Unlike grants and scholarships, loans must be repaid with interest. The vast majority of law students rely on loans, either from the federal government or private sources, as their primary source of financial aid.
The federal government offers student loans, including loans with income-based repayment features. Since changes in financial aid rules and regulations are ongoing, you should consult some of the financial aid websites under links and resources to get the latest information on federal loans. Ultimately, the best source of information about financing a legal education is the financial aid office of the law school to which you are applying.
An increasing number of law schools also have loan reduction assistance programs (LRAPs), but they are not all the same and are limited in number, so you need to thoroughly investigate them to understand your chances of receiving their benefits. The LRAPs exist to encourage students to enter public service jobs, and generally preference is given to candidates with the highest debt to income ratio.
A limited number of states offer graduate school loans, and you will need to check with the state where you reside.
Since tuition alone at most law schools exceeds the federal loan limits, you will likely need to make up the difference with educational loans from private lenders.
Unlike most federal loans, you will not be able to obtain private loans unless you are creditworthy. The private lender will exam your credit report, and, if they don't like what they see, they won't extend a loan to you or they will charge you a higher rate of interest to reflect the higher risk that you won't repay the loan. The importance of creditworthiness with private loans highlights the need to establish and maintain a good credit history while you are in college. Since the private lender will be examining your credit report, you may want to examine your credit reports first and address any issues before applying for private loans. If you need private loans to attend law school but cannot borrow due to your credit history, you may not be able to attend law school.
Since private loans are not subsidized or guaranteed like federal loans, they usually have higher costs. These costs include an interest rate based on a combination of the market rate, your creditworthiness, and the law school's default rate, and fees, such as origination fees and guarantee fees. Further, private loans may or may not offer deferrals on repayment.
The average debt of law school graduates who borrowed to finance their degrees is $140,000.