Finding the most affordable law schools can be a difficult task, especially when a student realizes that there are 237 law schools available within the United States. But finding a school that will provide students with the degree they are seeking as well as a path towards sitting for the bar examination, a requirement to be able to practice law, is necessary for individuals who do not have the funding needed for a $43,000 annual tuition fee. That is why this ranking was created.
Affordable law schools exist in the United States, most of which offer the American Bar Association acknowledgment and accreditation. This is a great first step in earning an affordable degree as ABA approval is necessary to sit for the bar. These schools also offer a variety of specializations and degrees, making it a great choice for students who know which specialization that they would like to pursue as a profession. The ten schools below are all great choices and will serve as a starting point for students interested in moving forward with their career goals.
This point-based ranking was created by utilizing the National Center for Education Statistics and its publicly available College Navigator Database along with information based on each school’s average annual tuition and the school’s U.S. News and World Report Best Law School Ranking. The initial group of 40 schools was chosen based on a search for most affordable law schools. The schools were then awarded points based on an average annual tuition rate, which is based on both in-state and out-of-state tuition fees, and Best Law School Ranking, as noted below:
Under $15,000: 3 points
$15,001 – $24,999: 2 points
$25,000 and above: 1 point
U.S. News and World Report: Best Law School Ranking
Top 100 or more: 1 point
Top 75: 2 points
Top 50: 3 points
Top 25: 4 points
The final 10 schools were chosen based on their points ranking and are listed below in descending order based on tuition.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What are the Career Options for a Law Degree?
- How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
- What are the Various Disciplines of Law?
- Are There Different Specializations for a Law Degree?
- What are Some of the Requirements to be Accepted Into Law School?
- Do You Have to go to Law School in Order to Become a Lawyer?
Summary Ranking of Top 10 Most Affordable Law Schools:
- The University of Arkansas
- The University of Alabama
- The University of Mississippi
- The University of Georgia
- The University of Montana
- The University of North Dakota
- The University of the District of Columbia
- CUNY School of Law
- Southern University Law Center
- The University of Wyoming
Ranking Top 10 Most Affordable Law Schools
10. The University of Wyoming
The University of Wyoming is one of the best places to get an excellent and affordable JD degree. Students will find that this school is small, with only about 225 students attending annually, meaning there is more room for close relationships with staff and professors. This also means that practical hands-on instruction and experience is also common, making it easier for students to understand how to use their law education in real-world settings. Students will have the chance to attend Law Week, attend court proceedings, work on research, and more. This school has a variety of affordable degree options, including joint degrees and graduate certificates, providing students with a chance to find their own specialization within the degree. The school’s popular JD program is rigorous and takes three years of full-time study to complete. Students will need to complete 89 credit hours of coursework, the First Year Law Student Exam, a variety of real-world training opportunities, internships, clinics, practicums and more for graduation. Sample courses include Land Use Law, Bar Review, and the Cambridge Summer Law Institute.
9. Southern University Law Center
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Points: 2 points
Law students will find an exceptional and affordable JD program available from the Southern University Law Center. This school has a long history of commitment to its students as well as political activity and is currently considered to be one of the top five most affordable law schools in the country. This school is accredited by the American Bar Association as well as the American Association of Law Schools. Housed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it’s not far from New Orleans, where students often intern at the Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Eastern District Federal Court of Louisiana. This school offers a JD plus joint degrees, providing professionals who are ambitious in public administration and business administration to complete their degrees concurrently. Students will find that they will be required to complete a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, practicums, an internship and an externship for graduation. Sample courses include Commercial Paper, Criminal Law, and Legal Analysis and Writing.
8. CUNY School of Law
Long Island City, New York
Points: 2 points
CUNY School of Law is one of the most low-cost law schools in the country. This school offers a variety of experiential learning opportunities while providing students with the chance to specialize in their field of choice. This school has been consistently ranked in the Top 10 Law Schools in clinical training, no doubt owing to the school’s 10:1 student-faculty ratio and its location close to Manhattan. This affordable school is approved by the Board of Regents of New York State and accredited by the American Bar Association. Students come to this school to earn their JD. Students will complete three years of rigorous work; this includes a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, Lawyering Seminars, clinics and internships before they graduate. Sample courses include Public Institutions in Context Environment Law, Law and Family Relations, and Civil Procedure.
7. The University of the District of Columbia
Points: 2 points
One of the most affordable law schools in the country is housed at the University of the District of Columbia. UDC David A. Clarke School of Law is committed to the public interest and has a strong community service program that sees D.C. residents receive about 100,000 hours of legal services. Students engage in pro bono legal service as part of their degree, an essential part of their training as they learn their craft in the nation’s capital. Students will find that there are small class sizes available as well as full-time and part-time evening programs, providing education for all individuals, regardless of their schedule. This school offers both an affordable JD and a Master of Laws, enabling students to choose the best path forward for them. This curriculum is set up to provide necessary courses for the first two years, then lead students into their specialization of choice for clinical practice, internships, and externships. This degree requires a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, clinical practice, an internship, and externship, and comprehensive exams. Sample courses include International Human Rights, Race and the Law, and Gender and Sexual Orientation Law.
6. The University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Points: 2 points
The University of North Dakota is home to one of the most affordable law schools in the country. Students will find that this is a smaller public law school with professors who have extensive experience in the field. With an overall student body that is around 250 students, this school offers both valuable and intimate education experiences for students who are ready to complete their dreams of becoming a lawyer. The courses available at this affordable school are rigorous in academics and experiential learning; the program is three years of real-world experience, classroom lectures, Lawyering Seminars, trial court hearings, and more. Students will be required to complete a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, an internship, an externship, competitions, and comprehensive exams. More information can be found by contacting the school’s admissions office.
5. The University of Montana
Points: 3 points
Students at the University of Montana will have the opportunity to complete a law degree from one of the most affordable schools in the country. This school was opened in 1911 and for the last century has been a pioneer in legal education with a focus on the practical training that students need in order to become professional lawyers. With specialty programs in Environmental Law and Natural Resources, Indian Law and Conflict Resolution, this affordable school has been at the forefront of facing and solving the legal issues that impact the state. Students will note that this school and its degree options, including joint degrees, require a substantial amount of experiential learning opportunities. Students must complete a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, simulation courses, Lawyering Seminars, internships, clinicals, externships, and comprehensive exams. Sample courses include Legal Writing, Constitutional Law, and Contracts.
4. The University of Georgia
Points: 4 points
The University of Georgia offers a School of Law that is perfect for students who are interested in being prepared for success by professionals who have turned to academia. UGA is known nationally for its commitment to excellence in the classroom as well as for experiential learning opportunities. With small class sizes and a comprehensive curriculum, it is no wonder that is one of the best and most affordable law schools in the country. Students will find that this degree offers a JD, a Master of Laws, and a Master of Legal Studies. There are over 20 different concentrations for this degree, including Health Law and Policy, Estate Planning, and Public Interest Law. Those who choose to complete the JD, the most popular program at the school, will need to complete a minimum of 88 semester credit hours, an internship, clinicals, and a set of comprehensive courses. Sample courses include Civil Procedure, Legal Research, and Criminal Law.
3. The University of Mississippi
Points: 2 points
The University of Mississippi’s School of Law is one of the best low-cost law schools available. In 2015, the Law School went through a Strategic Planning Process meant to advance and enhance the School’s JD program. This public law school now provides students with a practice-focused degree that focuses on a variety of legal research courses, internships, externships, and other experiential learning programs. Students can choose between earning an affordable JD or completing a Master of Laws in Air and Space Law. The low-cost JD degree requires a minimum of 89 credit hours of coursework, clinicals, seminars, an internship, research projects, and a set of comprehensive exams. More information on this degree and course offerings, including concentrations, can be found by contacting the school directly.
2. The University of Alabama
Points: 4 points
One of the most affordable law schools in the country can be found at the University of Alabama. This school is known for small class sizes, a high bar exam passage rate, great internship and externship placements in federal situations, and international programs. In fact, this school offers over 12 different programs, including JDs, joint degree programs, Master of Laws, and a Doctor of Juridical Sciences. Students can also study abroad in Australia, Israel, and India. Students who complete the JD will need to complete a minimum of 90 credit hours, one internship, one externship, at least three clinicals in accordance with their concentration, and a set of comprehensive exams. More information on these degrees and their requirements can be found by contacting the school’s admissions office.
1. The University of Arkansas
Points: 4 points
Our top affordable pick, The University of Arkansas School of Law, has the distinction of being one of the top 50 best public law schools as ranked by U.S. News and World Report as well as being named one of the “Best Values in Legal Education” by National Jurist Magazine. This is a small public law school with a nationally-recognized faculty and interesting internship and externship opportunities. Students can take on a JD, MLL, or an accelerated JD program for foreign lawyers; certificate programs and dual degree options are also available for students who meet the requirements. Students in the JD program will find that concentrations are available and will be based on their stated area of interest. Graduation from the JD program requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of coursework, internships, an externship, seminars, and a set of qualifying exams. Sample courses include Civil Procedure, Contracts, and Criminal Law.
Average Program Cost: $13,109
U.S. News and World Report Ranking:
#88 (tie) in Best Law Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for a Law Degree?
- Professional Career Counseling
- Conflict Resolution Mediator
- Program Director for a Nongovernmental Organization
- Tax Lawyer
- Estate Lawyer
- Law Professional
- Law Journalist
- Broadcast Journalist
- Public Interest Advocate
- Nonprofit Executive Director
- Foreign Service Officer
- Legislative Analyst
How Much Can You Earn in This Field?
A professional with a law degree will find that their earning potential will depend on their specialty within the field, demand for their services, and the size of the employer or company that hires them. However, the current starting salary for a law graduate is around $75,803. This number includes both private-sector and public-sector positions. It includes only salary, not additional forms of compensation.
The salary range for all specialties within the legal sector is between $30,000 and $250,000. This range includes entry-level and senior-level positions along with professionals who, after some experience in the field, have chosen to open their own law firms. In fact, it is possible for lawyers to make upwards of $1 million dollars as a salary depending on who their clients are and what kind of law they practice.
It is also noted that the quality of the law school that a student attends may be a contributing factor to a professional’s salary. Students who graduate from top law schools around the country tend to be able to earn a higher starting salary than students who don’t. This is especially true if the graduate has also performed well during their internships, have collaborated on papers, and more.
What are the Various Disciplines of Law?
Law is a discipline that is informed by history, politics, criminal justice, international relations, economics, sociology, culture, religion, civil rights, philosophy, and the military. Because law is defined as the set of rules and codes that society operates by, it is important to realize just how many different disciplines have a hand in the formation of the legal system that is present in the United States today. Each discipline plays a role, so professionals will find that their course of study will reflect these fields.
However, law is a specialized profession, meaning that students must decide what their specialty will be prior to entering law school. The specializations will be discussed more in detail in another section, but students will generally be able to choose between criminal law, civil law, humanitarian law, international relations law, financial law, contract law, and more. These are all subdisciplines within the field that offer students a career path that can lead to a rewarding job.
Students will note that while there are a variety of specialized disciplines within the study of law, all are dictated by politics, history, and economics specifically. The advancement of law in America is a direct response to the United States’ relationship with the United Kingdom, the country from which the American legal system, known as common law across the pond, originated from. Politics and economics have always had a hand in most legal disputes, especially at the federal level. Students will need to keep an eye on any trends that they see appearing in their chosen field of law in order to stay current on how the field is evolving.
Are There Different Specializations for a Law Degree?
Yes, there are several specializations available at law school, most of which can be found under the Juris Doctor or Master of Law degree designations. Specializations are integral to a student’s success in law school because their career pathway sets the tone for their education. Knowing which specialization is right for them is the first step in having a successful law school experience.
There are several well-known specializations in law, such as international, constitutional, criminal, contract, tort, and property law. However, there are specializations that go even further, such as public international law, human rights law, family law, immigration law, space law, admiralty law, company law, and environmental law. Specializations will lead to different experiences at the law school level as well as after school, so students should take their time in choosing the school that best fits their needs.
One thing to remember about specializations is that in some cases, such as cybercrime and space law, the field is still developing. This doesn’t mean there isn’t demand for lawyers in these fields; the truth is, more lawyers are needed in order to sort out the concerns that have already been uncovered. Students who choose to follow these specializations will have a challenging road ahead of them; however, they will also be rewarded for being pioneers in their field.
What are Some of the Requirements to be Accepted Into Law School?
Law schools in the United States generally have a set standard of requirements, albeit on a sliding scale, meaning more competitive schools will require higher standards than others. However, more non-competitive schools will have reachable goals in terms of the requirements. The below requirements are critical for every law school applicant.
The first requirement is an undergraduate degree that was earned from an accredited college or university. Accreditation in this sense refers to regional accreditation, a distinction that is offered by associations who are responsible for determining which schools meet a high standard. Other than that, the actual field of the degree does not matter. While many students choose to earn a degree in political science or international studies, having a degree in science, languages or another subject could be just as important. In any case, law schools tend to focus more on whether a student has taken a variety of rigorous courses and performed well rather than the overall degree designation.
Another requirement is a student’s grade point average or GPA. This is an incredibly important number on a student’s application because most law schools require a minimum GPA of 3.5; however, the actual GPA average of accepted students tends to be higher than this number. Students will, therefore, have to ensure that their cumulative GPA is at least a 3.5 to meet the minimum standard; they would do well to try to score closer to a 4.0 GPA if they have already decided on law school.
The third requirement is one that most students dread: the LSAT, which stands for the Law School Admission Test. This is a standardized test in the United States that everyone who applies to attend law school must complete. Students should begin studying for this test their junior year in an undergraduate program so that they can take it the summer before their senior year. This enables them to take the LSAT once and if they need to take it again, they have the time. The LSAT score is one of the biggest factors in determining who would make it into law school, so it’s important to try to score as high as possible.
Letters of recommendation are also required as part of the application process. These letters must be from a professor or a professional contact; family members and friends do not count, even if the student has worked with them in a professional capacity. The letters are most valuable when they come from a professor who can write a letter telling the school how the student has been a value in the classroom and describe that student’s strengths and talents.
The final requirement for a law school application is a personal statement. This is a creative piece of writing that should not only demonstrate a student’s personality but also their achievements and what they wish to achieve by attending law school.
Do You Have to go to Law School in Order to Become a Lawyer?
No, it is not necessary to go to law school in order to become a lawyer. However, the road to earning a license to practice law is as long, as difficult, and in some ways more demanding than the law school route. More importantly, students should understand just how slim the chances are to become a lawyer without a degree from a law school.
To begin, 99 percent of lawyers who earn their license will have completed a law school program. This is for a very good reason: there are only four states in the United States that enable potential lawyers to sit for the bar exam without having completed law school. Those states are California, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. In these states, less than one-quarter of the professionals without a law degree passed the bar exam and won the right to practice law. In fact, all four states are in the top 20 hardest bar exams, with California leading the pack at a pass rate of 54.3 percent.
The previously-mentioned states have an alternate path that is called “reading the law.” This is the path that non-law school students must complete, and it is a rigorous one: professionals must apprentice with a working attorney or judge for four years, including helping file reports, work on depositions, write case briefs, and more. They must also pass the First-Year Law Students’ Examination, a necessity for those who are also in law school. Along with that, they must complete responsibility exams as well as any other work that their mentor has deemed necessary for their education. Only after all of this has been completed can a professional sit for the bar examination.
Professionals will note that while it is difficult to pass the bar examination without a degree, it is not impossible. There is a great deal of hard work that is involved, but nothing that can’t be managed by an ambitious individual. And while it does take a lot of time to complete an apprenticeship, it is significantly cheaper than a law school education; some estimates have the difference between the two paths to equal $145,000.
Law school is a rigorous process, one that will enable professionals to complete the bar examination and become lawyers in the United States. It is not a great fit for everyone; students need to be ambitious, focused, and determined. However, it is a rewarding career that will see professionals thrive in legal settings. Students who are interested in attending a law school that won’t break the bank will find this list of the most affordable law schools pertinent to their research as they choose the best place for their studies.
This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Law Schools in the United States.
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