A law education is expensive, there’s no doubt about that. Especially if you’re planning on taking things further, like a post graduate Master of Laws degree. (LL.M) —which is much more taxing and expensive than getting just a Juris Doctor law degree. Regardless, in today’s economy, going further will most definitely increase your chances of getting hired at a big firm.
Even if you open up your own practice, having a specialized knowledge in a specific field of law will go along way in getting new clients.
So let’s talk about how to pay for law school without taking on too much student loans. After all it is a well worthy goal to become a lawyer and a wonderful experience that can lead you to a very successful career.
However, law school tuition fees are increasing and the job market for lawyers are very competitive. The costs of attending law school can be stressful for those who may be unprepared on how to pay off their student loans. Fortunately, there are a lot of scholarships in and out of your local state that are available for those with various financial needs.
Getting a law school scholarship or grant
Scholarships are your greatest ammunition when it comes to avoiding an obscene amount of debt because of legal education. For grants, they’re more elusive than scholarships and they’re not that different from each other. Your best bet is to go for scholarships instead because if you don’t have a solid plan for your expenses, you won’t be able to rest well thanks to loans.
Don’t expect that you’ll immediately earn big bucks once you graduate with a law degree. You might be lucky enough to land a six-figure salary as an associate at an established law firm, but don’t bank on that possibility too much. There’s still the chance that you’ll get a lower salary that makes debt payment a total pain. If your parents are wealthy and would pay for your tuition, then good for you. However, if you have no other options, you can always go for scholarships instead.
There’s no need to be at the top of your class in order to maintain your scholarship—all you need is to get consistently good grades. Here are some things that you can consider prior to going to a law school with a scholarship:
- Try to apply to top ranked schools (they usually have the most grants). If you’re not feeling it because some of the best law schools are out of state, then choose the best-ranking one in the state that you want to practice in.
- Look for scholarships offered by your chosen school and other institutions that can help you with funding.
- Once you get the results of your acceptance tests, think things thoroughly.
- There are good chances that you can get a full scholarship to a high-ranking law school. However, don’t expect them to hand you money or allowance because a number of top schools don’t offer that option.
- If you don’t get a scholarship, then it’s okay. You can always re-apply in a year or so.
Here are some specific law school scholarships and grants that you can look into depending on your status and needs:
General Scholarships for Law Students
There are different types of scholarships that are available all throughout the country. Some of them even cater to various criteria such as your race, social standing, gender, etc. The California Bar Foundation has a page dedicated to the different programs that you can look into for financial aid.
If you’re more keen on finding out university or institution specific scholarships, you can check your school’s website (for example, Berkeley Law’s scholarship page) or ask an admissions officer.
Alternatively, you can find many law firms that want to support future law students with a scholarship as well. One recent example that was brought up to my attention is from Robert Mhelfend Law Office. They provide a $500 scholarship as long as you meet the requirement.
Scholarships for Older Students
If you’re an older student who would like to apply for a scholarship to law school, you can fill out a form for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. There is not age limit for this aid, so you can apply for loans and financial assistance just like younger students. The best part about this is that federal loans have significantly lower interest rates and better repayment plans compared to loans offered by private entities. If you’re also planning on applying for a scholarship from your school, you’re going to need the FAFSA. I highly suggest that you have your tax return from the previous year on hand as proof of your eligibility for the FAFSA.
The Miller Law Offices also offers two scholarships worth $1,000 for students who are aged 50 or older. For their 2015 applications, candidates must create a 500+ word essay about the advantages of returning to school at the age of 50 and up before you can be considered.
Scholarships for Veterans
People who served the country are also eligible for various scholarships. Most law schools in California honor Title 38, United States Code (Veteran’s Benefits). Some of those with extensive scholarship programs for veterans include the University of San Diego Law School, Abraham Lincoln University, and California Western School of Law.
Scholarships for Women
Women also have scholarships that aim to provide assistance and empowerment to those who want to pursue further education. Some of the most generous scholarships include The American Association of University Women Educational Funding and those that are under the supervision of the Women Lawyers of Sacramento.
Scholarships for Single Parents
Single parenthood is difficult, as there is only one person who is providing for the family. Those people who are raising their children alone have law school scholarship options to choose from. One of those scholarships is from Katz & Phillips, P.A.’s Single-Parent Scholarship. Each year, they award one scholarship worth $1,000 to someone who has exemplary academic merits and an outstanding application essay. The Pepperdine University School of Law in California also has a scholarship program for single mothers from the Kerrigan Scholarship Foundation.
Scholarships for Minorities
Minorities have different kinds of scholarships available to them—from financial grants to full ride scholarships to the biggest and most well known universities in the state. For instance, The California Bar Foundation’s Diversity Scholarship provides $7,500 in educational assistance to those who can further diversity in the law profession. The American Bar Association also has an extensive list of various scholarships available for minorities. Also, there are specific scholarships for certain races and minorities such as:
How to Pay for Law School
Now that you have an idea about the various scholarships and grants that you can apply for, it’s now the time to find out how you to pay for law school after you applied.
Once you find out exactly how much does law school cost, you then have several options:
- Familiarize yourself with the requirements needed for you chosen law degree as well as your selected scholarship. There are varying guidelines when it comes to the school that you’re enrolling in. You have to make sure that you submit all of the required documents by the deadline.
- Apply for a subsidized law for direct graduates. These type of loans depend on your needs and the government will be paying for your interest rate while you’re currently enrolled.
- Ask your program advisor if your school or institution has a loan forgiveness program. There are some schools that offer loan forgiveness if you’re unable to pay for your loan via monetary means. In exchange, you will be asked to work for a nonprofit sector of the law once your graduate.
- Get involved early with a local firm and find law internships for high school students. You will be able to earn an income while building a relationship in the industry, right from the start.
Keep in mind that if you find out that you really can’t afford to become a lawyer, but still want to have a career in the legal field, there are alternative. Many start their careers as paralegals and later continue their education to become lawyers. This allows them to have a better understanding of the behind the scene work involved and by doing so making them that much better at their work when they do become attorneys.