Paying for Law School

Unless you've bought a house, co-op, or condominium, law school will probably be the most expensive purchase you’ve ever made. At Columbia, the top-ranked law school in New York City, tuition, fees, and health insurance can total more than $75,000 per year. At most New York City law schools, tuition and fees exceed $60,000 per year. Add living costs of approximately $25,000 per year, multiply by three years, and you’ll see that going to law school may require an investment of over a quarter million dollars. 

Unless you are a person of independent means, obtaining the money to pay for law school requires careful planning. Almost every law school provides merit-based aid, which at New York City law schools is principally based on your LSAT score. This means that, rather than being satisfied with simply achieving an LSAT score high enough to gain admission, you should strive for the highest possible LSAT score, since a gain of even two points could mean $30,000 more towards law school tuition. This might mean retaking the LSAT while your application is pending at law schools, or even after you have received an offer of admission. 

Law schools also offer need-based aid, but this takes into account parental income unless you have qualified as independent from your parents. Students who receive need-based aid are also usually expected to take out loans towards their tuition and living expenses, and the ratio of grants to loans varies from school to school. There are a variety of loan programs available, and payments are deferred until after graduation for most cohorts of students. There are even loans available to pay for two months of living expenses while you are studying for the bar exam. 

Students who attend law school with little or no scholarship assistance are likely to face six-figure indebtedness after graduation, which may mean monthly loan payments of $2000+. While graduates who work for top-level law firms may be able to pay these loans back in a few years, those who are not so fortunate may face decades of loan payments. While there are partial loan forgiveness programs for those who work in public service legal positions, loan repayment is an issue that all potential law students must seriously consider before making the expensive commitment to attend law school. 

There is additional information available on financing options for law school at AccessLex Institute's website.