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How to pay for law school

Scholarships, loans and more ways to fund your JD degree.

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Law student walking down campus
Law school can be just as expensive as an undergrad degree, if not more. And you might not be able to rely on the same types of financing, like federal loans. But there are several other options — some exclusively available to law students. Plus, you might be eligible for repayment assistance or forgiveness, depending on the jobs you take after graduation.

Law school scholarships

Scholarships should be your first stop when looking to fund your law degree, since they can reduce your student debt load. Check your school’s website for scholarships available — many offer awards based on merit, work experience and diversity.

If you think you still need more funds, you might want to apply for outside scholarships, such as those listed below.

Scholarship Award amount Eligibility requirements
The Hatton W. Sumners Scholarship Full tuition, fees, book stipend and living allowance for three years
  • Full-time student at Oklahoma City University School of Law or Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law
  • Resident or graduate of a school in AR, KS, LA, MO, NE, NM, OK or TX
  • Maintain GPA in top third of class
Earl Warren Scholarship $10,000 a year for up to three years
  • Entering first or second year of law school
  • Enrolled full time at an accredited law school
  • Committed to racial justice
  • US citizen
Lloyd M. Johnson Jr. (LMJ) Scholarship $10,000 for the first year of law school
  • Woman or minority student
  • Accepted to American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school
  • Outstanding academic record
  • Interest in corporate law
  • Demonstrated financial need
  • Demonstrated community service and leadership
Seize Every Opportunity (SEO) Law Scholarship $5,000 to $10,000 per year
  • Black, hispanic or Native American law student
  • 155 on LSAT or higher
  • 3.5 GPA or higher
Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans $45,000 per year for up to two years
  • Immigrant or child of an immigrant to the US
  • US citizen, permanent resident, refugee, asylum grantee or US high school and college graduate
  • Entering first or second year of law school
  • Ages 30 or younger
  • Full-time student

How to apply for law school scholarships

Many schools require you to fill out the FAFSA or CSS Profile — or both in order to be considered for institutional funding. Get these in as soon as possible to get the most out of your financial aid program.

Outside scholarship programs have separate applications, which you need to complete by the program deadline. You might be required to submit an essay and recommendations along with the application.

Law school loans

Some 75% of law students can’t pay for school without borrowing at least some money, according to the American Bar Association (ABA). You might want to look into federal student loans first. These are often less expensive than their private counterparts, since Congress sets the interest rate. They also come with more flexible repayment options and eligibility for forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).

But federal loans come with borrowing limits you might reach while in law school. In that case, you might want to supplement your federal aid with a loan from a private lender. While they often have less flexible repayment options, you still might be able to qualify for partial forgiveness through a private loan repayment assistance program (LRAP).

Federal loans for law school

Law students are eligible for two types of federal loans:

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

  • Annual limit: $20,500 per year
  • Lifetime limit: $138,500
  • Interest rate: 4.3%
  • Loan fee: 1.059%, deducted from the loan before your school gets the funds

Direct Unsubsidized Loans are the most straightforward federal loan option for law students. There’s no credit check, and everyone gets the same rate and maximum loan amount. However, it likely won’t cover the full annual cost of tuition at a private law school.

How federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans work

Direct PLUS Loans

  • Borrowing limit: Cost of attendance
  • Interest rate: 5.3%
  • Loan fee: 4.236%, deducted from the loan before your school gets the funds

Direct PLUS Loans are only available to graduate or professional students with good credit. It’s the only federal loan that requires a credit check, so you might not qualify on your own if you’re going to law school directly from college.

But it can cover up to your total cost of attendance after you’ve received other financial aid. You also have access to the most repayment plans and forgiveness programs.

Still, if you have really strong credit — or a willing cosigner — you might want to consider your private student loan options first. That’s because you might find private financing with lower rates and fees.

How federal Direct Parent PLUS Loans work

How to get federal loans for law school

You can apply for federal loans by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is available on the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) website and opens on October 1st the year before you plan on attending law school.

Even if you don’t think you want federal loans, it might be worth filling out the FAFSA — some law schools rely on it to determine your eligibility for institutional financial aid.

Private loans for law school

Lender Loan amounts APRs Terms Eligibility requirements
Discover $1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable rates:
    4.59% to 9.87%
  • Fixed rates:
    5.59% to 10.49%
20 years
  • Enrolled at least half time at an eligible law school
  • Satisfactory academic progress, as defined by your school
  • Ages 16 or older
  • US citizen, permanent resident or international student with a cosigner
  • Meet credit requirements
Sallie Mae $1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable rates: 4.62% to 9.74%
  • Fixed rates: 5.75% to 9.99%
15 years
  • Enrolled in a JD program at an eligible school
  • US citizen, permanent resident or nonresident with a creditworthy cosigner
  • Age of majority in your state
Citizens Bank $1,000 to $225,000
  • Variable rates: 3.79% to 10.02%
  • Fixed rates: 4.95% to 10.59%
5 to 15 years
  • Enrolled in a degree-granting program at least half time
  • US citizen, permanent resident or international student with a creditworthy cosigner
  • Age of majority in your state
  • Meet credit requirements
Wells Fargo Up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable rates: 5.89% to 12.22%
  • Fixed rates: 6.13% to 12.68%
15 years
  • Enrolled in an eligible degree-granting program
  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress, as defined by your program
  • Established, positive credit history
  • US citizen, national, permanent resident or international student with a cosigner
College Ave $1,000 to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable rates: 5.46% to 9.24%
  • Fixed rates: 6.22% to 10%
5 to 20 years
  • Enrolled in a JD program
  • Attend an eligible school
  • US citizen, permanent resident or international student with a creditworthy cosigner
  • Meet credit requirements
CommonBond Up to 100% of your school-certified cost of attendance
  • Variable rates: 3.67% to 9.75%
  • Fixed rates: 5.65% to 9.99%
5 to 15 years
  • Enrolled in an approved Title IV graduate program
  • Excellent credit or a creditworthy cosigner
  • US citizen or permanent resident

Many of these loans are designed specifically for law students — with higher loan amounts and a longer grace period, usually up to nine months. Some also offer more flexible repayment plans, like the option to pause repayments for up to 12 months.

Best law school loan options

Compare more private loans for law school

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Min. Credit Score Max. Loan Amount APR
EDvestinU Private Student Loans
675
$200,000
4.092% to 8.609% with autopay
Straightforward student loans for undergraduate and graduate students.
CommonBond Private Student Loans
700
$500,000
3.31% to 9.74%
Finance your college education through this lender with a strong social mission and terms that fit your budget.
Edvisors Private Student Loan Marketplace
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Quickly compare private lenders for your school and apply for the right student loan.
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Compare up to 4 providers

3 other ways to pay for law school

Trying to stay away from taking out student loans? You might want to consider one of these options instead:

  • Employer-sponsored programs. Some companies will pay for part or even all of your law degree if it’s relevant to your position. Talk to the HR department or your manager to find out if it’s an option.
  • Crowdfunding. Going to law school for a cause? You might be able to raise the funds from your friends, family and social media followers. Some crowdfunding platforms like PeduL even specialize in fundraising as a student loan alternative.
  • Income share agreements (ISAs). This alternative could be a good choice for law students who want to go into public service. Income share agreements cover all or part of your law school costs in exchange for a percentage of your salary over a certain number of years.

Bar exam financing

Student loan forgiveness and assistance for lawyers

Bar exam financing

You’re not a lawyer until you take the bar. Problem is, you can’t apply for federal aid to pay for the bar exam alone — though you can use leftover funds. Some private lenders like Discover and Sallie Mae offer financing specifically for the cost of bar study courses and fees, which can easily top several thousand dollars.

Compare bar exam loans

Student loan forgiveness and assistance for lawyers

One of the advantages of pursuing a law degree is that lawyers typically have more student loan forgiveness options and assistance programs than you’d find with other professions.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Lawyers who work for the government or a nonprofit for 10 years while paying off their student loans on an eligible repayment plan may qualify to have their entire federal student debt load forgiven.
  • Income-driven repayment forgiveness. Income-driven repayment plans are available for federal loans based on your annual salary. After 20 or 25 years, the government forgives the remaining debt.
  • Loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs). Both law schools and local governments offer repayment assistance programs to young lawyers. These aren’t limited to federal loans, though they might have specific income requirements. The ABA publishes a list of state-sponsored LRAPs and Equal Justice Works has a list of school-sponsored LRAPs.
  • Employer-sponsored repayment assistance. Some law firms also offer student loan repayment assistance as a benefit.

How to pay off law school debt

Bottom line

Law school can be seriously expensive — and you might not have the same financing options you did as an undergrad. But there are several scholarships, grants and loans exclusively available to law students.

You can read more about how paying for school works with our guide to student loans.

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