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Are You Making 3Xs Your Tuition?

Vivia Chen

December 18, 2011

©lightpoet-Fotolia.com1. Do the math. If you want to own a home after law school, you should earn at least three times your annual tuition. That's according to a study by Jim Chen (no, we're not related), a dean at University of Louisville's law school. Reports The National Law Journal's Karen Sloan:

Using the debt standards set by mortgage providers as guidelines, Chen concluded that law graduates need to earn three times their law school tuition annually to enjoy what he termed "adequate" financial viability. That assumes they borrow only the amount of their law school tuition and lack additional debt—a conservative assumption, Chen said.

Thus, graduates of relatively low-cost schools charging annual tuition of $16,000 would need to earn $48,000; graduates of schools charging $32,000 would need to earn $96,000; and graduates of schools charging $48,000 would need to earn $144,000.

But to be "very financially secure," you need to earn six times the annual tuition. "That means graduates of $16,000-a-year schools would need to earn $96,000; graduates of $32,000 schools would need to earn $192,000; and graduates of $48,000 schools would need to earn $288,000," reports the NLJ.

2. Need another reason to go to business school instead? Not to be crass, but some recent B-school grads make more--a lot more--than the best JDs.  Here's what Poets and Quants reports about the very top earners:

A Columbia Business School grad landed a $300,000-a-year hedge fund job this year and possibly received a guaranteed bonus of $235,000, according to the school’s just released 2011 employment report.

As large as that potential windfall might be—a total of $535,000–it still wouldn’t allow that person to surpass this year’s graduating Stanford MBA who reported to his school that he received a guaranteed bonus alone of $500,000. That person’s likely total annual compensation: $675,000.

Not even Wachtell, Lipton pays junior associates that much!

©vgm6.Fotolia.com3. But if you are stuck in law school, at least get some doggy therapy. It's a trend that supposedly started at Yale Law School, where students can "check-out" Monty the dog at the library to help alleviate their stress. Now, it's spread to law schools near the nation's capital. Reports: The Washington Post:

"At George Mason’s law school, which has more than 700 students, dozens took a break Thursday from their immersion in contracts, torts, criminal law, and the like and gathered for more than two hours in the school’s atrium to play with the puppies. The animals had been saved recently from euthanasia in West Virginia shelters by A Forever-Home Rescue Foundation. The four litters of puppies are living with four foster moms until they are adopted. They are a mix of breeds, but many of them look like beagles or Labrador retrievers."

But why limit puppy love to law students? Wouldn't law firms be warmer, cuddlier places if doggies roamed freely? This could be the solution to associate morale!


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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.


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Vivia -- perhaps more "equal opportunity"! But I'm not objecting -- just making an observation.

Would deploying photos of "uncomely" women be more feminists?

Interesting! But in terms of disparities between JD and MBA earnings, keep in mind that many MBAers have been working for years before obtaining their MBA degrees. I suspect that for the $300k hedge funder, his/her MBA degree was just icing on the cake.

Off-topic, but I've noticed that, for someone who champions women's rights and is quick to report on sex discrimination in the legal profession, you're not at all loathe to use comely young women as "eye candy" for your posts.

I am in total favor of adding puppies to my law school experience!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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