October 10, 2022

Action Steps for Lowering Financial Stress

Derek Brainard, AFC®, CRPC®, National Director of Financial Education, AccessLex Center for Education and Financial Capability®
Financial Education


With 90% of new lawyers having student loans averaging $130,000, it’s no surprise that debt burden is often overwhelming to those looking to launch a legal career – especially if that career doesn’t come with a Biglaw salary. Because of this finding and others from a recent survey of over 1,300 new lawyers by the ABA Young Lawyers Division and AccessLex Institute®, the loan debt burden is so overwhelming that most respondents have postponed getting married, buying a house or a car, or taking a vacation.

The survey also found that Black law students generally take on more student loan debt than White students, which disproportionately impacts these borrowers when it comes to major life choices after graduation – further exacerbating the racial wealth gap.

Student loan debt can also impact your career options from the get-go. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed by your debt load, you may choose a job that qualifies you for loan forgiveness or one that pays more money instead of a job you really want. It’s clear that mitigating present and future financial stress is just as important as managing academic stress and burnout during law school.

Here are a few ways to lower your financial stress now:

Get Organized

Taking a financial inventory is an empowering first step to building awareness, gaining control of your money, and lowering stress.

  • Log into StudentAid.gov and your student loan servicer account(s) to get a full summary of your student loan debt to-date.
  • Pull your credit reports from all three bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Run your current financial health markers using the My Financial Dashboard worksheet.

Be Debt-Sensitive

Whether it’s student loans, medical debt, or credit card debt, owing money is the number-one financial stressor.

  • Limit credit card use unless you can confidently pay your balance off in-full each month.
  • Use your monthly budget to only borrow what you need in federal student loans, then track your spending throughout the month to stay on track.
  • Use the AccessLex Student Loan Calculator to project how much of your income will be going toward student loan payments once you start your legal career.

Get Help

  • Schedule an AccessConnex coaching call with an Accredited Financial Counselor® to get your money questions answered.
  • Visit or call your financial aid office to understand your borrowing options, current loans, and future repayment options.
  • Where applicable, seek referrals to a proven, local CPA and/or Financial Planner to help with tax and investment questions.

Plug In