How Becoming a Lawyer Works

By: Laura Murray & Sam Burritt

Law School Funding

The first year of law school is exceedingly demanding. Just ask any first year law student. Because that first year is so academically rigorous, most ABA schools prohibit students from working more than an average of 20 hours per week -- and often working at all is frowned upon. But if financial obligations demand that you do work, there are some schools that are more accomodating. Some offer part-time/evening programs that are tailored to the student with a career. You should note, though, that this usually takes a year longer than the typical three-year program, so you're looking at a four year committment instead.

Tuition can range from $5,000 a year to more than $35,000. The actual cost of attendance is much higher, after factoring in books (hundreds a semester), lodging, food, transportation and living expenses. So, without a job or the time to get one, how can you afford this?



Grants are money the Federal or State government gives you that you do not have to pay back. These usually entail a long application process and are the most rare. Grants are usually given based on need.


Granted by the institution you are attending, the state or funded by private organizations. They usually are awarded for academic excellence.

Work Study

Provides funding in exchange for part-time work at the university, and is typically offered only to second and third year law students.


Similar to grants, except that they are awarded for a particular academic path. For instance, a fellowship may be awarded by a governmental department that would fund chosen applicants to participate in a set curriculum, which would be chosen by the fellowship committee.


Based on the school's estimate of your financial need and the overall cost of attendance, there are two types of loans. Federal loans, which are more need-based, are harder to procure and have better interest rates. Private loans require good credit on the part of the student and have higher interest rates (though still lower than the loan you might take out to, say, buy a car or house). Federal loans are further broken down into two categories: subsidized and non-subsidized. Non-Subsidized loans behave much the same way private loans do, whereas the interest on the principal of subsidized loans is suspended while you are in school. Once you graduate or withdraw, however, you must begin paying the interest six months thereafter.

It's a good idea to seek out experts and solicit their opinions. Talk to a counselor at your undergraduate college. Most universities have financial aid departments. There, you can ask for materials and advice. You could also speak to your financial planner or banker. Carrying a great amount of debt is a serious matter, even if it's an investment in your future, so proceed carefully.

Well, now you've figured out how to pay for law school. You've taken your boards and done your research on how to apply. But which school is right for you?