Throughout law school, I was continuously surprised about how much money everything cost and how many extra expenses there were. Of course, I knew I would pay for books and office supplies like highlighters, pens, and legal pads. I figured I’d have to pay for public transportation as I lived in Boston. Basic necessities were a given, as well. Food, shelter, clothes. And, let’s not forget, obviously tuition. Yet there were items that I never expected to have to pay for as well.
What were those unexpected expenses, and how can you plan for them?
As you enter law school, you will be looking for an internship or clerkship immediately after your first year. You might even be lucky enough to participate in professional activities such as clinics your first year (depending on what experience you bring with you to law school).
These types of activities will require that you dress the part. You will need to have at least one quality business suit, a set of professional shoes to coordinate with your suit, and if you carry one, a professional bag as well.
I might also add that it really doesn’t hurt to dress for the job you want while you attend classes. I know many classmates dressed down for classes and they’re doing just fine in their careers. But, it really couldn’t hurt to evaluate your wardrobe and decide whether it might need a little sprucing up. At the very least, if you feel more professional in what you wear, that may carry over into how you conduct yourself.
For those who choose to participate in various legal competitions like mock trial, after you acquire your business attire, you may have to pony up some cash for participating in the event.
In my experience, most schools do their best to ensure that students do not have to pay out of pocket for these school-sponsored competitions and activities. However, they may not always have the budget to cover every aspect of the event including travel and food.
Lean on the conservative side and set aside funds for these events if you plan to participate.
Besides the required textbooks and office supplies, there are tons of other study aids out there to assist you with your law school classes. Some of these are kind of obvious like buying outlines, case briefs, or paying for a tutor.
There are other less conventional tools, however, that may be worth the investment. When I was studying for the bar for the first time in 2010, I found a board game for bar examinees. It was such a great find, because my law school friends and I were able to sit down and have fun while also studying bar exam topics.
I ended up giving my game away to a friend who graduated a year after me, but to be honest, sometimes I still wish I had that game to play on family game nights!
Another great resource for me was law school apps. When I studied for the bar in 2019, I downloaded a few quality apps. One was a trivia-style format, which ended up being really fun. Not only did I enjoy playing, but I learned a huge amount of material much faster than I expected. The app was absolutely worth the extra money I spent.
Barrister’s Ball & Other Social Events
In addition to professional attire, you may find yourself needing to reimagine your wardrobe for socializing. I had honestly never heard of the Barrister’s Ball until I was already enrolled in law school. For those that don’t know, the Barrister’s Ball, is what my classmates affectionately dubbed, “law prom.” It’s a big, fancy shindig for law students to celebrate the school year and enjoy some time socializing together in a less rigid environment than the classroom.
Just like regular prom, “law prom” requires formal dress. Some students go all out and rent limos, buy their significant other corsages and flowers, and enjoy a formal dinner. Each of these items will add to your overall bottom line as a law student.
There were several other social events that were mostly subsidized by my law school, but which may have resulted in some unexpected spending. For example, my law school sponsored a Boston harbor cruise.
Sometimes those sponsored events are inclusive, and sometimes they require you to pay for your own drinks. After the event, friends invited me for drinks in the city (definitely not subsidized by the school). Then there was the inevitable cab fare for the ride home.
Socializing is a key part of the law school experience. Yes, you’re there to study, but you should also use that time to make connections with your classmates. Each of you has something to offer and could be an important referral source or resource later in your career.
Set A Budget
While there will always be unexpected expenses, setting a budget can help ensure that you stay on track with your finances in law school.
Keep these kinds of expenses in mind when you’re budgeting, and you’ll be far better prepared than most to weather financial storms in law school.
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