Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey Report

ABA Young Lawyers Division & AccessLex, 2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey Report:

ABA AccessLexPulling from lawyers in the ABA’s database who were identified as having been licensed or graduated law school within the last 10 years, 1,084 newer lawyers and recent law school graduates completed the survey. The survey was conducted from March 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020. The ABA tapped AccessLex Institute to conduct a thorough data analysis of the survey results.

By the time we closed the survey at the end of March 2020, the chaos of a global pandemic had started to take hold. COVID-19’s potential impact was becoming apparent. Law schools were forced into remote learning. Bar exams would be postponed. Associateships and jobs would be rescinded. With COVID-19 as a backdrop, the survey’s results were especially eye-opening. Respondents to our survey were, by and large, people who graduated after the 2008 recession and before the 2020 pandemic. These respondents are a cohort of law graduates who entered our profession under a consistently improving — arguably, at times booming — economy. Yet the results give a view into a generation of lawyers deeply and personally affected by their debt. One can only speculate what the impact of student loans might be on the class of 2020 and subsequent graduates who will be subjected to, at this moment, unknown economic fallout due to a pandemic.

Our goal with this report is to underscore the student loan problem and reiterate the legal profession’s moral and ethical necessity to address it by focusing on the human element. We hope that its recommendations will serve as a guide for those in positions of power who actively choose to help address this issue.

ABA AccessLex 1

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"If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, feel free to reach out!"

An interesting notion, but one rather blunted by the lack of contact information on your ABA page.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 31, 2020 1:50:03 PM

Hi, and thanks for your interest in the report! If you read through the report (and I hope you do!), you'll see reference – as the basis for the entire introduction of the report, in fact - to the idea that there has been much talk for close to two decades about student loans as a problem in the legal profession, but not enough has been done by its institutions to produce tangibly better outcomes. The ABA is a complicated organization. But understand it is not a monolith, and it is driven by its members. When members speak up, speak out, and get involved, collectively, change can happen. I can tell you the ABA YLD did this report to try and get things moving in the right direction. It is planning tangible next steps to try and reshape ABA policy around student loans. To me, that is a step, at least, in the right direction. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved, feel free to reach out!

Posted by: Austin Groothuis | Oct 30, 2020 11:54:06 AM

JM's comment is spot on. Perhaps we are all supposed to pay off law school with the magic million dollars we all get at graduation or something.

Also let's not forget that the ABA itself was so shockingly lax and indifferent to years and years of law schools objectively lying about their employment outcomes and salaries in order to justify their enormous tuition increases that they almost got their accreditation powers yanked a few years ago. These people are at least 15 years too late to the party - and even now they aren't doing anything except shedding crocodile tears. Maybe they'll form an exploratory committee to consider drafting a proposal about possibly writing a public release statement expressing concern that in some instances a few graduates may be struggling because of the cost of law school.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 29, 2020 7:31:10 AM

"Our goal with this report is to underscore the student loan problem and reiterate the legal profession’s moral and ethical necessity to address it by focusing on the human element."

One does wonder if AccessLex, formerly the private student lender Access Group - controlled by the accredited law schools as a membership corporation, no less - harbored such concerns back in the pre-GradPLUS, pre-Great Recession era, when securities agencies had predicted default rates on their private law school loans (for private student loans are securitized and sold to investors, no different than mortgages or car loans) in the 12% to 15% range, among the highest predicted default rates in all of higher education...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 28, 2020 9:17:59 AM

The biggest problem with these debt balances is that in the great majority of cases, they will have only GROWN since graduation because of IBR and similar programs. If the average debt was $165,000 for an individual that graduated in 2015, that debt is now easily over $200,000. The bill always comes due. First of all, I don't believe for a second that there will ever be debt forgiveness in 20 years. The rules will change before that happens, and the rug will come out. Second, even if there is, due to the tax bomb, whoever takes advantage of the forgiveness is guaranteeing themselves to be impoverished at least 20+ years after graduation. These are the twenty years in which you are supposed to be getting married, raising a family, and sending kids off to college. So it is either pay or resign yourself to being a failure. No wonder people are depressed.

Posted by: JM | Oct 28, 2020 6:52:42 AM