Your income after law school is an important factor in
determining what constitutes manageable payments on your
education loans. Although it may be difficult to predict what
kind of job you will get (or want) after law school, or exactly
what kind of salary you will receive, it is important that you
make some assessment of your goals for the purpose of
sound debt management. The money you borrow will be
paid back from your future earnings. It could have a
significant impact on your lifestyle if you do not understand
your payment options and plan for repayment strategically
after you graduate. In addition to assessing expected
income, you must also create a realistic picture of how much
you can afford to pay back on a monthly basis while
maintaining the lifestyle that you desire.
You may have to adjust your thinking about how quickly you
can pay your loans back, how much money you can afford to
borrow, or how extravagantly you expect to live in the years
following your graduation from law school.
Your education loan debt represents a serious financial
commitment that must be repaid. A default on any loan
engenders serious consequences, including possible legal
action against you by the lender or the government, or both.
Federal loans offer graduated, extended, and income-driven
repayment plans that lower monthly payment amounts but
increase the number of years of repayment. The Federal
Direct Consolidation Loan allows students to refinance any
of their existing eligible federal student loans on an
extended repayment schedule, lasting up to 30 years.
Be strategic when repaying your federal student loans.
Understand the repayment options that are available and
take advantage of the flexibility that is available when
deciding how to manage repayment. Learn more about
repayment and check out the Repayment Estimator that
is available from the US Department of Education.
Strategies for Graduates Seeking Public Interest Careers
Students who seek to work in public service or the public
interest sector of the profession face special challenges in
financing their legal educations because salaries for such
jobs are often lower relative to comparable work in the
private sector. Students graduating from law school with
the average amount of indebtedness may find that the
average entry-level public service or public interest salary
will not provide the resources needed to repay their law
school loans and cover their basic living expenses.
Students can employ a number of strategies to make it
easier (or possible) to pursue a career in government or
public interest law. First, students can borrow less during
law school (attend a lower tuition institution; follow some
of the debt management strategies mentioned While in Law School: Living on a Budget). Students may also take advantage of programs developed at some law schools to relieve the debt burden for those interested in public interest careers, including fellowships, scholarships, and loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). LRAPs provide financial assistance to law school graduates working in the public interest sector, government, or other lower-paying legal fields. In most cases, this aid is given to graduates in the form of a forgivable loan to help them repay their annual educational debt. Upon completion of the required service obligation, schools will forgive or cancel these loans for program participants. The number of law schools sponsoring LRAPs is limited. Most schools are unable to provide assistance to all applicants. LRAPs are also administered by state bar foundations, public interest legal employers, and federal and state governments to assist law graduates in pursuing and remaining in public interest jobs.
The federal government offers repayment options to
assist graduates seeking legal careers in public service,
including the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans, such
as Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE), Pay As You Earn (PAYE), and Income-Based Repayment (IBR). The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program also provides a repayment benefit once you complete 120 months of qualifying public service. REPAYE, PAYE, and IBR will allow federal education loan borrowers the opportunity to make lower monthly payments on their federal loans (including, but not limited to, those employed in public service positions), provided that income qualifications are met. Monthly payments under these repayment plans are based on a percentage of your household’s adjusted gross income (AGI) and your household size rather than on the amount of your federal student loan debt. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program allows borrowers who work in government or nonprofits the opportunity to make payments under REPAYE, PAYE, or IBR, then have their outstanding balances forgiven on their Federal Direct loans after 120 months of qualifying public service employment and qualifying payments. Please check with your schools or directly with the US Department of Education at studentaid.ed.gov/publicservice for details on these programs.
NOTE: All loan terms are based on current federal statutes/regulations, and are subject to change.