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Law Schools

2020 Survey Shows $165K Average Law Student Debt at Graduation

Friday, October 30, 2020

One in four recent law graduates have over $200,000 in student loan debt, and at least half have at least $100,000 in student loan debt.

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Lawwly Contributor

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The 2020 Law Student Loan Debt Survey Report, part of the 2020 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession was released in July of this year.


The survey's findings are daunting to say the least. An earlier report in March found that over 75% of those surveyed had at least $100,000 in student loans at graduation.


This July, the same survey found that over 50% of over 1,000 newer lawyers and recent law grads had at least $100,000 in student loans upon graduation.


At least 25% of those surveyed had more than $200,000 in student loans. The ABA Young Lawyers Division stated that “high student loan debt is all but a prerequisite to becoming a lawyer today,” in the report. 


The report continued on to say that “the student loan problem represents a threat to the stability of the profession, and its experienced and successful members should be leading and participating in efforts to help reduce the student loan burden on their younger colleagues.” 


This report solidifies a concern among many whom are following the future of the profession.


Now more than ever, and especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and new graduates are being asked to take on more debt than their predecessors.


Add to that issues involving remote examination of the bar exam as well as increasing costs of education, and you have an overwhelming amount of reasons for new graduates and new prospective students to choose another profession or forgo the law all together.


Many young lawyers are so impacted by the debilitating debt that they are postponing many major life decisions that they normally would’ve taken by now, but for their debt. Some have delayed having children, and others are choosing a job solely because of its higher pay. 


According to the survey, over 50% of students are postponing children or to not have children at all, and an astounding 29% postponed or decided not to marry as a result of their student debt. Others have to take care of their sick parents, and have very little for themselves. 


Additionally, over 58% decided to postpone or not go on vacation, over 55% postponed or decided to not go home, and over 46% have postponed or decided to not buy a car.


Mental health issues are often cited as an impact, and many were forced into cohabitation with their parents in order to make ends meet.

The report provided some broad recommendations and guidance with a mission towards the sustainability future of the profession.


It recommended policy changes to address the high costs of legal education and to consider alternative credit service models, changing bankruptcy standards to allow students to more easily repay their debts, and other recommendations.


Beyond that, the report does little to really help law students currently in a tough situation through no fault of their own.


This December, many student loan interest will continue again.


Some are facing interest rates as high as 7% or more and are still looking for gainful employment. It’s up to the leaders of this profession and those who have benefitted from the profession to take the lead and guide future attorneys and practitioners through this tough time.

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