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My law school loans are below $134,000

Work has kept me extremely busy lately, but I wanted to check in with a law school debt update:

Principal Accrued Interest Interest Rate Total
$19,481.96 $13.95 6.55% $19,495.91
$29,536.70 $24.70 7.65% $29,561.40
$20,969.12 $15.02 6.55% $20,984.14
$21,293.14 $14.66 6.30% $21,307.80
$42,298.29 $18.76 8.00% $42,317.05
TOTAL: $133,666.30

As you can see, I’ve managed to reduce the total since my last update. Of course, this has come at the expense of anything resembling a personal life. I take every paycheck I get and immediately submit it to the student loan debt gods.

But looking at things from a broader perspective, I’m glad that I’m making progress. It’s somewhat distressing and terrifying that I will have no savings and no financial security when I’m in my mid-30s, but it’s still better than having student loan debt. If only I could talk to my 22-year-old self about how student loan debt would destroy my life. This entire process has been an extremely difficult lesson.

Beyond the student debt, I’ve been confronted with another pressing issue: I find legal practice deeply unsatisfying. I seriously don’t understand how people can dedicate their lives to litigation. There must be a part of my brain missing, but I know that this is not the life for me. There’s just nothing satisfying or rewarding about it and it holds nothing for me. So, with all of my money going to student loan payments, I’ve decided to think carefully and deeply about my future.

I need to forge a new path – one that’s aligned with my interests, skills, and abilities rather than a path forged merely for the purpose of acquiring money. If I’m being honest with myself (something I’m getting better at), I went to law school because I was deeply insecure and wanted to prove myself to others. I thought law school was a solid bet that would ensure an upper middle class lifestyle, respectability, and intellectual challenge and stimulation. How wrong I was.

I’ve reached the point of professional and financial misery where I truly do not care what others think and I want to pursue a career that better suits my personality and skills. I think it’s almost impossible to excel at a pursuit unless you find some intrinsic motivation or meaning in it. And for me, I find the law and legal practice utterly devoid of meaning or motivation. You’re probably wondering why I went to law school. I wonder the same thing. I think it’s because I didn’t truly understand what I was getting into. I thought being a lawyer was more of an office job, where you dealt with important business filings, provided advice, etc. I thought it was more civilized and less tedious than I’ve found it. I was 22 when I seriously considered law school. I took the LSAT and did well and kind of got swept up from there. I had a “useless” B.A. and thought I needed more. I thought a law degree would impress my parents and other adults. I thought it would impress employers (even non-legal employers) and thought it would open all kinds of professional doors. I was also just naive, short-sighted, and more than a little bit foolish.

I didn’t really know what lawyers do for a living. I liked reading, writing, and research and thought a legal career offered me the best chance at using those skills productively and profitably. I felt like an alien after my first month of law school. I immediately felt like my classmates had different priorities and different personalities than me. I should have left then and there, but a mix of shame, pride, insecurity, and drifting kept me enrolled. And so here I am and I have a seriously mixed up life because of my lack of foresight and lack of appreciation for who I am. I’ve made a serious mess of my life, but if I can get on the right track by my late-30s, maybe things will turn out okay. Maybe.

Yes, I need to feed myself and put food on the table and that will most likely necessitate doing tasks that I find tedious and really don’t want to do. But I don’t believe my entire life should be consumed with tedium and misery, which is my gut reaction to legal practice. I don’t want to be miserable.

This is a rambling post and it’s evident from my recorded thoughts that I am only in the beginning stages of constructing a plan for the future. But I figured I would share them on this blog since this is supposed to act as a record for my escape from student loan hell.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and you are all making tremendous progress on your student loans. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and productive 2016!

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13 responses »

  1. I am always glad to see an update from you. Congrats on knocking out another $10K.

    You are definitely not the only person I’ve heard this story from (the “I didn’t really know what lawyers do all day” one.) Some of those people are friends from non-online, but do you know Natalie from Financegirl.com? She started with about the same amount of law school debt as you did, and quit her legal job — which she didn’t like — to become a CFP. I don’t know if that’s what you want to do, but you might connect with her and talk about process…honestly, if you can get another job making about 50K (or more, of course) that isn’t a legal job, then you should go for it. Nothing says you need to pay down the loans by practicing law.

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    • Thanks for the comment! It’s humbling to realize that I’m not so special or unique and that my life path is well-trodden (at least as it pertains to trudging off to law school without a very good plan). But I think I was due for a good solid humbling. I think the younger version of me had an extraordinarily misplaced sense of superiority.

      I read Natalie’s FinanceGirl blog and am very impressed with her writing and her perceptiveness about what sort of career she wants. I don’t think I’ve quite reached the stage where I know where I want to end up. I’ve only found out what I don’t want – litigation.

      I’m in the process of looking for other employment. I’m not sure if I want to take a non-miserable job that pays the bills while I continue to do work and self-study on the side to figure out my goals. I’m concerned that would prolong the inevitable and may be better to suck up the misery and wait until I figure out where I want to be. The problem with the latter approach is my current hours (don’t get home until after 11pm usually) leave no extra time and I’m mentally exhausted when I’m not in the office.

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  2. It’s good to see something here from you. Yes, I too have read online of others who have abandoned law, lived to tell it, and have thrived in a new life. You may be at the exploratory stage, but nothing says you have to stick with something that really doesn’t mesh with your gifts, desires and skills. I sure wish you could utilize your obvious talent for writing somehow. Put out those feelers and see what’s out there.

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    • I think I’ll live to tell about it. It’s terrifying to realize that this just isn’t the right fit for me after the amount of time and money I’ve sunk into this career. The last decade of my life has been consumed with law and legal studies. Yikes. I suppose I could be serving a jail sentence or something. It could always be worse, but this is pretty disheartening.

      Thanks for the compliment on my writing. Sometimes I feel like an utterly worthless piece of crap and I really do appreciate it.

      I need to determine a plan of action for these next six months and begin implementing it. I’ve got a few books on alternative careers for people with law degrees and I’m hoping they will help generate some useful ideas.

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  3. Congratulations on being $30,000 down from your original balance! Is there stuff you can do that is cheap or free so that you can have some personal life while you’re paying down your loans? Even when we were in super intensive debt payoff mode, we still had a beer (but not two) with friends during happy hour, or had people over for a potluck, or went for a hike . . . etc. etc. etc. I’m sorry litigation sucks right now 😦

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    • Yes, litigation is just not for me. I can’t handle the stress, the combativeness, the gnawing sense that it’s devoid of meaning, the constant paper shuffling, the shifting deadlines, the minutiae of civil procedure, the expectation that you’re just supposed to know how to do everything, and the reality that it never ends but the stakes get higher. This is not what I want to do with my life. It might be the right fit for some personalities, but it isn’t for me.

      I’ve honestly lost a lot of friends during my career and law school struggles. A lot of people kind of went by the wayside after I had trouble establishing any sort of career (which is why I’m terrified to leave my current position). Also, a lot of people have started families and have moved on with life. I feel like life has passed me by while I’ve been chasing some illusory perfect career.

      But thanks for the encouragement 🙂 I’m very happy to have the balance paid down a good bit. I hear about so many law school grads who put their heads in the sand, put their loan payments on IBR, and just go about their merry lives. I just can’t do that. The debt would haunt me even more than it already is.

      Congrats again on paying your loans and moving on with life (and starting a family!). That’s so awesome and I dream about one day getting there.

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      • You will get there. My dad didn’t get married until he was 40 after a very peripatetic career, and he’s now 70 with two kids, retiring with a good pension from a long career, and with a grandbaby. I am 100% confident that one day you’ll look back at this long dark tea-time of the soul (Douglas Adams, if that reference was unclear) from a much, much better place careerwise and family-wise.

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  4. Glad to hear from you! That’s very good progress. I can so relate to this post. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I went to grad school. I wanted to stay a student (the one thing I was good at) and impress people with my academic credentials. I was the classic “insecure overachiever”; and I’m paying the price for it now. Omg, if I could go back in time…the things I would do differently. I know how you feel.

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    • I think you’re right. Part of me wanted to stay a student. Part of me didn’t want to have to make irreversible choices. Immaturity and my people-pleasing disease was more than a small factor in my decision to attend law school. I’m absolutely the classic insecure overachiever. I think it stems from having overbearing, extremely strict parents who had extremely narrow viewpoints of how live is to be lived.

      So yes, I am paying the price. I’m hoping I’ll come out at the other end wiser, more solid, and with a much better sense of who I am and what I want.

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  5. I know it’s weird, but congratulations! It’s hard to be upbeat and optimistic about the future when you have so much debt hanging over your head – but keep your faith. It’s so liberating to finally realize you need to get out of the lifestyle that makes you unhappy and pursue ACTUAL passions. Even if you don’t know which direction to go, it frees your heart and mind to think that maybe there’s a better purpose to life than just working to pay bills and die!

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    • It’s not weird. I have a VERY hard time being upbeat and optimistic and I sometimes think I’d be better off dead (I don’t seriously plan harming myself though). I am learning to have faith in myself and the future. I am finished with living my life so that it comports with how others view success or how they want me to live. They don’t have to walk in my shoes. I’m done. I just don’t care anymore. People think being a lawyer is like what they see on TV or John Grisham books. Their views about my life and what I should pursue are based on ignorance of the practice of law and of my life. Also, we are only given one life. It’s been said many times before, but this isn’t a dress rehearsal. I don’t get a mulligan on my life. I’ve had enough of trying to impress others.

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  6. I’m sorry you’re not finding satisfaction in your work. I totally went to grad school because I thought it would legitimize me as an artist and lead to that secure middle class life. What a joke! I know your pain. But you’re working to get out of debt, so you’re taking the right steps.

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  7. Could I trouble you for tips on how to get “excited” (tolerate) the reality of what your law school decision means for the rest of your life?

    Just starting my journey. The despair is overwhelming.

    Liked by 1 person

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