There was a moment that I considered getting my law degree after graduating. This was a very brief moment until I realized I was ready to start my career. :) I had several classmates pursue their law degree and I was always curious if it was really worth it. Curious, I tasked my intern Kevin to do some research to see what he could dig up. So is the average cost of law school really worth it? Let’s find out…..

average cost of getting law degree

There are many routes that we can take to become successful in life, some are more capital intensive than others. One of these routes that holds a high level of prestige in the eye of most American’s is passing through a big time University and becoming a lawyer.

Maybe this role is more glorified by Hollywood through all the high rolling lawyers that are played by Hollywood actors, could it be however that making the major investment early on in your life could pay off big?

We will examine here the average cost of law school depending on what caliper of University you graduate from, and then take a quick glimpse of the compensation you could expect to receive after you have obtained your law degree.


For the purpose of this analysis, we will lump the law schools into three categories. The first category being the top twenty best law schools as rated by U.S news Education Grad School rankings. The second grouping will be the following top twenty behind the top twenty, and finally the third group will consist of the third twenty.

Essentially there are three groups of twenty directly in line with no overlap of the top sixty law graduate schools in America. Also for the purpose of this analysis, we will assume that all of the students graduated with a four year degree from a four year University at a cost of $19,000 per year which is from a U.S news story in 2010. So after the four years of your undergraduate studies, we will assume the graduate walks away with $76,000 in college debt assuming they all have to borrow every penny.

The assumption that all of the people in our study will graduate from the same four year University can obviously be violated. However to only judge a single variable at a time, it is important to make the comparison easier to compare. There are some more obvious truths which will be neglected in this analysis which include the prestige level of the undergraduate law program you went to, so we are assuming here you do not need to graduate as an undergraduate form Harvard to get into grad school at Harvard.

The Average Cost of Law School Tuition

For our first grouping of the top twenty graduate law schools in the country, the average tuition comes in at $45,569 per year. The averages are calculated taking the number one school which is Harvard, and the number twenty school which is University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and dividing them by two. The figures and school rankings were all gathered from the U.S News graduate school rankings. All of the figures will also assume the out of state tuition fee.

According to Berkley University Career Center, it takes on average three years of law school to pass the Bar so that you can become a practicing lawyer.

Therefore, the average cost of law school for a graduate of the top twenty law schools in the country comes out to be $136,707 plus their undergraduate degree of $76,000 to be a final total of $212,707.

Second, we will analyze the second group of top law schools. The average cost of tuition for this grouping is $38,308 which applied to the same three year figure would come out to $114,924. These figures were calculated in the same format as described above in the first grouping. Adding back in the $76,000 for the undergraduate degree and you have a total completion cost of $190,924 to go from high school graduate, all the way through passing the Bar.

Finally we will analyze the third grouping of top law degrees in the United States. The average cost of these schools does not vary significantly from the second grouping at $37,500. This would lead to a three year grad school cost of $112,500, with a total cost of $188,500 to become a lawyer. The following table summarizes the total cost figures from the three different rankings of schools. Also, it must be noted this is purely a tuition cost and does not include the cost of living; this would be too difficult to measure because different towns cost different amounts, and no two people live the same.

Average Cost of Law School

As the above chart indicates, it could take a large amount of loans to be able to complete a law degree from one of the most prestige’s law schools in the country. The question that really matters however is how much do you get paid on average after graduating from one of these law schools. According to, a Harvard graduate which is a member of our first grouping is paid on average between $49,787 and $234,953 a year to be an Attorney or Lawyer.

Also according to, the average Boston University Lawyer who is a member of our second group gets paid on average between $45,302 and $160,818. Finally, a lawyer from George Mason University according to gets paid on average around $59,958 and $81,488.

The following graph represents how long it would take the lowest average paid graduate from each of the groups to pay back their loan assuming they all make a minimum payment of 10% of their salary, and also assuming that their salary does not increase through time.

Average Cost of Law School Tuition

On average if you made the minimum average salary for all of the groupings, and paid back 10% of your total salary every year on your tuition loan, and the loan had no interest and your salary stayed consistent, it would take group one 43 years on average to pay back their loan in full, group two 39 years on average to pay back the loan, and group three on average 38 years to pay back the loan. There are a lot of assumptions built into this analysis; however they are necessary to give a comparable figure. On average group one’s top salary could pay back the entire loan in a single year, however not all lawyers will make it to the top.

Is Law School Worth It?

The average cost of law school is very high, and you need to be in the top of your class and very competitive to even have a shot at one of the top schools. Before you decide that law school is for you, make sure that you realize the time you will need to spend, as well as the possible large financial debt you could occur along the way.

Did you pursue your law degree? Do you think it was worth it?



Creative Commons License photo credit: rward2008


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Comments | 6 Responses

  1. says

    There are so many factors that can determine if law school is right for you. I have a few friends from High School that went into law school when they had no right to be there. Now they are sitting with major debt and still living at home at the age of 27. Now others have gone onto great careers, but as you said in your post, they were in the upper echelon of their class. I decided that collage wasn’t the right option for me. At 17 I started my own eBay store and then from their jumped on the internet band wagon. There is so much money to be made online, but one must make the right decision for themselves. Instead of doing the “right of passage” and going to collage, invest that money into a business. Even if it fails, the world experience you gain will be priceless. If your aim is anything but a doctor, engineer, layer, or other specialized skill, get realistic and calculate how much debt you will have by the time you get your degree, and in today’s job market you could be stuck with that for quite awhile. If your aim is an English degree, you may want to rethink your future.

  2. says

    “Great Article! Though I consider degree from reputed collage can assist you, but it in no way can make you gain an extra incentive. The word caliber is golden when you want to ace the top rung jobs. Next are the experiences and its range one has which is given the importance.
    Even if you manage to get the vied degree from the best college but you don’t have qualities (caliber) to assist that degree you find yourself in cold water. I think one should not get engaged in sheep mentality but follow what is close to heart. The passion and angst is the inspiration then which drives you to meet your goals.

  3. says

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  4. rima says

    honestly I am only 15 years old and I been really into law and defense attorney. I would love to pursue a career in something like this but all these debt seem too long and putting all this work for 5-7 years and maybe wouldn’t be worth in the end is what scares me so I really need help is it really worth it???

    • Nicole says

      I feel the same way. I am 17 and have always been unsure what I want to do but law sticks with me. My opinion is that it comes down to how happy you will really be in the job and what is more important to you? Having a good job or being free of debt? 10% of a $40,000 average salary is hardly a lot of money to pay each year. You could pay much more than 10%. And these calculations exclude the possibility that you could have gotten scholarships for your first four years which most students do. You have to go with what you want in the end, if after everything you hear, you still think it is for you, then go for it.

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