Once we embrace our dream to become a successful and impactful lawyer, we start to realize the many obstacles that we have to overcome. First, we need to get into a good university with a competitive pre-law program. Then, we’ll need to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) so that we could get into a law school with high standards and a good background. But no matter how high our grades are, we still need to face one huge obstacle. And that is covering the costs of tuition and other expenses at law school. And those things never ever come cheap.
The good thing is that there are many options for us. We can overcome the financial obstacles at law school. There are three main ways. The first is acquiring a scholarship or grant. The second is balancing working and school. And the third is finding a good deal on student loans. Now, we just need to find the best option for us.
Scholarships and Grants
Finding a way to cover all of the costs and to even get a stipend is the ideal of overcoming the financial obstacles of law school. This way, we won’t have to worry about building up our student loans before we could even start working. And, we won’t have to struggle with balancing work and study. But, as we all know, acquiring scholarships or grants is never easy.
Truth be told, there aren’t enough scholarships and grants for everyone who needs it. So it gets very competitive. Our grades matter, of course. But those aren’t the only things that scholarship funders look at. They also look at our financial background, research interest, work experiences, and even our racial and ethnic background.
For example, the American Bar Association (ABA) grants the Legal Opportunity Scholarship every year to law school students. Every year, 10 to 20 students can apply for a grant of up to $15 thousand. And they can keep applying to it on an annual basis. But this scholarship is specially designed to encourage people of color to apply to law schools through financial support. This is so that the legal aid across the United States would be more diverse.
Because applying for a scholarship or grant can be very exhausting, some law students opt for working instead. This way, they are pursuing their law education without racking up on student loans that will weigh heavily on their shoulders for a very long time. So law students work at day jobs. Some of them work in law offices already as paralegals or law secretaries. Some of them work as process servers to deliver legal documents. But there are some students whose day jobs aren’t related to law at all, such as in restaurants and retail.
Fortunately, law schools across the country offer the federal work-study program. This program helps students work part-time during the school year. But during school breaks, they’ll be working full time. The jobs vary. Some work at the offices on campus. Some work in the offices of nonprofit agencies outside of the school. This way, the students can acquire financial support without compromising their energy and focus for school while working.
For example, Boston University’s federal work-study program offers jobs for students on-campus such as research or library assistants. They also offer off-campus jobs, most of which are related to law. This way, not only are their law students getting financial support, but their jobs are also great learning opportunities outside of the classroom.
Although racking up student loans isn’t the best option, many law students still find it more convenient than applying for a scholarship or working through a work-study program. Law students can apply for federal student loans that can be paid later when they start earning their income as lawyers. Federal student loans are more flexible than student loans from the private sector. For example, they have the Income-Driven Repayment plan. With this, the monthly payment can be equal to or less than 10 percent of the monthly Adjusted Gross income. This way, they’re still able to maintain a balanced budget while paying for their loans.
However, not all students are able to acquire federal student loans. Not everyone is qualified, such as the students from other countries. This is why many students also look through student loans from the private sector.
Going to law school has never been easy. And it’s especially harder for students with the expenses. But just because they’re not as financially-equipped as others, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try to be lawyers anymore. They just need to find the right option for their financial support.