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How to Pay the Bills Until You Find a Law Job

Updated on April 30, 2013
The period between graduation from law school and finding a legal job can be a stressful one when finances are stretched thin, but there are ways to make extra money.
The period between graduation from law school and finding a legal job can be a stressful one when finances are stretched thin, but there are ways to make extra money. | Source

Making Money While Searching for Permament Legal Position

The legal market is rough, and likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future--so the job hunt for a recent law graduate can take quite a while. When you have an average of $120,000 of school debt over your head, the pressure increases--and the longer it takes to find a job, the more frustrated and scared you become.

To stave off financial hardship, there are several things you can do to cope with the bills of daily life and make it until you land a permanent position.

Read on for tips on how to save money and make money while you are searching for a permanent job in the legal sector.

Ways to Save Money While You Look for a Permanent Legal Position

If possible, you should really start "saving" your student loans early in your 3L year, so the money can last as long as possible. By graduation, unless you have been living beyond your means or paying a lot in tuition, you should have money left over to live on.

This money won't last forever, though, and if you haven't found a legal job by graduation (and most people won't) there are several ways to save money.

Cancel all non-essentials. Drop your cable service down to basic (or cancel it all together), drop Netflix, and end any expensive monthly programs you're in (for instance, a gym membership; running outside is free).

Find roommates or move in with your parents or another relative. Roommates suck, but they save you a lot of money. If it doesn't look like you're going to find a job soon, a roommate can literally halve your bills. Living with a relative or parents can go further than that, if you can live rent free (of course, don't be a mooch--offer to mow the lawn, buy groceries, and do what you can to help out).

Make plans with friends that don't involve money. When you go out with your friends, it's usually to dinner, or a bar, or a movie--or something that costs money. If you're trying to save while you look for a job, it's important to not spend money on going out. Find free activities in your community, or just spend time with your friends at home, at the pool, or another free public place.

A Positive Take on Document Review

Working at a Document Review While You Seek a Permanent Legal Job

Despite the fact that more and more attorneys are turning to it to pay the bills, doc review still has a stigma--no one wants to do it. The perception is that it's not real legal experience, it hurts you on a resume, and that it's a last resort.

Don't make it a last resort. Doc reviews pay between $25 and $35 an hour, which is way more than you'll make at retail or in a restaurant. They often allow overtime, so if you're working 50-60 hours a week, it's tedious--but you'll be making more than enough to pay the bills.

Furthermore, because doc reviews are temporary projects, lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, the supervisors usually understand if you need to take a few hours off to attend an interview.

Once you've passed the bar, working as a court-appointed attorney is a way to gain experience and extra money.
Once you've passed the bar, working as a court-appointed attorney is a way to gain experience and extra money. | Source

Work as a Court-Appointed Attorney to Earn Extra Money

Another way to make extra money while you seek a permanent legal position is to work as a court-appointed attorney. Everyone has the right to an attorney--and those attorneys usually aren't kept on the government payrool with full benefits, etc.

If you've had experience in school with criminal or family law, then research how to become a court-appointed attorney and fill out the paperwork for your local court.

If you qualify and get certified, then you can earn some extra money (though not much) as a court-appointed attorney. This is also an excellent way to build experience if you want to hang out your own shingle.

Additional Ways to Earn Extra Money While You Hunt for a Legal Job

Making ends meet between graduation, taking the bar, and finding a legal job can be a highly stressful and frustrating time. Many other grads are doing it, though, and so can you! Other flexible ways to make extra cash include:

  • Legal contract work online (sites like Guru.com, Elance.com)
  • Nannying or babysitting (often pays between $15 and $20 an hour)
  • Tutoring for the LSAT
  • Tutoring for law classes

If you have any tips on making extra cash while seeking a permanent legal position, please share them in the comments below!



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