i think your calculations are pretty good for the most part except that they ignore interest on your loan (not that high if you truly pay it off in three years, and assuming interest was deferred until graduation):

year 1: salary 160K + 30K bonus = 190K - 40% tax = 114K

year 2: salary 180K + 30K bonus = 210K - 40% tax = 126K

year 3: salary 200K + 30K bonus = 230K - 40% tax = 138K

__________________

Total earnings [3yrs]............................. .378K

Total [3 yr] interest accrued on a 180K loan......(~30K)

Living expenses [3yrs]*...........................(~150K)

Principal.................... .....................(~180K)

---------------------------------------------------------

remaining ~48K

Assuming you were replying to me:

The $180k principle is inflated; most law schools calculate tuition + COL @ $50k/year.

My numbers actually indicated earning more in the first three years than the principal, so I built in a cushion for interest, which would not be that much after three years. Maybe my cushion wasn't high enough, but I was assuming a chunk of the loans were federal.

Assuming your interest numbers, plugging in actual salaries, and adjusting down the principal:

year 1: salary 160K + 30K bonus = 190K - 40% tax = 114K

year 2: salary 170K + 35K bonus = 205K - 40% tax = 123K

year 3: salary 185K + 40K bonus = 230K - 40% tax = 135K

__________________

Total earnings [3yrs].............................

.372K

Total [3 yr] interest accrued on a 180K loan......(~30K)

Living expenses [3yrs]*...........................(~150K)

Principal....................

.....................(~150K)

---------------------------------------------------------

remaining +72

Of course, you're free to dispute the idea that one can live on $17k a year. I sure haven't - but I live with a spouse who has a job, so my own situation doesn't apply. But these are the numbers that law schools use to calculate loan amounts, so I am going to assume they have some basis.

BUT, this is the absolute **best case scenario** in which you land a very high paying job at a top law firm with substantial salary increases and a growing economy that permits the assumption of a consistent bonus...and of course that you remain at your job for 3 years (not burning out). How many people actually land those jobs? Should this same calculus really apply if you're just in the top 30% of your class at a tier 2 school...? probably not.

Your point is dead-on for burning out. My friends in BigLaw gave me the impression that it does happen, but not in the first three years.

But since my post was about T14s the rest doesn't apply. The salary increased I talked about are set by BigLaw across the board, so those salaries and raises will happen as long as you stay. Everyone I know who went to a T14 and wanted BigLaw got it. Of course, maybe the people I know at, say GULC are at the top of their class, but even those at the bottom here get those offers.

Still, if these are your goals and you feel confident you can make it, then as you say its a good investment. (uh, provided you actually like being a lawyer!)

Well, again I will definitely state that it was a good investment for me. I worked in law several years before LS, and already got my offer, so I'm pretty confident it will pay off. I do recommend it. A paralegal gig won't help you get into law school, but getting one at a small firm will help you see what being a lawyer is like and buy you the extra time you need to really prep for the LSATs, which leads one down the road to securing that BigLaw gig.

But as they say YMMV, and I have zero knowledge of what it is like for those at T2s or so.