We all know that a legal education can land the average law school graduate in up to six figures of debt — to be specific, according to a 2020 ABA survey, the average debt for law school graduates is more than $150,000 — and we all know that egregiously high tuition costs are to blame. According to the latest data from U.S. News, the average cost of tuition and fees at private schools for the 2020-2021 academic year was about $50,000, while the average in-state and out-of-state cost of tuition and fees at public schools was $28,838 and $47,300, respectively.
Considering how deeply indebted some law schools leave their graduates, it’s worth taking a look into their prospective earning power. Will they actually be able to service their huge debt loads?
Legal marketing agency Hennessey Digital recently conducted a study on this, collecting data from 183 law schools on how much 2020 graduates had to borrow in order to attend and comparing that to how much they were expected to earn in their first year of law practice.
It’s not at all shocking that almost all of America’s most expensive law schools are private. Only one public school made the list. Behold, the most costly law schools and their graduates’ prospective earning power.
It’s worth noting here that the majority of the law schools that made this list are among the best in the country. At highly ranked schools like these, you get what you pay for, and in the law school world, that usually means a high-paying paid job as an attorney that will allow you to service your enormous debt obligations in a timely fashion — and to be quite frank, with up to six figures of debt to pay off, that’s priceless.
“It is not by chance that the schools highlighted in this study are at the top of the list” a spokesperson for Hennessey Digital commented. “When it comes to a young person’s education and their future, it is often essential to aim for a school that is proven to give graduates a chance at their dream jobs. When someone decides to take a loan of the size we’ve seen in this study, they want to be sure that it is money well spent.
“The data demonstrates that if students are willing to invest in their education and secure a spot in the best law schools in the country, then their sacrifice will be rewarded with well paid jobs which will in turn make it much easier to manage the repayment of those loans.”
No matter where you decide to go to law school, make sure that you evaluate what your payoff will be when graduation time rolls around. Given the information that’s readily available online, will you be able to find a job? Will you be able to make ends meet while making payments on your law school loans? If you don’t think the answer to these questions are “yes,” then you may want to consider another school.
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.