Life after law school can be an exciting time as you look forward to your new career. There are plenty of opportunities available to those with a JD. Some avenues to consider include practicing law at a firm, specializing as an attorney in a field like patents, contracts, immigration (and many more), working as general counsel in-house at a corporation, or even pursuing a career in government.
The path you choose depends on the type of law you studied, your interests, and past experiences. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for lawyers in 2020 was $126,930 annually.
Once you find your first post-law school gig, you may also have to start thinking about repaying any law school loans.
Finding Jobs After Law School
After getting a law degree, what to do really depends on why you decided to go to law school in the first place. Did you have dreams of working at a major law firm, becoming a public defender, or going solo with your own practice?
Maybe you don’t even want to practice law and would rather apply your new skills to a relevant career, or, continue to further your education even more. If you are considering what to do after law school, you can start by examining what workplace environment you find the most exciting and attainable.
Landing at a Law Firm
A law firm is an obvious choice for where to work after getting your JD. But the size, location, and culture of the law firm can greatly impact your experience and job satisfaction. Attorneys working at smaller firms may offer stronger partnership prospects than larger law firms. However, depending on location, the pay could be comparatively lower, and your training may come in the form of on-the-job experience.
While the path to promotion may be longer at a larger firm, they may have more resources and higher salary. Depending on your preferences and career interests, a major law firm with a big name might be a better fit to help you find your specialty.
Considering a Clerkship
A clerkship is an important career milestone for many attorneys. Usually taking place under the guidance of a certain judge, a clerkship allows law school graduates to see the inner workings of the legal system. Many are considered prestigious resume boosters, and offer valuable first-hand experience working under a judge and a leg up on networking from the start.
There are federal and state court clerkships, but federal opportunities like with Supreme Court or circuit court judges can be more difficult to secure because of their prestige. But state clerkships can also be beneficial, especially if you plan on practicing in the local area.
Getting an Advanced Degree
If you have a desire to specialize in a specific field of law, staying in school to get a post-JD degree is another avenue to consider after getting a law degree.
You might want to pursue this type of degree after having some relevant work experience, which can help you first figure out what particular field of law you want to study. These specialty degrees range from Air and Space Law, Sports Law, Global Food Law, even Cannabis Law and more.
Alternative Careers Outside Law
Pivoting after law school to a different career is another option to consider when looking at jobs. If you, like many, have graduated with six-figures worth of student debt, you’ll obviously want to find a steady job so you can make regular student loan payments.
Other jobs that may fit with the skill set you curated in law school may include jobs such as: political advisor, journalist, lobbyist, and teacher.
Tackling Law School Debt
Depending on your earning potential and chosen career path, it might make sense for you to aggressively pay off your law school debt in 10 years or less, or try to maximize your law school loan forgiveness opportunities.
In order to make your degree count towards your personal and professional goals, figuring out how to approach your debt is a key part of what to do after law school.
Ready to tackle your law school debt?
Refinancing your student loans
could help you pay it off faster.
Making Payments While Still in School
While the government does not require you to make payments on most federal student loans while still in school, you could consider paying the amount of interest that builds up each month to help keep your student loan debt from growing.
Whether you need to pick up a side hustle or prioritize how much you save, making at least interest payments on your student loans while still in school can help reduce the amount of interest that will capitalize on your student loans. This can ultimately reduce the amount of interest that accrues, and help set you up for success after law school.
Sticking to Budget Basics
After your law degree, it can be wise to take stock of your budget and work to balance your goals for savings, emergency funds, credit card payments, and student loans. According to the American Bar Associations 2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey, 75% of students had at least $100,000 in student loan debt after graduation.
Ultimately, you’ll likely want to pick a student loan repayment plan that works for your personal budget, no matter what jobs after law school you are considering. You may decide to pay down debt while also building up a basic emergency fund as part of your financial foundation.
Recommended: How Much Money Should Be in Your Emergency Fund?
Refinancing Law School Loans
Refinancing your law school loans means that a private lender will issue one new loan that effectively pays off your existing student loans. This new loan comes with new terms, ideally with a lower interest rate or shorter repayment period. Instead of paying multiple student loans, such as from undergraduate and graduate school, there is only one new loan to pay off.
Refinancing federal student loans means that you will not be able to take advantage of benefits like income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness any longer. So it may not make sense if you are taking advantage of one of these benefits. But refinancing your student debt could be an option if you want to refinance private and federal loans, or are hoping to secure a lower interest rate on existing private student loans.
Life after law school can mean something different for everyone. Whether you pursue a private practice, family law at a small firm, or corporate law at a large one, there are lots of career opportunities to pursue.
Law school may also mean taking on a significant amount of student loan debt. Refinancing could be an option that helps you spend less in interest over the life of the loan, if you’re able to qualify for a more competitive interest rate. If you’re interested in refinancing, consider SoFi. Refinancing with SoFi can be completed online and there are no application fees, origination fees, or prepayment penalties.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.
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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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