The auditorium is at maximum capacity. Students and their loved ones, all wait patiently for that defining moment. The presenter begins to recite names, as cheers ring loudly from separate sections of the auditorium. A student rises a few seats down, and the reality sinks in that 20 years of hard work is finally about to pay off. Your heart is beating uncontrollably, and your breathing shortens. Gasp! Your name is called. It’s time to approach the stage. You get on stage and encounter the Dean for the congratulatory hand shake, and the momentary wave to your family and friends. You’ve finally earned your long-awaited Juris Doctor degree. Now, all that stands between you and that prestigious Esq. following your name, is the exam that has seen as many smiles, as tears, The Bar Exam. But let’s take things a step further. Because I know you have what it takes to pass the Bar Exam on the first go around. It is written. So, lets discuss what happens after you pass the bar exam. Have you contemplated what happens next? Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize what 5 years from this very day looks like. Let’s discuss an inevitable truth, that most attorneys face.
The harsh reality is that many Attorneys come out of law school owing a lot more than they can fathom. Forbes.com wrote an article citing the American Bar Association, showcasing the average student debt of law students. The numbers demonstrated that those attending public law schools, left with a tab of about $84,000. Those attending private schools owed on average $122,158. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many law students, or people in general, that have $100,000 sitting around. Such a financial burden can be a huge obstacle, diverting the plans and dreams of many. Whether it be starting your own practice, getting married, having kids, this debt can be an enormous barrier. So, as you sit there, pondering if you’ve made a huge mistake, pump the brakes! A Juris Doctor degree is still very valuable, and can be the root that forms a tree of opportunity. Payscale.com, a website that gathers salaries for multiple professions and makes it public, ranges the total pay of an attorney between $49,886 and $182,700. Now, don’t get me wrong, through a global lens, either end of the spectrum, can lead to quality living. The idea is that with such a large bill, using your expertise is more important than ever. One of the many benefits of the Juris Doctor degree is its inherent versatility. No matter the profession, the industry, or the topic, the law is at play. The law degree is analogous to a tree, with thousands of different branches, with no branch being more superior than another, all holding significance.
So, the question presented is, how does one go about creating alternate routes of income to better position themselves financially, in this capitalistic nation? The answer is twofold. First, realize that a degree, does not guarantee employment, nor success. Second, learn to speak the language of opportunity. To get yourself out of the financial pit will take relentless discipline, planning, and a willingness to go into the dark to create light. There is an old adage that there is 1 million ways to make 1 million. I would challenge that in 2018. I propose there are now about 10 million ways to make 1 million. The internet has opened up a new world for people to communicate and learn almost anything. Whatever you have your sights set on to learn, is right at your fingertips. Don’t worry, this isn’t an article hoping to convince you that you need to drop everything and invest into bitcoin. People have been actualizing their dreams through a multitude of ways. Just a few from the list of 10 million include: Real Estate, Apps, Podcasting, Public Speaking, and so much more.
Recently, I was perusing on Instagram, at a local Starbucks, as most millennials do, thinking about the topic for this article. I found myself on Dave Ramsey’s account (@DaveRamsey). This account was flooded with stories of people paying off large sums of money owed, in remarkable amounts of time. Specifically, there was a young couple that managed to pay off $162,000 in 34 months time. Now, I am as skeptical as the next, but these stories have garnered my attention more and more over the years. There is a feeling of economic empowerment in the air, that many millennials and first-generation students are very conscious of.
So, as I mentioned before, let’s talk about a few broad areas that one can make additional income. Let’s begin with real estate. The market crash of 2008, automatically raises a red flag, when some individuals hear the words “real estate.” The history of America has shown us that property can be an untapped source of power and even more opportunity. The ways in which real estate can be used to eradicate a large student debt tab are: renting out a spare room, Airbnb, and learning the investment property process. The more property you own, the more people you are able to rent to and thus, make a return on that investment. Secondly, apps present a way to capitalize on technology. In the olden days, society was nowhere near as advanced as it is today. Today, at the push of a button, you can have a Deluxe number 1, with large waffle fries delivered to your door step within the hour. Apps by their very nature, simplify our lives, take us into new worlds, and help us to communicate. Though this is a world of tech, and most law students that I know get sick at the thought of coding and numbers, we must realize that many apps have been designed to even help lawyers. Someone came up with the idea of the many bar prep apps that are on the market today. With a few mental jumping jacks, you can be the founder of the next great app idea.
Next, we have podcasting. Podcasts are audio platforms, that allow people hear their views on topics of their choosing. It gives anyone an audience to see their perspective on any topic. Think of it like having your own show, with your own rules, and your own audience. It is also a tool to conduct interviews with experts in various fields. A fact of life, is that we all have our own perspectives, and opinions about how things are, and how they should be. There is a certain confidence that society places on attorneys. Society gains comfort in assuming that lawyers know any, and everything. The podcast is a way to monetize on that assumption. People quite frankly want to hear what attorneys have to say.
Moreover, it is imperative that attorneys share their views. We live in a time where breaking news is common rhetoric. It is very easy for the wrong opinion to circulate, shaping the views and opinions of the lay person. Combining what attorneys have learned, with a deeper compassion for those around them, they have the opportunity to rewrite the conversation, adding credibility to the conversation. Podcasts allow users to earn money through sponsorships, the relationships they cultivate, affiliate marketing, ads, and much more. The larger the audience, and the more conversations that reach the public, the more opportunity that is created. The same rationale applies to public speaking. All in all, your voice and your opinions can take your personal and professional brand to new heights, all contributing to paying back what is owed in borrowed funds.
The point of this article, is to recognize that yes, you may be faced with a mountain of debt, but, that is not the end of the world. There are a plethora of ways to slowly chip away at it. Set a goal and smash it! In the words of business mogul Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, “Financial Freedom my only hope. . .”
These are a few books that have helped me on my journey as I prepare for “The Real World”.
The Four Agreements
Million Dollar Real Estate Investor
Rich Dad Poor Dad.
See you on the other side.