“How much is law school?” is a question that weighs heavy on anyone thinking “”. But even though most people think of law school tuition, living costs and other expenses when they think “how much is law school?”, there are costs associated with getting a law degree before and after law school. Before law school, you have to spend money to learn ; you have to spend money applying to law schools; and some people even spend money on and . After graduation, you need to reckon with your law school debt, along with the cost of preparing for the bar exam, which requires both time and money. This article will take you through all the costs of going to law school so you have a clearer more comprehensive picture of how much is law school.
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So, you’ve decided you want to go to law school. But now you might be asking not only how much is law school, but also “” and “”, which are all important questions, but let’s focus solely on the costs. Regardless of whether you’re a high school or undergraduate student, one of the first costs associated with going to law school is preparing for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a skills-based exam that you have to take to get into any law school, although there are
However, the law schools that don’t require the LSAT are usually on the list of , or Graduate Record Examination, which is another standardized test used in graduate school admissions. Many now accept instead of the LSAT, so there is no getting around either the LSAT or GRE, unless you decide to attend a non-, which usually don’t require any kind of entrance exams.
Preparing for the LSAT is important for many reasons, the chief among them being that having a high LSAT score will give you more choice when applying to law schools. Getting into the top (170-180) will open a lot of doors. With those scores you can apply to any law school you want with a good chance that you will receive significant entrance scholarships that can help cover most, if not all, of the costs of law school. But LSAT prep, which can range from an to hiring an , is not cheap.
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Still, getting expert LSAT prep help may be worth the cost if it helps you get into your dream law school. You should know that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time you spend studying for the LSAT and your eventual score; meaning, the more time you invest into studying, the higher your LSAT score. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) found that people who took the most ended up getting higher scores than those who took fewer practice tests.
Preparing for the LSAT all on your own, while you are still in university, can be taxing, which is why premium resources are so valuable if you have the means to afford them. Paid LSAT study resources can give you personalized, one-on-one training, help you design an , and adjust your study strategies based on your academic strengths and weaknesses, making your study time more efficient and effective.
But what about the cost? The price for premium LSAT prep courses ranges from $800 to as high as $1,700. Fortunately, many LSAT prep companies offer their services in tiers, so you can choose between budget options, which include the bare bones of study materials, such as access to online resources and courses, a certain number of practice tests, and a personalized study plan. More expensive plans include one-on-one instruction with an experienced LSAT tutor, live, in-person instruction, and unlimited LSAT practice tests.
Total Cost for LSAT Prep: $1,198 (average price)
LSAT Test Fees
Another cost associated with how much is law school is the fees involved to take the LSAT, which is $222 to take a single test. However, you must also register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS), which is associated with LSAC and collects your transcripts and other application materials, such as your law school letters of recommendation to send to law schools. Registering with the CAS costs another $200. But CAS issues reports (grades, LSAT scores, letters of recommendation), which you must send to each law school you apply to; each CAS report costs $45, which has increased 80% over only four years (the report used to cost only $25).
But LSAC offers various add-ons and special services that you can pay for, but are not mandatory, such as the Score Preview service where you can see your LSAT score and decide whether you want to keep it on your record or cancel it. If you want to change your close to your chosen date, that will cost you $135. Again, these are optional costs, so you do not have to pay them to take the LSAT, but it’s worth keeping them in mind as you plan.
However, one way you can save on LSAT fees is by applying for a fee waiver through LSAC. If you demonstrate financial need (you must supply tax information), the organization will waive several fees associated with the test, such as taking the LSAT or the score preview fee. Additionally, a fee waiver also applies to the various study resources that LSAC normally charges for, such as the LawHub, which is LSAC’s in-house law school preparation service. You’ll receive a one-year subscription to LawHub to help prepare for the LSAT and your first year of law school, which has a value of close to $250. In all, a fee waiver can save you up to $1,400. What’s more, if you qualify for a LSAC fee waiver, many law schools will also waive their law school application fees, netting you even more savings.
Total Cost of LSAT Fees: $869 (assuming you send out five CAS reports, take the LSAT twice, and don’t qualify for a fee waiver)
Law School Application Fees
Once you’ve taken the LSAT and have the rest of your application ready (, , etc.), you can start applying to law schools. Fortunately, law school application fees are usually the lowest cost associated with how much is law school. Every law school charges something different. charges $85 per application; so, does . The application fees are not much different for the , such the University of Chicago Law School ($80) and Duke University Law School ($90).
These costs may seem minimal, but you have to keep in mind that, on average, most law school applicants apply to anywhere between seven to a dozen different law schools. So, let’s say you apply to all of the in the US, which are the highest-rated schools according to most . Taking the average $80 application fee for each school that comes to a total of $1,120 to just for application fees, if you don’t qualify for a fee waiver.
Total Cost of Law School Application Fees: $1,120 (assuming you apply to all T14 law schools)
Law School Tuition/Cost of Attendance
Up to this point, you’ve spent about $3,187 preparing for the LSAT, taking the LSAT and applying to law schools. But now, assuming you’ve gotten into your preferred program comes the biggest cost involved in thinking about how much is law school – law school tuition. Of course, how much you pay in tuition depends on several factors, including your law school, your background (whether you’re an in-state, out-of-state or international student), whether you qualify for entrance scholarships, or renewable scholarships and whether you’ve taken out public or private student loans to pay for law school.
Aside from tuition, you also have to worry about living expenses, and ancillary fees that all law schools charge to cover educational materials, health insurance, technology costs and other things. The total cost-of-attendance (tuition + living expenses) varies between every law school and is difficult to calculate for every person. But let’s assume that you’re a traditional law school student (direct-entry from college) and you’re attending a public, state school as an in-state student.
Let’s use the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law as an example, as it sits in the middle between two extremes of the and most expensive law schools in the US. The school is also in the top 15 law schools that is the easiest to pay off student debt. The University of Missouri-Columbia is a public university and it charges different tuition for in-state and out-of-state students, but for this example, we’ll assume you’re an in-state student.
This means you’ll pay $22,818 as an in-state student, but tuition for out-of-state residents is $28,818, which is much reasonable than other schools who charge much more for out-of-state residents. All students have to pay at least $1,059 in fees each year for three years. Then, there are the living expenses. You’ll spend up to $20,000 a year living on-campus, in shared accommodation as well as for food, books and other expenses. All told, you’ll spend:
- $68,454 (three years of tuition)
- $3,177 (three years of fees)
- $60,000 (three years' worth of living expenses)
Taking all this into consideration, how can you pay for all this? Well, all incoming students at the University of Missouri are automatically considered for entrance scholarships, which are merit-based, so you have even more incentive to pay for LSAT prep, as you will have a greater chance of winning these no-application entrance scholarships. The average amount given out by the school is $22,392, and between 71% and 76% of entering students receive some form of financial assistance from the university; 25% of all incoming students qualify for a full-tuition law school scholarship.
Your next option is taking out federal student loans, which over 90% of all law students in the US do. You can use the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to apply not only for federal aid but also private and institutional scholarships based on financial need. FAFSA has a tuition aid calculator where you can determine your eligibility and loan amount based on your income level, family size and your assets.
Since we assumed that you’re a traditional, full-time student, this means that you will not have the opportunity to work during your studies. However, although many schools recommend against this, it’s not uncommon for students to take a part-time job or participate in an on-campus work-study program to earn some money to help offset living expenses at least; the University of Missouri has a work-study program.
Total Cost of Law School Attendance at University of Missouri-Columbia: $131,631
Bar Exam Prep
You’ve graduated law school with at least $160,000 in debt (the median cumulative amount for most law students in the US), and now comes the hard part: passing the bar. If the LSAT was the biggest hurdle for then the bar exam is an even bigger hurdle, and requires even more preparation, which means paying for bar exam prep courses. The average cost of taking the bar exam in the US is $550; it’s higher or lower in some states. But each state has its own fees and costs, along with the various bar exams they require you to complete. According to the American Bar Association, the most commonly used bar exams are the:
- Multistate Bar Examination (MBE)
- Multistate Essay Examination (MEE)
- Multistate Performance Test (MPT)
- Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE)
Taking the bar exam takes 12 hours spread out over two days (two six-hour periods). Each state has different requirements for which tests you should take. Some states use different combinations of the four above tests; the MPRE and MBE are usually the main tests with each state deciding whether you should take the MEE, or the MPT. But some use the Uniform Bar Examination, which consists of the MBE, MEE, and MPT but not the MPRE.
Regardless of which exams you have to take, if you want to start practicing law right away to pay off your loans, you must pass the bar exam to get your licence; without it, you’re not a lawyer. Given how important it is, many people invest in bar exam prep, which we count as another cost involved with how much is law school, as not being able to pass the bar exam or not being able to pay this cost means you cannot practice law. Bar exam prep costs much more than even the most expensive LSAT prep course.
How Much is Bar Exam Prep?
In the US, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 and $4,000 for a professional bar exam course. But what’s more troubling about these figures is that not everyone passes the bar exam on their first time; 78% of first-time test-takers successfully pass the exam. Many test-takers end up taking the exam again, which incurs more prep costs and test-taking fees. And while you can get help in paying for law school, or getting LSAT fees waived, you can’t escape the costs of taking the bar exam, and neither can you skimp on a prep course.
Adding even more pressure is the fact that most law school graduates return to regular life after law school, meaning jobs, bills, and other responsibilities that take away from your ability to adequately prepare for the bar exam (you have only a of passing the bar if you work during your study period, even if its part-time).
For this reason, many law school graduates put off taking the bar exam, until they have both the time and money to dedicate to studying, which, in turn, delays loan repayments. However, graduates who are able to dedicate the time right after they graduate spend up to five months to study for the exam, at least eight hours a day. Similar to the LSAT, the more you prepare for the bar the more likely you are to pass.
Total Cost of Bar Exam Prep and Fees: $2,600 (average cost of bar exam prep course) + $550 (average fee to take the bar exam) = $3,150
The answer to how much is law school is an average of $137,968; the sum of all the costs we talked about here. But this is obviously not a universal figure. There are many different factors affecting how much is law school. We took one route, which applies to most people who want to go to law school – traditional student, in-state, going to a mid-tier law school. But there are hundreds of variations. You can take part-time classes or go to an to get your degree remotely to reduce costs and how much time you spend in law school. These options let you work at the same time as studying, so that’s why part-time and online law schools are preferred by mature or returning students.
One more thing we should mention are Loan Repayment Assistance Programs, which are repayment programs specifically for law students who want to enter lower-paying legal jobs in government, or public interest law. If you want to practice in these fields, and if your law school or state bar association offers them, you can apply for grants to help pay your debt in exchange for service in a public interest organization, such as a public defender’s office or a non-profit organization.
1. Decide What Lawyer You Want to Be
The kind of law you want to practice and the kind of lawyer you want to be play a significant role in determining how much is law school. Of course, you may not know what kind of lawyer you want to be until you get to law school, or you could change your mind while studying. But you should settle early (during your undergraduate) on what kind of law interests you, which can then help you choose a law school.
If you want to go to the to be an international lawyer, then that will cost more than staying in your home state and going to a state public school. But, at the same time, you shouldn’t think that you can’t get a high-quality education (in any legal field) at a more cost-effective law school. While its counter-intuitive, it is sometimes more cost-effective to go to a high-cost law school (especially if you have great stats), as they may be able to offer more scholarships, grants, and bar exam preparation, which then leads to you passing the bar sooner and getting a high-paying job after graduation.
2. Get Above-Average Metrics (GPA, LSAT or GRE)
We talked a lot about LSAT prep and the importance of getting high LSAT scores, but they are doubly important when it comes to talking about how much is law school. Having high LSAT scores – within the 75th to 90th percentile – can lead to entrance scholarships and other merit-based scholarships to help you pay for law school. The same goes for your GPA, so you should retake courses where you got low grades in or take extra-credit courses during the summer before you apply to boost your GPA. You should also put a lot of time (and maybe money) into your LSAT prep to ensure you get the highest possible score. If you can, and are eligible, try applying for an LSAT fee waiver, which will not only eliminate your LSAT fees but give you top-notch, and free, prep resources.
3. Start Saving Early
If you’ve made your decision to go to law school very early, in high school or your sophomore year, you can start working and saving to help pay for law school. Only 11% of law students in the US graduate without any debt; 65% of those relied on personal savings to get by, so if you start saving as early as possible, you could have enough to cover all the costs we talked about here, without having to borrow money and take on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. Even if you work and save during your undergraduate, you may not be able to cover all your costs, but the money you save will be useful to pay for the associated costs of applying and going to law school.
1. How much is law school?
Based on what we found, you can pay close to $137,968 for all the costs associated with going to law school.
2. What are the costs associated with going to law school?
The main costs involved in how much is law school are tuition, cost-of-living expenses, LSAT prep, applying to law schools, and studying for the bar exam.
3. What is the average tuition for law schools?
On average, most law schools charge anywhere between $80,000 and $100,000, but you can find programs that charge only a few thousand dollars in tuition for in-state applicants to public, state law schools.
4. What is the average debt load for most law students?
Most law students graduate with a median $130,000 in student debt.
5. How can I control my costs for going to law school?
You can control your costs by saving up as much as you can before going to law school, applying for fee waivers, using free LSAT prep resources, do well academically or score high LSAT score to increase your eligibility for entrance scholarships, and choosing a law school that will best prepare you for getting a job after graduation.
6. How much money should I borrow?
If you do have to borrow money to pay for law school (and most people do), you should make a budget for how much you’ll spend to go to a few law schools, and then borrow only that amount. You can also save by adhering to this budget and spending wisely while in law school, or applying for as many scholarships as you can, which can also help reduce how much you borrow.
7. How can I apply for law school scholarships?
You can apply for a variety of different law school scholarships, but some you don’t have to apply for at all. Some entrance scholarships are awarded automatically if you have a high GPA or LSAT score. But you should also be on the lookout for scholarship opportunities before, during and after law school.
8. Why is law school so expensive?
There are so many different reasons for why law school is so expensive ranging from rising salaries for starting lawyers to inflation.