Law SchoolNews

Student loan debt remain biggest challenge for post-school law career



The cost of tuition keeps raising for all students, including law students, meaning that the average student becomes more and more in debt which becomes a huge problem when jobs are hard to come by.

Jeff Manning of the Oregonian reported that the average college student comes out of college owing more than $26,000 in loans, while law students come out owing anywhere from $100,000-$150,000 in loans.

Not only are law students being hit with massive amount of loans to repay, they are also faced with trying to find a job so that they can start their career and repay those students loans. The problem is that law jobs are becoming harder to find.

Law firms are in the same situation as other businesses, getting hit hard with economy and having to reduce workers or stop hiring completely. Many law firms have scaled back, making drastic cuts. Across America most elder law firms — older firms with more expertise — have had a 71 percent decline in business according to the ElderLawAnswers survey.

Nadia Dahab, a UO alumna who graduated this year, was lucky in finding a job right out of law school. Over the course of the next three years Dahab will be clerking for three judges. Shefound these jobs very early in her job search.

“It was certainly not an easy task though,” Dahab said. “Using the law school career center and my resources on the law faculty was helpful in making sure that I tailored my material appropriately to my opportunities.”

So far, Dahab hasn’t faced any big challenges with pursuing her law career.

“Having just recently graduated and spent all summer taken the bar, I haven’t had much time to face tremendous difficulty,”@@[email protected]@ Dahab said. “That said, one challenge that most of us are always facing is the magnitude of law school debt that we have lurking behind us as we search for jobs.

Joe Kraus, a 2009 graduate, currently holds a full time job at Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, but coming out of law school, he faced problems.

“It was difficult to find full-time employment as a new lawyer,” Kraus said.

Many of the law firms were looking for experience, which coming straight out of law school, he didn’t have. Kraus had to find several part-time jobs to gain that experience.

“Like many of my classmates, I had to find part-time opportunities to accumulate more legal experience,” Kraus said. “About two years after graduation, I started a full-time position at NEEA.”

Both Nahab and Kraus are concerned about the student debt that they accumulated from law school.

“Managing debt has been the biggest issue post-graduation.  At times, the debt had seemed insurmountable,” Kraus said.

The Center for Career Planning and Professional Development at UO Law School helps to land jobs for students coming out of law school.

“We’re doing everything we can to help students land a successful job,” said Bonnie Williams, assistant director at the Center for Career Planning and Professional Development.

The Center works individually with students, helping them to research different careers within law and helps students to narrow down exactly what they want to do, while encouraging an open mind. As of now, the Center has helped to employ 142 out of 182 law students from the class of 2010.

The average starting pay for a new lawyer is around $73,000 a year with firms ranging from two-25 attorneys according to the American Bar Association Journal. The average pay increases with the amount of attorneys that a firm has. Based on first year pay, within two years, law school student loans could be paid off, however, that excludes the cost of living. Many students run into the problem of not being able to make the monthly payments while paying for their living expenses.

“Finding a job that will pay enough to maintain a reasonable living and be able to pay off federal loans is an overwhelming challenge, to say the least,” Dahab said.


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