How to Pay for Law School

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How to Pay for Law School

There’s no way around it—law school is expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to over $160,000 for most three-year law programs. Of course, as an attorney, your earning potential may be increased enough to warrant the cost. And, if working in the field of law is your true passion, you might feel that the price is well-justified. Still, you’ll need to find a way to pay for law school. Here’s how.

ac83Student Loans

Approximately 80% of all law students use federal or private student loans to help fund law school. The average student will graduate with nearly $100,000 in loans; an amount that continues to increase every year.

Four types of federal student loans may be taken:

1) Federal Subsidized Loans (Stafford Loans). Interest begins accruing 6 months    after graduation.

2) Federal Unsubsidized Loans (Stafford Loans). Interest begins accruing when the funds are received.

3) Federal Perkins Loans. Interest begins accruing 9 months after graduation.

4) Federal Graduate PLUS Loans. Interest begins accruing when the funds are received.

To receive federal loans, you will fill out the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA), which can be completed online.

Private loans have the following terms:

  • Borrow an amount up to what your credit score/income permits.
  • Interest rates vary widely.
  • Interest begins to accrue once you receive the funds.
  • The lender is a private bank or credit union. The institution sets the terms of your loan.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program

To keep law students interested in pursuing careers in less-lucrative specialities such as criminal prosecution or working with the under-privileged, legislators introduced the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Here’s how it works:


1) The student takes out loans through the Federal Direct Loan Program to finance his or her law school education.

2) After graduation, the student takes a full-time position in one of several qualified fields.

3) The attorney makes 120 on-time payments on his of her student loans. Payment amounts are based on a sliding scale that takes income into account.

4) After 120 payments, the remainder of the debt is forgiven.

Qualified fields:

Attorneys must be working in one of the following fields to qualify for the program:

  • A government organization (federal, state, local or tribal).
  • A non-profit 501 (c)(3).
  • A private organization that offers certain public services (a list of these services may be obtained from the U.S. Department of Education).

Law School Scholarships and Grants

Most law schools offer a financial aid package that includes a combination of Stafford loans, scholarships and grants. Scholarship/grant money is usually funded directly by the law school, or through endowments, and consist of three types:


  • Need-based scholarships based on personal income and family situation.
  • Mertit-based scholarships based on GPA and academic achievement.
  • Criteria-based scholarships based on specific criteria put forth by the school.

How to Pay for Law School

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