I received a question from an anonymous follower stating they wanted to go to law school but were concerned about the cost and being able to afford riding while paying off debt.
This is a very real and valid concern. I am not going to lie and pretend that I am in debt or that I had to take out student loans because I didn’t. Thankfully, my parents were in a position to fund my education from high school to law school. However, not everyone is so lucky. I have many friends that had to pay for law school themselves and graduated with some serious debt.
Law school isn’t cheap. Tuition for my law school was over $50k per semester. Most law schools are on par with this cost, so at most, you’ll be taking out $150k just on tuition. This number doesn’t include books, other fees, or the cost of living if you go to a school where you are unable to commute from home. Obviously, if you have money saved up, or if you get a scholarship, that total number could be less, but in the interest of being realistic, I am giving the real numbers. Tuition will vary by school as well. I attended a private law school, which is a bit more money than a public law school. If you attend a public law school in your state, you will most likely get reduced tuition for being an in-state resident. Even if you are not an in-state resident, your tuition will still be less simply because it’s not a private institution.
Of course, riding isn’t cheap either. Whether you have your own horse, lease, or take lessons – you’re most likely spending a good chunk of change on your passion every single year. Taking on another commitment that will require a lot of money can put big strain on your finances.
The good news is that most student loans do not have to be paid back immediately. You typically will have a six-month grace period before you start making payments. That means, if you have a job, you will have some income to use in paying back your student loans. Additionally, if you take a job that qualifies as “public service,” and work in that job for 10 years, your student loan burden may be forgiven.
If you haven’t started law school yet, and have some time before you do, there are some things you can do to minimize the potential financial burden:
- Get a part-time job while in high school or college, if possible. This will allow you to save up some extra money that can be used to pay for law school tuition, textbooks, or other living expenses. On the flip-side, you can also use this money for your riding expenses. Either way, more money is always a good thing especially when you will be taking on another costly commitment.
- Study hard for the LSATs. You must take the LSATs before you can apply for law school. The higher your score, the more likely you will be awarded a scholarship which will take the financial burden off of you. Take a prep class or buy a prep book so that you can begin studying the types of questions that will be on the test. The LSATs are pretty much a “game,” and you just need to crack the code in order to do well.
- Get good grades in school. This is especially important in college. Good grades + a good LSAT score will definitely improve your chances of securing a scholarship.
- Good grades and a good LSAT score will also help your chances of getting into a higher ranked law school which in turn will increase your chances of securing a well-paying job after your graduate. The legal market isn’t exactly in the best shape, so doing everything you can to ensure your have a good chance of getting a job out of law school is imperative.
- Tap other potential financial helpers. Will your parents pay for some of the cost? What about your grandparents? It’s not always possible, but sometimes parents/grandparents are willing to help foot some – or all – of the graduate school bill for their child/grandchild.
Once you are in law school, there are things you can do to minimize your current and financial burden:
- Study hard, especially your first year. The grading curve is hardest the first year, and once your ranking in law school is determined that June, it’s hard to drastically move up or down. Getting good grades will help you with getting an internship your first summer and with on-campus interviewing that happens right before your second year starts. Typically, to get the competitive paying internships at firms for your second year, you’ll need to have some stellar grades and be in some activities such as law journal and/or moot court. Keep this in mind. This will take up some of your riding time, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made so we set ourselves up for success in the future.
- Go for internships that pay. Not every internship will pay. If you want to do public service work, then you will have to be prepared not to get paid during your internship or to trade the hours you work for academic credit. However, if you would like to work for a firm, then you are more likely to receive some type of salary (and it’s usually a lucrative one).
- Get a part-time job, if possible. Obviously this is not always feasible, but getting a part-time paying job will help ease your financial burden. You can put that money towards riding, paying tuition or for textbooks, or other living expenses.
- Consider a half-lease on your horse. Unfortunately, especially during your first year of law school, you might not have much time to ride as often as you’d like. If you can bear it, maybe consider half-leasing your horse to someone. This will cut down on expenses, ensure that your horse is being worked consistently, and take some of the burden off of you. Of course, this isn’t always a good option for everyone, especially if you don’t own a horse, but it is something to think about.
- Talk to your trainer/barn manager about doing barn chores in exchange for working of board, lease, or lesson costs. Most barns are amenable to an arrangement like this, but be sure you can hold up your end of the bargain!
- Network, network, network! When you reach your third year, you will want to start applying for jobs. If you did a summer associate position as a second year at a firm, you probably received a job offer once the summer was over. If so, you’re golden! If you do not have a job lined up, apply early. Apply for anything that you may have an interest in – or as I like to say, throw sh*t at the wall and see what sticks. I opted to do a clerkship after I graduated, and I had all of my clerkship applications out in the summer. Remember that some organizations don’t start hiring until the fall or even spring, so don’t freak out too much if you don’t have a job by the fall. In fact, do not listen to any job talk. It will make you feel incredibly insecure and behind if you haven’t secured anything. If you are having trouble finding a job, go to networking events. Talk to as many people as you can – you never know when you’ll make the right connection.
Upon graduation, you’ll have to start studying for the bar almost immediately. Again, this is very important so be prepared to sacrifice some riding time so that you don’t have to take the bar. Hopefully, you also have secured a job. Once you’ve reached your sixth month after graduation, you’ll have to start paying off your student loans. If you have a job, then you’ve already got a stream of income and have to worry a bit less about paying off your debt. Firm jobs usually pay a lot of money, so it most likely will cover your loans and your riding passion. If not, here’s some tips:
- Continue sending out job applications. Again, throw sh*t at the wall and see what sticks. You’re jobless, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In the meantime, get a part-time, or even full-time, job that can help cover some of your expenses. If you get a job at a company with a legal department, getting your foot in the door may be the right step to getting into the legal world.
- Ask your barn manager or trainer if you can work off lesson costs, board costs, or lease costs. Again, take this seriously. It will help you out, and it is supposed to help your barn manager or trainer out. Consider half-leasing your horse out, if at all possible.
- Consider a loan forgiveness program. Those options are linked above, and they do exist. For example, if you went into law school knowing you wanted to do public service work, you can get your loans forgiven within 10 years if you work in public service for those 10 years.
- If you followed the ‘before’ and ‘during’ steps, you should hopefully have some money saved up for a “crisis” situation like this. By crisis I mean, jobless and unable to pay back your student loans right away. I don’t mean to be alarmist, but this is the reality for a lot of individuals, and it is something you need to be prepared for in the event that it does happen.
Do I have one clear, concrete answer for how to manage law school, student loans, and the expenses of riding? No, I don’t. Each person’s situation is completely different. What may work for one, may not work for another. All I can give is my advice based on my experience. What will increase your chances of getting a good job; how you can handle the expense of riding; how you can prepare for law school before you’re anywhere close to law school.
I hope that some of the above tips have been helpful. If you are considering law school and have any questions for me, feel free to comment below, tweet me, contact me on Facebook, or shoot me an email. If you prefer to remain anonymous, I’m at ask.fm. I’m willing to answer any and all questions, I promise.
The best piece of the advice I can give is be 100% sure you want to go to law school and be a lawyer. It is a tough road, a long road, and one with uncertain job prospects – at least for now.
ps. I plan on addressing a question asked of me every week. Feel free to submit them to my ask.fm account linked above or on my sidebar. And you can always contact me un-anonymously at any of my social sites!