There is no shortage of articles on the cost of law school. A simple Google search yields
233M responses in 0.25 seconds. Law suits have been filed, though most have been
dismissed so far, and weeping and wailing and the gnashing of teeth often occurs in the
often-vile comments at the end of blog and online articles. The New York Times alone
has published 82,900 articles, not a few of them just since the recession began.
So what is a committed prelaw student, let alone a woman who might want to go in and
out of practice, to do? I have taught about debt and career management since 1990 and
will create here a Top 10 List for that specific student—the person who may or may not
want to be/stay in law, work full-time or part-time, for which the average debt of $150K
does not work.
1) Shadow attorneys to see if what they are doing is what you want to do with your
2) Meet as many attorneys as possible in as short a time frame as possible while you
are making a decision about if/when/where to attend law school.
3) Go to used book stores that sell legal texts and read them. See if the reading skills
you’ve developed are adapted to that level of in-depth, dense reading. Learn to
speed read and increase reading comprehension.
4) Check your credit report. Graduate school loans depend largely on the credit-
based GRAD PLUS loans which require credit worthiness. It can take up to six
months to clean up errors on one’s credit report. Start early.
5) Live on a reduced income before you go to law school. Learn how to budget
wisely, finding the ways to cut/eliminate costs that work in your area/situation,
prior to law school. No one needs the stress of learning that while under the
stress of law school.
6) Save money, if possible, for external fixed costs that student loans are not meant
to cover (trips home/abroad, new cars, new suits for placement break interviews,
emergencies, medical issues, etc).
7) Research law schools carefully. There is a list of questions everyone should know
the answer to about a law school prior to applying at www.uvu.edu/prelaw/
8) Evaluate the financial impact of a scholarship award wisely. Make one
assessment as if you will be able to keep that generous, but grade-based,
scholarship; make another plan in case you are not able to keep that scholarship.
Compare the total costs to each other.
9) Often a person can get a full-ride at a law school where the LSAT/GPA means are
much lower than your accomplishments. That means a person can graduate (if
the scholarship is a 3-year, full-ride) virtually debt-free. However, evaluate the
doors that open or close by being a graduate of that particular school, if that is
10) Talk to alumni from any school you would consider going to in order to
understand their experience with placement, debt repayment, mobility within
and between states and job settings.
(One of the goals of this bog is to address seven different focus groups: full time practice; part time practice; on hiatus; practicing with children at home; students; using your law degree in your community and family; and, singles. If you have any suggestions about topics you would like to see addressed in these areas, please let us know through the Comment section below.)