January 3, 2021

How I'm Paying Off My Law School Debt Year 3

Law School Student Loan Debt Repayment Plan Timeline | brazenandbrunette.com

 New year, new law school debt goals! For a quick update, I graduated law school with $145,000 of student loans, and worked really hard to get my loans down to $130,000 in a year. And that brings us here, to year 3 and how much I currently owe...

I can't tell you how happy and proud seeing that number dwindle! It's still a lot of debt, but slowly but surely I'm eating into that. This year I was super jealous of everyone who still had federal students loans and didn't have any interest payments. It sucks that when I refinanced my loans I considered all of the benefits of a federal loan that I would be giving up, but never did a global pandemic come to mind. Unfortunately, my refinanced loans are all private loans and the company I currently have my loan with opted not to stop interest payments on their loans. 

Luckily, our firm wasn't really hit by COVID and I was fully able to keep my job and not have to take a pay cut. Because I knew I was pretty financially stable and interest rates just kept dropping, I looked in to refinancing my loans again to try to shave about 1% off of my current rate. I went through Credible again and found a new loan that was calculated to save me about $10,000 over the course of my loan and selected this new loan. I went through the whole loan process, even taking a small hit to my credit score when they did a hard credit pull, and right at the end I noticed all of the disclosures. One of the disclosures included all of the loan fees associated with my new loan-- which would be over $12,000! Refinancing this loan would have actually cost me $2,000 which is why you always read the T's & C's my friends. So, I'm currently still with the same loan provider that I switched to last year, and I'm going to try again to find another lower interest rate. 

But even with my current interest rate, I want to stress that my loans ARE manageable. I get a lot of worried comments from prospective and current law students worried that their massive student loan debts will completely take over their lives. I truly don't think student loans are to be too feared. This year, Ryan and I were able to buy a house and I'm still able to keep paying my loans (but also, thank you COVID stimulus!) 

My #1 tip for paying down your law school debt is DO NOT pay just the minimum, if you can help it.  Paying just the minimum allows your interest to grow and grow your debt, which is how you hear stories of people graduating with $X in debt, paying the minimums consistently for years, and having $1.5X in debt after all that time. With each pay check, try to pay 75% of you minimum, so you end up paying a little each month (so , if you owe $1,000 a month make 2 $750 payments each month, paying an extra $500 without really feeling it). This will help you tackle your interest better and more of each payment will go to lowering your principal, which will lower your interest for next month. I love playing around with this calculator to play around with different amounts of extra payments and how they help me reach my goal faster (it only works on a laptop/desktop and won't show you all of the charts on mobile).

When it was right around the time we were getting our house, I slowed down the extra payments a little so that we could have a little extra for our closing and moving costs. I still paid more than just the minimum, so I didn't feel too guilty. This is another good example of why I believe that when you refinance, you shouldn't choose the highest minimum available. Because if you choose a mid-level minimum, you can always pay extra, but if an unexpected cost shows up in your life, you can easily go down to the minimum without defaulting on your loans.

I will be honest here and admit that I was planning on chilling at a little over the minimum for a while as we got our house in order and had a lot of expenses (so many Home Depot trips!). I was a little wary because I didn't want to get used to spending this kind of money frequently and never getting back the discipline to pay extra on my student loans. Originally I had planned to cut down on loan payments just for 6 months and then get back on track, but thankfully, I received a raise soon after our offer was accepted so I was able to continue paying extra on my loans while still saving for new windows and being able to buy a new hose for our yard worry free.

That's probably the best thing about being a baby lawyer is that there's still room to grow in your income. Ryan and I were very proud about getting a house that was only 3x our combined income (the suggestion is 4x) because we both knew that we were just starting off in our careers and eventually our house would become even more affordable for us as we grew in our jobs and received raises. Now my debt is super high with student loans + a mortgage, but tackling these two debts is a priority to Ryan and I so that is where we are focusing our money.

I currently spend over 1 full paycheck each month just on these 2 loans alone. We got a great rate on our mortgage, so I'm not really concerned about payments on that loan. What's nice about my student loan is thinking about how I'll get such a big "raise" once it is paid off because I'll get so much of my paychecks back and will have more money to spend on other things. I originally was calculated to pay off my loan in 10 years graduation date, but with the way things are going it's looking like I'll actually have them paid off in around 5 years from my graduation date. 

Ryan and I are getting married this spring, so I'm also saving some money to help pay for little wedding expenses and our honeymoon. And I'm sure in a year or so we'll be ready to start a family. But again, with strategic planning I'm able to save for a honeymoon or expect a baby, and not be terrified about money because of my student debt. Instead, I paid off as much as I could before I had a mortgage, and as much as I could before I needed to pay for wedding stuff, and am paying off as much as I can before we start a family. Then, if later on I need to slow down payments, my principal is already lower and I'm already ahead on my payment plan.

I feel in control of my student debt because I'm still using the budget I learned from IWT. Each paycheck, I put a little money in my 401(k), a little in a Roth IRA, a little towards my mortgage, a little towards my student loans, a little in savings, and a little on bills. Then, any leftover money I can spend guilt-free knowing that I've taken care of all of my payments for the month. I treat my credit cards like a debit card and pay them off immediately with each paycheck because I'm trying to get out of debt, not into it-- and this method has helped us rack up massive credit card points to help pay for a lot of wedding expenses. And the day before payday, any leftover money in my account goes to a little extra payment on my student loans because every little bit helps. 

And that's a wrap on my 2020 debt progress. I paid a little more off in 2020 than I did in 2019, and I'm hoping that's a trend that continues. As an update on my 2019 goals, I am very happy to announce that I now make more than I currently owe. Which again, I think law school debt is okay when you weigh what it gets you! My other 2019 debt was to get my loans under $100k, which was apparently a little too aggressive for me last year, so I'm going to re-up that as my 2021 goal! Here's to being in control of our debt, rather than our debt being in control of us :) 

Oh and PS- if you like my letter board from Instagram where I keep track of my debt, here's the link. I like to keep it viewable from the front window of our house so hopefully any would-be robber will see it and have pity on me and not break in and steal anything lol! But if that doesn't work, I do recommend getting a Ring security system as the first purchase for your new house.

January 26, 2020

How to Make a Follow-Up Email That Will Land a Lawyer Job

What to say in a follow-up email after you've applied for a job. How long to wait after applying for a job to follow up. Job follow up email template. How to follow up after a job application. How to write a job follow-up email. How to ask about your job application status. How to follow up after applying for a job. Sample email to follow up after a job application. #lawschool blog. law school blogger | brazenandbrunette.com

Hi y'all! So today's post is part 4 to my job-searching series and I am SO sorry that it has been over a year since I blogged about this! To catch you up real quick if you've forgotten in the past year, part 1 was over the resumépart 2 was over the cover letter, and part 3 was a guest post all about OCI's.

I really think the follow-up email is underrated but can be very powerful. In fact, I actually know that the only reason why I even got called for an interview was because of my follow-up email. I'm pretty confident in this email because a recruiter for the company I interned in-house with in Dallas my 3L is who gave me a template for exactly what he wants to see. 

I've included my email at the end but I'll color-coordinate the parts I'm about to break down so you can scroll back and forth between what I said and why I said it. 

Timing the follow-up email

This can be tricky to time. You want to give it enough time after sending in your resumé and cover letter that you don't look desperate. But you also don't want to wait too much time and miss your opportunity because they already found someone for the position by the time you send it in. For me, it was easy because I didn't get around to applying for jobs until about a week before I got bar results, so I used that as an excuse to send a follow-up email. But if you're more together than me, I'd suggest either 3 or 7 days.

Ideally the purpose of the email is that whoever is doing the hiring will have posted a job or put out word that they're hiring and are being flooded with so many resumés that they all blur together, so you are sending them a reminder of what makes your resumé stand out. Think of it as a polite "hi, remember me? still interested. k, thx" but more professional.

Hit the high points

Your follow up email should have one goal: be a highlight reel of your resumé in a way that reflects the job listing. That's the focus! So if you start to feel like you're just regurgitating your resumé, step back and start over. You have to assume that this hirer is getting 50-100 emails a day and while standing out is nice, they'll only notice you stand out if you actually make the email in a way that they'll actually finish it. 

Yep, the recruiter that helped me admitted that usually he doesn't finish the follow-up emails he gets because after 5 seconds he can tell if they're not going to be worth his time. And the ones he actually finishes? If you impress him enough that he actually finishes your email, and then have a solid resumé and cover letter that he actually gets through (or at least thoroughly skims), you're pretty much guaranteed an interview. 

Use mirroring psychology 

So what is a hirer looking for? I already told you, they want exactly what they're asking for! AKA, they want someone who fits the description they put in their job posting. So if the job uses words like "organized" or "team player," then your email should use "organized" or "team player." Don't get fancy and try to use synonyms. This isn't HS English; there's something psychological that connects you to their firm if you use the same words. 

Don't think too much into this. You don't have to force their job posting into your email by putting every single adjective you see. Just pick the few that are relevant to your experience and tie them together. For example, you could say "assist junior associate with memos by researching and organizing relevant case law." 

You'll see in the email I sent that I tried to use the description of the job as a model to explain my experience. Here was the actual job posting I responded to:

How to Make a Follow-Up Email That Will Land a Lawyer Job | brazenandbrunette.com

One last thing, if you're like me and never know what is supposed to go in a subject line, mirroring saves you again! Just put the title of the job posting as your subject line. This way, they know exactly the purpose of your email before they even open it. 

Make it readable

I'm talking beyond no typos. Remember, this is like a first impression, you only get a few seconds and then your reader is probably moving on. So don't be afraid to use resumé-style bullet points. These make it quick and easy for the hirer to find the high points and decide if you catch their eye or not. 

And put a little effort into it! If the job listing just says to send it to the Hiring Partner at jobs@firmname.com, don't just address it to Hiring Partner if you can help it. Get on LinkedIn and look up that firm and figure out who is the hiring partner. If that doesn't work, figure out who's is over the department you're applying to or who is the most senior person at the firm. Anything to show you went the extra step to make you stand out from the other generic greetings.

Lastly, remember to keep it short and sweet. Your cover letter and resumé are already enough words they'll have to read, so don't add on to that. A few purposeful sentences do a much better job than half-though paragraphs. 

Remember to actually use this to follow up

Don't just send them an email and expect them to remember you and your resumé. And definitely don't assume they're going to take the time to go back through the stack of resumés and cover letters on their desk to give you a re-read. Just like the bullet points, a main purpose of this is to make it easier on them to want to invite you for an interview.

Absolutely include both your resumé and cover letter as attachments to the email. And reference them! It's a big pet peeve for most people when an email includes an attachment with no context to the attachment whatsoever. How do I know opening this random attachment that's just thrown in there won't give my computer a virus? Also, it's sloppy to just throw that in there and assume they'll figure out why it's included. 

Finally, the email I actually sent that got me an interview and later hired:

Subject: Associate Attorney position

Mr. Abbott,

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to send you an update to let you know that since applying for the Associate Attorney position on October 19th, I have passed the Bar and soon will be licensed to practice in Texas. I know your time is valuable, so here are three quick reasons why I'd be a great addition to your workers' compensation practice.
  1. I have the research and drafting skills to draft filings and the experience to negotiate with opposing counsel.
  2. As a certified and experienced mediator, I am ready to handle our client's mediation appointments.
  3. I have experience in client intake, answering legal questions, and providing counseling regarding potential legal outcomes.
If you think I'd be a good fit, I encourage you to review my attached resume and cover letter. Thank you for your time and consideration and have a great day.

Nikki Boyd
(email and phone number)