Law School Discussion

Don't let this be you: CNN reports on $166,000 in debt and no job prospects

With $166,000 in loans and no legal job in sight, Rob Cox, 33, is beginning to question his decision to go to law school. He has expanded his job search to include other industries, but he sometimes finds his schooling works against him.

"My resume, which consists mostly of schooling and volunteer positions I held during school, is less than appealing to the type of companies I'm aiming for," he said.

For those considering expensive private law schools, don't fall into the debt trap like the folks interviewed in the CNN article. 

Law school is NOT worth the mortgage that this level of debt will put on your life. 

A debt at the $150-160,000 level means paying about $1000-1200/month to the loan company for the next 25 years.

And also, the debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.  If you default, the loan company and its collections agents can still come after you and your assets.

For most people, law school is a disastrous financial choice.  Avoid overpriced private law schools at all costs.

it's never worth it... except when it is

also, that guy went to michigan state, a not-very-prestigious school in the state hardest-hit by the current recession... so i'd guess he's sort of a worst-case scenario, where a decision is made to go to a school that doesn't provide many job prospects and also costs a lot.

he should've just gone to cooley

Avoid overpriced private law schools at all costs.

which private law schools are overpriced?  all or just some?

I think a law school is overpriced if there is substantial chance that a student at that school will not be able to find a job that will make school debt manageable after graduation. 

If you take your average tier 2 private school (Villanova for example), it costs over $120,000 in total, but only 10-15% of the graduating class is going to be making biglaw salary.  Maybe even less than that in these hard economic times.  A 1 in 10 gamble costing $120,000 is a foolhardy choice IMO. 

i thought villanova's tuition was only about 30 grand, althoughi guess with cost of living and books and everything i could see it getting hat expensive. i'd say villanova is a bit better than most similarly-ranked schools in that it's roughly tied with temple for the best school in philly (behind penn of course, but a lot of them don't stick around to find jobs there). my biggest issue with 'nova is that temple's in-state tuition is only 16k a year, making villanova a pretty bad deal in comparison.

If you take your average tier 2 private school (Villanova for example), it costs over $120,000 in total, but only 10-15% of the graduating class is going to be making biglaw salary.  Maybe even less than that in these hard economic times.  A 1 in 10 gamble costing $120,000 is a foolhardy choice IMO. 

how much are the other 85-90% making? 

In the low 40's for small firms & state court clerkships. As low as 30k out in the far counties.  A friend of mine who went to 'Nova got an offer at a small firm for 43k/year, no benefits.  40-50k and lousy benefits are typical if you are lucky to land a small firm job. 

A lot of people can't pay off their debt and still live on 43k/year, so they end up working for an Insurance Defense sweatshop for 60k/year or review documents for large firms.  The ID sweatshops I've seen want 2200 billables per year, but people who have worked there will tell you that they cut your hours actually billed or even steal your billables and reallocate them to someone else in extreme cases.

At the smaller places you get the same abusive working conditions as the big firms, but without the pay or benefits.  Better to go into the government to get experience if you want to go out on your own later.

New laws make it easier to finance Federal student loan debt with income-based repayment options. That is of little help if someone can't find a job, but for those who use federal, as opposed to private loans, the magnitude of debt is more manageable than it has ever been. I'm not advocating wracking up debt as fast as  the Fed prints money. However, for those with sound job prospects, the debt load need not be as debilitating. Just stay away from private loans and bad law schools.


Yeah I hate to say it but this guy's a moron I don't know why anyone would go to MSU without a scholarship it's arguably worse than Wayne State which has a starting tuition rate of $10,000 a year less

Not only do repayment options make federal loan payments more manageable, but there is a new program for discharging federal loans for people working in government or public interest law. The program requires ten years of payments based on income, while working in a government or nonprofit legal setting. After ten years, all federal loans that qualify are discharged. This program was part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. Further, I believe that there is an additional loan discharge option for public defenders.

Here's more info on the CCRAA:

Granted, I think it is silly for anyone to spend 160k on a law education, but the saving grace is that we are headed for some MASSIVE inflation.  160k will probably be the cost of a new car in 5 years or so.  Sucks not having a job out of school though.

Well, I'm sure the job market will turn around in a few years. By the time I'm looking for my first legal job, the market probably won't be so depressed. From what I hear, the entry level job market is the worst for those who have yet to pass the bar. Once you get a bar card, a whole new world of possibilities opens up.