learn on your feet much faster than just dreaming and reading. You're a smart person after all all.



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Re: “Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by kaiser » Sun May 31, 2020 4:10 pm

The mantra isn't really doing "whatever you want", its more about having the flexibility to pursue something you are passionate about, without having your options limited based on debt. We don't mean just literally going to do whatever random thing that interests you, even if you have no skills/qualifications to do it.

For example, say someone is a biglaw associate doing L&E work. If they have all their debt paid off, maybe they now have the option of joining a non-profit whose mission is meaningful to them, or joining the EEOC. Whereas, if they still have a big debt load, staying in biglaw might be the only practical option.


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Re: “Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by kovdak02 » Sun May 31, 2020 6:22 pm

That sentiment is a little more applicable in litigation than other biglaw practices, I think. The idea being, litigate in biglaw to get out from under debt, then go into government or public service (or whatever your heart desires) to actually litigate like you want. I don't really think it makes as much sense for people who do, say, investment funds or capital markets work.

Anonymous User
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Re: “Pay off your student loans and then do whatever you want!”

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jun 01, 2020 7:23 pm

I'm a former attorney that still lurks/occasionally posts here. A few pointers for you:

- IMO that phrase is really referring to your long-term financial prospects (taking student debt into consideration) vs. your potential to pay down debt based on your job or other sources of income. Yes, big law pays well which will allow you to tackle your debt faster. How important that is depends on your particular situation. Having little to no student loan debt doesn't necessarily mean you get to do whatever you want - instead it frees you from having to choose a profession or job you might not enjoy because of your financial commitments.

- While a JD helps add credibility to your profile, unless you are going for a JD-related field as a next step (compliance, legal operations, contracts, etc.) your work as an attorney does not really directly qualify you for other types of work. You will address this in every future non-legal interview and you should be willing to consider more junior roles than you might want to. This doesn't mean it's not possible to change careers but it does mean that you will have to hustle.

- If you really do have a change in heart and you decide you don't want to be an attorney, be proactive and don't wait too long. You have more flexibility in career when you are younger and that flexibility decreases as you get older and take on more responsibility (like family or having children.) A career change in your 20s or 30s is much more doable vs. practicing for 30 years and deciding you want to pivot in your 50s.

I left practicing 5 years ago, am much happier now and have never looked back. Own your career and the direction of your life, do what makes you happy! Good luck.

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