‘What to tell your daughter if she wants to be a lawyer’

What if your child (I’ll assume it’s your daughter) is graduating from high school or college and tells you she wants to become a lawyer? What should you advise her?

Your first advice should be that even in New Hampshire, law school tuition and related costs can be, for many people interested in attending law school – and perhaps for you and for her – impossibly expensive. Here is basic financial information about the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law School (UNH Law) – a well-regarded law school in New Hampshire. (Costs are likely to be higher for New Hampshire residents who attend non- New Hampshire law schools.)

1.For students who are New Hampshire residents, annual tuition is currently $39,000; for non-residents, it’s $46,000. However, 94% of UNH Law students receive at least modest scholarships: 39% pay less than one-half tuition; 32% pay more than half; and only 19% pay full tuition.

2.Your daughter’s annual cost for books and other study materials will be about $1,200.

3.If, while she is a student at UNH Law, your daughter wants to live in an apartment near the law school rather than at home, annual rent and other living expenses are likely to cost around $15,000.

Thus, you can tell your daughter that unless she gets a scholarship, her total law school debt upon graduating from UNH Law or any other law school may well exceed $170,000.

In addition, your daughter will have to cover many kinds of costs other than direct law school expenses as such. These will include, for example, the cost of preparing for and taking for the Law School Admission test and, upon graduation the bar exam that lawyers must pass in order to practice law. These incidental costs could total many further thousands of dollars.

What if she graduates from UNH Law with reasonably good grades? UNH Law statistics suggest that she will probably be able to get a reasonably good law job in New Hampshire upon graduation, and, with a little luck, in other states. And even starting out, she may earn decent money. For example, if she takes a New Hampshire state law job, her starting salary may be around $57,000; with the federal government, $77,000; with a smaller law firm, around $55,000; and with a larger firm, around $70,000. And a government law job and a job with a larger law firm are likely to provide good fringe benefits; a smaller firm may not.

Furthermore, if she has top grades or other special qualities – for example, a strong science background and high grades in UNH intellectual property courses such as courses in patent law – she may be able to get a job with a regional or national firm and earn substantially more than $70,000 even in her first year.

However, it will be clear from the above dollar amounts that, because of law school costs, a substantial portion of New Hampshire residents who want to go to law school – perhaps including your daughter – simply shouldn’t consider law school.

A final note: This is a column about business law and tax, not politics. However, from the above discussion, it will be clear that law school costs has barred and is continuing to bar tens of thousands of highly qualified individuals from attending law school and thus from providing invaluable services to New Hampshire and the United States and from deriving great personal satisfaction in doing so. In other words, law schools, like all other advanced educational institutes, are a major area of income inequality and white privilege. You shouldn’t have to be an upper-class white to go to law school. And when you graduate from law school, you shouldn’t have to face crushing debt.


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