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July 2011 Archives

July 3, 2011

Ummm.....is there a coupon for this?


How do you do? I am Miss Frugality, and you are????

We all have a financial personality. Are you a spender or saver? Do you proceed with caution in money matters or barrel on full steam ahead? Nowhere do we get a stronger glimpse of our inner money manager than when plunking down $200,000+ for law school.

Tuition payments are coming due around the country. I have postponed the inevitable for as long as possible and now it is time to write the check and sign off on the promissory notes. Despite having savings, a scholarship and a very supportive partner, the number of loans I will still need to take out has had me cowering in fear for months. I stare in awe at those that leap right into debt with no thought to the ramifications. Is it gumption? Or is it naivety?

Mr. Spender and Miss Charger remind me of the of friends I grew up with that dove off the high dive board at warp speed, never stopping to worry as to what lied beneath the water's edge. 20 years later they dive right into debt with no thought to drowning. I am not one of these people, as a child the high dive always terrified me and likewise does the aspect of debt.

The good, the bad and the ugly are that we live in a debt built society. Lifestyles are built on a buy now, pay later system. The good is for many it works out, items are indeed bought now and paid for later. But the bad? For many it is a great struggle to pay them off, scrimping and penny pinching for years. And the ugly? Bankruptcy, foreclosure and a never-ending debt plague a large percentage of our society. Education has long been thought of as a "good" debt. But that pendulum appears to be swinging back and no matter how hard we try to dodge it--it is headed straight towards our entering class.

The student loan process has proved simple enough. Fill out a form, click a button and your tuition is funded. The good? No confusion, no stress, no worry. Education is open to all. The bad? It is almost too simple. One wonders if this is contributing to the naivety surrounding money that engulfs some. Without having to work for the finances, to study the impact or put any time and effort into obtaining it---a $200,000 loan is not the least bit terrifying. It is a number on a paper. A button we click "agreed" to on the Internet. And the ugly? The ramifications awaiting us 3 years down the road.

The past few months I have had to revisit my relationship with money. I have had to search out a balance between caution and taking a risk on myself while all the while silencing my inner angst against the exorbitantly high tuition rates. I have calculated every dollar, interest rate and loan fee several times over. I have hemmed and hawed over the guilt I feel about the future. Ultimately the debt is not just going to disappear overnight, it will at best linger in the background for many more years to come. My decision to go into debt will effect not just my own future, but my eventual spouse and children's.

The reality is law school tuition is part of the game; there are no applicable coupons or chances of a drop in rate. In the end, I have done all I can to minimize the impact that will hit in 3 years and sometimes we do need to take risks in life. Sometimes goals are not accomplished without closing our eyes and diving headlong into them. Wish me luck!


Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

July 15, 2011

A Boy Scout at Heart

You would find me hard pressed to resist a gauntlet thrown down at my feet. If you looked me square in the eyes and challenged me to be left alone in the middle of the Siberian wilderness, only to then find my way back to civilization, I would nonchalantly, with a shrug of my shoulders, say--"sure". I would take up your gauntlet.

But what you wouldn't know is that for weeks ahead of time my eyes would be pouring over maps of the Siberian terrain. My daily commutes to work would be spent quizzing myself with flashcards of edible and nonedible plants. And I probably would have made 12+ trips to the local "mountain man survival store" to pick up a flashlight, backup batteries and backup, backup batteries. For, as that gem of a motto coined by the Boy Scouts goes---one should always be prepared.

This is similar to how I approach the infamous summer before law school. Law school is a wilderness of uncharted territory for all us entering students. Despite our best efforts one can easily get turned around in the rules of the law or confuse one jurisdiction with another.

In response, I have amassed my own "survival school". A survival kit of hornbooks and study guides stowed safely on my bookshelf at home that I read bit by bit as time allows. My goal for the summer is not to cram every quirk of the law into my head, but to walk into class on day one having a general layout of the law terrain. I want to know which way is north and what lies ahead at mile marker 1, 2, 3 & 4.

The 'be prepared' method is in stark contrast to what many others are choosing to do. Another popular method of pre-law prep is to relax and enjoy the summer. To travel the world and return refreshed with a mind ready to tackle the year ahead, rather than risk entering already exhausted. The understandable theory is that they will have the energy to charge full speed ahead and react to any unforeseen challenges. Come the first day of class, they will possess the calmness of mind to figure out which way is north rather than run in circles.

Both methods have their pros and cons and I am sure both would be awarded merit badges in any local Boy Scout Troop. Although I am a huge supporter of traveling the world and believe the education that one acquires from it is invaluable, I have already done this multiple times over. What I need, based on my individual circumstances at present, is a map and an opportunity to start getting my study muscles back into shape.

In the end, what can I say but that-- I really am a boy scout at heart and "always be prepared" is how I am approaching the summer before law school.

Joanna Lehmann
New York Law School 2014

About July 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Law Students in July 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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