How Much Does Law School Cost?

A law degree will potentially cost you more than $130,000 in tuition and fees alone.

Ryan LaneNovember 4, 2020
On a similar note...
On a similar note...
GettyImages-1158570162-student-loans/law-school-costs

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Law school cost roughly $44,600 per year in tuition and fees in 2019, according to an analysis of full-time tuition data from the American Bar Association.

That means you could pay more than $130,000 for a three-year law program — before accounting for costs like living expenses.

If you’re facing that potential price tag, make sure you have a plan to pay for law school that minimizes student debt. If you do need to borrow, find the best law school loans for you.

What’s the average cost of law school?

Different factors can affect the average law school tuition cost of $44,600. Here is the average tuition for categories of law schools in 2019, according to Law School Transparency, a nonprofit focused on consumer advocacy and public education:

  • Public law school for an in-state resident: $28,186.

  • Public law school for a nonresident: $41,628.

  • Private law school: $49,312.

You’ll also pay a premium to attend specific law schools. Here’s how much some top-tier law programs estimate their tuition costs to be for the 2020-21 academic year:

Law school

Tuition costs (2020-21 academic year)

Yale Law School

$65,792

Stanford Law School

$64,350

Harvard Law School

$65,875

Columbia Law School

$72,352

University of Chicago Law School

$68,652

New York University School of Law

$68,348

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

$63,610

Keep in mind that those higher price tags still don’t include additional costs a law student could have, such as books, room and board, and health insurance. For example, Yale estimated that a law student could spend roughly $26,000 on such expenses, bringing its total annual cost of attendance to about $92,000.

Nationally, living expenses for students who lived on or off-campus rather than at home averaged $22,380 in 2019, according to ABA data.

Paying for law school costs

Those annual law school costs may seem daunting. But you likely won’t pay that full “sticker” price; only about a quarter of law students did in 2018-19, according to Law School Transparency.

Law schools may reduce your costs by awarding financial aid like grants and law school scholarships, often based on merit. Be sure to use money like this — which you don’t have to repay — before turning to student loans to cover any remaining expenses.

Student loans are a necessity for many law students, and the average law school debt in 2015-16 was $145,500, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. If you need to borrow for law school, consider federal loans before private options.

Federal loans are eligible for law school loan forgiveness programs, including Public Service Loan Forgiveness. They also have options that private loans lack, like letting you make payments based on your income. You may need or want such benefits depending on your career path and how much you make as a lawyer.

If you enter a public service career, your school or state may offer a Loan Repayment Assistance Program, or LRAP, as well to help with your loan payments.

Find ways to save with NerdWallet

Really get to know your money and find cash you can put aside and grow.