Law School Discussion

Anyone had success applying to lower-ranked schools and getting significant $$?

I was admitted off the waitlist to my first-choice law school, where I was eligible for in-state tution. Nonetheless, the "cost of attendance" was nowhere near what I need to support my daughter. Even with my husband working part-time (and staying home with the baby during the week), we were looking at a $10K shortfall. This has made me really reconsider if law school will ever be possible, and if it is actually worth it to go $180K into debt when I know I want to work in the public sector.

So, my question is this: Has anyone applied to a school where they had a GPA and LSAT combo well over the average, and been offered a sizeable amount in scholarships and grants? I don't see any other way to finance law school and be free to accept a job in government or the non-profit sector when I graduate. Nonetheless, I always hear that schools don't really give out money for legal education, since they expect you to be rolling in cash once you're working as a lawyer.

Any advice/experiences are most welcome!

It's likely you will get some partial scholarships at these schools, but these scholarships will probably be contingent on you obtaining a certain GPA and there is absolutely no guarantee that you will attain this GPA. In fact, many law schools place all the students with contingent scholarships into the same "section" thereby guaranteeing that a certain portion of them will not be able to maintain their scholarship. Having a child and a husband will only add to your detractions, as you'll be competing against students that have nothing better to do than go to law school. In addition, your law school grades really don't depend too  much on how much or what you know, rather it's your ability to take law school exams in the proper way that is ultimately graded so it's not something you can necessarily work for in the first place.

On a related note, I would not recommend that you take anything close to $180K in debt for law school. The legal market is terrible right now and it's not likely to get better anytime in the near future. It's extremely difficult to find jobs right now and, realistically, you'd probably be looking at a $50,000/yr. job upon graduation (if your lucky and assuming you even find a job). You definitely need to do some research before you jump in and I can almost GUARANTEE you that you will regret your decision if you do decide to take the plunge and there's a good chance that the financial burden will ultimately result in a great strain on your family life. 

What are you doing now and it is really that bad? Do you really know what practicing law is like and why do you want to go into law?

I urge you to take your time and rethink any decision.

180K debt at the Federal Rate of 6.8% would result in monthly payments of $2071.44/month for thirty years! You would pay nearly $25,000/year to student loans for a period of 30 years! Do you really think this is practical or worth your time?

I have a full ride to a top 100 school, which has a good rep in the local area.  164 LSAT/4.0 UGPA.  I am in the part time program because I work full time, but did get offered the full time program as well.  The scholly is contingent on staying in the top 1/2 of the class, but I figured even if I lose it 1 year free is better than nothing.

I also have a daughter, who is in middle school, so my husband and I are both able to work full time.  If you are only 10K short maybe your husband could work a few more hours or you could work pt, lots of people work and attend law school and still end up at the top of the class.  Do you have any family in the area to help w/ babysitting a few hrs a week?

Thank you both for your thoughtful responses. Right now I'm going to focus on getting the best LSAT score I can (didn't do poorly my first time around, but I know I can do better). Then I'll apply to a range of schools and see what happens.

180K is just too much to take out in loans. Even if you take out a smaller amount, consider trying to find a way to pay the interest while you're in school so that you hopefully wont be paying off as much for as long. That being said, I've heard of situations where people use their acceptance at higher ranked schools to try to "bargain" with lower ranked schools for more money, although I don't know how the economy right now is affecting that.

One other thing that you can consider-but not bank on-is that some public jobs will "forgive" a certain amount of your loans. Obviously this is contingent on actually GETTING a job, but if it comes down to graduating law school and feeling forced to take a job you don't want for more money vs. a public sector job, it can be something to discuss.

One other thing that you can consider-but not bank on-is that some public jobs will "forgive" a certain amount of your loans. Obviously this is contingent on actually GETTING a job, but if it comes down to graduating law school and feeling forced to take a job you don't want for more money vs. a public sector job, it can be something to discuss.

I know someone who went to a lower ranked school of a top 10 just because they had a free ride at the lower (so low I'd never heard of it) school a few years back.  Not sure how that would echo similarly in this economy where  1. schools lost endowment cash as the rest of the economy evaporated and 2. more people than ever are jumping back into college

There were a couple of loan comments here and as someone who deals with finaid on a daily basis while counseling college kids, here's what I can share...

- income contingent repayment plans would NOT have you paying 2000/month unless your income could handle it... just opt for that, it won't be a walk in the park (let's say you make bottom of the barrel 40k yr to start, your income contingent repayments would prob be around 500/month DEPENDING upon your hubby's income, children, etc)  you can find a calc online and do the math for yourself, I just don't have them bookmarked here

- the new public service loan forgiveness program was signed by Bush in 07... it's actually kind of decent IF there's enough money to pay for it when it comes due... basically, if you consolidate ALL of your loans into Federal Direct loans and pay every single payment for 10 years (or 120 payments) on either the STANDARD or INCOME CONTINGENT repayment plan while working in a public service job (as per their definitions eg college level, state position, human services, etc) then your loans will be totally and completely forgiven after those 120 payments... whether you have 2 dollars left... or 100 k left...  (not that you would, b/c trust me, they are gonna want you to pay as much as you can for those 10 years)

Still, I agree that 180k for one degree is sort of WHOA scary...  I was looking at Duke and thinking that it'd be awesome to go there if only for the basketball... but especially for their practice clinics.  If I got accepted, though, without fin aid, would I still go?  125k is a LOT of cash on top of the loans I already have from undergrad/first grad degree...  I KNOW I'm not going to make that much cash since I want to stay in NC to practice...  it's just a lot to consider aside from money.

Good luck with your decision.  Let us know if you reapply!!

Oh, ditto what they said about few jobs, I've got a few friends who are in law that were laid off during this past year.  One has been rehired... one is still looking...  tough market.  Good luck.