Going to law school can be expensive if you’re paying your way through it alone. There are several ways to help you finance law school while you’re actually in law school. Below are suggestions for investing in the right school and making money while you’re there.
If you’re trying to figure out how to fund law school before even applying, consider looking into schools with evening or part-time programs. It will take longer to graduate with these programs, but it’s a great option for people who still want to make a steady salary to pay off school as they go.
If you’ve been accepted to schools and are debating where to go, the school offering you the most scholarship money probably seems very appealing. People have rejected full scholarships to go to higher ranked schools only to struggle to pay their student loan debt afterwards. Scholarships tend to be contingent on how well you perform, so they’re not a guaranteed way to pay for law school. You will likely have to maintain a certain GPA to keep your scholarship money, but if you manage to do so your scholarship could cover a considerable amount of tuition.
It’s possible to work jobs during law school, but you don’t want to push yourself too hard. The ABA used to restrict full-time law students to working no more than 20 hours a week. The limitation has been dropped, but your law school might still honor this restriction. Either way, most people recommend not working during your 1L year. 1L grades are critical, and studying for exams is a full-time job. If you are worried about money, work noncommittal weekend jobs that give you downtime. Babysitting, pet sitting and pet walking pay well and still allow you time to read through class notes or outlines. You should stop working these jobs midway through your 1L semesters, though, so that you can put all of your energy into final exams.
There are more job opportunities for law students after 1L year, but it’s important to find balance between making money and studying. To start, you can work those noncommittal weekend jobs you worked during 1L. You can also work more time consuming jobs in retail or food service. Working the front desk of an office or hotel would also give you downtime to go over cases and outlines.
There are good part-time jobs for law students who want to focus on getting more legal experience. If you worked at a firm the summer after your 1L year, ask if you can come in once or twice a week during you fall semester. Also, check your school’s job board – firms and companies hire 2L and 3L interns, externs or fellows for fall and spring semesters. You could also look into doing project work or remote work for online legal service companies. Lawyer Exchange posts specific projects from law firms, and 3Ls looking for work can submit proposals to work on lower level projects.
Some other easy ways to make money in law school involve working for or at the school itself. You can make money working as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Talk to professors or check your school’s job board to see what kind of help they need. Another option is to table at your school as a student representative of a bar prep company. You’ll make money and/or at least get a discount on your bar prep course.
You can start applying to attorney jobs while you wait for your bar results or, if you don’t want to jinx yourself, work a non-legal job until you get the good news. If you want to give yourself a little time before committing to a full-time job, you can work on legal projects using Lawyer Exchange. If you want to jump in right away, you can start as a judicial clerk or law clerk before bar results are released.
Paying your way through law school is doable! It just takes a little planning ahead and knowing what you can handle.