How Much Does Law School Cost?April 12, 2021
While law can be an exciting and lucrative career, you should know that a law degree is substantially more expensive than most undergraduate programs. In fact, the cost of attending a public in-state law school is nearly 130% more expensive than the average cost of attending college at a public in-state university for undergrad.
If you’re wondering about the average law school cost and whether the expense is worth it, here’s what you should know.
Requirements to Attend Law School
Going to law school is a big commitment. Not only do you have to complete four years of undergraduate school to get a bachelor’s degree, but you will also have to complete three years of law school.
To get into law school, you’ll need a strong GPA. Most schools require you to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), a half-day exam that tests your logical reasoning, analytical abilities, and reading comprehension. LSAT scores range from 120 to 180, and schools typically look for higher LSAT scores to determine scholarship awards.
While majoring in pre-law isn’t necessary, law schools do look for a rigorous course load during your undergrad. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, completing majors and courses in public speaking, English, government, history, economics can be useful.
Schools will look for extracurricular involvement, such as campus activities, college internships and leadership roles you’ve maintained. You’ll also need recommendations from professors, mentors or managers.
Average Annual Cost of Going to Public or Private Law School
How much does it cost to go to law school? Prepare for a big expense:
- Average tuition and fees at a private law school: $51,268
- Average tuition and fees at a public out-of-state law school: $42,143
- Average tuition and fees at a public in-state law school: $29,074
Like undergraduate degrees, attending a public in-state university can be a smart way to lower your education costs and save money. However, there are some advantages to attending a private school.
Related: Check out this article on the pros and cons of attending a private school for more information about private vs. public colleges.
Total Cost of Attending Law School
When thinking about law school costs, it’s important to know that the figure for tuition and fees is only a small portion of what you’ll spend for a law degree.
The total cost of attendance can be significantly higher than the cost of just tuition and fees; for example, at Harvard Law, tuition and fees are $67,720. But the total cost of attendance is a staggering $104,200 — a difference of over $36,000.
While those numbers can be intimidating, keep in mind that you may not have to pay that whole amount yourself. Just 25% of students pay the full sticker price for law school. Grants, scholarships, and tuition discount programs can help lower the cost of law school.
Is Law School Worth It?
With a law degree costing well into the six figures, you may be second-guessing your plans to attend law school. Before making a decision, consider these factors:
Really spend some time thinking about your career goals. In a Gallup poll, just 23% of law school graduates said their law degrees were worth the cost. If you’ve always wanted to be a prosecutor, public defender, or corporate attorney, law school might be a smart option. But if you plan on pursuing another career path and think that law school will enhance your resume, you may want to reconsider.
While law school is expensive, the payoff can be worth it. Lawyers tend to earn higher-than-average salaries.
As of 2019, the median pay for all lawyers in the private and public sectors is $122,960. Attorneys working for major law firms or corporations can command even higher salaries and earn lucrative bonuses.
Lawyers are in high demand, so you can likely enjoy job security if you pursue a law career.
As of 2020, 90% of law school graduates landed jobs after finishing school, far higher than the employment rate for all majors.
Scholarships and grants
If you have high LSAT scores and a competitive GPA, you may be eligible for scholarships, grants, and tuition discounts that can make law school more affordable. According to experts, top candidates can see their costs reduced by as much as $100,000.
Total student loan debt required
If you plan on attending law school, you’ll likely need to take out student loans to pay for it. It’s a common issue; 69% of law school graduates leave school with student loan debt, with an average balance of $145,500.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that borrowers limit their student loan debt to one year of their expected salary after graduation. By that reasoning, since the median pay is $122,960, that means you should try to borrow less than that number.
Student Loans for Law School
How much does law school cost? Now that you know the answer, you can decide whether law school is right for you.
If you choose to go to law school and need to borrow money to pay for it, you have the following student loan options:
- Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans: Direct Unsubsidized Loans are a form of federal loan. In law school, you can borrow up to $20,500 per year. However, there is an aggregate cap; borrowers are limited to $138,500 in total Direct loans, including what they took out for undergraduate study.
- Federal Grad PLUS Loans: Another form of federal loan, Grad PLUS Loans allow you to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. However, Grad PLUS Loans have much higher interest rates than Direct Unsubsidized Loans.
- Private student loans: ELFI offers student loans for aspiring lawyers. With private loans, you can qualify for competitive interest rates based on your credit and borrow up to the total cost of attendance.
You can use ELFI’s Find My Rate tool to get a rate quote for private law school loans without affecting your credit score.*