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9 Best Law School Loans of July 2024

If free financial aid won’t cover all your law school costs, opt for federal student loans before private loans.

Cecilia Clark
By
Last updated on July 11, 2024
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed
Karen Gaudette Brewer
Edited by
✅ Fact checked and reviewed

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NerdWallet's student loans content, including articles, reviews and recommendations, is produced by a team of writers and editors who specialize in consumer lending. Their work has appeared in The Associated Press, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Nasdaq, MSN, ABC News, MarketWatch and many other national and regional media outlets. They also have appeared on NerdWallet's “Smart Money” podcast, as well as local TV and radio.
Top Private Student Loan Lenders
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2024 Best Private Student Loan Overall
College Ave Private Student Loan
5.0/5
NerdWallet rating
College Ave Private Student Loan
Fixed APR
3.99-17.99%
Variable APR
5.59-17.99%
Min. credit score
Mid-600s
on College Ave's website
on Credible’s website
Sallie Mae Undergraduate Student Loan
Fixed APR
4.15-15.49%
Variable APR
5.37-15.70%
Min. credit score
Mid-600's
on Sallie Mae's website
on Credible’s website

Best Law School Loans

Lender
NerdWallet Rating
Min. credit score
Fixed APR
Variable APR
Learn more
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Read review

None

5.50-7.05%

N/A

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

5.0
/5
Best for Manageable payments post-graduation

None

7.54-7.54%

N/A

Sallie Mae Law School Loan

Sallie Mae Law School Loan

GO TO LENDER SITE
on Sallie Mae's website
on Sallie Mae's website
COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
4.5
/5
Best for Private law school loans

Mid-600's

4.15-14.47%

5.37-14.97%

College Ave Law Student Loan

College Ave Law Student Loan

5.0
/5
Best for Private law school loans

Mid-600s

4.22-14.49%

5.59-14.49%

Ascent Law Student Loan

Ascent Law Student Loan

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
4.5
/5
Best for Private law school loans

Low-Mid 600s

5.04-15.21%

7.74-15.85%

COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
Earnest Law School Loan

Earnest Law School Loan

4.5
/5
Best for Private law school loans

650

4.45-14.90%

4.99-15.30%

Our pick for

All borrowers as a first option

You can borrow up to $20,500 per year in unsubsidized loans, which may not be enough to cover all your law school costs.

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan
Read review
Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan

5.0
Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

5.50-7.05%

Variable APR

N/A

Key factsBest first option for all student loan borrowers.
Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers than other lenders.
  • Subsidized loans do not collect interest while in school or during deferment.
  • Lower interest rates than many private lenders.
Cons
  • You pay an origination fee.
Qualifications
  • No credit check or minimum income is needed to borrow.
  • Loan amounts for undergraduates: $5,500 year one, $6,500 year two, $7,500 year three and thereafter, up to a total of $31,000
  • Independent students and graduate students have higher loan limits.
  • Undergraduate interest rate fixed at 3.73%, while grad students get higher 5.28% rate
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.
Read Full Review

Our pick for

Manageable payments post-graduation

Federal programs like income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness make graduate PLUS loans best for those who plan to go into public interest law or government. They’re also a solid choice for those who want to keep their career options open.

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Federal Grad PLUS Loan

Min. credit score

None

Fixed APR

7.54-7.54%

Variable APR

N/A

Key facts

Graduate students can receive only unsubsidized direct loans. They can also qualify for federal graduate PLUS loans, which have higher interest rates and fees than unsubsidized loans but allow you to borrow more money.

Pros
  • More flexible repayment options for struggling borrowers compared with private lenders.
  • All borrowers who attend a school authorized to receive federal aid can qualify.
Cons
  • May have higher interest rates compared with private lenders.
  • You pay an origination fee.
  • You can’t see if you’ll qualify without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
  • Grad PLUS loan borrowers must not have adverse credit history.
  • Borrowers with adverse credit history can still receive a grad PLUS loan by enlisting a co-signer without adverse credit history or documenting extenuating circumstances for their credit history.
  • Loan amounts: Total cost of attendance minus other financial aid.
Available Term Lengths10 to 25 years once repayment begins, depending on the repayment plan.

Our pick for

Private law school loans

Sallie Mae Law School Loan
COMPARE RATES
on Credible’s website
on Credible’s website
Sallie Mae Law School Loan

Sallie Mae Law School Loan

4.5
Min. credit score

Mid-600's

Fixed APR

4.15-14.47%

Variable APR

5.37-14.97%

Key facts

Rating and details displayed are for Sallie Mae's private student loan. Sallie Mae's law school loan is available to students enrolled less than half-time, making this a good option if you're studying for your JD at night or part-time. The loan also offers 48 months of deferment during a clerkship or fellowship.

Pros
  • One of the few lenders to provide loans to part-time students.
  • Non-U.S. citizens, including DACA students, can apply with a U.S. co-signer.
Cons
  • You can't see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
Qualifications
    Available Term Lengths10 to 20 years
    DisclaimerLowest rates shown include the auto debit. Advertised APRs for Law School Loan assume a $10,000 loan with a 3-year in-school period. Interest rates for variable rate loans may increase or decrease over the life of the loan based on changes to the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent. Advertised variable rates are the starting range of rates and may vary outside of that range over the life of the loan. Interest is charged starting when funds are sent to the school. With the Fixed and Deferred Repayment Options, the interest rate is higher than with the Interest Repayment Option and Unpaid Interest is added to the loan’s Current Principal at the end of the grace/separation period. To receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate discount, the borrower or cosigner must enroll in auto debit through Sallie Mae. The discount applies only during active repayment for as long as the Current Amount Due or Designated Amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. It may be suspended during forbearance or deferment. Advertised APRs are valid as of 7/12/2024.
    College Ave Law Student Loan

    College Ave Law Student Loan

    Min. credit score

    Mid-600s

    Fixed APR

    4.22-14.49%

    Variable APR

    5.59-14.49%

    Key factsBest for law students who'll need extra time before starting repayment.
    Pros
    • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
    • Nine-month grace period is longer than other lenders offer.
    • You can defer payments up to an additional 12 months during clerkship after your grace period.
    Cons
    • You must be at least halfway through your repayment term before you can request a co-signer release.
    Qualifications
    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: Mid-700s.
    • Minimum income: $35,000 per year.
    • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to the total cost of attendance.
    Available Term Lengths5, 8, 10, 15 or 20 years
    DisclaimerCollege Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC.. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply. As certified by your school and less any other financial aid you might receive. Minimum $1,000. Rates shown include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. If a payment is returned, you will lose this benefit. Variable rates may increase after consummation. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Flat Repayment Option with an 8-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 7.78% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 54 monthly payments of $25 while in school, followed by 96 monthly payments of $176.21 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $18,266.38. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary. Information advertised valid as of 7/10/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on the creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
    Ascent Law Student Loan
    COMPARE RATES
    on Credible’s website
    on Credible’s website
    Ascent Law Student Loan

    Ascent Law Student Loan

    Min. credit score

    Low-Mid 600s

    Fixed APR

    5.04-15.21%

    Variable APR

    7.74-15.85%

    Key factsBest for law students who want flexible payment options.
    Pros
    • Among the best for payment flexibility.
    • Grace period of 9 months is longer than many lenders offer.
    • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
    • Stands out for features that enable faster loan repayment.
    Cons
    • You must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify.
    Qualifications
    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Not available.
    • Minimum income: Not available.
    • Loan amounts: up to $400,000.
    Available Term Lengths7, 10, 12 or 15 years
    DisclaimerAscent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 7/8/2024 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest rates require interest-only payments, the shortest loan term, a cosigner, and are only available for our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores. Actual APR offered may be higher or lower than the repayment examples above, based on the amount of time you spend in school and any grace period you have before repayment begins.
    Earnest Law School Loan

    Earnest Law School Loan

    Min. credit score

    650

    Fixed APR

    4.45-14.90%

    Variable APR

    4.99-15.30%

    Key facts

    Rating and details displayed are for Earnest's private student loan. Earnest offers a specific law school loan, but it has the same underlying terms as the lender's other products.

    Pros
    • Option to skip one payment every 12 months.
    • No late fees.
    • Nine-month grace period is longer than most lenders offer.
    Cons
    • Loans aren't available in Nevada.
    Qualifications
    • Typical credit score of approved borrowers: 758.
    • Minimum income: $35,000.
    • Loan amounts: $1,000 up to your total cost of attendance.
    Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10, 12 or 15 years
    DisclaimerEarnest Private Student Loans are made by One American Bank, Member FDIC, or FinWise Bank, Member FDIC. One American Bank, 515 S. Minnesota Ave, Sioux Falls, SD 57104. Finwise Bank, 756 East Winchester, Suite 100, Murray, UT 84107 Earnest loans are serviced by Earnest Operations LLC, 535 Mission St., Suite 1663 San Francisco, CA 94105, NMLS #1204917, with support From Navient Solutions, LLC (NMLS #212430). One American Bank, FinWise Bank, and Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by agencies of the United States of America. © 2024 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved.
    SoFi Law School Loan

    SoFi Law School Loan

    Min. credit score

    Mid-600s

    Fixed APR

    4.74-14.83%

    Variable APR

    5.74-15.86%

    Key factsBest for flexible repayment options and no fees.
    Pros
    • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.
    • Multiple in-school repayment options available, including interest-only and flat-fee, and deferred for undergrad and grad students.
    Cons
    • Does not offer bi-weekly payments via autopay.
    Qualifications
      Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10, 15 years
      DisclaimerInterest Rates: Eligibility and Important Details. Fixed rates range from 4.74% APR to 14.83% APR with 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates range from 5.74% APR to 15.86% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates are capped at 17.95%. SoFi rate ranges are current as of 6/20/24 and are subject to change at any time. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term and type of repayment option you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer (if applicable) and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. Check out our eligibility criteria at https://www.sofi.com/eligibility-criteria/. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30- day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. UNDERGRAD + GRADUATE + MBA/LAW SCHOOL LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Partial Payment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 8.52%-14.83% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) (with autopay). It also assumes the borrower remains in school for 4 years and has a 6-month grace period (together, the deferment period) before the loan term begins. It works out to 54 monthly payments of $25 during the deferment period, followed by 120 monthly payments ranging from $124.09-$160.30 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments ranging from $14,891.12-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. HEALTH PROFESSION LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a first year borrower who selects the Partial Payment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 8.52%-14.83% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”) (with autopay). It also assumes the borrower remains in school for 4 years and has a 9-month grace period (together, the deferment period) before the loan term begins. It works out to 57 monthly payments of $25 during the deferment period, followed by 120 monthly payments ranging from $124.09-$160.30 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments ranging from $14,891.12-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. PARENT LOANS: This repayment example is based on typical loan terms for a borrower who selects the Immediate Repayment option with a 10-year repayment term, a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in a single disbursement, a 0.25% autopay discount, and a fixed rate between 9.02-14.83% APR (with autopay). The Immediate Repayment option assumes full payment begins 1 month after full disbursement. It works out to 120 monthly payments ranging from $126.78-$160.30 for a total amount of payments ranging from $15,214.08-$19,235.46. This repayment example assumes that the borrower is signed up for autopay and that all payments are made on time, with no pre-payments. Actual rates may vary based on repayment type, loan amount, creditworthiness, and other terms and conditions. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.19% to 14.83% annual percentage rate ("APR") (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86%% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). HEALTH PROFESSION LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.74% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 5.74% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 6.25% to 14.83% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 6.07% to 15.86% APR (with autopay). For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 17.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 6/20/24. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Private Student loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A. Member FDIC. NMLS #696891 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.
      Brazos Private Student Loan

      Brazos Private Student Loan

      Min. credit score

      680

      Fixed APR

      2.77-6.96%

      Variable APR

      5.00-9.44%

      Key factsBest for Texas residents and students of Texan colleges with strong financials or a qualified co-signer.
      Pros
      • May offer lower rates for graduate students than what are available through the federal government.
      • Applies extra payments to the loan principal by default.
      • Offers five loan terms, which is more than most lenders.
      Cons
      • Not available to borrowers enrolled in two year programs at community colleges.
      • Biweekly payments via autopay is not available.
      Available Term Lengths5, 7, 10, 15 or 20 years

      Our pick for

      International law students

      Many lenders let international students take out loans with an eligible co-signer; MPOWER is one of few that waives this requirement.

      MPOWER Private Student Loan

      MPOWER Private Student Loan

      Min. credit score

      None

      Fixed APR

      12.99-15.99%

      Variable APR

      N/A

      Key factsBest for international students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, status.
      Pros
      • Offers a hard-to-find option: non-co-signed student loans for international and DACA students.
      • Borrowers are assigned a dedicated student loan advisor.
      • Borrowers can request forbearance of up to 24 months, which is longer than many lenders offer.
      Cons
      • Payment required while in school.
      • Offers only one repayment term: 10 years.
      Qualifications
      • MPOWER considers future income potential but does not factor in credit scores.
      • Loan amounts: Minimum $2,001. Maximum loan is $100,000, limited to $50,000 per academic period.
      Available Term Lengths10 years
      DisclaimerNote: Our loan does not support Canadian citizens studying in Canada. Canadian Permanent Residents and U.S. citizens are considered “international” when studying in Canada. International students, U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and DACA recipients in the U.S. or Canada. ‘International’ means you are a non-U.S. citizen or U.S. non-permanent resident studying at a university in the U.S., or you are a non-Canadian citizen or Canadian non-permanent resident studying at a university in Canada. ‘DACA’ means the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012. In order to qualify as a DACA Student, you must have applied for, and been granted, DACA status by USCIS. As a graduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 12.99% (13.98% APR¹). This is the maximum rate and will not increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 12.74% (13.72% APR²). ¹[International graduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation, plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 13.98%, the monthly payment amount is US$113.66 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is about $156.71. ²[International graduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. At an APR of 13.72%, the monthly payment is US$111.47 for the first 30 months. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$155.17. Undergraduate Students in the U.S. or Canada As an undergraduate student, you can borrow with a fixed interest rate of 13.99% (15.01% APR³). This is the maximum rate and will never increase. However, MPOWER offers borrowers a way to qualify for a discount; a 0.25% rate discount is possible by making your loan payments through automatic withdrawal from your bank account. If you qualify for this discount, your rate will be 13.74% (14.75% APR⁴). ³[International undergraduate student with regular interest rate] The APR is calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of $10,000 with a 5% origination fee of $500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. Payments will be interest only until graduation plus an additional 6-month grace period. The remaining months of repayment are calculated using a 120-month amortization schedule. All payments are made on-time, a forbearance is never utilized, and there is no pre-payment of any principal. At an APR of 15.01%, the monthly payment amount is $122.41 for the first 30 months. For the next 120 months, the monthly payment amount is $162.97. ⁴[International undergraduate student with discounted interest rate] The APRs with discounts are calculated using the following assumptions: A loan is approved in the amount of US$10,000 with a 5% origination fee of US$500. The student will start making payments 45 days after loan disbursement. The borrower signs up for automatic debit immediately after the loan is disbursed and remains on it for the life of the loan, which reduces the rate by 0.25%. A forbearance is never utilized and there is no prepayment of any principal. At an APR of 14.75%, the monthly payment is US$120.22 for the first 30 payments. For the last 120 payments, the monthly amount is US$161.39.

      Types of law school loans

      Law students may be eligible for two types of federal student loans:

      • Direct unsubsidized loans. These have a lower interest rate and fee than other government loans, so take them out first. However, the amount of direct unsubsidized loans you can borrow is limited.

      • Graduate PLUS loans. You can borrow up to your cost of attendance, minus other aid received, in graduate PLUS loans. If you max out your unsubsidized loans and still have a gap, PLUS loans can fill it.

      Some private lenders, such as Sallie Mae, offer branded “law school loans” or loans for bar exam expenses. These may have features that cater to law students’ specific needs — like deferring payments during a clerkship or fellowship.

      However, you can also use any private graduate student loan for law school. Compare rates and features to find the least expensive option if you opt for private loans.

      Which law school student loan is right for you?

      Average law school costs can vary based on the type of school and resident stats. For example, for public resident and nonresident students, annual law school tuition averages $30,554 and $43,590, respectively, according to Law School Transparency, an organization that tracks law school data.

      For private school law students, the average annual tuition is $55,963. If you’ve exhausted free aid like scholarships to cover those expenses and are torn about which law school loan to borrow, federal loans are a safer bet. Opt for these if:

      • You have bad credit. Direct unsubsidized loans are not credit-dependent. You will need to pass a credit check to get PLUS loans for law school, but these standards aren't as strict as with private lenders. All eligible federal loan borrowers also receive the same interest rate, regardless of their credit score.

      • You want flexible repayment options. Law students finish school owing an average of  $140,870 in student debt, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Federal loans offer more repayment options to handle that debt load, such as income-driven repayment plans, and may be eligible for law school loan forgiveness or repayment programs.

      Private student loans may make sense — and save you money — if you have excellent credit and don’t think you’ll need or qualify for federal loan benefits.

      For example, repaying $140,870 in grad PLUS loans with a 8.05% interest rate would cost $205,544 over 10 years. Opting for private loans with an interest rate of 5% would drop that amount to $179,297. The PLUS loan would also come with an origination fee above 4%; most private lenders don’t charge these fees.

      Monthly payments on that much debt would be roughly $1,494 for private loans and $1713 for PLUS loans. Either might be unaffordable if you choose to be a legal services attorney or public defender whose median starting salaries range from $64,200 to $69,600, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

      But with federal loans, starting income-driven payments at those salaries could be between $262 and $307, depending on factors like filing status and family size. Additionally, Public Service Loan Forgiveness could erase the balance after 10 years.

      Projected starting salaries are higher if you plan to practice in the private sector, with a median of $200,000 according to NALP. Wages rise even more if you join a Big Law firm. Still, opting for federal loans can protect you if you don’t land the job or salary you expect. And if you do, you can always refinance law school loans after graduating to recoup some savings.

      How to take out loans for law school

      Taking out loans for law school requires only a few steps. If you applied for financial aid as an undergrad, you’ll likely know what to do — though there are a couple of differences.

      1. Fill out the FAFSA

      You must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to receive all types of federal financial aid, including work-study and student loans. Many private scholarships and grants require the FAFSA as well.

      When completing the FAFSA, indicate that you’re going to be or already are a graduate student. This means you don’t have to include your parents’ information on the form; it also increases your borrowing limits.

      2. Complete other required applications

      In addition to the FAFSA, some law schools may make you submit the CSS Profile to receive nonfederal financial aid. Alternatively, your school might require an aid application that’s unique to its program.

      Unlike on the FAFSA, you may need to provide your parents’ financial information on these forms to receive institutional scholarships or grants. Double-check the application process with the school’s financial aid office — including when its priority filing deadline is — so you don’t miss out on free money.

      3. Work directly with private lenders

      You don't need to complete the FAFSA for private student loans. If you've decided a private student loan makes sense for you, apply directly with the lender. The lender will likely require proof of your identity, income and law school you're attending, among other information.

      Each lender has its own underwriting standards. Be sure to shop around and compare interest rates. You may need a co-signer to get the best possible deal.

      STUDENT LOAN RATINGS METHODOLOGY

      Our survey of more than 26 banks, credit unions and online lenders offering student loans and student loan refinancing includes the top 10 lenders by market share and top 10 lenders by online search volume, as well as lenders that serve specialty or nontraditional markets.

      We consider 40 features and data points for each financial institution. Depending on the category, these include the availability of biweekly payments through autopay, minimum credit score and income requirement disclosures, availability to borrowers in all states, extended grace periods and in-house customer service.

      The stars represent ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

      Last updated on July 11, 2024

      To recap our selections...

      NerdWallet's Best Law School Loans of July 2024

      • Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized Loan: Best for All borrowers as a first option
      • Federal Grad PLUS Loan: Best for Manageable payments post-graduation
      • Sallie Mae Law School Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • College Ave Law Student Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • Ascent Law Student Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • Earnest Law School Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • SoFi Law School Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • Brazos Private Student Loan: Best for Private law school loans
      • MPOWER Private Student Loan: Best for International law students

      Frequently asked questions

      • You can take out unsubsidized federal student loans, federal PLUS loans and private student loans to pay for law school. You should typically max out federal loans as a first option.

      • Yes. You can borrow up to your law school’s total cost of attendance in loans. Cost of attendance typically includes money for living expenses such as off-campus housing and transportation.

      • Loans for bar exam expenses are more like personal loans than student loans. Bar loans have higher interest rates than student loans, and you usually cannot refinance them with your student loans.

      • On average, law students graduate with $140,870 in student loans, including undergraduate debt, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

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