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Top 10 Most Expensive Law Schools

August 25, 2023


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 05/09/23

Planning for law school includes creating a budget so you know how much you’ll invest into your legal education. To learn about the most expensive law schools in the nation, read on!

Regardless of the law school you choose to attend, you can expect to invest a significant amount of money into getting a JD. Typically, attorneys are paid well enough that these costs can be offset! However, to ensure you land a high-paying job post-graduation, it’s essential you choose an excellent law school.

Ironically, however, the law schools that provide the most employment options are also the most expensive! As you build your perfect law school list and take your budget and salary goals into consideration, knowing which schools are the most expensive can be beneficial. 

This guide will go over the 10 most expensive law schools in the US and answer the most common questions about them!

The 10 Most Expensive Law Schools in the US

Private schools are generally more expensive than public schools. In fact, the average cost of private law school is $53,034 a year, whereas public schools are around $30,000 to $44,000, depending on if you’re a resident or non-resident.

Eight of the most expensive law schools are private and two are public. Here’s a breakdown of how much they cost:

1. Columbia University

The most expensive law school in the country is Columbia University. This school ranks fourth in the nation, making it one of the highly-coveted T14 law schools.

As such, it is well-known as a leader in legal education that offers its students countless opportunities for professional, personal, and intellectual growth. It is also renowned for its high tuition fees of $82,467 a year!

Of course, as a law student, you’ll have several other expenses to factor into your budget. Columbia estimates the total cost to attend its school to be around $110,000 a year!

2. New York University

New York University is the seventh-best law school in the nation, but the best for several legal specialties, such as corporate law, criminal law, international law, and tax law. It has been dubbed an intellectual powerhouse that offers its students a refined education that prepares them to be lawyers of tomorrow.

But, providing these extensive resources is costly. Tuition and fees to attend this school are $76,290 a year. With additional expenses, such as books and supplies, transportation, and housing, this cost is expected to increase to about $109,290. 

Luckily, NYU offers substantial financial aid to its students through scholarships and awards, including program-specific scholarships for students interested in areas of law like business or criminal law.

3. Cornell University

Cornell is both an Ivy League law school and a T14 school, meaning it is one of the most prestigious schools in the nation. As expected, its costs reflect its reputation and ranking. 

Tuition and fees cost $74,617 a year, and the total cost to attend Cornell is estimated to be $97,703. Understanding the weight financial burden has on legal students, Cornell offers more than $12 million to its incoming and current law schools each year.

4. University of Chicago 

The University of Chicago is the third-best law school in the nation, and the fourth most expensive. The total cost to attend this law school is estimated to be over $106,000 a year, including the cost of tuition and fees, which is $73,185 a year.

These steep costs offer steep rewards to UChicago students, as this law school has world-class faculty, various clinical programs, three student-edited journals, and in-depth courses to allow students to specialize in their desired niche. 

5. University of Southern California

Another one of the most expensive law schools is the University of Southern California. While this school is not a T14 school, it is one of the top 20 law schools in the nation. 

As a top law school, USC offers valuable yet expensive resources to ensure its students’ success: an employment rate of over 90%, seven clinics, and a wide range of externships, to name a few. Students can expect to pay $73,998 to reap all of this school’s benefits.

Depending on your financial situation and status, your total annual cost of attending USC will range from around $88,000 to $100,000. Incoming JD students are all considered for scholarships, and about 95% qualify for some level of aid.

The average scholarship amount granted is $37,000, but some scholarships cover the full cost of tuition, meaning you could attend law school for free!

6. Northwestern University

Northwestern Pritzker Law ranks as the thirteenth-best law school in the nation and boasts of having interdisciplinary research faculty, the third lowest student-to-faculty ratio, and a leading clinical program. 

Northwestern’s tuition and fees cost $72,212 a year. With the addition of other expenses such as housing, books, and food, the total cost to attend this established law school is estimated to be over $100,000!

7. University of Virginia

Unlike all of the law schools discussed thus far, the University of Virginia is a public law school. While public law schools generally come with a lower price tag than private schools, UVA is an exception.

This high-ranking school costs $68,500 a year for residents and $71,500 for non-residents. To give you the most accurate number to crunch into your law school budget, you can expect to pay more than $90,000 for all of the other expenses typical UVA JD students pay. 

8. University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania’s tuition costs $71,874, but its total estimated cost of attendance exceeds $100,000. Considering JD programs are three years long, these costs add up and can be extremely intimidating! 

Fortunately, UPenn offers one of the most comprehensive financial aid programs in the country to ensure students can afford to attend this prominent school. 

9. Yale University

Yale is undoubtedly one of the most recognized and revered law schools in the game. Many students have this school at the top of their law school list, and for good reason!

Not only does this school rank first in the nation, but it also offers some of the nation’s best specialty law programs, particularly its constitutional law program, which ranks first in the nation. 

Yale graduates are also amongst the most sought after by employers, meaning a JD from Yale can lead to considerable job opportunities.

It’ll cost around $96,000 a year to attend Yale. Included in this price is Yale’s tuition and fees, which are $71,425

10. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Last, and least expensive, is the University of Michigan Law School. This law school is the only other public school on this list and costs about $66,808 for residents and $69,808 for non-residents

Including the living expenses a typical JD student incurs a year, the total cost to attend UMichigan is around $90,000 for both in-state and out-of-state students. 

UMichigan distributes more than $3 million to its JD students each year, in an attempt to give students the most opportunity but the least financial burden.

FAQs: Most Expensive Law Schools

In this guide, we’ve covered the top 10 most expensive law schools in the nation and broken down what you can expect to spend when attending these high-cost schools. For any remaining questions, read on to find your answers.

1. What Is the Most Expensive Law School?

Columbia Law is the most expensive law school, with tuition fees of over $80,000 a year.

2. Is it Worth It to Go to One of the Most Expensive Law Schools?

Yes! While financing expensive law schools can be challenging, these schools offer substantial support, resources, and opportunity. The majority of these schools are T14 law schools that are sought after by employers, especially in BigLaw!

3. Why Is Law School So Expensive?

Preparing students to become attorneys isn’t easy! Students must complete extensive curriculums and participate in experiential learning opportunities to gain hands-on experience in law. These resources are costly, which is reflected in law schools’ tuition costs.

4. How Can I Reduce My Law School Expenses?

The best way to reduce your law school expenses is to consider attending a local law school, so you don’t have to relocate or by attending schools that offer extensive scholarships. 

You should also apply to external scholarships.

5. Can I Go to Law School for Free?

Yes, if you are offered full-tuition scholarships, you can technically go to law school for free! However, you’ll need to maintain a high GPA, have a high LSAT score, and stellar application to qualify for these types of scholarships.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the financial hurdles of law school can be daunting. As you choose your top law schools, your budget is an important factor to consider, but your post-graduation job prospects should be too! 

High-ranking, expensive law schools are the most sought-after by employers and can offer you the network and education to propel your career! By choosing any one of the schools mentioned in this guide, you’re sure to receive an education that matches its price tag and be well-rewarded for your investment!

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