Friday, July 1, 2011

Notes From the Trenches: Paying Tuition & Childcare or How to Spend All Your Money

This is a guest post from Rebecca, a mom of two who will start law school this fall.

Enrolling in law school can be a controversial choice. I expected to receive at least some blowback, especially since I will be selfishly abandoning my children to advance a career. Here's my beloved grandmother on the subject:

Your children, so dependent on you now, may hate you in 15 years! This is your most precious time to feel like a real woman. And I know, once you get that law degree you will have a job in which you find even less fulfillment and you will spend your days litigating fights of one kind or another. And you will start at the bottom. You think you are going to make a difference in the world--"help people?"--but think of the difference you will make for generations by raising your children who are right in front of your eyes."

That's just a little taste. My grandma has an ideological objection to the legal profession. But you have to admit it's impressive that she's in her eighties and emails me regularly. But, I was somewhat surprised by the cascade of news articles I found suggesting that graduating law students suddenly were having quite a bit of trouble finding jobs, especially jobs with high enough salaries to pay down the six-figure debts they now owed to their schools.

There was that guy from Boston College who wrote an open letter to the school asking for his money back, articles in the New York Times about how law students get gamed by the system, and the general recognition that schools are currently accepting many more students than the legal market will accommodate. I also discovered the expanding community of blogs -- with names like LawSchoolScam and But I Did Everything Right! -- devoted to warning "0Ls" (really?) to run, not walk, away from law school.

In the face of such negativity, I was forced to ask myself (and my lawyer friends) why none of it would apply to me. A friend of my husband's had some very encouraging (enabling) advice: "Here's the thing about the 'not enough jobs for lawyers' argument. It actually is 'there's not enough jobs for incompetent lawyers.' You're going to be a competent one, I'm sure. In general, my lawyer friends with jobs think it's a good idea for me to go to law school. The ones who were disappointed with law school or don't have jobs have been, well, less positive.

My husband and I decided that I would only go to law school if we didn't have to take on any debt for me to do it. That seemed doable. I knew I'd be charged the reduced tuition for in-state residents. I crossed my fingers for a big scholarship, and I got one. Strangely, in the award letter there was no mention of the conditions for keeping my scholarship. Watch, I'll call the Office of Student Affairs and be told I must maintain a GPA of 3.8.

The real cost of law school for me (us), though, are childcare costs of ~$1400/month for my two kids, ages 3 and 21 months. I've had complete control over my kids' environment since my daughter was born, so it's kind of a big deal to me to give that up. I suppose that's why we're taking on a monthly payment that exceeds our mortgage to send our toddlers to an "academy."

So I hope I can keep that scholarship. But just recently, another mom who graduated from the school I'll be attending told me, "you won't be in the top ten percent, you know, because you have kids." Maybe they should have put that in my award letter? "Parents: don't bother."


Karen Rose said...

I found your blog when I went to search for "law school if you have children" as I am contemplating law school as well. My kids are a little older now, 8 and 10, and I basically put my life on hold for them. Right now I am doing pre-law classes at a community college, just to refresh myself and make sure this is really do-able. I graduated with my Bachelor's 12 years ago so it has been a while. LOL Anyway, was did you hook up with that snazzy scholarship? When do you start?

Karen Rose said...

Sorry! Just realized your last entry was a guest blog...ignore!!! Off to read the old posts and find out how you did it!! :)

Eva said...

I have been very hesitant in going back to school, especially to study a GDL as a non law graduate and with the responsibility of a family, but reading the last three guest-blogs has shown me it can be done. Thank you for the inspiration.