Student Debt: The Holistic Impact on Today's Young Lawyer
Student loan debt may be the biggest challenge for young lawyers due to its impact on their ability to progress toward personal and professional goals. Last year, the American Bar Association (ABA) Young Lawyers Division (YLD) released its 2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey Report to illustrate the debt burden among young lawyers and the effects of student loan debt on their ability to achieve various life milestones, such as purchasing a home or getting married. The report found that 40 percent of respondents who borrowed reported their student debt had increased since graduating law school. It also found that nearly 60 percent of borrowers were delaying or foregoing taking a vacation, 56 percent were postponing or foregoing marriage, and 48 percent were delaying or foregoing having children due to their debt. These decisions not only affect the well-being and financial outcomes of law and other debt-laden graduates—they also affect the economic outcomes of society as a whole.
Although last year’s report provided critical insight into the impact of borrowing on the lives of recent law graduates and licensed attorneys, it also raised additional questions about the reasons for balance increases after graduation as well as the impact of loans on career decisions, job satisfaction, and well-being. This 2021 report aims to answer those questions and provide more nuanced understanding of the impact of student loan borrowing on the career trajectory of young lawyers, their ability to reach major life milestones (e.g., marriage, purchasing a home), and overall financial and emotional well-being.