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lawhopeful882

After years of trying I finally scored high enough to get in. Two problems: My age and my massive debt!

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Posted (edited)

I have about 70k in debt (2 undergraduate degrees and a masters). I'm also in my mid 30's. I currently make around 75k/year in my job.

Realistically, by the time I start working as an associate I will be 38/39. The only way I can conceivably pay for school is with more loans. So I'm estimating another 70k for all 3 years (tuition + living expenses). I'll be 40 years old and paying off my debts (roughly 140k) for at least 10-20 years. So I'll finally start profiting when I'm 60?

Obviously this makes 0 financial sense. I can't imagine I'd be happy living life with that amount of stress. So I guess my question is, is it possible to do law school in Canada in a way for me to not end up with life-long debt?

Edited by lawhopeful882

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70k is on the pretty low end. That's only 23k/year for tuition and living expenses. If you think you're capable of actually living that frugally, just live that way right now before you go to school.

Pay off debt and save. You make 75k right now, so maybe try to live like you make 50k (or whatever) and aggressively save/pay off debt with the rest. When you have a good starting amount (maybe 1-2 years expenses) saved up after debt is paid, you could then go to law school. That way, if you decide you don't like it, you can cut your losses without debt and walk away. If you do like it, taking on only 2ish years of law school debt will be a lot easier than 3 years of debt plus prior debt. 

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6 minutes ago, cigarettes said:

70k is on the pretty low end. That's only 23k/year for tuition and living expenses. If you think you're capable of actually living that frugally

True, and I don't think I could.

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I don't think anyone can really answer this for you. Financially, it doesn't make sense as you're adding on possibly 100k+ in additional debt and foregoing 3 years of a decent income for uncertain future employment.

However, financial security is only a part of the decision. How bad do you want to be a lawyer? Can you see yourself doing the same line of work you're currently doing for another 30 years? Is there more growth opportunity in that line of work and are you interested in pursuing that? Would you be ok with never having gone to law school or being a lawyer knowing you had the opportunity to do so? Only you can answer these questions.

Many mature students face the added hurdle of giving up an established career to start over fresh. It's a daunting prospect that I try not to think about.  The alternative is not going to law school, and I think I would regret that more.

 

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Your opportunity cost is very high. You give up a $75K job to get into law with no guarantee that you will earn as much as you earn now after graduation.

Many of my classmates are still earning less than what you are making now. We graduated 4 years ago.

 

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58 minutes ago, Luckycharm said:

Your opportunity cost is very high. You give up a $75K job to get into law with no guarantee that you will earn as much as you earn now after graduation.

Many of my classmates are still earning less than what you are making now. We graduated 4 years ago.

 

4 years in and <75k? may i ask  which area of law you work in? 

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2 hours ago, levin said:

4 years in and <75k? may i ask  which area of law you work in? 

Not talking about myself

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14 hours ago, Luckycharm said:

Not talking about myself

may I ask what type of law those you know are doing? That does seem unusually low

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1 hour ago, lawhopeful882 said:

may I ask what type of law those you know are doing? That does seem unusually low

Doesn’t sound unusual to me. Probably wouldn’t sound unusual to any practising lawyers.

It would, however, sound unusual if we were talking about only lawyers at mid-size firms and larger, or government lawyers.

Students in law school, and before law school, tend to think of only those specific jobs where it would be unusual, without realizing that those jobs are not in the majority. 

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58 minutes ago, leafs_law said:

Doesn’t sound unusual to me. Probably wouldn’t sound unusual to any practising lawyers.

It would, however, sound unusual if we were talking about only lawyers at mid-size firms and larger, or government lawyers.

Students in law school, and before law school, tend to think of only those specific jobs where it would be unusual, without realizing that those jobs are not in the majority. 

not unusual even with 4+ years experience?

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19 minutes ago, lawhopeful882 said:

not unusual even with 4+ years experience?

Well, it depends on how you define unusual and what filters you’re applying. Like I said, if your talking about Toronto law firms (of any size) or government jobs then it’s likely unusual, and you’re potentially starting above that as a first year. If you’re talking about anywhere rural and/or including solos, then it’s likely usual. But everyone thinks they’re going to end up at Blakes in Toronto so 🤷‍♂️

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2 hours ago, leafs_law said:

Well, it depends on how you define unusual and what filters you’re applying. Like I said, if your talking about Toronto law firms (of any size) or government jobs then it’s likely unusual, and you’re potentially starting above that as a first year. If you’re talking about anywhere rural and/or including solos, then it’s likely usual. But everyone thinks they’re going to end up at Blakes in Toronto so 🤷‍♂️

I asked as most renumeration related threads on this board are usually about Toronto/big law, i.e. "is it true firm x on bay st increased their articling salary  by x / what does this mean for the 1st year associate salary / will other bay st firms follow etc. etc." I couldn't care less..  I am curious of the rest, but of course I would never try to get someone to divulge info they are wary of sharing! :) 

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This one is really tough.

The debt is no joke. And while I usually think age shouldn't be a hindrance to pursuing your professional goals, I think you've identified an important caveat.

IMO planning for your financial future means thinking about your peak earning years, particularly how many of those you'll have, what your earning potential will be during that time, and what obligations your money might be tied up in. A relatively short window combined with heavy debt could spell disaster, and law school definitely makes way less sense. 75k/year is a a decent salary for more lawyers than we'd like to admit, so it's not like your prospects are dim without law. Giving up that kind of money for 3+ years while adding significant debt adds up to a huge opportunity cost that you might find very difficult if not impossible to recover from. 

@Aschenbach is right. This one will come down to how badly you still want to become a lawyer after knowing that at this point it's likely the worse financial decision for you. 

To make it less worse, you could aim to attend a school with lower tuition than your average Ontario school, e.g. UBC or McGill, limit your expenses during the school year, work part-time to cover basic expenses, work like a dog during the summer and aim for Bay Street. Otherwise, get comfortable with carrying debt.

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On 8/14/2019 at 8:40 PM, levin said:

I asked as most renumeration related threads on this board are usually about Toronto/big law, i.e. "is it true firm x on bay st increased their articling salary  by x / what does this mean for the 1st year associate salary / will other bay st firms follow etc. etc." I couldn't care less..  I am curious of the rest, but of course I would never try to get someone to divulge info they are wary of sharing! :) 

2015 JD is 3 year associate not 4 years - 1 year article and 3 years post article.

There are many threads on this board that related to remuneration were not about Toronto/big law.....

Not everyone could get a job in Toronto/big law and many don't even want to work in big law. 

Edited by Luckycharm

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To answer your question, it is possible to go to law school in Canada and not end up with life-long debt (scholarship/bursary, help from parents). However, if I were in your situation and I knew everything I know now, I would not do it. The debt, which will likely be more than you're estimating, will be crippling and there are no guarantees in the legal profession in terms of remuneration. Unless you have assets or have a money stream separate from your job/career, its just not worth it (unless you really enjoy the law or would enjoy being a lawyer that much and compensation and lifestyle plays no part in that).  

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