Law School: The Frugal Student
Sweeping changes in the legal field make jobs scarce and put downward pressure on compensation. The perfect time to plan your financial approach is while you are taking LSAT practice tests, doing LSAT test prep, and finishing your LSAT testing for law school admissions. You should understand the realities of the legal market now and go into law school with a plan to protect yourself financially.
Due to the baby-boomer investment sell-off, globalization of labor, and other factors; the economy is likely to remain weak for years. Even once there is earnest recovery, we cannot expect a return to the glory days of the legal industry. It is more important than ever to utilize frugal planning while gaining an education. You need an approach to minimize debt during school. The job applicant with the lowest debt will be able to undercut equally qualified competitors in the job market.
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First, build up a nest egg before going to law school. You need a few thousand dollars stashed away. Take time off to work before law school, if necessary. Or put this money away from undergraduate financial aid. By having backup funds, you will be able to more tightly plan your school budget. This will prevent you from borrowing extra as a buffer.
Look for work during law school. Legal work is preferable, but you may find that you can get higher pay outside of the field. Since you are going to law school, you already have a degree under your belt. Plus, many employers appreciate how strenuous 1L studies are in the areas of writing, research, and critical thinking. Use your networking skills to find the connections to get a paying job. Some will argue that working may endanger your grade point average, and this may be true. However, unless you are going to compete in the top 10% of your class, the work experience and lower debt load will more than offset any reduction of competitiveness in class rank. This is not to say that you should disregard grades. You should balance grades with finances, and make a low debt load a leading priority during law school.
Take steps to make school affordable. Buy used books. Half.com is a great site for finding discounts on law text books. Avoid trying to dress daily like you are already a highly paid attorney. Pack lunches as often as possible. Generally, look for ways to reduce your monthly expenses, and it will benefit you tremendously in the future.
Going to law school can be expensive, yet far too many law students take out overly large loans to live extravagant lifestyles with expectations of a huge income following law school. The reality is that a low debt load will be a competitive advantage once you graduate. Plan now for economic and professional success by living frugally during law school.
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