FOR LAW SCHOOL:
A PRELIMINARY GUIDE
Legal education is an investment in your future and is a
serious financial investment as well. As with any
investment, it is important to consider the pros and cons
of entering into such a large expenditure of effort, time,
and money. Particularly in uncertain financial times, a
realistic assessment of why you are seeking a legal
education and how you will pay for it is critical.
The single best source of information about financing a
legal education is the financial aid office (or the website) of any LSAC-member law school. LSAC.org provides links
to many law schools as well as several good sources of
financial aid information.
The cost of a law school education could exceed
$150,000. Tuition alone can range from a few thousand
dollars to more than $50,000 a year. When calculating the
total cost of attending law school, you also have to
include the cost of housing, food, books, transportation,
and personal expenses. Law schools will set up a “Cost of
Attendance” that includes the maximum financial aid you
may receive for tuition and living expenses. Today,
approximately 80 percent of law school students rely on
education loans as their primary, but not exclusive, source
of financial aid for law school. These loans must be paid
back, and the more a student borrows, the longer the
debt will have an impact on a student’s life after
graduation. Loans from government and private sources
at low and moderate interest rates may be available to
qualified students. Both federal and private loans are
based on the law school’s estimate of your need and the
overall cost of attendance. Credit history is a factor for
private loans and the federal GradPLUS loan. Students
must have excellent credit to be approved for most
private loans. Typically, the lowest interest rates are
associated with federal loans; private education loans may
be available at higher (and often variable) rates.
Institutional loans may be available from the school.
Scholarships, grants, and fellowships exist, but are limited. Some students are offered part-time employment through
the federal work-study program in their second and third
years of law school. First-year students are expected to
concentrate fully on schoolwork with an ABA-mandated
limitation on the number of hours full-time law students
are permitted to work.
Changes in financial aid rules and regulations are
ongoing, and law school policies vary. Therefore, it is your responsibility to stay current and to educate yourself
about financial aid in much the same way that you
research law schools when deciding where to apply.
The law school’s financial aid office will review your
application and calculate your eligibility for the various
forms of financial aid from all sources. It is important to
carefully review your package and to understand the
terms and conditions of all aid offered to you. All
applicants for federal student loans must complete the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you
plan on attending law school on or after July 1, you can
apply for federal financial aid through the FAFSA form
after January 1 of the same calendar year.
Your financial need is the difference between your
resources and the total cost of attendance. Your unmet
financial need is determined by subtracting the amount
of your federally calculated Estimated Family Contribution
(EFC), as well as any scholarships and/or grants you
receive, from the total Cost of Attendance (COA). The
budget used for determining need includes tuition, books
and supplies, as well as living expenses, transportation,
and personal expenses. The Student Expense Budget is
set by the law school and will vary by school. Consumer
debt is not included in your Student Expense Budget and
should be paid before you attend law school.
If your financial...