Post Academic


The Law School/Grad School Parallels Strike Again!

PhotobucketGiven the state of the economy, attending law school might be as bad of an investment as attending graduate school–a situation that several publications have noticed recently. Now Psychology Today is getting into the act with some practical advice for those considering a postgraduate education in the legal realm.

For anyone tempted to go to grad school or considering quitting, this post is a must-read. I say this a lot, but the article makes it crystal-clear that the life of the mind isn’t right for everyone, especially those who are already in a troubling financial condition.

The smartest tip from the article is to calculate your best-case-scenario hourly wage after you get out of law school. In this case, take the law school stats in the post and substitute with the stats you think are likely for your career or debt situation:

–Suppose you land a legal job after graduation paying $65,000 (which sounds good). First, assorted taxes will take about 25% of your salary, so now you’re earning about $4000 per month. (And if you’re working 60 hours a week– not uncommon in the law– your net hourly wage is about $16.00/hour).
–Now let’s say you have $100,000 in student loan debt at an average interest rate of 6.8% … and you plan to pay it off in 10 years. That means you’ll be paying about $1150.00 a month for the next 10 years– making your actual law school debt about $138,000. (If you lower your payments by extending the loan for 20 years, your overall debt for law school becomes $184,000.

On the bright side, grad students tend to get a free ride plus stipend, so they don’t rack up the kind of debt that law students do. But keep in mind that, even with all the handwringing and hairpulling that law-school students are dealing with right now, they still have a better shot at a job.

To be blunt, it sucks that those who have the talent but not the funds can’t pursue their academic or lawyerly dreams, but do you want to roll the dice on getting a job and losing? Do you want to be the guy or gal who defaults on a student loan because you can’t find a job? Even if you choose to go anyway because it is your passion (and no one here at Post Academic wants to get in between you and your passion), you need to know the numbers up front, and you can’t always count on your advisors to reveal them to you.

Caricature of lawyer and politician Jules Favre from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.