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Strategies for Paying Off Law School Debt

Law school can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Many law students graduate with significant debt, which can take years or even decades to pay off. However, with careful planning and strategic financial management, it is possible to tackle law school debt and achieve financial freedom. In this article, we will explore various strategies for paying off law school debt, providing valuable insights and research-based advice to help you navigate this financial challenge.

Understanding Law School Debt

Before delving into strategies for paying off law school debt, it is important to have a clear understanding of the nature and scope of this financial burden. Law school debt typically consists of student loans taken out to cover tuition, fees, and living expenses during the course of legal education. These loans can accumulate quickly, especially considering the high cost of law school and the length of time it takes to complete a legal education.

According to the American Bar Association, the average law school debt for graduates in 2020 was $163,000. This staggering amount of debt can have a significant impact on a lawyer’s financial well-being, affecting their ability to save for the future, purchase a home, or start a family. It is crucial to approach law school debt with a proactive mindset and develop a plan to pay it off as efficiently as possible.

1. Create a Budget and Stick to It

One of the first steps in paying off law school debt is to create a comprehensive budget that outlines your income, expenses, and debt repayment goals. A budget allows you to track your spending, identify areas where you can cut back, and allocate funds towards debt repayment.

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Start by listing all your sources of income, including your salary, freelance work, or any other side hustles. Next, make a detailed list of your monthly expenses, such as rent, utilities, groceries, transportation, and entertainment. Be sure to include your minimum monthly loan payments in your expenses.

Once you have a clear picture of your income and expenses, you can determine how much money you can allocate towards debt repayment each month. Consider making extra payments towards your loans whenever possible, as this can significantly reduce the overall interest you will pay over the life of the loan.

Sticking to your budget may require making some sacrifices and cutting back on non-essential expenses. However, the discipline and financial control you gain from adhering to a budget will pay off in the long run as you work towards becoming debt-free.

2. Explore Loan Repayment Assistance Programs

Many law schools and legal organizations offer loan repayment assistance programs (LRAPs) to help graduates manage their debt. LRAPs are designed to provide financial support to lawyers who pursue careers in public interest or low-paying sectors.

These programs typically offer loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance to eligible participants. The specific terms and conditions of LRAPs vary, so it is important to research and understand the options available to you.

For example, some LRAPs may require participants to work in a specific geographic area or practice a particular area of law. Others may have income restrictions or require a commitment to a certain number of years of service. By taking advantage of these programs, you can potentially reduce the financial burden of your law school debt while pursuing a fulfilling legal career.

3. Consider Loan Consolidation or Refinancing

If you have multiple student loans with varying interest rates and repayment terms, consolidating or refinancing your loans may be a viable option. Loan consolidation involves combining all your loans into a single loan with a fixed interest rate and a new repayment term.

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Consolidation simplifies the repayment process by reducing the number of monthly payments you need to make and potentially lowering your overall interest rate. However, it is important to carefully consider the terms and conditions of consolidation, as it may result in a longer repayment period and higher total interest paid.

Refinancing, on the other hand, involves replacing your existing loans with a new loan from a private lender. This can be a good option if you have a strong credit history and can secure a lower interest rate than what you currently have.

Before refinancing, it is important to compare offers from different lenders and carefully review the terms and conditions. Keep in mind that refinancing federal student loans with a private lender may result in the loss of certain borrower protections, such as income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness options.

4. Explore Loan Forgiveness Programs

Loan forgiveness programs can be a game-changer for lawyers burdened with significant debt. These programs offer partial or complete forgiveness of student loans in exchange for a specified period of service in a qualifying profession or organization.

One of the most well-known loan forgiveness programs is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This program forgives the remaining balance on federal Direct Loans after the borrower has made 120 qualifying monthly payments while working full-time for a qualifying employer, such as a government or non-profit organization.

It is important to note that not all loans or employment situations qualify for loan forgiveness programs. Additionally, the requirements and eligibility criteria for these programs can be complex and subject to change. Therefore, it is crucial to thoroughly research and understand the terms and conditions of any loan forgiveness program you are considering.

5. Increase Your Income and Reduce Expenses

Another effective strategy for paying off law school debt is to increase your income and reduce your expenses. By finding ways to earn extra money and cutting back on unnecessary spending, you can free up more funds to put towards debt repayment.

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Consider taking on freelance work or side gigs that align with your legal skills and expertise. Many lawyers find success in offering legal consulting services, writing legal articles, or providing contract review services on a freelance basis.

Additionally, look for opportunities to reduce your expenses. This could involve downsizing your living arrangements, cutting back on dining out, or finding more affordable alternatives for everyday expenses.

By combining these strategies and making a concerted effort to increase your income and reduce your expenses, you can accelerate your journey towards becoming debt-free.


Paying off law school debt can be a daunting task, but with careful planning and strategic financial management, it is achievable. By creating a budget, exploring loan repayment assistance programs, considering loan consolidation or refinancing, exploring loan forgiveness programs, and increasing your income while reducing expenses, you can make significant progress towards paying off your law school debt.

Remember, paying off debt requires discipline, perseverance, and a long-term commitment to financial well-being. Stay focused on your goals, seek professional advice when needed, and celebrate each milestone along the way. With determination and smart financial strategies, you can overcome the burden of law school debt and pave the way for a brighter financial future.

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