Scholarships for law school?

Wondering generally if scholarships for law school are more widely available than undergrad? I know a few students who have received ‘full rides’ to state law schools (east coast). My D is in undergrad looking ahead to law school and I’m just wondering how likely any non-need-based aid would be (assuming she has good grades and reasonable LSAT)…? Maybe the scholarship students I know were unusual…?

Merit awards at law school are entirely based on student stats – the schools “subsidize” the LSAT and gpas they need to maintain or improve their rankings through merit awards. There are a number of fairly reliable sites which aggregate students’ self-reported info and can provide a picture of what to expect. Broadly, if a student’s GPA and LSAT are above the top quarter of the class, they can expect admission and merit award.


Yes. Law school admissions are still flat so merit awards are pretty common. For example, I know someone who received a half tuition scholarship to UT-Austin with a 163 LSAT and 3.9 GPA from a top 30 state school. She also got full tuition to Baylor and Houston. I know someone else with a 177 LSAT and almost a 4.0 from a top 20 state school who is merit hunting from some of the very top law schools.


It is more opaque, and there are fewer straight up scholarships with clear parameters. Same as undergrad though, it’s a trade-off: the more they want your stats / your profile the more you will get. In turn that means that the farther down the food chain, the more high stats are worth.


Once beyond Harvard, Yale, & Stanford (the top 3 ranked law schools), there are a lot of merit based scholarships offered each admissions cycle. (I could share law school scholarship stories that you probably would not believe. My point is that law school scholarship awards are available.)


Publisher, I think you need to add some nuance to your post.

There was an expose a few years ago (I think the Wall Street Journal but I don’t have time to find the article) about the practice of law school’s awarding merit scholarships, and then essentially shoving a significant number of those recipients off the merit track due to their grading curve. So yes- a scholarship for L1, mathematically impossible for every scholarship winner to maintain the scholarship for years 2 and 3. And one third of a law degree isn’t worth much…The awards may be available, but if a student ends up in debt up to their eyeballs in order to finish and take the bar, that’s for sure a caveat emptor situation (as the lawyers would say).

Second-- “a lot of merit based scholarships”- yes. And for a kid who got no money from Yale but one of the mega generous, named awards at Columbia- that’s a no brainer- take the money and go to Columbia. A skootch down in prestige, but there is nothing you won’t be able to do professionally with your Columbia law degree vs. Yale.

But the VAST majority of wanna be lawyers are not looking at Yale with no money vs. Columbia with mega money. They may have gotten into U Maryland, Tulane with no money- fine law schools although not T-14, but be looking at merit money from a place 15 or 20 spots down in the rankings. That’s a danger zone. There is clear evidence that once you fall out of the top 50 schools everything goes down- bar passage rates, number of graduates holding jobs which actually require a law degree (vs. grads going to work in alumni relations at their law school, which is a trick used to get around the statistic “how many grads are working 6 months after graduation”. Yes- they are working. But not as lawyers, and not in jobs requiring more than a BA).

So I’d hate for students reading your post to assume that law school funding is a gravy train. Exceptional students can get merit money by trading down. Average students probably shouldn’t be trading down too far… there are solid reasons to attend lower ranked law schools if a student wants a particular geography, a specialty (there are some solid programs in environmental law, for example at not too selective law schools) but it ain’t no gravy train for most law school wannabees. It’s loans, loans and loans. Or working a few years after a BA to sock away enough money to keep the debt down…


A guy I’m doing some volunteer work with (we’re both volunteers) is applying to law schools. I didn’t ask him what his LSAT is, but know it is high. He just sent in his application for an early app process to Cal and if he gets in the scholarship is $25k per year. He’s now getting letters from other schools and mentioned U of Baltimore said he’d ‘get a lot of money.’

I know someone who applied to and got into a couple of T-14 schools but ended up at GW as it gave her a lot more merit money. She had a wonderful experience.


Thank you all for these replies! It does make me feel a lot better. I had initially looked at one law school my daughter expresssed an interest in (in the geo area of her current undergrad) and it didn’t look very hopeful for merit money (lots of vague statements on the fin aid webpage and discussions of $1,000 and $500 scholarship possibilities!).

blossom - thanks, your post adds some interesting subtleties. I would add that I know quite a number of grads from schools outside the top-50 ranked (not way, way down, but slightly below) who are extremely successful private and public sector attorneys. But I understand the stats aspect as part of an overall picture.

Just to check - the ‘top 50’ law schools refers to US News and Word Report rankings?


Widely available? I would say No. are scholarships available for law school….yes.

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@Jolynne_Smyth: Law school scholarships are widely available to applicants who exceed a median or both (GPA & LSAT score) medians at many law schools. Additionally, URM status may help.

As far as the “nuance” referenced by Blossom, it is typically referred to as “scholarship stacking” and sometimes is a practice at some very low ranked schools (4th tier schools). It should not be a concern unless the scholarship contains stipulations beyond “remains a full-time student in good standing”.

As noted above, there’s a huge difference in reputation/ranking among law school, and between Cal Berkeley and UBaltimore, which will have a direct affect on the applicant’s ability to find a job upon graduation.
So before accepting “a lot of money” from a lower-ranked school, the applicant ought to carefully weigh the pluses and minuses of enrolling at that school.


He’s not even considering U of Baltimore, but just told me they (and probably other schools like it) were offering him ‘lots of money.’ He wants to go to Cal AND get lots of money. If he doesn’t get into Cal early decision with the grant money, he’ll apply to other top schools.

It used to be that even in Baltimore there was some snobbery, that firms were ‘U of Baltimore’ firms or ‘U of Maryland’ firms. I’m sure it isn’t so bad anymore.

If the only school one can afford to go to is the one offering money, that’s where you go.

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Just can’t agree with that; often it’s best not to go to law school at all, even for free, if a school’s reputation is so bad that getting a job upon graduation is nearly impossible-which is a sad reality with many lesser-ranked schools.

And regarding snobbery and specific schools in Baltimore, the statistics show that graduates for both schools have difficulty in finding jobs.


Boy, I know an AWFUL lot of young lawyers, graduated in the last 6-8 years, who would NOT agree that going to the school which offered you money was “that’s where you go”. It is no secret that one of the fundamental shifts that happened after the 2008 meltdown was a severe contraction and then reconstitution of the legal profession. It started with the “white shoe” law firms, but has percolated downwards in a pretty significant way to even the ambulance chaser/personal injury firms which used to be somewhat neutral on prestige as long as a prospective hire had been admitted to the bar.

It’s not a question of “get a job at a firm which doesn’t care about prestige”. It’s “I can’t get a job even doing doc review at a %^&* hourly rate”. I know lawyers working as paralegals-- hoping that things will turn around. I know lawyers working at PR firms- there was a time when these firms had a few lawyers to handle nuanced work which would come in from a corporate client facing an indictment and needing a lawyer in the room- but no, these are lawyers writing press releases and making media fact packs and doing the junior PR work that at least brings in a paycheck. And of course as I noted above- lawyers working in alumni relations, development, student affairs at their law schools, and lawyers working in non-legal jobs at law firms-- marketing, HR, recruiting.

Young guy in my town finally gave up- had a private practice in Immigration. His dad told me last year he cleared under $30K. Went to a law school nobody ever heard of.

Sometimes there needs to be a plan B.

No shame in earning a paycheck of course-- but you don’t need a JD to work in recruiting, and nobody I know goes to law school to end up on a non-lawyer track hoping that the industry will turn around. Not just for a year- these are kids who graduated in 2012, 2013, 2014.


U of Maryland was ranked in the top 50 the last time I looked. If you can’t get a job out of a top 50 school, it’s not the school’s issue.


Interesting discussion!

Well, now I’m a little worried about my daughter’s law school ideas…not that I would in any way tell her what to do…but I graduated a while ago so didn’t realize the market was so tough for new grads. Yikes!

I agree that you don’t just go to any law school you get into. A student doesn’t need to have a T-14 or bust approach, but lower down the rankings, students need to be very strategic and have a very good handle on why they want a law degree and whether they’ll comfortably be able to pay back the loans (assuming parents aren’t funding). I know too many grads from low ranked law schools who are paralegals (no law degree needed), work at tiny practices making peanuts, or full-time doc reviewers (terrible way to make a living). Top 50 is well below where I’d draw the line for those without a good answer to the why question.


I’d encourage the OP to suggest her student to look at the ABA employment forms for various law schools. Those forms, which have to be posted annually, show the number of students from the graduating class in JD required, JD preferred, and non-JD jobs, as well as how many are unemployed. It also shows median income and ranges. Although I hesitate to send anyone to reddit law school admissions board unless they have a thick skin and a strong sense of self, there is a lot of good info as well as informed and supportive posters who talk through the application and decision process, including employability trade-offs in evaluating merit awards vs. loans at various schools.

The difficulty about the law school admissions decision is that law school outcomes are skewed. On the one hand, there is “biglaw” which is easily accessible from the T14 schools and pays absurdly large salary but also highly stressful. Most do not make partner and have to gauge when to leave. Then, there is public interest which pays very little and is still highly competitive to get into. And then there are small firms, maybe solo practice, which may not pay the bills let alone the law school loans. Government jobs are competitive to get.

“Big law” is harder to get from schools outside the T14, and is largely dependent on grades. The top 20% of a T20 school may get into top national law firms, while the top 10% of a T30 school may have the same outcome, while the top 1-3 students at a T50 school may get into the top national firms.

I’m a lawyer, practiced in “biglaw” and discouraged my own kid from considering law school. He made that decision based on his post-grad work experience and well-researched understanding of the risks and outcomes. He went to a T20 school with good merit, but was very concerned he would not have high enough grades to get the jobs he wanted.

Everyone goes to law school thinking they were high-achieving college students so will be at the top of their law school class too, and the jobs and access will be fine. But law schools have mandatory curves and grade distributions, so maybe 15% of the class can get A range grades. And first year grades play an outsized role in job prospects for “biglaw” as the interviewing for the second year, 2L summer job happens the summer after 1L year, when there are just 2 semesters of grades on the transcript. So students are essentially betting they will be hugely successful in their first year. The risk is much higher at lower ranked schools. For example, I know two recent grades who each are at the same, top 10 national firm at the same office. One graduated from Harvard, with grades around the median. The other was no. 2 or 3 in their graduating class from a T30 school. Looking just at outcomes, it seems the T30 student made a good bet to take the merit award at their school, because they graduated with little debt and the same job as the full loan student at Harvard. But the pressure on the T30 student to get, and maintain, that class rank was enormous, and if it hadn’t worked, that student would be looking at very different options.


Job prospects fall off pretty significantly as the rankings go down, so there are many, many students at top 50 law schools who won’t find JD required jobs; the market is just too saturated. The law schools know this-they’re required to report it to the ABA-so I’d disagree: it is the school’s issue, since they are graduating many, many more JDs than the market requires.


Like I said- a fundamental restructuring of the industry, largely post 2008. So ask a partner at a big regional firm (who probably graduated law school in the late 90’s) and they often don’t understand how the fundamentals have changed. Or ask a solo practitioner who hung out a shingle decades ago and has made a comfortable living- no clue. The most generous person in my town (don’t know if she’s the richest, but she endows cancer centers and big time educational programs so her name is everywhere) is a personal injury lawyer who hit it big early on with tobacco. Graduated from a no-name law school, is always held up as “see, you can graduate from a fourth tier program and make millions” but she’s almost 70 and has been cashing class-action law suit checks for 20 years without lifting a finger. When she was just starting out- the industry was different, and there were pockets of the law where your credentials didn’t matter.

I love it when young people I know (once I’ve tried to explain some of the dynamics) say “It’s ok, I don’t want to practice at a big firm. I want to become a Federal Prosecutor”. Ha ha ha. Harder to get one of those jobs in most parts of the country than it is to get a Big Law job!!! Highly prestigious, highly competitive, and no- doesn’t pay the big salaries but it doesn’t matter. The on-ramp is to clerk after law school (you think the big firms are obsessed with prestige- try the appellate court system!) and then a firm, and then a prosecutor’s office. It is hard to get there from Cooley law school no matter how much merit money they gave you.