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Law

Has anyone left biglaw while they still have a large student loan balance? Would be interested to hear about your experience if so, particularly if you went the PSLF/loan forgiveness route.

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Me! My firm didn’t pay market, but I still took a 50% paycut after the first year and accepted a government-funded role. I actually didn’t wind up doing loan forgiveness! I stayed for two years and am now back at a private firm that reps government entities with the hope of transitioning into government. I had over 125k in debt when I left. I was miserable, I didn’t have the work ethic to do something that made me miserable, and the money wasn’t worth it. I continued to pay over 1k per month on my loans even after leaving. I do have a dual-income household, so that obviously helped. But my lifestyle still changed dramatically. No more $15 lunches, no more coffees out, no more extravagant vacations (but WAY more time to take less expensive, outdoors-oriented trips), and I spent a lot more time tracking my clothing/incidental purchases. It was completely worth it. I still had more money than I ever did as a law student, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. That being said, I do still have 80k in debt, and it will take awhile until I’m debt-free. But I am making progress!

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Yess! Congrats on being brave enough to leave the big paycheck. As someone about to do the same I KNOW it’s not easy. Best of luck !

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If you’ve realized big law isn’t for you don’t stick to it just bc if your loans. The sooner you make the change the better for your career and ultimately the better option to repay your loans. Im in big law too and stuck through the pain for far too long solely bc of student loans. I regret that now. 2020 helped me put things into perspective so I’ll be making the jump in the next few months.

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Thanks, appreciate this perspective and I suspect you’re right.

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I don’t have loans but my husband does. We live below our means (small mortgage and car payments, etc.), so it was not a huge adjustment for us when I left big law. We cut back payments on the loans to give us a cushion at the beginning of the pandemic, but we’re back up to paying almost 2x the minimum now. We did not do loan forgiveness even though my husband qualifies. One thing to look into is other sources of funding. He gets almost $7k a year to put towards loans from a state fund for lawyers doing public interest work. That little bit has made a huge difference over the last few years - we treat it as an extra payment. He was also able to refinance, which has been great (although we unfortunately didn’t get any interest deferment!).

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I had no idea it existed, so it was a very pleasant surprise!

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Consider taking a year to really focus on paying down the balance. I assume by reference to Biglaw, salary your is roughly $200k. That is a lot of money, if managed effectively. By preemptively limiting your spending to what you will be doing on the lower salary before you make the move you could likely clear close to 100k in a single year to pay down your balances. If you are so over leveraged with other obligations this doesn’t seem possible, then you might have bigger financial issues than just the student loans that should be explored.

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Yeah, I know about the tax bomb for most IBR-based forgiveness plans. That’s kind of why I would prefer to either go all in on PSLF (which doesn’t have the tax bomb afaik) or just pay my loans off.

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