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Law Grad, 32: Don’t Do What I Did

Posted Jan 16, 2008 5:39 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A 32-year-old Boston University law graduate is on a one-woman crusade to save others from making the same mistakes she made.

High on Kirsten Wolf's list of don'ts is spending the time—and especially the money—she did to get a law degree. Now saddled with $87,000 in educational debt that she expects to be paying off until she retires because of her relatively low-salaried job she otherwise loves in the publishing industry, she says she went to law school with unrealistic ideas about what the degree would be worth to her, reports the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

A B+ student at BU, she thought she could expect a starting salary of around $85,000 if she went into private practice—which is, she says, what BU and other such law schools listed as the average for their graduates on their admission materials. But, as detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, such averages can be comprised of stratospheric starting salaries paid to a lucky few stellar students at the top of their class—for first-years at top-paying firms in major cities, annual pay can now exceed $160,000—and much, much lower salaries paid to the rank-and-file of ordinary law graduates.

While a legal education does have value in the job market, even for those who don't practice, it's not worth what many pay for it, Wolf contends.

"I’m on a one-woman mission to talk people out of law school," she tells Law Blog. "Lots of people go to law school as a default. They don’t know what else to do, like I did. It seems like a good idea. People say a law degree will always be worth something even if you don’t practice. But they don’t consider what that debt is going to look like after law school.

"It affects my life in every way. And the jobs that you think are going to be there won’t necessarily be there at all. Most people I know that are practicing attorneys don’t make the kind of money they think lawyers make. They’re making $40,000 a year, not $160,000."

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