and it’s the gateway to becoming a lawyer.
But the question is, is it worth it?
Well, today we’re going to explore
whether it’s the right decision for you
and whether it’s worth the huge upfront investment.
So stick around.
So the costs of law school are well known
and they are very large.
Average tuition alone is more than $40,000 per year.
And when you add in living expenses,
you’re basically guaranteed to spend
over $50,000 per year for three years
unless you get a very generous financial aid package
from your school.
The average law school graduate in 2015
had over $140,000 in student debt
to obtain his or her law degree.
And those numbers are increasing every year
at about four to six times the rate of inflation.
Obviously, things get more expensive over time,
but law school is getting more expensive
a lot faster than almost everything else.
Law school debt is often at high interest rates
like 7 or 8%.
And for perspective, if you had $150,000 in debt
at 8% amortized over 10 years,
you’d have to pay back about $30,000 per year.
And of course, you have to pay that using after-tax money
because there are very few tax incentives
for paying back law school loans.
So when you look at the average salary of an attorney,
you should subtract about $30,000 per year
in after-tax money from the salary
because that’s the contribution that you have to make
for law school loans.
But that’s not the only cost.
There’s also the opportunity cost.
It’s not just the sticker price of law schools.
It’s also the money you would have earned somewhere else
if you had not gone to law school.
For example, median household income in the US
is about $60,000,
and if you’re the type of person
who can get into a reasonable law school,
odds are you have the potential to earn
over $60,000 per year
after you graduate from college.
So over the three years
that you would have gone to law school,
you could have made about $180,000 on average.
And that’s money that you would not make
and you would have to forego if you go to law school.
Now, for context,
if you’re able to get a big firm job,
they generally start, in big cities,
paying between $165k and $190,000 per year
plus often a bonus if you work a number of hours.
And within three years of working as a big firm associate,
you can make well over $200,000.
But there’s often a huge price to pay
in order to get those big pay cheques.
Big firms are often located in the most expensive cities,
which means you’re going to be paying
the most in living expenses
in order to make that big pay cheque.
And of course, only top graduates from top law schools
get those jobs.
We did another video on the prospects of getting
a top law firm job.
The link to that will be down in the description.
So check that out to see what your odds are
based on what law school you go to
and where you have to graduate
in those particular law schools.
But that being said,
only a small portion of law school graduates
actually get a big firm job when they graduate.
According to the New York Times, in 2015,
more than 20% of law school graduates
held jobs that didn’t even require a law degree.
So imagine going to law school for three years
and then not even practicing as an attorney.
Well, 20% of graduates don’t even practice as attorneys.
And at the same time, in 2015, only 40% worked in law firms
compared to 60% from the class of 2000.
So, the odds of getting a big firm job
or even a medium or small-sized firm job
are much lower now than they were 10 years ago.
So keep that in mind when you’re factoring in
whether law school is worth the investment.
So I know it’s really easy to focus on
the top law schools and the top law firms
to see what kind of numbers people make when they graduate.
And it’s easy to fixate
on people making close to $200,000
right when they graduate from law school.
But those kind of numbers can really skew things.
In 2015, median pay for law school graduates
across the board
was only $64,800.
So that’s a bump against the median US salary
of only about $5,000 per year.
So looking at averages only,
many people are paying close to $200,000 for law school
for the opportunity to only make $5,000 more per year.
So given the debt and the opportunity cost
and the upfront cost of going to law school,
is it worth it?
Well, it depends.
It can be.
It certainly was for me.
But it’s also not for everyone.
Here’s generally how I think about it.
If you know you have to be a lawyer,
you should probably go to law school.
If you know deep down in your heart, in your bones
that no job is for you except being a lawyer,
then law school might be a good choice.
If you aren’t sure whether you want to be a lawyer or not,
do not go to law school.
Full stop, end of discussion, that’s it.
It’s not worth it, you will have a terrible time,
and it’s not worth the personal cost
and the monetary cost to go to law school.
Law school is a necessary step to become a lawyer.
And any ancillary benefits like learning how to argue
could be learned better, faster, and cheaper somewhere else.
But if you won’t be happy unless you are a lawyer,
then law school is probably for you.
Law school could be for you
if you are prepared for a huge debt liability.
Those are some big numbers.
It can be manageable
when you’re paying it off over 10 years.
I would not count on a public interest fund
where they pay off your loans.
That can require you to pay off your loans
over a 20 or 30-year timescale,
which can add tons of costs and fees.
So I would assume that I was going to pay off the debt
over a 10-year period at roughly a 7 or 8% interest.
If you’re prepared for that kind of debt,
then law school might be a good decision for you.
If you can get lots of scholarships,
law school might be a good choice for you.
If you can avoid the upfront cost
of the published rate of law school,
then that changes the metric of whether it’s worth it
to incur the opportunity cost of law school.
If you are confident that you can be
in the top 10% of your class.
Now, law school is kind of like Lake Wobegon
where everyone thinks they’re above average.
But if you are 100% sure
that you can kick ass in law school,
and especially if you’re going to a top law school,
then odds are you can be
on the right hand side of the distribution
and you can get one of those jobs that pays
well over the median salary,
and you stand a good chance
of being able to pay off your debt in the future.
Also, if you are prepared to work 3,000 hours per year
at a big firm,
that can also sway things in your favor
to make law school a good decision.
If you’re prepared to do the kind of big firm work,
then it might be a good stepping stone
to getting in to that big firm job.
If none of those things describe you,
consider law school very carefully.
You can’t discharge the debt of law school in bankruptcy.
So it’s going to stay with you,
I know that this may sound like I’m
talking down about law school.
I had a great time in law school.
I thought it was a wonderful experience,
and contrary to popular belief, I had a ton of fun.
I really loved it.
But at the same time,
I recognize that it’s not for everyone.
For some people, it’s not worth it to incur that debt.
And some people really regret it.
I was lucky that I’m not one of those people.
I don’t regret my decision to go to law school.
I certainly don’t regret my decision
to become a practicing trial lawyer.
But it’s not for everyone,
and you need to decide for yourself,
and hopefully, this will help you make that decision.
But if you have decided that law school is for you,
be sure to download our free ultimate pre-law checklist.
It’s our free gift to you,
and it will give you a headstart
by the time that you get to law school.
And also, please click the like and subscribe buttons.
The more people that subscribe,
the more videos we’ll make on how to crush law school.
So do you feel the need to become a lawyer in your bones?
Is law school worth it for you?
Let me know in the comments below.
I’d love to hear from you.
And until next time at Legal Eagle,
think like a lawyer and ace the exam.
Well, today we’re going to explore
whether it’s the right decision for you
and whether it’s worth it…
Hey, legal eagles.
And whether it’s worth it…
So the cost of law school…
You can check out the other video that we did
on the prospects of, uh…