Do Law Firms Pay for Law School?

Do Law Firms Pay for Law School?

According to Penn State, in 2019 the average cost of tuition at a private law school was $49,312 per year. In comparison, out-of-state students at public law schools were about $41,628 per year. While, in-state students at public institutions paid an average of $28,186 per year. With tuition at such a high cost, do law firms pay law school?

Unfortunately, most law firms don’t pay for law school tuition. There aren’t enough firms that are able to provide the funds for the many law students that are out there.

Do Law Firms Care About Law School GPA?

Do Law Firms Care About Law School GPA?

Unlike tech companies where skills and projects are seen highly more than GPA, law firms do care about law school GPA. Here are the reasons why:

  • Many firms care about prestige and tend to hire students from name-brand law schools such as Ivy League schools. If they don’t select students from these well-known programs, they tend to pick students that graduate with academic honors.
  • Another reason is that since many students don’t have experience when they first graduate out of law school, GPA or academic performance are the only measurements firms can use to predict job success performance.

However, don’t fret if you weren’t a top performer at your law school. These explanations can be given during interviews. Remember to present your strengths well, as these will be critical factors of being hired. Explanations such as:

  • Preferring to be a hands-on learning
  • If you did better in certain topics, remember to note this to your employers depending on your goals
    • If you did poor in your business or property related-courses compared to your international rights course then emphasize that you care about human rights than property law
  • If you didn’t do well in your first few semesters, try to explain an upward trend and gradual progression if you did better in your later semesters. This shows your discipline and will to improve

Also, remember to note other factors into your application; such as experience or leadership opportunities you’ve obtained. Dig deep and reflect on your law school experience and the activities that you’ve actively played a role in.

How Can I Get Money to Pay for Law School?

Most law students take out law school loans, but there are other financial resources to utilize in order to ease the burden. NerdWallet considers four strategies to use when considering all of your options;

Financial Aid Loans

  • Remember to always use federal loans first before considering private or alternative loans since federal loans tend to have a small interest rate compared to private loans
  • If you used up financial aid loans, and don’t qualify for private loans then remember graduate PLUS loans are always an option when trying to cover the remainder of your cost

Working Part-Time

Working Part-Time
  • Although it’s not ideal, working part-time, especially if doing a work-study can go a long way
  • Work-study aid don’t allow you to pay for tuition upfront but it can help with your living expenses such as rent and food
  • These jobs usually give a substantial amount of flexibility, making it easier for students to balance out their time with work and school
  • Keep in mind however, that law schools tend to limit their students with work-study jobs for about 20 hours a week and not every school offers them

Scholarships and Grants

  • Termed as “free money”, many of the scholarships and grants given to students will be determined usually by undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores
  • However, there’s a substantial amount of money given to students who fit a certain criteria such as LGBTQ students or POC therefore it’s important to take the time to apply to as many as you can
  • It’s also good to consider that certain law firms will give funding to specific types of law

Military Financial Aid

  • If you’ve finished service, there are ways the military can pay for your funding such as the Yellow Ribbon Program if you or your parents were veterans and of course the Post-9/11 GI Bill
  • Being in active duty also has its benefits such as the FLEP, or Funded Legal Education program. Tuition and living expenses are covered with the student’s choice of law school in exchange to serve a couple of years as military attorneys

How Much Debt Do Law Students Have?

According to the American Bar Association statistics, debt is prominent with law school students:

  • The average law school graduates will owe $165,000 in debt once graduating
  • Most of the students will take out loans to cover law school, about 95% approximately
  • With this much financial stress, more than half of students wait buy a house (55%) and about a third of them choose not to get married (33%)

Furthermore, the top law school institutions and the amount of debt taken are also summarized;

  • Columbia University – $163,736 average debt, 66.7% graduates who took on debt
  • Duke University – $134,948 average debt, 67.3% graduates who took on debt
  • Harvard University – $164,331 average debt , 76.4% graduates who took on debt
  • Stanford University $131,997 average debt, 64.2% graduates who took on debt
  • Yale University – $121,47683.3%  average debt, 83.3% graduates who took on debt

Luckily, law school can pay off. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest-paid lawyers in the country earn an average of around $61,490 each year, but the highest-paid legal professionals earn more than $208,000 each year.

However, another source, Education Data Initative, states that

  • The average debt to attend the top 10 law school is about $155,300
  • 1 out of 4 graduates state their education was worth it

Is It Worth Going Into Debt for Law School?

Is It Worth Going Into Debt for Law School?

This answer varies for everyone. It all depends on what someone finds fulfilling in life and depending on what sector a law school student chooses as a career field. According to this pool, over 4,000 who got a law degree between 2000 and 2015, only 23% said that a law degree was worth the cost.

With 23% being a low and scary number, luckily there’s a list of schools that can make law school worthwhile and be able to give a substantial debt-to-salary ratio:

  • Brigham Young University: Students graduating from this law school can expect to have an average salary of $108,000 and have an average debt just below $65,000
  • In terms of value, the school gives the best value with a 1.7x salary-to-debt ratio, making it an unbeatable option compared to the many law schools out there, even the prestigious ones
  • Second rating below Brigham Young University belongs to three different schools: The University of Texas at Austin, Yale University, and the University of Houston
    • The University of Texas at Austin comes with the ratio at 1.4x with not only a relatively cheaper tuition but also the living expenses in Texas are much cheaper compared to bigger cities that law school tend to be in which substantially can keep the debt down for most students
    • Yale Law School graduates also average an expected salary of approximately $177,771 compared to Brigham Young University (BYU) and University of Texas at Austin (UT). Not only that, Yale Law School has been known to be generous with their financial aid

However, going to law school is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly since most law firms won’t pay for tuition. When thinking about applying, many students should determine what they want to do after graduating law school, such as:

  • Specialized area they want to practice after graduating
    • Public service lawyers get paid substantially less compared to their private practice peers
      • Legal aid attorneys on average make $69,400 while private practice lawyers on average can make $165,000 in their first year
  • Life commitments that might cause one to drop out (relationships, family issues, etc.)
  • Financial complications (Would a potential candidate be alright with the long term debt and possibly not obtaining a high salary right away after graduation?)
  • Dropout rates
    • Dropout rates have gradually increases over the years, some schools have rates as high as 38%
    • Dropping out and not finishing only increases personal debt, with nothing to show for
  • Competition
    • A number of people want to attend law school all the while unemployment rate have increased for graduates going up to 8.3% in 2020 to 6.4% in 2019
  • Bar Exam
    • Despite graduating from law school, students still have to pass the bar exam which can cause $1,000 or more
    • However, the passing rate for students that take it the first time is pretty high – about 83% in 2020
    • It’s important to note that students who don’t pass the bar exam, will have to repay to take it once again as this is necessary in order to be licensed

Luckily, the average completion timeline for most law schools is only three years compared to other higher education areas such as medical school or dental school. However, financial and time commitments shouldn’t be the sole determining factors for attending. If a student is very passionate about what they want to do in the future, law school can be rewarding despite time and money factors.

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