« on: December 09, 2016, 10:03:03 AM »
Hi Maddawg, a few thoughts:
Your law school will have a Financial Aid center that can answer specific questions, but here is the thumbnail sketch. There are subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The govt pays the interest on the subsidized loans while you're in school, interest accrues on the unsub loans. There are also private loans.
Off the top of my head I don't know what the total amount you can borrow is now, but you can pretty easily borrow enough to cover tuition and living expenses. Many people also take out a bar study loan after graduating.
This is where you need to be careful. It is very easy to accept 20k per year for living expenses when it's being offered, but much tougher to pay back.
You may or may not be able to take advantage of such programs. My wife, for example, is a govt attorney and was told no, while other govt lawyers have qualified. But it usually works like this: you pay your loans for a number of years (10-25) and as long as you are a qualifying govt/public interest lawyer for that period, the remaining balance is forgiven. There are MANY variations on this, so don't take what I say as gospel.
It is awesome that you have contacts and a soft job offer, but I can tell you as someone who worked in govt that there is no way they can definitively tell you that they will be able to hire you in three or four years. If the economy dumps, they won't be hiring anyone. Govt hiring is very different from private firms, who can pretty much hire and fire at will. For govt jobs, the funding has to be in place, the job has to be posted, and lots of people get a say in the decision.
I'm not saying it won't happen, I'm just saying keep an open mind because you may need to look elsewhere for employment depending on circumstances.
Which brings me to my next point: don't go to law with unless you are willing to practice whatever kind of law you can get a job in. If the DA isn't hiring, be prepared to defend DUIs, or write wills or petition for child custody modifications. I would say that 75% of the people in my graduating class started off wanting to be local prosecutors/US Attorneys/Biglaw, whatever. Maybe 10% got those jobs. The rest took whatever they could get.
You mentioned that one of the schools you are looking at is out of state. In my opinion, when you are looking at non-elite schools geography is everything. I would definitely look first at schools located in the state/city in which you want to live. You will find it much easier to get internships, to make connections to the local bar, and set yourself up for employment if you are physically there. In addition (and I have no idea what state you are in), there is the issue of the bar exam. It is generally better to go to school in the state in which you plan to take the bar.
Part Time Programs
I am a fan of part time programs for non-trad students. I know a lot of people aren't fans because it takes four years instead of three, but I am. First, you can work (even if only part time) and avoid racking up debt. Second, the students tend to be a little more mature. I think it's an easier transition than being plopped into a class full of 22 year olds. Just a thought.
Hope that helps!
Hope that helps!