Friday, December 30, 2011

Law School Debt & Living on the Government's Dime

This article presents a very real look at the state of the legal market as it relates to debt.

With regard to the discussion of income-based repayment,[1] as a May 2011 law school graduate, I can vouch for the fact that this is one of the only options for new law school graduates who do not go directly into Biglaw.

I had the special circumstance of graduating in May, right before a new Direct Loan website was rolled out. In November, after calling on a daily basis in an attempt to get through to a live person, I was told by a Direct Loan representative that I was going to have to make payments on my loans, in full, until my IBR application was processed (you know, the one that wasn't available until well into October, due to aforementioned new site roll out). When I point blank told the representative that there was no possible way I could make my monthly payments in full, I was graced with the following question, "What would you have done if IBR was not an option?" [2]

I absolutely LOVE my job, but it honestly does not pay me enough to make the full monthly payments. It is my first paying job out of law school, and I am certain that one day, this will not be the case. However, I am a rare breed of person that went to law school because I passionately wanted to be an attorney. I wanted it so badly that I left my well-paying marketing job to attend law school full time. My point is that I did not attend law school to make piles of money. Thus, (maybe naively) cost was not a major factor for me when attending school. I could care less how much debt I was going to end up in, because I could not spend one more day in marketing. Granted, the economic crisis was just coming to a head when I left my job in 2008.

So here is the question: After knowing what I know now about the state of the economy and the state of the profession would I still attend? Absolutely. I realize it makes me sound like a millennial brat that I am more than willing to borrow the government's money so that I can (gasp) live a happy life. Given that I was born in the 80s, and have, my entire adult life, understood debt to be a way of life, I'll take debt over misery every day of the week.

However, I appreciate what this article is attempting to accomplish. Being someone who really wants to practice law, I can recognize that a warning needs to be sent out to those that attend law school for another purpose. I look forward to seeing the changes in the legal market. [3]

I would welcome thoughts and opinions on this topic. I know it's a familiar topic for my generation of new attorneys, and there are some very polarized views.

[1] Hereinafter referred to as IBR
[2] In my most serious lawyer voice, I told the representative that I was informed in my debt counseling [which I attended near the end of law school at my school] that it would be an option, based on the amount of money I make.
[3] I am certain, however, that this article will spawn a hefty commentary from bitter law school graduates who were already not happy with the state of the profession.