During the 2021 winter session, Notre Dame Law School hosted Financial Wellness Week in coordination with AccessLex on important financial education topics most relevant to law students.
The programming provided opportunities for one-on-one financial coaching with an accredited financial counselor, as well as presentations on several law student specific financial topics, including:
- A Strategic Approach to Student Loan Repayment — plan options, consolidation, and how to make a plan for a debt-free future
- Debt Tools for Public Service Attorneys — requirements for the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and Notre Dame’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program
- The Importance of Credit to Law Students — understanding the credit system, how to review credit reports, dispute errors, and maintain a positive image with creditors
- Your Employment Options, Your Money — financial analysis of various legal professions and the financial impact of employment decisions
Financial Wellness Week is just one example of the way that the Law School helps provide transparency and guidance to students as they make important financial and loan decisions during and after law school.
The Law School’s partnership with AccessLex, a nonprofit organization dedicated to law students, gives students even more resources and support. AccessLex offers free on-campus and online loan repayment and financial education programming and resources to help law students and graduates confidently manage their finances.
Notre Dame was part of the pilot program AccessLex implemented in 2017, along with several other law schools, that developed a multi-faceted personal finance curriculum, the Max program, exclusively for law students.
“Max was created by law students for law students,” said Theresa Popp Braun, regional manager at AccessLex.
The Max program combines online and virtual programming, in-person workshops, and one-on-one counseling. The curriculum is designed specifically for all three years of law school and meets students where they are in their financial planning process.
Lessons are online in short video format or as webinars, and can be accessed at any time.
Currently used by over 10,000 students at 145 law schools across the country, there is no charge to the student for any of the Max programming or coaching. And it can be done at the student’s convenience.
Participating in the programming is extremely important and beneficial to students, and the Law School would like more students to become involved.
“Financial issues, loans especially, can be confusing for students. Having a resource like AccessLex helps Notre Dame Law students make smarter financial decisions now that can pay off in big ways later. This is an underutilized resource that is completely free for ND Law students and graduates, and I would love to see more students take advantage of it,” said Christine Holst-Haley, director of student services.
The first-year lessons include topics such as personal budgeting, establishing credit, and planning for summer expenses. Second-year lessons cover the financial aspects of future career decisions, taxes and benefits, bar prep expenses, and strategies for budgeting for taking the bar. During the third year, lessons include how to start investing, debt-to-income ratio, how loans affect large purchases like cars and homes, and plotting a strategy for loan repayment.
One of the most valuable resources of the Max program is the free one-on-one coaching services. Students can meet anytime with an accredited financial counselor in person or online to go over their specific questions, situation, and loan.
Some examples of situations Max one-on-one, unbiased coaching has addressed for ND Law students are:
- Strategies for increasing credit score.
- What action to take now to achieve the best financial personal situation for the future.
- Analysis and calculation of the various repayment options for a student’s actual loan.
- Figuring out the best strategy to pay the least amount of interest and pay off the student’s loan the quickest.
- How to maximize the public service loan forgiveness program and Notre Dame’s Loan Repayment Assistance Program with a student’s individual loans.
“The greatest benefit of the program is that it gives students financial knowledge. Knowledge empowers and that empowerment can change behavior and the decisions students make especially regarding loan repayment,” said Braun.
In addition, participating in the program can provide free money to students. AccessLex holds scholarship drawings every semester for students who have completed activities on the Max platform and who have attended virtual or in-person seminars or webinars.
Second-year law student Emma Murphy recently won a $5,000 scholarship. She participated in the Financial Wellness Week programming and her engagement got her additional entries into the scholarship drawing and it paid off.
"The MAX by AccessLex program has helped me to become more prepared to handle my finances, both in law school and after I graduate. This scholarship will be a huge relief for me during my 3L year and will play a large role in minimizing student loans.” said Murphy.
Last year, then third-year law student Kathryn Peachman also won an AccessLex scholarship.
AccessLex’s largest scholarship drawing for all Max users is April 1. Students are encouraged to complete their lessons by April 1 to enter. Students who have not signed up can sign up for Max here. AccessLex will give away two $25,000 scholarships and one $40,000 scholarship for each class level (1Ls, 2Ls, 3Ls).