Although reliable recent data is somewhat difficult to find, according to the American Bar Association, the average law school student graduated with between $84,600 and $122,158 in student loans in 2012. In 2016, 69% of law school students graduated with student debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Given the increasing cost of law school, these numbers are likely growing. That fact, coupled with the challenges of trying to launch a career in the wake of the Great Recession, has made carrying substantial debt a fact of life for many in our profession.

In theory, this burden could have a profound impact on young attorneys’ career choices, affecting how they choose a job and whether they stay in a position. In the private sector, debt could cause young lawyers to seek firm jobs with high salaries and large bonuses and stay in those positions until they have paid off their loans or have paid off enough to feel comfortable transitioning to another job. Firm lawyers might change firms, or switch practice groups, but would be unlikely to make any more significant changes until they have tackled their loans.

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