Law School Costs
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Gloria Allred, Thurgood Marshall. These famous lawyers have all chosen different paths, fueled by their dedication and passion for the law and for doing what is right. People who choose to pursue a law degree may have different motivations, but they seem to share a sense of determination and integrity needed to succeed as a lawyer.
If you’re considering law school, you know it’s an expensive business. But it’s a path with many opportunities beyond the courtroom. This is why you should consider all the costs associated with law school so that you are prepared and informed before making the decision.
Use the guide below to find out how to get started and understand what law school costs.
Law School Requirements
Most law degree programs require a four-year bachelor’s degree. Many students study subjects like English, government, history, philosophy, or economics, but no specific major is required. The American Bar Association (ABA) suggests that taking “a wide range of challenging courses taught by demanding instructors is excellent preparation for legal training.”
Some undergraduate programs also offer pre-law counseling, which can help you get a better idea of what a career in law might look like. The counselor will also help you choose appropriate undergraduate courses and facilitate your law school application process. To apply, you must pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), which assesses reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, and logical reasoning.
Once you are accepted, you will begin a three-year program (some schools offer a four-year part-time program) to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. During the first year of law school, students take courses in torts, contracts, constitutional law, civil procedure, property, and a legal writing course. Second- and third-year courses vary by institution, but generally require writing credits, experiential electives, professional responsibility courses, and more. These give you the opportunity to explore specialist areas and learn what interests you most, such as tax, labor or company law. Cornell Law School suggests that sophomores take courses in administrative law, business organizations, evidence, and federal income tax for a wide range of topics. During the third year of law school, students will take elective courses covering their chosen specialty, including seminars and problem solving courses.
To become a practicing attorney, students must pass a “bar” licensing exam for the state in which they wish to practice. According to BLS, “most states require applicants to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar examinations, and be found by an admissions board to have the necessary character to represent and advise others.” Even after being called to the bar, lawyers are expected to continue their training as often as every year.
Tuition and Average Costs of Private and Public Law Schools
The cost of law school varies depending on where you study. According educationdata.orgthe average cost of law school, including tuition and living expenses, is $68,726 (not accounting for cost differences between out-of-state and in-state expenses).
Tuition fees vary from institution to institution, and the price of books, food, housing, and supplies is equally variable. Here is a breakdown of the average costs by facility type:
AVERAGE PRIVATE LAW SCHOOL COSTS
$53,034 Tuition and Fees
AVERAGE PUBLIC LAW SCHOOL COSTS
Resident (in state)
$29,610 Tuition and Fees
Non-resident (out of state)
$42,754 Tuition and Fees
According American News, the average annual cost of an out-of-state public law school is $42,754, compared to a much higher private school at $53,034. The cheapest choice would be to attend a public law school in the state at an average of $29,610 per year. Even for the cheapest option, state public school, the cost over three years is $88,830.
Total cost of law school
Over three years, a law student can expect to pay anywhere from $88,830 (in-state public school) to $159,102 (private school) and more. If you use the average cost, including tuition and living expenses, and multiply it by 3 years of study, you could incur average costs of $206,178 to attend law school. Be sure to look at each school’s expenses, including the differences in law school attendance in-state versus out-of-state.
These numbers can be overwhelming, especially when going straight from undergraduate to law school. But according to BLS, the median annual salary for a lawyer is $127,990 in 2021, with the top ten percent earning more than $208,000 a year. There are also many options for paying for law school. Specialized student loansaffordable grants, scholarships, and programs can make it easier to pay off your mind and your wallet.
Understanding the cost of law school is just one step in a long career journey. Be sure to use the right tools and research available to make wise choices and prepare for the future you deserve.