How not to be a lawyer

“I assumed the more education, the higher salary,” Lisa S. — we don’t know her real name — tells “I was aware that with a master’s degree, in certain jobs you can get a higher pay grade, and that you’d be eligible for more jobs, even with just teaching.”

She’s from Minneapolis and Forbes is telling her story in its report on whether grad school is worth it.

According to the story, she got a master’s in film after getting her undergraduate degree from Minneapolis College of Art & Design.

But the work she was able to get didn’t pay the bills nor the student loan bill.

She had a child and was a single mother.

To delay the student loan repayment and try for a better job, she went to law school, pushing the total loans amount to $275,000.

She graduated in 2009, just in time to catch the recession for lawyers.

She moved back to Minnesota and had to take the Bar, a period during which she ran up $40,000 in credit-card debt.

Now a solo practitioner in a small Minnesota town, where the median income in her field is $50,000 a year, she is just starting out and making about $20,000 per year. Even with that income, and $500 a month in child support, she and her son are on food stamps, and he is in the free school lunch program. She is aware that her low income is affecting the extracurricular choices she makes with him and tries to take advantage of some of the special programs offered by her state for food stamp recipients, such as $9 tickets to the science museum, where the actual price is $30.

Though she has good credit — between 650 and 700 — “I have this big mark over my head because I have too much student loan debt,” she says. Though she once had hoped to buy a home, she cannot even afford the median home price of $150,000 in her small town, where many of the local farmers who don’t have degrees own their homes. She also rues her inability to save for retirement or for her 10-year-old’s college education and doesn’t know what she’ll recommend to him when it is his time to consider higher education.

The debt even affected her marriage this past February. Though they consider themselves married, she and her husband had a ceremony but skipped legally tying the knot for several reasons: Her debt could hurt him financially, plus their combined income would force some of her loans out of deferment. However, though they are nervous about the cost, they did decide to have a baby, due next spring, because of her age.

Forbes says she’s now working in a small Minnesota town making about $20,000 a year. She’s on various forms of public assistance.

The article doesn’t say what conclusion we’re supposed to reach with the choices she made or the system in which she tried to thrive.

(h/t: Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal)