Average Law School Student Loan Debt

The path to practicing law can lead to a successful career helping individuals and businesses meet the challenges of legal litigation. Lawyers are also well paid; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earn on average nearly $150,000.

However, a large portion of your salary can be used to cover the costs of your education, which can also run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Before deciding to graduate, you’ll want to consider the average debt load of different law programs and the ways you can repay that money.

Key stats: law student debt

According to the American Bar Association:

  • The average law school graduate owes about $165,000 in student debt upon graduation.
  • Over 95% of students take out loans to attend law school.
  • More than 55% of students surveyed have postponed buying a home and almost 30% have postponed or decided not to get married.

Average Law School Debt by Private Institution

The cost of attending a law school varies widely from institution to institution – while reputation and location can influence total debt, as can the amount of scholarships or grants available. The universities below are in the top tier of private law schools, but the bill varies widely, as does the percentage of graduates who end up in debt.

Institution Average amount of debt Percentage of graduates who took on debt
Colombia University $163,736 66.7%
duke university $134,948 67.3%
Harvard University $164,331 76.4%
Stanford University $131,997 64.2%
Yale University $121,476 83.3%

Source: PublicLegal

Average Law School Debt by Public Institution

For public law schools, the average amount of debt shows an even larger gap between institutions. While public schools, in general, charge less than private institutions, it can be more difficult to find major scholarships or grants.

Institution Average amount of debt Percentage of graduates who took on debt
Ohio State University $92,993 72.1%
University of Alabama $81,738 71.7%
University of California at Berkeley $137,771 69.9%
University of Michigan $133,158 70.6%
University of Virginia $156,437 62.5%

Source: PublicLegal

Average salary after law school

Law school is an investment: If you’re investing a lot of money in your education, you’ll want to reap the rewards of a salary that can justify that big expense. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s lowest-paid attorneys earn an average of about $61,490 per year, but the highest-paid legal professionals earn more than $208,000 per year.

What explains the big difference? As with any job, location matters. For example, a lawyer in San Francisco earns an average annual salary of $201,920, while a lawyer in Santa Fe can expect an average salary of $94,740. In general, metropolitan areas pay more than non-metro areas.

The work itself is also important. According to PayScale, a public defender earns an average salary of around $61,000, while a corporate lawyer earns an average of nearly $118,000.

Average Law School Loan Repayment Time

How long will it take to eliminate your law school debt? The answer depends on how much you earn, how you plan to pay it back, and what type of loan you have. Some attorneys may opt for smaller monthly payments and end up taking a lot longer to pay off their debt. Others may have a higher starting salary and choose to make larger payments and repay their loans faster.

Additionally, it’s important to note that some schools offer reimbursement assistance programs for attorneys working in the public service, so be sure to consider those options as well.

Below are some of the most common repayment schedules for graduates with law school loans.

Payment Plan Payment years
Federal Student Loans: Standard Repayment Plan 10 years
Federal Student Loans: Income-Based Repayment Plan 20 to 25 years old
Federal Student Loans: Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) 10 years on an income-based repayment plan
Private student loans 5 to 25 years old

Law school compared to other schools

Law school is not your only option for furthering your education. If you are thinking of other professions that might fit your vocation, it is important to have an idea of ​​the cost of these programs. Here is an overview of some common debts you might incur while pursuing another degree.

Type of debt Average quantity
Faculty of Law $165,000
Medicine School $207,003
dental school $304,824
Pharmacy school $173,561
veterinary school $157,146

Source: American Bar Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, American Dental Education Association, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Veterinary Medical Association

How to Pay Off Law School Debt

Don’t let the size of student loan debt for law school scare you away from pursuing your dreams of a career in the courtroom. Paying down debt requires smart budgeting and using all available options to save money. Consider some of these strategies:

  • Research loan waiver options: If you have federal student loans, there are two repayment plans that could cancel some of your debt: income-based repayment plans and government loan forgiveness.
  • Find loan repayment assistance programs: Some states offer loan repayment assistance, and the American Bar Association highlights more than 100 institutions that offer loan repayment assistance for public service work. These programs usually have income thresholds that you cannot exceed to qualify.
  • Refinance your debt: Depending on your credit, you may benefit from having your loans refinanced. It might get you a lower interest rate or monthly payment, though it’s usually not the best choice if you have federal loans.
  • Make debt part of your interview discussions: Once you’re far enough along in your job search to start receiving offers from companies, find out about employer contributions to your monthly debt payment. As law school continues to get more expensive, some companies are choosing to help offset some of the recurring costs to reduce financial stress for young employees.

The bottom line

Law school may be worth your time and money, but deciding where to go requires careful consideration of what it will mean for your long-term future. Getting your law degree can take three years (or longer if you’re going part-time), but your debt can linger much longer than your graduation date. When considering where to apply, consider all the financial implications for your life after your graduation date. In addition to making a plan for studying, landing an internship, and finding a job, you will need to make a plan for your personal finances.

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