Last year, the American Bar Association (ABA) created a task-force to analyze the financing and cost of getting a J.D. Their conclusion: the system is “deeply-flawed”.
The working paper that the team crafted analyzes the various topics including the need to reform the system that finances law education, lack of innovation within the law school classroom, and the need for greater heterogeneity within each cohort.
ABA explained that this document is not a final draft, but outlined concise steps that they should be internally taking to improve the system. For example, the task force recommended a revision of the accreditation standards enforced in law schools, which often raise cost but not quality.
Until these changes truly come to fruition, here are some steps you can take to cut the cost of your J.D.:
Research and apply for school aid: Schools offer a combination of internal scholarship and federal loans that students can use to help pay for their tuition. These loans are similar to what is offered to students in other graduate school. You can get the lowdown on federal loans by reading the article Paying for Graduate School: What Are Your Financial Aid Options?
Negotiate your aid package: If you apply to multiple schools, you can use their disparate offers as a point of negotiation as you decide which one to opt for. It’s important to be respectful and cautious during the process. It may be helpful to reach out to someone who can counsel you through the negotiation.
Apply for scholarships: There a lots of different scholarships out there for future lawyers and justices, including those offered by schools, states or local boards, and organizations that represent different ethnicities and nationalities. Read more about your options in the article Which of These 4 Law School Scholarships Best Fits You?
Public Service Loan Forgiveness: For those interested in practicing law in the public or non-profit sector, the government offers loan forgiveness on federal loans after ten years of payment and public service. However, don’t put all your eggs in this basket, since there is no guarantee of getting a job that is eligible for loan forgiveness after graduation.
Pay as You Earn Plan: If you decide to take out federal loans, you can apply for the Pay as You Earn plan, which allows you to modify your monthly payment according to your income.
Working during law school: Some find it helpful to be a part-time student and seek employment so they can more easily pay for school. Of course, law school is a big academic commitment, especially during the first year, so think about whether this is the right choice for you.
Volunteer at law offices: To increase your chances of employment post-graduation, you can volunteer at law offices that your are interested in. This is a good way to create relationships with those who may be your future co-workers.
Financing Law School. (n.d.). Law School Admissions Council. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from LSAC.
Law school financing system in need of ‘serious re-engineering,’ task force says. (2013, August 1). ABA Journal. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from ABA Journal.
Paying for Law School. (n.d.). US News. Retrieved July 31, 2014, from U.S. News and World Report.