Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Law school a costly gamble
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I will be applying to law school this fall and I want to know if you have any advice to offer. I have a 3.5 GPA and a 160 LSAT. I would like to apply to an out-of-state school, but the higher tuition would mean I will need some kind of financial assistance in order to help offset the costs. I am willing to take out loans as long as there is a good job waiting at the end. Can you list some pros and cons for applying to in-state or out-of-state law schools?
Dear Future Lawyer:
Unlike medical students who always find a job after graduation no matter where they go to school, law students will discover that good-paying jobs are hard to come by. In recent years, due to the recession, even Harvard law graduates have experienced a decline of recruiters on campus.
So letís be optimistic and assume you are admitted to a top law school. The big question now is, how you are going to pay for it? Or to put it bluntly: How much are you willing to go into debt?
Law students typically graduate owing tens of thousand dollars in student loans. It is not uncommon to find a graduate owing as $150,000 or even higher.
The average debt load for Stanford law grads is $100,000, which is typical for most top-tier law schools. Of course, Stanford grads can look forward to $100,000-plus starting salaries to pay off their loans.
When you are choosing a law school, one of your first considerations should be whether or not the debt you are assuming is worth it. This is a good argument for going to a public law school in-state. You are right that private schools can be as expensive as going to an out-of-state school.
If you believe that the job prospects from an out-of-state school are better after you graduate and you are willing to go into debt, you may as well go all the way and apply to several out-of-state law schools. At a time when even the top law schools, including Harvard and Yale, are experiencing a falloff in recruiting, this makes this option an even more difficult decision.
Even if you are offered a large grant, there are pitfalls to consider. The New York Times recently found that some lower-tier law schools offer substantial scholarships and grants to attract top students in order to boost their rankings.
The catch is that students have to maintain a high GPA to renew their financial package.
Law schools typically grade on a curve and are stingy when it comes to dealing out As and Bs. Many students found they couldnít achieve a high enough GPA and lost their grants.
All things considered, if I were you I would go ahead and apply to several law schools. You know the benefits and pitfalls. Now take the plunge and choose the option that is best for you.