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Best law school loan options

Top private lenders for law school.

The average cost of attending a private law school in 2018 was $47,112 a year, according to US News and World Report. Some schools even top $67,000 in annual tuition.

Chances are, you might need some extra help covering those upfront costs — and federal loans may not be enough. Luckily, you have several other options when it comes to paying for law school.

Our team has reviewed over 30 private student loan providers. To decide who the best lenders are, we compared fixed and variable rates, terms and repayment options for lenders that offered graduate or law school refinancing. We also considered perks that different types of law students might benefit from, like career coaching or clerkship deferment.

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  • SoFi: Best for postgraduate career support
  • Sallie Mae: Best for postgraduate payment options

Best for no student debt: Direct unsubsidized loans

  • Fixed rate: 4.3%
  • Variable rate: None
  • Loan amount: Up to $20,500 per year
  • Terms: 10 years-25 years

Federal Direct Unsubsidized loans are generally the best deal that you can get as a law student. Everyone gets the same low fixed rate, a wide range of flexible repayment options and eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Private loans can’t compete.

But it might not cover your full annual expense. And if you have federal loans from your undergraduate degree, you might reach your lifetime loan limit of $73,000.

Pros

  • Everyone gets same fixed rate set by Congress
  • Graduated and income-driven repayments
  • Eligible for PSLF

Cons

  • Annual limit of $20,500
  • Lifetime limit of $73,000
  • Not available to international students

Best for after unsubsidized loans are maxed out: Direct PLUS loans

  • Fixed rate: 5.3%
  • Variable rate: None
  • Loan amount: Up to cost of attendance
  • Terms: 10 years-25 years

Direct PLUS loans are the second-best loan option to pay for law school. These come with slightly higher fixed rates than Unsubsidized loans.

But you can borrow up to your school’s cost of attendance. These loans can be eligible for PSLF and most federal repayment plans if you consolidate them with a federal Direct Consolidation Loan.

You’ll also have to pass a credit check. Otherwise you have to show documents explaining why you didn’t pass the check or bring on an endorser — similar to a cosigner.

Pros

  • Everyone gets the same rate set by Congress
  • Borrow up to cost of attendance
  • Eligible for PSLF with consolidation

Cons

  • Good credit, explanation or endorser required
  • Potentially higher APR than some private loans
  • Not available to international students

Best for low rates

Earnest Student Loans

Earnest has some of the lowest starting rates and maximum rates available to law students — from a private lender. There are no fees and repayments don’t start until nine months after graduation. That’s three months longer than most lenders offer.

There’s also the option to skip a payment once a year. But its maximum term of 15 years is five years shorter than most lenders offer. And you can’t apply to take your cosigner off your loan.

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Best for good students

Discover undergraduate student loans

Discover offers cash rewards to students who have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Its maximum rates are also some of the lowest out there, meaning it could offer a great deal if you or your cosigner can’t qualify for the absolute lowest rate out there.

Like Earnest, it offers a nine-month grace period before repayments begin. But it also doesn’t offer cosigner release and you can’t check your rate without hurting your credit.

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Best for postgraduate career support

SoFi Student Loans

SoFi might offer more perks than any other private lender. SoFi borrowers get access to services that can give you a leg up when you graduate, like career coaching, financial planning and access to networking events.

There are also no fees to apply and it offers a cosigner release. But international students are ineligible and it only offers terms of up to 15 years.

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Best for postgraduate payment options

Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates

Sallie Mae offers one of the most flexible repayment plans for a private lender. In addition to a 9-month grace period, you can also defer repayments for up to 48 months if you become a clerk or fellow after you graduate. Its rates are relatively competitive — though not the lowest — and it offers a cosigner release.

But it’s not forthcoming about all of its requirements. And terms max out at 15 years.

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Compare other lenders

1 – 3 of 3
Name Product APR Min. Credit Score Loan amount Loan Term
College Ave undergraduate student loans
College Ave undergraduate student loans
0.94% to 12.99%
Not stated
Starting at $1,000
5 to 15 years
Rates start at 2.84% for residents of all 50 states.
Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates
Sallie Mae® Smart Option Student Loan for Undergraduates
1.87% to 11.97%
Not stated
Starting at $1,000
5 to 15 years
Choose from over 8 different options for undergraduates, law students and more.
SoFi Student Loans
SoFi Student Loans
1.89% to 11.98% with autopay
680
Starting at $5,000
5 to 15 years
Undergraduate financing with no late fees to US citizens with good credit.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Other sources of financial aid

Student loans might be unavoidable for most law students. But that doesn't mean you need to go into debt to cover your entire degree. You might want to look into these three options in addition to student loans.

  • FAFSA. Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) makes you eligible for student grants, scholarships and work-study programs — as well as federal loans. It's a bit involved, so you might want to follow our step-by-step guide on how to fill out the FAFSA.
  • CSS Profile. The CSS Profile is a form widely used by law schools to help students connect with nonfederal financial aid. Some schools even require students to complete this form as part of the application.
  • Other scholarships. Law firms and your state bar association are good places to look for scholarship opportunities outside of your school. You might be eligible for a scholarship based on where you're from, your area of interest or your background.

Bottom line

Law school's expensive, and federal loans don't always cover the whole cost. However, there's a chance you could get a better deal with private lenders to help you pay your way.

Check out our guide to paying for law school or compare more student loan options to find the best deal available to you.

Frequently asked questions

When does the rate adjust on a variable-rate law school loan?

It depends on what type of benchmark rate your lender is using. Some adjust every month, while others adjust every three months. Read our article on fixed and variable rates to get more details on how it works.

What's an appropriate-sized loan for law school?

It depends on how much you need to borrow and the cost of your school. According to the American Bar Association, the average student loan size for private law students is around $127,000. Public law students graduate with an average of $88,000 in student debt.

How much will I pay each month?

Your monthly repayments depend on your loan term and interest rate. If you take 10 years to pay off a loan of $80,000 with an APR of 10%, for example, that could amount to more than $1,000 each month. Use our monthly repayment calculator to see how your loan term could affect your monthly repayments and total loan cost.

What's the average salary for law school graduates?

The average salary for graduates three years out of law school was around $166,155, according to a 2017 study by student loan provider SoFi. However, this number will vary widely depending on where you graduated and whether you're working in the public or private sector. Learn more with our page on law schools with the highest salaries for graduates.

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