Why Is Law School So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Jean Richardson

Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

When discussing law school, people often associate it with long lectures, plenty of time spent researching, and the staggering amounts of money needed to fund a stint in law school.

While law school is surely worth its hefty price tag, it’s not often clear why it’s so expensive. Here’s what I found!

Why Is Law School So Expensive?


1. Law School Is The First Step To Become A Lawyer

Generally, becoming a lawyer is a straightforward process: after taking the LSAT, prospective law students then choose a law school, and upon graduation, they then take the Bar examinations.

Not many know that an alternative is available to those in certain states to attend law school.

In law office study, prospective lawyers—called law readers—take legal apprenticeships in place of traditional law school to prepare themselves for careers in the legal field.

However, those who opt to take the law school route are more likely to pass the bar.

Because of this, attending law school is still the more popular option for those hoping to be lawyers, thus owing to its costliness.

2. Lawyers Make More Money

Law practice is a lucrative profession relative to other careers. In 2020, the median salary of a lawyer was $126,930, which is on the higher end of the salary spectrum.

For many, this is an indispensable advantage of law school, leading them to pay a higher price for postgraduate studies.

3. LSATs & Law School Application Fees Are Costly

Before getting into law school, you would have to be admitted into a law school first.

That said, this means taking the LSAT and potentially opting to use the Law School Admission Council’s Centralized Assembly System (CAS) to consolidate applications to multiple law schools.

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Also, a law school applicant can take the LSAT multiple times to get scores that meet the requirements of the law schools they are applying to.

As such, these fees can total hundreds of dollars and contribute to the expensive nature of law school.

4. Law Schools Employ Legal Experts

In addition to the costs of applying to law schools, a law program’s faculty adds significantly to the high expense of law school.

In general, an institution’s faculty of law comprises specialists in their chosen field of law and thus provides a wealth of information to their students.

As a result, their knowledge is advantageous to law programs, and the university must compensate them properly.

Therefore, the prestige of a program’s faculty and their pay impact the high cost of attending law school.

5. Law School Offers A More Specialized Curriculum

5. Law School Offers A More Specialized Curriculum

Aside from the instructors who teach in law school, the curriculum offered in law school makes it more expensive.

Compared to undergraduate courses with a broader syllabus, the law school curriculum tends to be more technical and targeted to specific fields of law.

Additionally, many professors with expertise in various fields of law are needed to share their knowledge with law students.

As a result, these factors contribute to the high expense of law school.

6. Learning Materials Are Expensive

Law school instructional materials are typically costly. For one thing, it’s not uncommon for students to spend thousands of dollars on textbooks yearly.

Also, law students require a powerful laptop and access to the institution’s law library because they will spend a lot of time researching.

Thus, these factors contribute to the high cost of law school.

7. Law School Applicants Have Access To Fewer Scholarship Grants

Unlike undergraduate students, who have access to a plethora of scholarships, law students only have access to a limited number of grants.

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While institutions and individual benefactors grant certain scholarships, they are frequently merit-based, so only a few law students are eligible to apply.

As a result, many people who want to attend law school will have to find other means to pay for their studies.

8. Out-Of-State Law School Education Is Expensive

The location of your law school can affect the cost of attendance.

While there are many ABA-accredited law schools in America, the one you want to attend may not be the one in your state of residence.

If that’s the case, you’ll have to attend graduate school outside your home state.

However, studying out-of-state means you’ll have to pay roughly twice as much as studying law in-state.

Because out-of-state students do not pay taxes in the state where they are studying, the federal government can generate revenue by charging non-taxpaying law students higher fees.

As a result, the expense of attending law school outside of your home state is higher.

9. Law School Campuses May Be In Expensive Areas

Out-of-state law students will have to pay for their accommodation on or off-campus while in law school and pay more for their education.

Furthermore, students attending law school in areas with high living costs will likely spend more money on food and transportation throughout their program.

As such, these factors combine to contribute to the high cost of earning a legal degree.

10. Larger Borrowing Limits For Law School Loans

While law students may have fewer grants and scholarships available, one advantage of getting a law degree is taking out larger loans to pay for it.

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According to the Office of Federal Student Aid at the Department of Education, law students can borrow as much as $20,500 a year to fund their education.

Furthermore, private loans are available to cover the remaining amount not covered by the federal loan and personal savings.

Although these loans ease the burden of funding your studies, they come with the proviso that you will have to repay them at some point.

11. Higher Interest Rates For Law School Loan Repayment

Law school student loans are bigger, and so are the interest rates you’ll have to pay back for these loans.

For example, law students can get a fixed interest rate of 6.4% from the Office of Federal Student Aid; private student loans also offer far higher interest rates.

As a result, you’ll be paying interest on these loans, which means you’ll be paying more than you borrowed in the first place.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why grad school is so expensive, why Penn State is so expensive, and why NYU is so expensive.

Conclusion

Law school is expensive for various reasons, the most important of which are the impact on law school graduates’ earning ability and the law-focused curriculum.

Furthermore, the cost of learning materials and the expense of living near the university all contribute to the overall cost of pursuing law degrees.

As a result, it’s no surprise that law school is so expensive today.

Author

  • Jean Richardson is a lover of knowledge, in all forms. He has spent over 15 years as a high school teacher, instructing students in history, geography, mathematics, and more.

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