Financial Tips for the Recent Law School Graduate
By Hattie Russell DuBois
Hattie Russell DuBois is an assistant general counsel for a federal agency in Colorado.
Having personally financed a hefty chunk of my law school education, I am keenly aware of the financial burden bearing down on the shoulders of law school graduates from the moment they turn their tassels. Here are five tips to help alleviate the burden:
  • Use an accountant to prepare your taxes. Probably the worst-kept secret is that most lawyers would have been doctors or engineers if they had been good at math. So if numbers just aren’t your thing, it is well worth the money to have a trained professional examine your financial situation before April 15. This is especially important during your first year out of law school because working with an accountant will ensure that you tap all of the education-related tax breaks to which you are entitled.
  • Buy a house before a car. Now before you run out and finance that BMW you’d planned on purchasing as a graduation gift to yourself, buy a house. Not only will your mortgage interest be deductible, but the amount of mortgage interest you pay will likely allow you to claim an assortment of other deductions, yielding a far greater overall tax benefit than simply settling for the standard deduction. Also, bear in mind that your credit will look considerably better to mortgage lenders without a car payment clouding up your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Focus on passing the bar. It may sound obvious, but if you don’t have a job offer when you graduate from law school, don’t let it be your primary concern. Instead, immerse yourself in studying for the bar. The sooner you pass the bar, the easier it will be to find legal work.
  • Wear cheap suits. When you do get a gig, wear a suit. For some reason, even a cheap suit looks more professional than a pair of $120 khakis from Banana Republic. If you are between 24 and 30, you want your clients, who will likely be twice your age, to know that you are the lawyer. Wearing a suit will give you the professional edge you need.
  • Live slightly below your means. If you make a few sacrifices, your income will go further and you can pay down more of your debt. Besides paying down credit card debt that you likely accumulated in law school, try to make more than the minimum payment on high- interest-rate private student loans, which are often more difficult to consolidate at low interest rates. I know it sounds trite but as they say, “a bowl of ramen noodles today means lobster tomorrow.”

    Back to Top