What Is the Average Law School Debt?

By Julissa Treviño Updated on May 13, 2019

Do you feel like you're drowning in law school debt? You're not alone.

The average law school debt for a graduate is $112,776, according to legal website Above the Law. And according to U.S. News and World Report's 2018 rankings, a large percentage of law school graduates now regularly end up with upwards of $150,000 in student loan debt. At some law schools, 90% of graduates take on debt.

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Trying to figure out how your law school debt compares? Here are a few things to consider.

How much debt do you have?

The amount of you owe is one of the biggest factors in figuring out how and when you'll be able to pay off your debt.

That amount ranges a lot depending on which school you graduate from. In the U.S. News ranking, low-debt graduates from Georgia State University graduate with only about $56,000, but, at the high end, those from Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego graduate with more than $198,000.

Where do you fit in? If you're at the low end of the spectrum, consider that you're not in a terrible position compared to some of your peers.

See also: 6 Things I Wish I Had Known About Student Loans Before I Went to Law School

Are you on track to finish paying your debt?

Above the Law did an informal survey to find out how law-school grads are handling their student loan debt. They found that graduates fell in to three groups:

  1. Those who feel they are on track to finish paying their debt in a reasonable amount of time
  2. Those who plan on using Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  3. Those who are drowning in debt

In general, graduates who felt they were doing well in terms of paying their loans had worked really hard to pay extra toward their loans or had gone to more affordable schools.

Maybe you're in this special category of graduates who are doing just fine with student loan repayment. If this is you, know this is no small feat.

See also: Why Paying Ahead — Even Just a Little — Can Have a Big Impact on Your Student Loans
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Are you banking on Public Service Loan Forgiveness?

Many other graduates in that survey seemed to be relying on Public Service Loan Forgiveness. As you may already know, the program offers loan forgiveness to graduates working in government or some nonprofits after they make 120 on-time payments.

For law graduates who carry a lot of debt, the program offers a chance at real relief. And there are a lot of opportunities for law school graduates working in government at the local, state and federal level — from being a law clerk to a public defender, or even working on legislation and policy.

See also: BigLaw v. Public Service: Pros and Cons to Consider for Life After Law School

Are you on an income-based repayment plan?

Many law school grads in the Above the Law survey felt they would be paying off their debt for years. Many mentioned an over-saturated job market or a lack of steady career opportunities. This might provide you some comfort if you're in the same boat, but it also means that you need to figure out how to pay back your debt even if you're not making much money yet.

Thankfully, income-based repayment plans are intended to help you out in those situations. These plans adjust your monthly payments to your income, so they're especially helpful if your income is low compared to the amount of your debt. There are four of these plans, so be sure to research income-driven repayment plans to figure out which one is best for you.

If you're still looking for options to lower the burden of student loans post-law school, you might want to consider student loan refinancing. Not only can refinancing help you save money over the life of your loan, it can also shave years off your debt repayment.

To find out how much you can save, check out this Student Loan Refinancing Calculator.

Published in: Paying Off, Student Loan Debt

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño