The cost of law school is increasing over time, and those costs begin even before you enroll in school. Take a look at the chart below for some of the increases in fees the LSAC is introducing in just this current testing cycle.
You get the point. Costs related to the LSAT and law school applications are up across the board, and if previous years tell us anything, this trend will continue. Back in the good ‘ole days of 2011, when the cost of the LSAT was increasing to $160, Law School Admission Council President Daniel Bernstine pointed to the declining number of students taking the LSAT as one of the reasons why the LSAC needed to increase their fees. Unfortunately, with an increasing number of law schools accepting the GRE from applicants, it seems likely that a continued decline in LSAT participation could push the cost of the test even higher.
What this means in practice is that higher income law school applicants will get even more of a leg up in the process. With the LSAC lifting the cap on the number of times students can take the LSAT and opening up more test dates each year, a student with money to throw around can change test dates, add test dates, and get more than one shot at their goal score on the LSAT. They can apply to law schools more widely and they may be able to take greater time for their studying and their applications. Prospective law school applicants who don’t bat an eye at a few hundred bucks here and there for their education can still understand from these fee increases that every piece of a law school application is an investment. Some can afford to retake the LSAT after a disappointing first time score, but feel frustrated and tired of the whole process of studying. For them, the most valuable thing about the decision to re-take is that they have the freedom to make that choice, unencumbered by the financial considerations.
But if you’re one of the many law school applicants with some concern over the rising cost of applications, there are a few things you can do to mitigate these costs.
• First, make sure that for every step you take in the application process, you make it count. Every practice test, every hour of studying, and every application has a cost, but taking each step seriously will help you to reach your goals in as few steps as possible.
• You should look into getting a fee waiver from the LSAC that will cover the cost of the LSAT, CAS and four Law School Reports. However, keep in mind that only those who have an “absolute inability to pay” are given fee waivers by the LSAC and they recommend that “only those with extreme need should apply.”
• One waiver that may be more attainable is a waiver for the application fee for each law school (because yes, each law school has a roughly $40 application fee ON TOP of the CAS School Report fee). Fee waivers from law schools are often more about schools trying to encourage certain students to apply, so you will be more likely to get a law school fee waiver if you apply with a more competitive application. Once you’ve taken the LSAT and received your amazing score, some law schools may contact you by email to let you know that their application fee has been “waived,” but it’s also possible to politely request a fee waiver from a law school by contacted them yourself. Schools can always say no, but it’s well worth the effort to look for places where you may be able to waive some of the costs in the process.
After getting through 3 years of law school, there will be bar review courses, bar exams, background checks, and fees upon fees to keep up membership of the bar in any particular state. In other words, the financial realities of applying to law school can tell you something about the best way to cope with the financial realities of a practicing lawyer. Everything has a cost, so you want to treat every piece of your work as the valuable investment that it is.