Article written by
Graduate of UPenn Law ’14
Ultimately, many law school graduates take on their first jobs with significant law school debt. If you are the type of person that enjoys digging into the numbers, Law School Transparency published a detailed report on law school debt for class of 2017 graduates.
First, the basics: a little more than three-quarters of graduates in the class of 2017 borrowed at least some money to attend law school. While the average amount of cash borrowed by graduates decreased by 3.5 percent as compared to 2016, the average amount borrowed was still $115,854. On average, grads of private law schools borrowed more than grads of public law schools—although both public and private class of 2017 grads borrowed less than class of 2016 grads.
Along with an understanding of the macro landscape of law school loans, it’s critical to look at the indebtedness numbers of schools that you are targeting. U.S. News & World Report has a useful table on this subject. For each school, the table shows the percent of grads with debt and the average indebtedness for 2018 grads who incurred law school debt. For instance, Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, California has the highest level of average indebtedness of 2018 grads who incurred law school debt ($212,576), with 82 percent of grads graduating with debt.
Law school is expensive—regardless of where you attend. That said, it is important to consider these indebtedness numbers for your targeted schools along with employment outcomes for those graduates. The American Bar Association provides reports of employment outcomes for each law school (which you can find here). The worst case scenario is attending a law school with extremely high levels of indebtedness and low employment levels. It will ultimately cause you economic pain for years—perhaps even decades—into the future.