The law school decision is the first and most important of many analyses throughout your legal career. Good lawyers pay attention to the details. Good lawyers analyze with facts. Good lawyers seek advice when they are outside their expertise. Good lawyers prepare and prepare, in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Your law school decision is your first opportunity to begin to think like a lawyer.
This is a major purchase. At today's tuition rates, it's about equivalent to buying your first house. Most people spend a long time planning for that purchase. You may not have a career plan. You may not need a broad range of options. Regardless, you should start thinking about your career now, and fitting your law school decision into it. Otherwise, you risk buying much more law school than you actually need. It’s sort of like using a bazooka when a .22 caliber will do.
As with any major purchase decision, you should carefully decide how much law school tuition you can afford and are willing to spend, in light of your career interests. You should assess the value you will receive for those tuition dollars.
A top law school is a great credential. However, if the school is unwilling to teach you the law, perhaps your tuition dollars are better served at a lower-ranked school with a more rigorous curriculum.
Law students have used leverage wisely for years. They have borrowed money to finance law school. It is a bet that borrowing money will result in income growth down the road. Law school tuition has steadily and substantially increased every year since World War II. First-year lawyer salaries increased at an even greater rate. Leverage was a successful strategy. Leverage works, but only if it means more money down the road. Things have changed. Tuition has continued to increase. But incomes have decreased. The legal profession is currently in a state of contraction There are fewer jobs for law graduates, and certainly fewer high-paying big firm jobs.
Do not go into debt without thinking about it. Give your career and future plans deep thought. Think of yourself as a buyer and consumer of educational services. Make sure that you will get what you pay for. Talk with a lot of people about your plans. Seek advice from a broad cross section of knowledgeable folks. Your parents, your banker (assuming that your parents aren’t your banker), other relatives, lawyers, law students, law professors and others can help you navigate these waters. Even if they haven’t been to law school, they are likely a bit wiser than you and their opinion is valuable. They will be more than willing to help you with this important financial decision.