Law School,  Legal Practice

Summer Series: Be Prepared for the Sticker Shock

Our Summer Series continues! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals!  Today we hear from Alexandra, a Florida law school graduate prepping for the bar exam right now!  Alexandra discusses the need to prepare for the Bar Exam–not mentally or emotionally–but financially!  And good luck Alexandra!! 

Becoming a lawyer is expensive. It’s one of those things that I think we all know, but it doesn’t hit you all at once. Applying to law schools, prepping and taking the LSAT, tuition, textbooks, and every other random fee under the sun, all of these can add up pretty quickly. I always figured “you have to spend money, to make money,” but I never realized how much heavier that spending becomes toward the end of your law school career. For me, it started with my bar application fee. In Florida the fee to register with the bar and sit for the exam is $1,000. That price is lower if you register as a 1L or 2L, which would have been nice to know at that point. Add that to the cost of a bar prep course (a necessity), a hotel for three nights, transportation costs, and the bill is scary. All of this after paying six figures for three years of torture. While lots of these costs differ from state to state and every individual’s capacity to deal with them will vary as well, my hope is that with these few tips some rising law students can enter their 3L year prepared for what lies ahead. So here’s what I’ve got for you:

  1. Aalborg Research, research, research. Find out where you’re interested in being licensed and check out their websites.  For example, the Florida Board of Bar Examiners’ website had all the information that would have allowed me to plan and make these last few weeks a lot less shocking. Find the equivalent for where your state and you’ll have a better idea of what everything will cost as well as what you’ll need to do to get your license. Learn from my mistakes!
  2. indoors Save early. Unexpected costs like the ones I faced are so much more common than it seems. It’s best to start saving as early as possible to set up an emergency fund. This will give you flexibility throughout law school and beyond. Then when you’re thrown a financial curveball you’re more than ready for it.
  3. Ask around. Reach out to those who have done it before for advice. Unfortunately, there is no manual for entering the legal profession. True story: a friend of mine didn’t know he had to take the MPRE until well after the bar exam! If you don’t know anyone who is a lawyer in your preferred state, seek guidance from your school. Career services offices can often put you in contact with alumni who may be able to help. If you don’t want to learn from my mistakes, learn from someone else’s!
  4. Look for resources. This is probably the most important tip I could give a law student. There are options available when it comes to bar prep, so talk to the appropriate office (typically financial aid) at your school to see what they offer in terms of financial assistance for the bar. Examples include federal and private loans. A lot of these resources are untapped because we just don’t know they’re there.

Law school can be an isolating place sometimes. Remember that many have done it before you, so there’s no reason you can’t join their ranks. Research will be your best friend. Find out what is expected of you early on and you’ll be prepared. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help because planning can be overwhelming. And Just remember that if you’re smart with your finances early on you can mitigate the economic stress bar prep can create at the end of your law school career. Planning ahead will make your 3L year smooth sailing.

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