A new way to pay down student debt

Law school graduates accumulate an average of $185,000 in student debt — more than double the average debt of $75,000 that new lawyers carried 10 years ago, according to higher-education expert Mark Kantrowitz.

Some firms — like Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, based in San Francisco — have begun to help their newest employees deal with that burden by contributing a set amount each month to pay down new associates’ education-related debt, the New York Times recently reported.

Under Orrick’s plan, launching Sept. 1, starting lawyers will be eligible to receive $100 to offset their student loan debt for 18 months. After that time period has passed, they’ll be eligible for a bonus. Both associates on the partner-track, as well as those enrolled in a less intensive “career associate” track, can participate.

It may seem like a benefit that will only reach new lawyers at a select few firms in large markets, but Jack Zaremski, founder and president of Hanover Legal Personnel Services, told the Times that more firms are likely to adopt programs like this in the future.

“They need to compete to attract and retain lawyers and to present themselves in ways that attract and retain clients,” Zaremski said.

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