More than half of law students have to take out loans to attend school, and they graduate with debt. The average law school debt is $160,000. Student loans for law school can take between ten and 30 years to pay off. There are various forgiveness programs and repayment plans that can help with student loan debt, so long as you meet the qualifications.
If you’re interested in going to law school and becoming a lawyer, it is likely that you will have to take out some kind of loan to afford it. In 2020, 95% of law school students had to take out a loan to attend school. And in 2021, 74% of law school graduates left school with student debt.
But what is the average debt for attending law school? And is it worth it? In this article, we will cover the basic statistics of law school debt, how to repay it, and if law school is worth it.
What is the average law school debt?
How much you pay for law school depends on where you go, but there’s no cheap way to get a law degree. 74% of law school students graduate with student debt. It costs around $63,000 a year to attend a top-ten law school. The average student loan debt for law school graduates is $160,000.
You may accumulate more debt if you choose to attend a private law school. Public law schools cost around $28,000 annually for in-state students and $41,700 for out-of-state students. Meanwhile, it costs an average of $50,000 a year to go to a private law school.
How much do you earn as a lawyer?
It depends on what type of law you pursue, but the average law school graduate will earn about $55,000 as a starting salary. Some attorneys, such as corporate attorneys and patent attorneys, earn a high salary of over $130,000. In comparison, public defenders only earn about $70,711 annually.
How long will it take to repay law school loans?
It can take anywhere from ten to 30 years to pay off law school loans. The amount of time it will take to pay off student loan debt for law school will depend on your type of loan and your income. Law school debt is typically around four times more than debt for an undergraduate degree.
How do you pay off law school debt?
Many will have to take out federal student loans to pay for law school. In 2020 alone, 95.2% of law school students had to take out a loan to attend law school. Student loans can greatly influence a graduate’s personal life and mental health, so it’s beneficial to know your repayment plans. Here are a few tips for paying off student loans when the time comes:
There are a few repayment plans you can look into to pay for your student loan debt. These include:
- Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Plan
- Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAY) Plan
- Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Plan
- Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) Plan
Public service loan forgiveness (PSLF)
PSLF is for graduated students who have made 120 monthly payments and fit specific requirements. To qualify for a PSLF, you must:
- Work full time for a tribal, federal, state, or local government, or for a non-profit organization
- Be repaying your loans under an income-driven repayment plan
- Have made 120 monthly payments
To learn more about this, check out this page on the Federal Student Aid website.
Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAP)
LRAP grants financial aid to law school graduates who work in lower-paid jobs such as those in the government and public-interest sector. If you are eligible, you could receive help with paying your loan, or it could be forgiven. Here is a full list of schools offering LRAP.
Student loan refinancing
Refinancing your student loan could be a good option, too. This could lower your interest rates and make it a bit more affordable.
Is law school worth it? Things to consider
While being a lawyer can be a well-paying and rewarding job, it is a lot of work. Law school is demanding and expensive, and fewer than one in four say the debt was worth the cost.
A law degree has some of the lowest cost-benefit satisfaction compared to other higher degrees. While a doctoral degree has a 63% satisfaction rate and a Master of Science has a 49% cost-benefit satisfaction rate, a law degree has only a 23%. So, here are a few things to consider before you choose to attend law school.
Passing the bar exam
Even if you graduate from law school, you still have to pass the bar exam before officially becoming a lawyer or attorney. Keep this in mind when choosing whether or not to go to law school.
Law school graduates who pass the bar exam have a good chance of gaining employment. In 2020, 77.4% of law school graduates were employed within 10 months of graduating, lower than in 2018 and 2019. The drop has been attributed to COVID-19.
As we’ve discussed here, attending law school is costly. By committing to law school, you are, on the negative side, committing to paying off student loan debt for a good number of years. But, on the positive side, the salary and employment rate are decently high.
How much law school debt is too much?
The average law school student owes $160,000 in student loans. Some law positions are higher paying than others. Research the type of lawyer you want to be before diving into law school.
Is the debt worth becoming a lawyer?
Law school is very expensive, and the cost-benefit satisfaction rate is only 23%. Do some research into universities, the job, and the bar exam before committing to law school.
- The average student loan debt for law school is $160,000.
- 74% of law school students graduate with student debt.
- It can take between ten and 30 years to repay law school student loans.
- Repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs can help alleviate student loan debt.
Already overwhelmed by student debt? Consider debt settlement
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by student debt, look into student loan debt settlement companies. SuperMoney has listed some companies that can help and answered frequently asked questions.
View Article Sources
- 2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey Report — American Bar Association
- Average Law School Debt — Education Data Initiative.
- Average Time to Repay Student Loans — Education Data Initiative
- If your federal student loan payments are high compared to your income, you may want to repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan. — Federal Student Aid
- Law School Class Of 2020 Sees Employment Rate Take A Tumble Thanks To COVID-19 — Above the Law
- Law Schools Where Graduates Have the Most Debt — U.S. News & World Report
- Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAP) — American Bar Association
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) — Federal Student Aid
- Alternatives to Student Loans: Avoiding the Debt — SuperMoney
- Best Personal Loans for Students — SuperMoney
- Don’t Get Buried in Student Loan Debt — SuperMoney
- How to Pay for Grad School — SuperMoney
- The Ultimate Guide to Student Loan Refinancing — SuperMoney
Camilla has a background in journalism and business communications. She specializes in writing complex information in understandable ways. She has written on a variety of topics including money, science, personal finance, politics, and more. Her work has been published in the HuffPost, KSL.com, Deseret News, and more.