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Law School Widow

Written by Brett McKay

Law school is a challenge. Law school while balancing a family is even more of a challenge. As a married law student, one of the things that I always have in the back of my mind is my relationship with my wife. It’s pretty easy to get so carried away with studying, that you forget to nurture your most important relationships. Some law school wives (or husbands) joke about being a widow or a single parent because their spouse is gone so much.

Law school can wreak havoc on a marriage. I remember at law school orientation, one of the speakers said that half of all first year married law students end up divorced by the end of law school. Yikes!

My wife and I made a priority to have at least one date night every week. After not seeing each other that much during the week it’s nice to go to restaurant or get an ice cream cone and sit and talk. I think it really helped keep our relationship strong during that trying first year.

For those of you who are married or in a close relationship, what has been your experience maintaining that relationship while in law school? What do you do to nurture it?

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Free Bar Review Lectures Online

Written by Brett McKay

Austin from CALI’s Pre-law blog has posted about FREE, that’s right free bar review lecture MP3’s online. The Charleston School of Law has been posting them at their CALI Classcaster site.

If you’re not taking the bar yet, you’ll still find these lectures useful. They pretty much go over black letter law, much like the Sum and Substance CD’s do. Listening to these lectures are a great way to review or study for law school finals.

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Interview With Austin Groothuis of CALI’s Pre-Law Blog

Written by Brett McKay

This week’s interview is with Austin Groothuis from the CALI’s Pre-Law Blog. Austin is a third year law student at Chicago-Kent. In addition to writing for CALI’s Pre-Law Blog, Austin is also the Communications/Marketing Coordinator for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). (What a busy guy!)

1. How much student debt have you racked up during undergrad and law school?

I have just under $100,000 in combined school debt. I have paid for all of law school and virtually all of undergrad/graduate school plus cost of living during those times on loans/scholarships/or money I earned working while in school. I’ve had very little outside financial help so loans have really added up.

2. What action or habit do you think saved you the most money while in law school?

A lot of things combined. I buy all of my books used online at Amazon Marketplace or Half.com and then resell them at virtually the same price. It’s quite a racket the law school bookstores and casebook publishers have going on. I try not to participate in it as much as possible. I wrote about this on my blog here:

Cost of Text Books In School

Whenever I need something new I’m freakishly insistent on getting the best price through research online. Basically all of my gifts for Christmas this year were bought on deal websites and over half of them had rebates involved.

I sold my car last year to save money on maintenance, gas, random fees, and inevitable street cleaning tickets in Chicago. I just don’t need it in the city.

Although I don’t know what I’d do without my girlfriend to chauffeur me around the city at times. She has a real job and a car so, obviously, part of my advice is get to get a sugar mama (don’t worry, she never reads my stuff). 🙂

And most importantly, I opted to take a full-time job with CALI and switch to school part-time in the middle of my second semester. This extended my time in law school. But it literally cut my debt in half. That’s right, I’d be looking at upwards of 160k in debt had I not taken this CALI job. Amazing. It really saved me.

3. If you have student loan debt, when would you like to pay it off? How do you plan on reaching your goal?

It’s going to be a real long-term thing that depends on how much I make, what career path I choose to take, and what kind of family decisions I make (dual income? children? where to live?).

Optimistically, I think the best case scenario is 15 years to pay it back. But I could see using up the whole 25 or 30 years. I’ve never really sat down and thought of a schedule because I just can’t get a grasp on what my life looks like and what opportunities will be presented to me after I graduate.

4. What other personal financial goals have you set for yourself?

Don’t default on my loans and never have to ask someone for financial help.

5. What is your weakness in regards to your personal finances and how do you think you can improve it?

Eating out and the Starbucks across the street from work/school. I’m at work and school all day so it’s just too easy to not make a lunch the night before and worry about lunch the next day.

And it’s not like I’m addicted to Starbucks. But paying 4.50 for a latte once or twice a week at most really burns me just due to the fact that I’m paying infinitely more per gallon for coffee than what I paid for gas. But I really do love the mocha. It’s a bad habit but at least I don’t smoke!

6. How do you manage your finances? Is there a particular software you use to keep track of your money?

I do everything online. I don’t have to keep balances because I pay all my bills online and my bank transactions are reflected really quickly in my online checking account. I haven’t written more than 2 or 3 checks in the past 2 years.

My credit card (which I pay in full from month to month) is through the same bank and I can access that info easily and simultaneously with my checking.

I have an HSBC personal online savings account that pays 5+% and has no fees for transfers to and from other accounts and no minimum balance. Compare that to the less than one percent you might find at your local bank. It’s awesome.

7. What do you think is the biggest money mistake law students make?

Not understanding the way law school and legal jobs work. I think a lot of future students rely on the average salary of a school or become star struck by the numerous law firms paying 150k+ salaries and sending out press releases every time they increase starting salary. So students think they can go to any law school and rack up a ton of debt because they will be able to pay it off in 5 years with a $160,000/year salary.

But go to a non-elite school and at most only 10-20% of students even have a shot at big paying jobs. And nearly all non-big firm jobs with opportunities for graduates pay an amount much less than $100,000, let alone $160,000. I’ve written about this several times on the Pre-Law Blog including here:

The Chances of a Six-Figure Salary Out of Law School

and here:

Another Post On The Cost of Law School

and here:

How High Associate Starting Salaries Affect Law Schools…

8. Do you have any suggestions to other law students regarding their personal finances?

Besides the sugar mama thing, huh? Don’t carry credit card debt. Don’t spend more than what you can pay in a month on a credit card bill.

Read The Frugal Law Student blog. No joke. There are also several other money saving tips sort of blogs out there that are good to read.

Not so much for law students, but those thinking about law school, understand the risks involved in choosing certain schools and in choosing to go to law school at all. Read some of what I’ve written about this above for a start. Make sure you weigh the risks vs. the benefits before you decide to go to school/ where to go to school.

Good luck!

Thanks, Austin, for that awesome interview! Head on over to CALI’s Pre-Law Blog. Austin has supplied some great information for those interested in attending law school and those who are already in law school. Make sure to sign up for his RSS feed as well.

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[tags]CALI, Austin Groothuis, law school, debt, personal finance[/tags]

10 Ways To Avoid Depression In Law School

Written by Brett McKay


Law school can get you down. There’s so much pressure to succeed, that when you don’t meet your expectations you feel like a big piece of poo. Additionally, because law school requires a huge time commitment, many students lose balance in their life. Both these factors can contribute to depression in law school. Once depression sets in, your grades suffer and you suffer. Today we’ll discuss some easy things you can do to avoid depression in law school

  1. Don’t equate yourself worth to your LSAT score or grades. Your worth as a human being isn’t determined by your grades.
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. I know it’s hard not to compare yourself in law school seeing how grades are determined by how everyone else does, but make an effort to stop comparing yourself. Whenever you compare yourself to others, you’re always going to lose. There will always be someone who’s better than you. Just focus on improving your personal best.
  3. Exercise. Start an exercise plan and stick to it. Try to get in at least 3 workouts a week. Exercise is a great way to let off some steam from law school. Also a sound body means a sound mind which will come in handy on test day.
  4. Eat right. Don’t feed yourself out of the vending machine. If you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. Make sure to eat breakfast everyday and bring a nutritious lunch to school.
  5. Sleep. Adequate sleep is an important part of avoiding depression. Ideally you should be getting between 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Sleep is especially important during finals. Insufficient sleep has been shown to cause a decrease in mental abilities. So, don’t pull all-nighters. You’re probably better off sleeping an extra 5 hours than studying an extra 5 hours. Don’t let the students who boast about pulling all-nighters get to you. They’re not going to do better than you. In fact, you’ll probably do better than them.
  6. Don’t drink. Alcohol is not the answer to your law school problems. Your bad grade will still be there after the hangover.Lawyers are notorious for having a high percentage of alcoholics. Often the problem began while in law school. Avoid becoming another statistic by not drinking.
  7. Maintain your hobbies. Many law students give up their hobbies once in law school in order to devote more time to studying. This is a big mistake. It’s good to do things that aren’t associated with law school to keep balance. Having a hobby is great for rejuvenating your mind and body to tackle law school. For example, my hobby is this blog. During the school year I spent about an hour each morning working on it. It really helped me to stay relaxed while in law school. While you may not be able to devote as much time to your hobby while in law school, don’t abandon them completely.
  8. Make time for friends and family who aren’t going to law school. While it’s nice to have friends in law school, you usually just end up talking about law school with them. You need to get away from law school as much as you can. Non law school friends and family will keep you grounded. If you’re married, make sure to have a night where you just hang out with your spouse. Don’t talk about law school, rather talk about normal stuff. It will remind you what’s really important in life.
  9. Don’t study all the time. Many law students have the false belief that that how much you study determines your success. The reality is that success in law school is determined by how you study. My advice is to treat law school like a job. Put in your 9 hours at school, come home, and leave the books in the bag. It will keep you sane.
  10. Seek help. If you feel like law school’s getting you down go talk to someone. Many schools offer academic support that has counselors that can help you. Also, try talking to your professors. You’ll be surprised how many are willing to listen and help if you’re suffering depression.

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[tags]law school, depression, lifehacks[/tags]

5 Financial Pitfalls of Part Time Law School

Written by Brett McKay

Last week, we discussed some of the financial benefits of attending part time law programs. Today, we discuss some of the drawbacks.

  1. You limit the number schools you can go to. Only a few schools offer part time law school, so you’ll be limited by the number of schools you can apply to if you decide to go part time. This usually isn’t a problem for individuals who want to go to law school part time. Usually, they’re individuals who have a career and want to switch careers to law. They’ll just go to the closest law school that will allow them to commute. They’re not interested in tiers or reputations of schools. However, because most of the part time programs are offered at less prestigious schools, this could result in part time students’ job offers being limited. It’s a hard fact of life. Where you went to school will effect what kind of job opportunities you will have. Here’s a list of law schools that offer part time programs.
  2. You miss out on networking. Because part time students are not on campus as much as full-time students, they miss out on valuable opportunities to network with their fellow classmates and professors. While it’s important to network with people outside of law school, I think it’s even more important to network with people with whom you go to class. Those students will be the people you will be working with for the rest of your career. You never know if you’ll have a future judge or big firm partner in your class. Making friends with your fellow law students can pay off big.
  3. Your grades may suffer. Because most part time students are juggling both a career and law school, there’s a good chance their grades will suffer. Bad grades = fewer job opportunities = less pay.
  4. Your current career may suffer. Law school is tough, even if you’re going part time. Because of the time and energy demands of law school, there’s a possibility that your current career may suffer. If you have too much trouble at work, it could result in getting laid off or missing on advancement opportunities, which results lost money. However, you could just enroll in a full-time program if this happens to you.
  5. Many law firms look down on part time programs. Unfortunately, part time law school has a stigma. Many hiring partners see part time programs only for those students who weren’t qualified enough to get in a full time program. Or they might see part time programs as less rigorous than full time law school. Additionally, because most part time programs are at less prestigious schools, hiring partners will look down on a part time program because of the school attached to it. All these factors can play a part in diminishing the amount you earn during your law career.

Any other pitfalls of enrolling part time in law school or do you disagree with me? I’d love to hear what you all think.

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[tags]law school, Frugal Law Student, jobs[/tags]

4 Financial Benefits Of Part Time Law School

Written by Brett McKay

If you’re not sure you can afford law school, look into part time programs. With part-time law school programs, you can continue to work full time and you go to law school at night. Because you’re still working full time, you have some financial advantage over students who are going full time.

  1. You can contribute to retirement. Because you’ll still be earning an income, you can continue to contribute to your retirement account. While not contributing regularly for a few years may seem like not a big deal, the power of compound interest and the market may cause you to lose out on thousands of dollars in your retirement fund.
  2. You still might have access to health insurance. It’s a sad fact, but most students don’t have access to affordable health insurance. When you or a member of your family gets sick or injured, medical bills can set you back financially. Hopefully, with your job you have access to health insurance.
  3. You can take out fewer loans. You can offset the costs of your legal education by working. Instead of having to take out tens of thousands of dollars in loans for living expenses, you only need to borrow what you’ll need to pay for tuition. If you make lots of money, you might be able to get away without taking any loans out.
  4. Flexible entrance requirements. If you didn’t do that well on the LSAT or have a dismal GPA, you might look into to part-time programs. Usually they’re much more lenient in admission standards. If you want to see if law school’s the right thing for you, with out making too much of a commitment in money and time, then a part-time program might be right for you.

What do you all think? Are there any other financial benefits of going to law school part time? Or do you think part time law school will actually hurt you financially? Later this week, I’ll be posting on the financial pitfalls of part time law school, so I’d love to have your input.

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[tags]law school, legal, debt, personal finance[/tags]