Life after law school can be an exciting time as you look forward to your new career. Degree in hand, you are likely also looking back at years of built up loans. Along with medical school, law school is one of the most expensive post-grad programs and paying off law school debt after graduation is no small undertaking.
In 2017, the average law school debt for recent grads was about $116,000, according to Law School Transparency . Finding employment will likely be your No. 1 priority after graduation in order to start to pay off law school loans.
There are multiple repayment options to consider for after you have your law degree, and which job you select might impact your ability and timing for paying back loans. After getting a law degree, what to do really depends on your future career goals and interests.
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 you have your degree. But the size, location, and culture of the law firm can greatly impact your experience and job satisfaction. Attorneys working at smaller firms will generally get more experience sooner than at “big law” firms, and smaller firms might offer stronger partnership prospects, according to Georgetown Law . However, depending on location, the pay could be comparatively lower, and your training may come in the form of on-the-job experience.
Georgetown Law also points out that if you would prefer more resources and higher salary, a major law firm with a big name might be a better fit to help you find your specialty, but the tradeoff could be a hefty requirement for extensive billable hours.
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.
Santa Clara University School of Law offers an outline of the skills and character traits you gain in law school, and how those can be applied to many other jobs such as: political advisor, journalist, banker, 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 loan forgiveness opportunities.
A survey by Morning Consult found that more than 40% of millennials say their student debt “probably or definitely” was not worth it. 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.
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 save money, 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. For private law school graduates, the average student loan debt is just about $130,000, according to Law School Transparency , while public school grads hold an average student loan debt of just under $90,000.
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.
Refinancing Student Loans as an Option
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.
Make sure you consider your federal repayment options first, as 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. But refinancing could be a great option if you want to refinance private and federal loans, or search for a lower interest rate.
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SoFi Student Loan Refinance
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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