The cost of going to law school depends in large part on whether or not you go to a public law school or a private law school. Private law school cost can easily cost more than double the price of a public law school. According to the latest data reported by the American Bar Association, the average cost of earning a law degree at a public law school was $25,333 per year. This is approximately $76,000 for the three year program. On the other hand, the average cost of earning a law degree at a private law school was $41,666 per year. This is approximately $125,000 for the three year program. This does not include miscellaneous costs. Most law students pay for their tuition with loans so they graduate with a great deal of debt.
Is it worth it? It depends on your perspective. From a purely financial perspective, paying back those law school loans can be relatively easy if you land a job at a large law firm or you work as a staff attorney for a large corporation. However, most lawyers fresh out of law school do not land these types of jobs nor do all young lawyers want to work in these environments. Some lawyers want to work for the government or become public defenders.
Others dream of opening their own law firm in their home town or a desirable geographical location. In these cases, their starting salary can be less than $60,000 per year. Even after ten years on the job, it is not uncommon for government lawyers to only make $60,000 – $70,000. Should the lawyer want to get married, buy a house, and have kids, this salary is not going to make life as financially easy as most outsiders perceive lawyers to live. Obviously, they will be doing better than many others, but given the cost of their loans, it can take a decade or two to catch up.
Some law students become attorneys because they have a passion for something. For example, some become personal injury attorneys because they have a passion for helping “the little guy” who is being kicked around by insurance companies and big corporations. Others have a passion to work in environmental law. In these cases, they usually end up working for a non-profit or start a private practice where they are hired by various non-profits.
Some law students have in mind to work in a certain industry some as helping coal miners. In all of these cases, becoming a lawyer gives them the power to help people and/or causes in ways they would not be able to help without a law degree. In these cases, even if the salary is not substantial as a lawyer working for a large corporation, it is worth it because they are following their passion.