How Much Does Law School Cost?

Three years of law school can cost around $156,000 to $225,000 — or more at prestigious universities. Check out average law school costs in our report.

Updated September 27, 2022

How Much Does Law School Cost?
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Data Summary

  • The average total cost for three years of law school is about $193,170.[1]
  • The average cost of one year of law school tuition is about $40,790.Footnote [1]
  • Over the last decade, the average law school tuition rose almost 27%.Footnote [1]
  • The average cost of public law school tuition for state residents is $28,480 a year, on average.[2]
  • Private law schools charge $50,770 a year, on average.Footnote [2]
  • Law students' average living expenses are about $23,600 a year.Footnote [1]
  • 80% of law students receive some free financial aid.[3]

The cost of college has soared in recent years. Law school costs are no exception. The average law school tuition increased roughly 27% from 2011 to 2021.

In a survey of over 1,300 recently licensed or graduated American Bar Association (ABA) members, just over half (50.8%) said they lacked a clear understanding of the costs and student loan debt associated with law school when they started their program.[4]

If you're considering law school, it's important to know what costs to expect. This report dives into the costs of law school from tuition to living expenses and the average law school scholarship amounts.

Average Cost of Law School

The real price of getting a Juris Doctor (JD) degree includes tuition and other costs, like living expenses. JD programs typically take about three years. In 2021:Footnote [1]

  • The average cost of law school tuition was about $40,790.
  • Law students' average cost of living was about $23,600.
  • The average total cost for three years of law school including tuition and living expenses is about $193,170.

Behind the Numbers

Unless otherwise noted, this report uses tuition data downloaded from the ABA.Footnote [1] It represents:

  • First-time, full-time students
  • ABA-approved law schools only
  • Law schools that charge tuition by the semester (In 2021, this eliminates 24 — or 12% of ABA-approved schools — that reported tuition by credit hour.)
  • Resident pricing at public schools (At public schools, tuition is typically higher for nonresidents.)

Average Law School Tuition by School Type

It's typically cheapest for students to attend a public law school in their state. Public law school tuition for state residents can cost about half as much as private law school tuition.

Source: AccessLex Institute® analysis of data from the American Bar Association

Did You Know...

Some law schools provide student housing?

Sometimes, students can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by living in student housing. That's the case at University of California at Irvine, for example, which estimates that law students living on-campus save close to $12,000 a year.Footnote [1]

However, other law schools estimate that students can live cheaper off campus. Most report that students have similar living expenses on or off campus.Footnote [1]

Law School Debt

It's important to understand your costs when considering any career, especially in fields like law, where there's a high likelihood of accruing student debt. In the aforementioned ABA survey:Footnote [4]

  • Roughly 90% of surveyed ABA members had taken out student loans for their education.
  • At graduation, they owed an average of about $108,000 of debt for their JD and $130,000 for all their student loans combined.
  • More than 40% said their debt balance had increased or stayed the same after graduation.
  • More than a quarter (27%) said their debt balances had increased after graduation.
  • Under half (47%) said their education was worth the cost.

Average Cost of Law School Over Time

In the ten years between 2011-2021, the average law school tuition grew by almost 27%. That's greater than the rise in medical school tuition or the cost of a bachelor's degree over a similar period.

Source: ABA Footnote [1]

Law School Cost at Ivy League Schools

Ivy League universities are home to some of the country's most prestigious — and most expensive — law schools. Other prestigious law schools at "New Ivies" can cost less than Ivy League law schools, though they're still priced far above the average private school tuition.

Average Tuition at Ivy League Law Schools, 2021
School Name Annual Tuition
Columbia University $73,584
Cornell University $71,522
Harvard University $67,720
University of Pennsylvania $65,392
Yale University $67,108

Source: ABA Footnote [1]

Average Law School Tuition at "New Ivies," 2021
School Name Annual Tuition
University of Chicago $70,710
New York University $70,400
University of Notre Dame $63,840
Washington University in St. Louis $62,666
University of Virginia $63,238

Source: ABA Footnote [1]

Online Law School Cost

  • The ABA has approved 11 law schools to offer online learning programs.[5]
  • The average tuition of an online JD program is about $38,484 per year. However, some online JD programs are part time, so students may be in school for over three years.
  • All ABA-approved schools that offer distance education programs are private except for the University of New Hampshire. New Hampshire and New England residents may qualify for lower tuition at this school.
  • Outside of St. Mary's University, all approved online JD programs are "hybrid," meaning they blend an online curriculum with limited campus visits.
Cost of ABA-Approved Online JD Programs
School Name Tuition
University of Dayton School of Law $21,000
Mitchell Hamline College of Law $36,020
University of New Hampshire School of Law $43,917
Northeastern University School of Law $43,980
St. Mary's University School of Law $27,354
Seattle University School of Law $53,160
South Texas College of Law-Houston $25,500
Suffolk University Law School $53,920
Syracuse University College of Law $40,425
Vermont Law School $42,500

How Much Does It Cost to Apply to Law School?

It can cost students over $500 to apply to law school once all of the application-related fees are added up. Most ABA-approved law schools require that JD applicants use the Credential Assembly Service (CAS) to process their application, which comes with a fee. Students also pay a fee for each school they send their application to.

Many law schools require applicants to complete the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) and submit their scores, which includes another fee. Some law schools have recently changed their LSAT requirements. They may accept Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores instead. Some schools require neither test. Concord Law School at Purdue University requires students to take its own proprietary test.[6]

The basic fees for applying to law school in 2022-2023 are:[7]

  • CAS: $195
  • Law School Report: $45 per law school students apply to
  • LSAT: $215, where required
  • GRE: $205, where required (Source: The GRE® General Test. ETS. July 2022.)

Average Law School Scholarship

In 2021:Footnote [3]

  • About 80% of first-year law students received at least some scholarship or grant money to pay for law school.
  • Grants and scholarships were more common for full-time law students than for part-time students. About 82% of full-time and 65% of part-time law students received grant funding.
  • Most first-year students received less than half the amount of annual tuition in scholarship aid.
  • Just 9% of law students received all or more than the amount of tuition.

Source: ABA Footnote [2]

Frequently Asked Questions About Law School Costs

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Law school?

The average cost of one year of law school tuition is $40,790. Tuition plus living expenses comes to about $64,390. However, law school tuition varies by school type.

The average tuition at public law schools for state-resident students is $28,480 a year. At private law schools, the average tuition is $50,770. Ivy League schools cost an average of about $69,070.

How Much Does It Cost to Go to Law School for Three Years?

The cost of three years of law school typically ranges from around $156,000 to $225,000, depending on the school type. The average cost of three years of law school tuition and living expenses is $193,170.

Is a Law Degree Worth It?

Lawyers can have lucrative careers. In the U.S., they earn a median annual income of $127,990.[8] But for many lawyers, that's not enough to overcome their law school debt.

In a survey of more than 1,300 ABA members who graduated law school or were licensed in the past 10 years:Footnote [4]

  • Over half had student loan debt over $150,000 at graduation.
  • Slightly more than half (50.8%) said they did not fully understand the costs and debt associated with law school when they started.
  • Less than half (47%) say their education was worth the cost.


References

  1. Data downloaded from the American Bar Association: Compilation - All Schools: Tuition and Fees/Living Expenses/Conditional Scholarships. Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  2. Legal Education Data Deck, AccessLex Institute®. April 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  3. Data downloaded from the American Bar Association: Compilation - All Schools: Grants and Scholarships. Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  4. Cochran, T. et al. Student Debt: The Holistic Impact on Today's Young Lawyer. The American Bar Association and AccessLex Institute®. September 2021. (back to content ⤶)
  5. ABA-Approved Law Schools With Approved Distance Education Programs. American Bar Association (ABA). Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  6. Concord Law School. Enrollment Application. Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  7. LSAT & CAS Fees. Law School Admission Council. Accessed September 2022. (back to content ⤶)
  8. Occupational Outlook Handbook: Lawyers. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. May 2021. (back to content ⤶)