Economic News, Student Loans

The High Cost of Law School

If you have a knack for debating and know how to win an argument, then perhaps you can see yourself standing in front of a courtroom one day.

The decision to go to law school is a big one, and while you may like the idea of earning a generous salary and working for a prestigious law firm, you’re not so open to the idea of finishing law school with a six-figure student loan balance. It takes the average law student between two and three years to complete a degree, and according to The AM Law Daily, tuition at top law schools average $49,551 per year. Spend three years in law school and your student debt can be upwards of $150,000.

As a prospective law student you have to ask yourself, is law school worth the cost? This is a question that only you can answer. And even if you talk with practicing attorneys and ask whether they feel the degree was worth the investment, responses may vary, as lawyer salaries can range from “very impressive” to “just so-so.”

The earning potential is practically unlimited for top corporate lawyers. But for a recent grad at a small firm with less than one year under his belt, the average salary is just under $40,000. After five years on the job, he may command a salary of $54,000.

Okay, so these numbers aren’t too shabby, especially considering that many lawyers continue to advance in their fields. However, if you’re thinking that all lawyers pull in six-figure incomes, which could make up for the cost of law school, you’re sadly mistaken. data reveals a median salary of $74,164.

Again, not a bad number. But ask yourself, why am I pursuing a law degree? Maybe it’s purely for financial gain and you’re looking for a career where you can make good money and adequately take care of your family. Yet given the median salary for a lawyer, this doesn’t necessarily require grad school. In fact, with just an undergraduate degree, many majors offer similar median salaries – engineering, computer science, economics and science, just to name a few.

Then again, maybe law is your passion and you can’t imagine working in any other field. Well unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do about the cost of tuition at law school, but there are ways to reduce expenses.

1. Merit-based awards. These scholarships are awarded by many law schools, and like entry, only a small percentage of students qualify for this type of grant. If you’re one of the fortunate students, this grant can greatly reduce how much you pay for law school. Schools typically offer rewards to applicants who submit an impressive law school application, and those with high LSAT scores.

2. Go to a state school. To pave the way for better job opportunities, you may have your heart set on a top law school. However, enrolling in a public school in the state where you reside may reduce your total tuition by as much as $60,000.

3. Work, but reduce your living expenses. If possible, try and hold down a job while finishing law school. Go a step further and live with your parents as you work toward your degree. With few living expenses and regular employment, pay off some of your tuition while in school and reduce how much you owe after graduation.