Many consider a law degree a ticket to power, prestige and wealth, and thus, are wiling to borrow extensively to get that ticket. An education at a top law school, as of this writing, may cost $150,000 or more. Although corporate lawyers and experienced defense attorneys often pull down high salaries, if you decide to pursue a less lucrative path after graduation, paying your law school loans may prove challenging.
Create a budget that makes repayment a priority. If you do opt for a high-paying position, your objective should be to retire your education debt as soon as possible. This may mean living significantly below your means for the first years of your legal career. According to the Law School Admission Council, a 10-year, $100,000 loan requires about $1,187 per month "on a standard 10-year repayment plan." If you want to repay the debt sooner, your monthly payments will be higher. This may mean foregoing some of the trappings of success, such as expensive cars or a pricey home, until your loans are repaid.
Opt for an income-sensitive repayment plan. Many of the federal student loan programs, such as Stafford and Ford Direct Loans, can be consolidated into a single, lower monthly payment. The repayment term may be extended to as many as 30 years. Moreover, the income-based repayment program initiated in 2009 ties your monthly payment amount to your income and family size.
Get into a loan repayment assistance program. Targeted to law school grads in public-interest or government careers, LRAPs offer a forgivable loan to help repay annual education debt, according to the LSAC. That option is available if you commit to working in a qualifying public sector job for a stated term. The LRAP loans you money to keep up your law school debt payments during that period. At the end of the term of service, the LRAP releases you from your obligation.
Look for a loan forgiveness program. According to LSAC, if you take a job with the government or with a non-profit, the Department of Education may forgive the remainder of your loan after you make 120 payments. This program was launched in 2009 and may undergo changes over time. Rely on the DOE or your law school financial aid office for current specifics of the program.
- If you know you are not aiming for a lucrative legal career, go after scholarships or fellowships to help minimize the amount you have to borrow during law school.
- Opt for one of these programs from the start of repayment. If your student loans are in default, you become ineligible for the Income-based repayment plan, for example.