Law School Student Loan Debt Statistics

Law School Student Loan Debt Statistics

Similar to medical school, law school students generally need to have a bachelor’s degree to be accepted. As such, many students already have student loan debt from their first degree before they even enter law school.

Law school student loan debt statistics

  • Students borrow $118,100 on average to attend law school
  • By the time they graduate, the average law school student owes $180,000 in total student loan debt
  • 7 of every 10 law school students graduate in debt
  • It is more expensive to attend a top 10 law school with students borrowing an additional $40,000 on average
  • Within 1 year of graduation, 94% of students have a full-time job

Satisfaction and consequences of student loan debt for law school students

Advanced degrees include a Ph.D., medical degree, master’s degree, and law degree amongst others.

  • Law graduates are the least likely of the major advanced degrees to believe their degree was worth the cost of their education
  • Only 23% of law school graduates believe their degree was worth the cost
  • This compares to almost two-thirds of doctors who believe their degree was worth the cost
Degree type% satisfied
Medical degree58%
Master of science49%
Master of art45%
Master of business42%
Law degree23%

Consequences of large student loan debt for law school graduates

The impact of student loan debt can be quite dramatic for law school graduates. It can impact the rest of their lives in both a personal and professional sense.

  • 51.8% of lawyers with student loan debts have delayed purchasing property due to large student loan debt 
  • 39% of law school graduates with student loan debt have decided to either put off, or not have children due to large student loan debts
  • 26.7% of recent graduates have delayed or decided against marriage due to the financial burden of large student loan debt

Student loan repayment and managing debt for law school students

  • Lawyers have reported as much as 75% of their disposable income goes towards repaying student loan debt
  • 26% of law school graduates have chosen jobs that will allow their student loan debt to be forgiven rather than jobs they wanted due to their student loan debt – many of these jobs require at least 10 years of service before loans are forgiven
  • While in law school, 57% of students work to cover debts and tuition fees

Many students are unaware of the amount they will end up repaying to pay off their student loans in full and how much higher this is than the initial amount that they borrowed.

  • Prior to the CARE Act, the interest rate on Grad PLUS loans was 7.54% and 6.54% on Direct Unsubsidized loans for grad students
  • Students also pay a loan fee of 4.228% on Direct PLUS loans that they never receive but are required to repay

The large loan amounts, relatively high interest rates and relatively low starting salary of a new lawyer makes student loan repayments very difficult at a manageable level.

The average starting salary for a new lawyer is:

  • $60,000 in the public sector
  • $68,300 in the private sector

Repayment based on average starting salary

  • Based on the average starting salary it is impossible for a new lawyer to pay off their student loans with 10% of their salary going towards repayments
  • The interest means the balance grows faster than it is paid off
  • By upping the amount to 20%, a public sector lawyer would take 38 years to pay off their student loan
  • It would cost them a total of $547,150 – $367,150 of which is interest

How do students who do not take loans pay for law school?

  • 71% of law school students graduate with student loan debt
  • For the remaining 29%, they fund their studies through a variety of means – often using multiple different methods
  • 68.1% of these students receive report from their families
  • 58.9% use their own savings
  • 58.4% use scholarships or grants
  • 34.1% of students work their way through law school but this is very difficult for many given the high cost of tuition 
  • Almost 10% (9.2%) receive support from the employers
Source of payment% of use
Support from family68.1%
Own savings58.9%
Work through school34.1%
Employer support9.2%
Credit card debt7.6%