Law School: Not the Deal It Used to Be

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Unless you have a DeLorean time machine, you're stuck with the cost of a legal education today.

But if you could go back to the 1980s, the average tuition at a private law school was about one-fourth the cost today. So you had a choice: buy a DeLorean or go to law school.

Today, the old "Back to the Future" cars are worth about their original investment. If you are looking at the comparable cost of a legal education, you are talking about a quarter-million-dollar Ferrari.

Cost of Education

Law school is not quite the bargain it used to be. In 1988, for example, Above the Law says the average tuition cost about $9,652.

Of course, it's all relative: cost of living, job prospects, etc. Law School Transparency helps with that by reporting student debt compared to employment scores by law school.

Midwest law schools, for example, report graduates leaving with relatively low debt and good job prospects. Graduates from the University of North Dakota, for one, make it out with $105,255 in average debt.

Yet the North Dakota law school has an employment score on par with many more expensive law schools. By comparison, Loyola University Chicago has basically the same employment score but an average debt of $275,929.

Job Prospects

Sometimes you get what you pay for. Duke University, with the highest employment score, puts students in debt an average of $324,846.

Still, the Midwest is worth a look-see. Law schools, employers and even the state offer financial incentives to students and future lawyers there.

South Dakota, for example, was the first state to offer a $12,000 annual subsidy in exchange for a five-year commitment to start a full-time practice in a county with less than 10,000 residents.

It may not be Hill Valley, but then again "Back to the Future" was just a movie. In reality, you can't really go back.

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