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How much debt is acceptable for law school?


Renerik

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Renerik
  • Law Student

Thought I'd start a thread on debt.

How frugal should one be while in law school?

Graduating with how much debt is considered "too much"? 30k? 50k? 100k+?

Is having tuition and cost of living as one of your chief concerns for attending a school pennywise and pound foolish?

My contribution: Three lawyers I know through work told me that if they were to do it again, they wouldn't work during their academic year and would pay more in rent to be closer to school and avoid any commute.

Edited by Renerik
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Renerik
  • Law Student
29 minutes ago, CleanHands said:

Unanswerable generally; hugely dependent on what you want to do with your law degree.

Maybe I can persuade you to share some of those considerations so that current and future law students know not to overleverage themselves and max out their cards to pursue environmental law working for the BC government

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CleanHands
  • Lawyer
20 minutes ago, Renerik said:

Maybe I can persuade you to share some of those considerations so that current and future law students know not to overleverage themselves and max out their cards to pursue environmental law working for the BC government

I mean, if you're not satisfied with my answer, then I must be blunt and say that you asked an inane question. Some areas of law will pay triple what other areas will. Some people are more comfortable holding debt, others will want to pay it off more aggressively. If you have a specific plan in mind and want advice that's one thing, but asking for a general acceptable amount of debt to accumulate in law school is simply absurd.

With that said I would agree that unless you are able to make an unusual amount of money through work during law school (in which case going to law school would almost certainly be a bad idea financially at least in any event) it is not worth it to work during law school unless it's a relevant legal job that advances your career. Taking advantage of the law school experience, getting good grades and engaging in law school volunteer opportunities will be more beneficial than spending that time on 95% of non-legal jobs available to law students.

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Phaedrus
  • Lawyer
5 hours ago, CleanHands said:

With that said I would agree that unless you are able to make an unusual amount of money through work during law school (in which case going to law school would almost certainly be a bad idea financially at least in any event) it is not worth it to work during law school unless it's a relevant legal job that advances your career. Taking advantage of the law school experience, getting good grades and engaging in law school volunteer opportunities will be more beneficial than spending that time on 95% of non-legal jobs available to law students.

There's a little nuance depending on the area of law you're looking to get into. If corporate law is the goal, you're right that a person's focus should be on grades and networking. For other practice areas, working in law adjacent positions can provide valuable perspective you otherwise wouldn't have. That said, volunteering at a law school clinic in that area might trump whatever modest income could be made. 

The question lacks specificity, for the reasons @CleanHands gave. It depends on how much debt you feel comfortable holding, what area of law you want to practice in, where you want to practice (geographically). Rural lawyers are going to make less than city lawyer equivalents every time. To be honest, the simplest answer is "none, or as low as you can make it." Repaying debt sucks, and paying interest sucks. In your early years when you make peanuts, financial stress is high even without debt. 

PSLOC's have standard repayment periods of 10 years, and usually start one year after articling. They max out at what, $125,000? A person might not be comfortable paying back $1200+/mo in debt, before anything else. If you're a rural lawyer in Atlantic Canada making $50,000 your first year, affording that is going to hurt, a lot. 

Anecdotally, I went to school with folks who had no problem eating through their $100k LOCs on clothing, electronics, and "nice things" because they felt like they deserved it. Maybe they had family who supported them, expected some inheritance, or thought they had a trajectory into a high paying position. In an event, I cringed at the thought of having to pay it all back. Priorities though. 

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LMP
  • Articling Student

The issue with predicating debt decisions based on assumed career trajectory is that many 0L students tend to be hopelessly naïve. I realize I am a 0L student for another week or so but I believe my point still stands. 

In any case if you chat with the many incoming students about to submerge Canadian Law schools you'll find the salary expectations for nearly all of them to be far beyond the realistic range. This isn't even getting into the fundamental misunderstandings some have regarding their own employment prospects. I should note this is mostly seen among K-JD students, in fairness.

So when we ask that individuals modulate debt levels based on outcomes we forget that at this early stage many people still romanticize practicing law, particularly the compensation aspect of practice. 

 

 

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GGrievous
  • Articling Student
On 8/14/2021 at 9:57 AM, LMP said:

I am a 0L student for another week or so

wait.. what?

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LMP
  • Articling Student
42 minutes ago, Barry said:

wait.. what?

Law school doesn't start for like, a week or so. Week of August 21st I believe? 

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CheeseToast
  • Law Student
19 minutes ago, LMP said:

Law school doesn't start for like, a week or so. Week of August 21st I believe? 

Where tf do you go that starts in the middle of august?

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LMP
  • Articling Student
13 minutes ago, CheeseToast said:

Where tf do you go that starts in the middle of august?

It's only for the really bad students, they say we need a little bit of extra help. 

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abogada
  • Lawyer
On 8/13/2021 at 11:32 PM, Renerik said:

Maybe I can persuade you to share some of those considerations so that current and future law students know not to overleverage themselves and max out their cards to pursue environmental law working for the BC government

These are the salaries for BC government lawyers. Your salary goes up every year (also look up LC2 and LC3 to get a sense of what things look like).

https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/careers-myhr/all-employees/pay-benefits/salaries/salarylookuptool/legal-judiciary/legal-counsel-level-1

It is ultimately a personal decision of how much debt load you are willing to carry. For example, do you plan on buying a house in the near future? Do you have a family that you will be supporting? Do you have other expenses that require savings? 

My "responsible adult" answer is make a spreadsheet of your budget, your current savings, anticipated law school expenses, other life expenses, etc. and see what it would look like in different scenarios and what you are comfortable living with. 

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Apple
  • Lawyer
5 hours ago, Lilbb19 said:

ill prob graduate with about 200K debt

Genuinely curious, how does one graduate with 200k in debt? That's an insane amount of debt to compile. 

On 8/16/2021 at 12:19 AM, CheeseToast said:

Where tf do you go that starts in the middle of august?

Likely Osgoode. I disliked how early they started there as well. Made renting a bit of a pain to start mid-month. 

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CheeseToast
  • Law Student
1 hour ago, Apple said:

Genuinely curious, how does one graduate with 200k in debt? 

Undergrad + law school could easily get to $200k if one didn’t live at home all throughout.

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SlytherinLLP
  • Lawyer

I have absolutely no idea how you can rack up 200k in debt. Maybe if you never worked for 7 years, didn't get any bursaries or scholarships, and went on expensive vacations every year? 

 

More on point, there is no magic number when it comes to debt. It depends on your career goals and lifestyle. With a BigLaw job, repaying debt won't be much of a problem, so you can incur more. Conversely, if you intend to do more modestly compensated legal work you should probably budget more conservatively since repaying it will take longer and put more financial constraints on you.

Edited by SlytherinLLP
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Telephantasm
23 minutes ago, SlytherinLLP said:

I have absolutely no idea how you can rack up 200k in debt. Maybe if you never worked for 7 years, didn't get any bursaries or scholarships, and went on expensive vacations every year? 

 

More on point, there is no magic number when it comes to debt. It depends on your career goals and lifestyle. With a BigLaw job, repaying debt won't be much of a problem, so you can incur more. Conversely, if you intend to do more modestly compensated legal work you should probably budget more conservatively since repaying it will take longer and put more financial constraints on you.

I second this. Throughout undergrad and law school I had zero parental support, lived in two incredibly expensive markets, and went to a stupidly expensive law school, and my debtload is nowhere near 200k. Granted, I worked throughout undergrad and law school and got some (not especially large) scholarships and bursaries, but even then I only pulled in between 15-20k at the high end, and if you're so low-income as to rack up significant debt, I cannot imagine that you would not also qualify for low-income bursaries. 200k seems a fantastical number in Canada. You'd have to be living well beyond your means with very little financial responsibility.

Edited by Telephantasm
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LMP
  • Articling Student
1 minute ago, Telephantasm said:

I second this. Throughout undergrad and law school I had zero parental support, lived in two incredibly expensive markets, and went to a stupidly expensive law school, and my debtload is nowhere near 200k. 

International student tuition maybe? Plus a high cost of living area? You're right it is a bit hard to reach that number.

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Apple
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, CheeseToast said:

Undergrad + law school could easily get to $200k if one didn’t live at home all throughout.

On those facts alone, the debt is still outrageous and takes skill to amass. 

28 minutes ago, LMP said:

International student tuition maybe? Plus a high cost of living area? You're right it is a bit hard to reach that number.

I thought this too. Or perhaps they have children and cannot otherwise afford to live elsewhere and work at the same time. Then again, how is such a person securing funding to borrow on. 

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GGrievous
  • Articling Student

Am I alone in not thinking that is an unfathomable debt load to accrue? Maybe it comes from my ignorance on financial support once you start and I do think it's on the high end, but you've all seen how much tuition, rent, and cost of living is these days, right? When you're in school full-time and not making an income for 7 years, and sometimes a pittance for the articling year?

Edited by Barry
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meandtheboys
  • Law Student

Most people I know in law school either took time off after undergrad to work full time for a year or two, or worked part time during undergrad (like me).  Even working part time twice a week I was able to save enough to pay for all of my undergrad tuition and expenses, save up 1 year of law school tuition, and even go on a nice vacation all without any parental support.  I didn't have to live too frugally either.  I imagine my friends who worked after undergrad before law school would have saved up even more.

Granted I go to one of the cheapest law schools in Canada, but still I can't imagine racking up that much debt in both undergrad or in law school.  I personally don't expect myself to graduate debt-free, but with summering, articling, bursaries, and scholarships, I can't see myself ending up with more than 15-20k of debt when I finish school.

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GGrievous
  • Articling Student
11 minutes ago, meandtheboys said:

working part time twice a week I was able to save enough to pay for all of my undergrad tuition and expenses, save up 1 year of law school tuition, and even go on a nice vacation

Now this to me is unfathomable, but good for you. 

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SlytherinLLP
  • Lawyer
1 hour ago, Barry said:

Now this to me is unfathomable, but good for you. 

If you think that is unfathomable you might have to readjust your expectations come law school and beyond. Undergrad is a bit of a joke compared to what's to come.

Successful students that get the most out of law school will handle multiple commitment: clinics, journals, moots, competitions, research assistantships, part time jobs etc. all while studying and learning the law. And you want to do all those things because it builds the foundations for being a good lawyer.

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BlockedQuebecois
  • Lawyer
6 minutes ago, SlytherinLLP said:

If you think that is unfathomable you might have to readjust your expectations come law school and beyond. Undergrad is a bit of a joke compared to what's to come.

Successful students that get the most out of law school will handle multiple commitment: clinics, journals, moots, competitions, research assistantships, part time jobs etc. all while studying and learning the law. And you want to do all those things because it builds the foundations for being a good lawyer.

I think they were saying only working twice a week and making enough money to fully and independently support yourself while also paying tuition is unfathomable. 

Also my undergrad was way harder than law school, certainly not a joke. Law school was a joke. So YMMV. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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meandtheboys
  • Law Student
2 hours ago, Barry said:

Now this to me is unfathomable, but good for you. 

I should probably have clarified that I was working twice a week during school but full time during summer, since I didn't make that clear in my first post.

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GGrievous
  • Articling Student
Just now, meandtheboys said:

I should probably have clarified that I was working twice a week during school but full time during summer, since I didn't make that clear in my first post.

I actually factored that in and still am not able to get the math to add up. I’d be interested in a breakdown just for my own curiosity and maybe the benefit of future students to see this mastery in budgeting. Also would be interested to know your wage then if you’re comfortable sharing. 

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