I’m $211,000 in Student Loan Debt to Become a Lawyer. I Don’t Want to Be an Attorney Anymore. – Jacob


“Dear Steve,

I’m a 26 year old male who is a third year law student. I have a significant amount of debt. I have 26K in personal unsecured debt, and $211K in student loan debt. The student loan debt was amassed from attending a private university for five years and three years of law school. While in undergrad, I freely admit that I made horrible decisions when borrowing money. I financed my entire education instead of working to pay part of it off, and I borrowed way more than I needed to pay for school. This excess money went to pay for various things like an apartment, tv’s, stuff that a stupid 19 year kid thought he needed.

Along the way I began to pile up credit card debt, and while in law school I found myself borrowing excess student loan money to keep up with my bills. As I look back on it, I was just trading dischargeable debt for non-dischargeable debt.

After two years of law school I am pretty convinced I don’t want to be a lawyer. However, I feel like I don’t really have a choice due to my financial obligations. I find myself in a hole that I don’t really ever see myself crawling out of. I’m considering bankruptcy to get rid of the credit card debt because I will need that payment money to go towards my student loan payments. My student loans are a mix of gov’t and private loans. I currently have a part time job but can only work about 20 hours a week with my school schedule.


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Dear Jacob,

This is not the first time I’ve heard the exact same situation. And I can honestly say that I don’t think that perusing a career you don’t like is going to bring you happiness or success in life. How many successful people do you hear about that hate their job?

Before bailing on law school do you think it is worth contacting some practicing lawyers and asking them for feedback about the field? Maybe what you are going through is just a tight and stressful part of your life but you still have a passion for law.

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If you decide that you’ve made a mistake and law isn’t for you then you should look at other options in life. You are still young and you have many years ahead of you. I’f rather see you overcome the debt but look forward to a life worth living.

So you could go bankrupt on the credit card debt, enter an IBR (Income Based Repayment) on the government debt to reduce payments and the private stuff, you’re screwed. You’ll have to make the minimum payments.

Do you think this approach makes sense for you?

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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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5 thoughts on “I’m $211,000 in Student Loan Debt to Become a Lawyer. I Don’t Want to Be an Attorney Anymore. – Jacob”

  1. Does any one know about any financial assistance for pets other than care credit or IMOM?
    my dog is very sick and in need of emergency medical services. i have already spent about $1000 and i do not have another penny to my name. any suggestions on how to come up with about another $2000, fast?

  2. Jacob:

    I’m a fairly recent law school grad myself, and recently found myself unemployed and in debt (student loans and credit cards) as well, so I completely understand your situation and know just how you feel.

    First off, try and take a step or two back and relax a little. I know it’s hard, as this is an insanely stressful situation, and us law types are prone to some major stress, so take a couple deep breaths and relax a little.

    Now for my $0.02: to begin with, definitely finish law school. You’ve made it this far, and the first year’s the toughest. Your third year (or third and fourth if you’re going part-time) gives you a lot of flexibility and options with regard to what you can take, because you’ve filled all the requirements by now, so take classes on issues and topics that you’re interested in and immerse yourself in it while you’re in class or studying. Not only will you learn a lot, and perhaps find something you really like, but it’ll be a great way to take your mind off of everything else.

    Next, there are TONS of career options once you get out that don’t involve being an underappreciated associate at a big firm. In fact, I think those jobs are all quickly disappearing anyway. There are lots of options in government, non-profit agencies, public defender services, prosecutors’ offices, you name it. Find something that’s important to you, an issue you really care about, and chances are you can find an agency, company or small firm that deals with that. Having worked in a couple such places, I can say that those environments are a million times more supportive and enjoyable to work in than the big firms. Find a job that you love, in a field you genuinely care about, and the rest will follow. I know, sounds cheesy, but it really is true.

    As for the student loan debt, I know from experience on both the private and Stafford sides, that the lenders are reasonable about deferments and forbearances. That’s because they’re generally not dischargeable, so they know you’ll eventually pay them back. Most lenders have their own programs that go above and beyond the government programs to help you figure out just how much you can pay and will work with you. Additionally, if you go to work in the public sector or for a non-profit agency that does some good things for people (and this’ll be rewarding to you personally), there are programs that forgive (meaning erase) huge chunks of your student loan debt. Look into them – it’s worth the investment of time.

    Another thing that most people don’t realize is that the legal community is incredibly supportive. I belong to no less than four different bar associations (and you can join most as a student for free, or at the most $30 or $40 a year) and they all offer a myriad of different programs to help out its members, from lawyer assistance programs (to help with substance abuse, or just referring you to someone
    to talk to to help ease the stress), to job banks, free lunches, mentoring networks and even free legal research sites. They more than pay for themselves in a week’s time. Plus, if you’re still enrolled in school, you’re entitled to all of the services that the university (not just the law school) offers – from the gym to the medical center. And take advantage of the law school’s career center. You’ve already paid for their services, plus I know from experience that they enjoy working with someone that isn’t just looking for help getting into some sweatshop of a firm for the big paycheck.

    And, as Steve said, talk to a bankruptcy attorney. I did, and while I’m not filing for bankruptcy myself, it was incredibly helpful to get the information. The more you know, the better you’ll feel. And bring a copy of your resume – who knows, they may need a law clerk now or an associate soon. Be friendly and polite, and at the least you’ll have made a contact.

    Ok, so this was pretty long-winded. Bottom line – try and relax a little and realize that the only problem you’re dealing with right now is a financial one – a small matter of numbers, that’s it. It’s not life-threatening, and in the end, it has no bearing on who you are as a person.

    All the best,

  3. I graduated in 1995 w/a degree in Computer Science w/40K in debt. I have had to put my loans in forbearance a number of times, have reconsolidated 3x and now at the last stop w/the William D. Ford organization. The minimum they will accept is more than $1,000/month which I can’t even come close to paying even under the new IBR program.

    I am considering moving to Canada, and am trying to research the laws for domestication of foreign debt but am not having much success. I don’t know what else to do. I am currently searching for an attorney/ law firm that is knowledgeable about student loan collection practices specifically as it relates to collection practices including debtors living in Canada.

    I know this seems irresponsible but due to penalties and interest, my loans are now more than $160K and growing by the day. There is no way I can pay this. If they would just let me pay what I borrowed, I would be happy to pay this, but this just seems criminal.

    • KV,

      You might want to talk to an attorney about investigating a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to discharge your student loans under hardship.

      Moving to Canada does not stop collectors from coming after you there.



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