Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Law School Debt Is Delaying Plans For Recent Grads

ABA Journal Cover Story (Dec. 2020), Law School Debt Is Delaying Plans For Recent Grads:

ABA DebtSome new attorneys delay buying a home or a new car. Others reluctantly postpone marriage and having children while altering the career plans they had going into law school.

These are among the personal and professional sacrifices young lawyers often make due to their sizable student loan debt, according to a survey conducted this spring by the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division and the ABA Media Relations and Strategic Communications Division [2020 Law School Student Loan Debt Survey Report]. Many survey respondents also provided open-ended comments indicating their student loans have contributed to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

The survey results were highlighted in the ABA’s second annual Profile of the Legal Profession—a data-driven deep dive into issues facing attorneys and the legal industry. The section on student debt was among the new additions, as was information about the country’s legal deserts. (See “2020 state of the profession report shows dearth of lawyers in rural areas, attorney debt struggles")

According to the YLD survey of 1,084 attorneys, whose median age was 32, the costs of legal education are skyrocketing. Participating attorneys reported carrying a median cumulative student debt of $160,000, with roughly 40% stating that their debt load is higher now than when they graduated from law school.

Additionally, U.S. Department of Education data referenced in the Profile of the Legal Profession indicates the average cumulative student debt for law school graduates rose from $82,400 in 2000 to $145,500 in 2016, the most recent year for which such federal data is available.

“That should bring a renewed focus for the legal profession on the cost of legal education,” says Christopher Brown, chair of the YLD.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


It's almost as if, contrary to outlandish claims of the current value of a law degree based on a small number of debt and employment outcomes from the early 1990s, going to law school in the last decade has been a high-stakes gamble with lifelong financial consequences.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Dec 17, 2020 8:18:09 PM

But not to worry. All your professors will be just fine.

Posted by: Sal D'Andrea | Dec 10, 2020 7:47:42 AM

40% have HIGHER debt than when they graduated. Says it all right there. This all but guarantees a LESS THAN middle class existence for the rest of their lives. Even if their debt is forgiven after 20 years under IBR (it won't be, see PSLF), the tax bomb will wipe any net worth they have in advanced middle age, including any inheritance they may get from deceased parents. Those who have the tax debt waived must have no assets to qualify. What a wonderful life!

Posted by: JM | Dec 10, 2020 4:47:53 AM