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Law school is very expensive; this is not news. But is it worth the cost?

While the average law school student loan debt, among those who borrowed to attend, was $108,000 in 2017, it is also true that employment rates for recently graduated law students have been increasing and lawyers have the highest 10-year job projection among positions requiring a graduate or professional degree.

But, if you’re considering whether attending law school is right for you, and whether now is the right time to do it, neither money or the type of job you’re afforded is the appropriate metric to use when trying to decide. While the data I’ve cited is public, the answer to the question, “Is law school worth the cost?,” is intensely personal. You have to answer that question for yourself.

Law school’s offer training and education that is unmatched in its quality, portability and flexibility, and creates the potential for a lifetime of personal and professional success for anyone with the motivation to achieve. There are people and areas in our country that are currently underserved and would benefit greatly from having access to highly trained attorneys and other public servants.

However, law school is also a substantial investment of time, money and psychological resources. There are countless reasons to pursue a law degree, but you must make sure a legal education will further an important objective in your life. Using law school as time to determine your objective is both expensive and inefficient.

If you’re thinking about law school, you need to have a plan. Know what you want to get out of law school and don’t lose track of what you are putting into it.

One way to get a better sense of how you can maximize a law school experience is to find the right law school for you. Fit is critical, so you want to do a personal analysis of your goals, needs and preferences in order to find the schools that offer what you are looking for. You should, of course, seek out scholarship and other financial aid opportunities, but also consider factors like where your credentials will place you in your class, the school’s bar passage rates, job placement rates, specialized program opportunities and environment factors, such as the school’s location, size and diversity. AccessLex Institute, a nonprofit working to increase accessibility and affordability of law school, offers a free online search tool that can help you perform this personal breakdown, but use whatever resources you may have at your disposal, starting with advisors at your potential school, if you can. Being somewhere you feel comfortable will allow you to stretch yourself in other important ways.

Now, it may be that your objectives are in place and there is a school that looks like a great fit for you, but it’s still hard to stake six-figure debt and three years of opportunity cost on a 10-year job projection. If that is your next question, you are already showing the sound and thorough thought process of a successful law student. But that’s where the portability and flexibility of a J.D. come in. A fulfilling career does not have to involve practicing law. In fact, contrary to common belief, a law degree can be advantageous even for those who decide not to sit for the bar exam. For example, individuals whose trajectories lead them to public policy, politics or education will see their career prospects bolstered by their legal education.

That’s to say, in short, it is always a good time to go to law school if you are prepared and that is where your passion lies. Regardless of what you end up doing with it, you will ultimately determine whether earning a J.D. will enhance your career path and life. And, putting yourself in that position is definitely worth the cost.


William "Billy" Thompson is the Director of Communications and Media Relations at AccessLex Institute.