Saturday, December 4, 2021

Thinking of Law School? Prepare for Financial Guilt and Regret

If you are thinking about going to law school, you should read a recent report titled “Student Debt: The Holistic Impact on Today’s Young Lawyers.”

According to the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, 90 percent of young lawyers who responded to an ABA survey said they had taken out student loans to finance their legal education. On average, these young attorneys reported taking on $108,000 in student debt.

The debt level for young Black lawyers was even higher–on average, young African American attorneys had accumulated student debt totaling more than $200,000.

Did any of these young lawyers feel regret about their indebtedness? You bet.

Ninety percent of the respondents said that “their debt impacted their advancement toward major life milestones, and a majority of borrowers said they are anxious, stressed, regretful or guilty due to their loan debt” (as summarized by Insider Higher Ed’s Alexis Gravely).

Did these young lawyers feel like they got good value for their law school tuition? Less than half (47 percent) said that their legal education was worth the cost.

How many respondents would still go to law school if they had the opportunity to live their lives over? Only about 6 in 10. And only a little more than half of the lawyers surveyed (55 percent) said they would attend the same law school.

In fact, more than half of the survey respondents who were dissatisfied with their law school said they wished they had chosen a school that charged lower tuition. About three out of ten said they wished they had chosen a school located in a better job market.

In essence, the ABA uncovered a high level of regret and dissatisfaction among young lawyers, feelings associated with their student debt.

Does the ABA have any suggestions for solving the problems that were identified by their survey? Not really.

Here are the ABA’s recommendations, which are mostly bullshit:

  • “Expand access to and awareness of, free financial and mental health resources for recent law graduates . . .” In other words, free psychiatrists and debt counselors!
  • “Continue to lead, sponsor, and support initiatives that holistically foster financial wellness and professional development of young lawyers.” I have no idea what that means.
  • “Improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program . . .” Lots of luck!
  • “Improve financial literacy and awareness of the legal job market and the cost of law school attendance . . . .” In other words, law students should wise up.
  • “Reform the federal student aid programs . . . .” Again, lots of luck.

The ABA had some more vacuous suggestions, but I won’t bore you with them.

Note, however, the ABA did not advocate shutting down all the second-and third-tier law schools that are charging their students out of the butt for their law degrees and then turning them out into a lousy job market.

Nor did the ABA advocate lowering law-school tuition rates, which are north of $50,000 a year at many schools.

So–thanks for nothing, ABA.

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