The Best Law School Student Loans

Paying for law school is tough. Getting a part-time job at your local burger joint to help pay for law school costs isn’t exactly an option when you’re battling to be at the top of your class. Law school student loans can help you pay for your degree so you can focus on your studies. We’ve put together a list of the best private student loans for law school, ranked by our SimpleScore methodology that compares APRs, perks, loan amounts, transparency and fees so you can choose a loan that won’t bury you in fees and interests after you start your new career.

Lending Partner
Fixed APR
Variable APR
Loan Amount
Fees
  • Discover, Member FDIC
    Fixed APR:
    4.74%–9.74%
    Variable APR:
    2.24%–8.84%
    Loan Amount:
    100% of costs
    Fees:
    None
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • SoFi
    SoFi Logo
    Fixed APR:
    4.55%–12.23%
    Variable APR:
    2.19%–12.14%
    Loan Amount:
    100% of costs
    Fees:
    None
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • College Ave
    Fixed APR:
    4.74%–10.20%
    Variable APR:
    2.14%–9.24%
    Loan Amount:
    Up to $150K
    Fees:
    $25 or 5% late fee
    NEXT
    on lender’s secure website
  • Earnest
    Fixed APR:
    3.74%–13.03%
    Variable APR:
    1.49%–11.69%
    Loan Amount:
    100% of costs
    Fees:
    None
In this article

    The best law school loans of 2020

    The best law school lenders at a glance

    LenderLoan AmountFixed APRTerms
    SoFi100% of total cost4.55%–12.23%Up to 20 years
    Discover100% of total cost4.74%–9.74%20 years
    Earnest100% of total cost3.74%–13.03%Up to 15 years
    Citizens OneUp to $225,0004.39%–9.27%5, 10 and 15-year terms
    PNC Bank$1,000–$15,0004.99%–10.14%5, 10 and 15-year terms
    College AveUp to $150,0004.74%–10.20%8, 10, 15 and 20-year terms

    *Rates accurate as of December 11, 2020, and exclude autopay discounts

    Best for member perks – SoFi

    Choosing SoFi to help pay for law school is like getting box seats at nose-bleed prices for your favorite event.

    Fixed APR
    4.55%–12.23%
    Variable APR
    2.19%–12.14%
    Loan Amount
    100% of costs
    SimpleScore
    4.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore SoFi 4.6
    Max Fixed APR 3
    Perks 5
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    SoFi specializes in refinancing both federal and private loans, but it can help you pay your law school bill as well. SoFi’s law school loans come with low interest rates for both fixed-rate and variable-rate options and no fees. You can also take advantage of some sweet SoFi member perks like career coaching, financial planning services, a referral program and exclusive experiences. You can take up to 20 years to pay off your law school debt from SoFi — plenty of time to establish yourself in your new career without feeling the pressure to pay them off immediately.

    Best for good grade rewards – Discover, Member FDIC

    Get good grades and get paid when you use Discover’s law school student loans.

    Fixed APR
    4.74%–9.74%
    Variable APR
    2.24%–8.84%
    Loan Amount
    100% of costs
    SimpleScore
    4.8 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Discover, Member FDIC 4.8
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 5
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    Discover’s committed to its no-fee mantra. From credit cards to bank accounts to student loans, all your accounts are fee-free. That’s good news for law students, who paid an average of $49,312 per year to attend private law schools in 2019 — every percentage point of savings goes a long way when you have to take out large student loans to get through school. Discover’s biggest benefit, though, is its good grades rewards. For each year you keep at least a 3.0 GPA, Discover will send you a check for 1% of your disbursed loan amount.

    Discover, Member FDIC Disclosure

    Lowest APRs shown for Discover Law Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans. The interest rate ranges represent the lowest and highest interest rates offered on Discover student loans, including Law Loans. The fixed interest rate is set at the time of application and does not change during the life of the loan. The variable interest rate is calculated based on the 3-Month LIBOR index plus the applicable margin percentage. For variable interest rate loans, the 3-Month LIBOR is 0.250% as of January 1, 2021. Discover Student Loans may adjust the rate quarterly on each January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 (the “interest rate change date”), based on the 3-Month LIBOR Index, published in the Money Rates section of the Wall Street Journal 15 days prior to the interest rate change date, rounded up to the nearest one-eighth of one percent (0.125% or 0.00125). This may cause the monthly payments to increase, the number of payments to increase or both. Our lowest APR is only available to customers with the best credit and other factors. Your APR will be determined after you apply. It will be based on your credit history, which repayment option you choose and other factors, including your cosigner’s credit history (if applicable). Learn more about Discover Student Loans interest rates at DiscoverStudentLoans.com/Rates.

    Best for longest grace period – Earnest

    With Earnest, you have nine months to find a job you love before you have to start making student payments, so say sayonara to those crummy job offers you’d have to accept if you had less time.

    Fixed APR
    3.74%–13.03%
    Variable APR
    1.49%–11.69%
    Loan Amount
    100% of costs
    SimpleScore
    4.2 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Earnest 4.2
    Max Fixed APR 2
    Perks 4
    Transparency 5
    Loan Amount 5
    Fees 5

    Earnest student loans are transparent and straightforward with some great benefits for law school students. You’ll enjoy a nine-month grace period (most lenders only offer six) after you graduate before you have to start repaying your student loans. Earnest also allows you to skip one payment each year without applying for forbearance. This will push your loan payoff date and slightly increase your monthly payment to keep you on track, so only use it for real emergencies.

    Best for multi-year approval – Citizens One

    Lock-in a student loan offer for all of your years at law school with multi-year approval from Citizens One — after all, you have better things to do than apply for student loans.

    Fixed APR
    4.39%–9.27%
    Variable APR
    1.39%–8.98%
    Loan Amount
    Up to $225K
    SimpleScore
    3.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore Citizens One 3.6
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 3
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 3
    Fees 4

    Citizens One, the lending arm of Citizens Bank, offers students loans for law school students at competitive rates led by a great 0.5% discount for enrolling in autopay and Citizens’ loyalty program. The biggest draw for Citizens One, however, is multi-year approval. With it, you can know your loan is secure for your entire program from the start. You can borrow up to $225,000 total from Citizens One. If you attend a more expensive law school and need to pay all for your expenses with loans, you might want to look for a lender that will cover your total cost of education.

    Best for bar exam studying – PNC Bank

    Go straight from graduation to passing the Bar Exam with PNC Bank’s Bar Exam study loan — no fast food experience required.

    Fixed APR
    4.99%–10.14%
    Variable APR
    3.42%–8.57%
    Loan Amount
    Up to $15K
    SimpleScore
    3.6 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore PNC Bank 3.6
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 5
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 4

    Many lenders cut you off at graduation, but PNC Bank’s Bar study student loan provides the money you need to pay for your exams and any prep material, guidance and living expenses you’ll need leading up to your test — both before and after graduation. This loan up to $15,000 works perfectly with PNC’s law school student loans so you can know that your degree is covered from start to finish.

    Best repayment options – College Ave

    College Ave is the choose-your-own-adventure novel of law school student loans.

    Fixed APR
    4.74%–10.20%
    Variable APR
    2.14%–9.24%
    Loan Amount
    Up to $150K
    SimpleScore
    3.4 / 5.0
    close
    SimpleScore College Ave 3.4
    Max Fixed APR 4
    Perks 4
    Transparency 4
    Loan Amount 1
    Fees 4

    College Ave is all about flexibility for future lawyers. When you sign up for law school loans, you’ll see no fees, competitive rates and several great options for paying back your loans. If you only need a small loan to supplement your scholarships and money you plan to pay out of pocket, you can opt for a five-year repayment plan to keep your total interest as low as possible. If you want a little more flexibility, College Ave also offers 8-year, 10-year, 15-year and 20-year repayment terms for law students.

    What is a law school student loan?

    Law school student loans help cover your tuition, books, living and other expenses you might run into while earning your J.D. Many banks offer law school-specific loan programs tailored specifically to law students by covering additional costs like Bar Exam fees. Student loans for law school can be either unsubsidized federal loans or private loans, depending on your needs.

    [Read: Best Student Loans ]

    How law school student loans work

    Law school loans work like student loans for other degree programs and academic levels. Before you start the academic year, you should compare lenders and apply for loans. Once approved, the lender will send the money either directly to the school to cover your costs or to you to use as you need — but this varies from lender to lender, so its best to ask and prepare before you receive your loan.

    After graduation, you’ll have a grace period — usually six months, but some lenders offer longer — before you have to make your first payment, giving you the chance to pass the Bar and settle into a new job. When you first choose a loan for law school, you’ll set up a repayment plan ranging from 5 to 20 years. Your monthly payment toward your loan balance will depend on your repayment term, the amount you borrowed and your interest rate.

    Types of law school loans

    • Federal direct unsubsidized student loans. As a law student, you can borrow up to $20,500 each year in unsubsidized student loans from the Department of Education. Graduate and professional programs aren’t eligible for federally subsidized loans.
    • Direct PLUS loans. This federal loan program allows law students to borrow up to the total cost of attendance. The current interest rate is 5.3%, but you’ll also have to pay a 4.236% loan fee.
    • Private student loans. These loans offered by banks and other private lenders offer more flexibility and lower fees than federal student loans, but with the possibility of a higher interest rate.
    • Bar study loans. Law students can apply for these smaller student loans to help cover the cost of exam fees, study prep and other materials needed to prepare for the test.

    Repayment

    Most lenders give you several options for repaying your law school student loans. While you’re in school, you can either defer all payments until after graduation, pay a small fixed amount each month to help mitigate interest, pay interest-only or make full payments. The best option depends on your financial situation, but anything you can do to slow your loans growth through interest, the better.

    [More: The Best International Student Loans]

    Loan amounts

    College Ave reports that the average student pays $49,548 each year in tuition and fees for private law schools, $28,264 for in-state public schools and $41,726 for out-of-state public schools. While you may be able to lower your costs with scholarships and grants, you’ll most likely still have to take out student loans to cover the total cost. Data from Law School Transparency shows that the average law school graduate who took out student loans left school with $115,481 in debt in 2018.

    How to choose the best law school student loan for you

    • Fill out the FAFSA. Even if you plan to skip federal student loans altogether, you can still qualify for work-study programs to help you pay your way through school.
    • Figure out how much you need to borrow. Subtract your scholarships, grants, gifts and amount you plan to contribute yourself from your total costs to see how much you need to borrow each year to attend law school.
    • Compare your federal loan options. Federal loans often come with lower interest rates than private loans, although loan fees may make the benefit over private loans less noticeable.
    • Search for private lenders that fit your needs. Look at interest rates, fees and maximum loan amounts to make sure each lender fits your needs.
    • Get pre-approved. Getting a pre-approval from all of the lenders you’re considering allows you to compare actual offers based on your needs and financial situation.
    • Choose a loan and apply. After comparing lenders (including both federal and private), choose the option or combination of options that best fit your needs and apply. Once approved, you’ll be ready to start law school.

    Law school loans FAQs

    Yes. You can use any combination of federal and private student loans to pay for your law school costs. To use federal loans, you’ll need to complete the FAFSA each year and stay within the borrowing limits of the direct unsubsidized loans.

    Think about the type of law you want to practice after earning your degree. If you work for a government agency at any level or for a non-profit for 10 years, you can qualify for public service loan forgiveness for federal loans.

    We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the law school loans we recommend. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

    Methodology

    SimpleScore

    The SimpleScore is a proprietary scoring metric we use to objectively compare products and services at The Simple Dollar.

    For every review, our editorial team:

    • Identifies five measurable aspects to compare across each brand
    • Determines the rating criteria for each aspect score
    • Averages the five aspect scores to produce a single SimpleScore™

    Here’s a breakdown of the five aspect scores and their rating criteria for our review of the best student loans of 2020.

    Max Fixed Rate

    Lenders who offered a lower maximum fixed rate were awarded higher scores.

    Perks

    We awarded higher scores for lenders that list more perks including services, discounts and special offers for their borrowers.

    Transparency

    Lenders that laid it all bare by publishing important data about products — APR, offered loan amounts, applicable fees and customer support contact links — scored higher for transparency.

    Loan Amount

    Lenders that offered higher loan amounts compared to others received higher scores. 

    Fees

    We awarded higher scores to lenders that have fewer loan fees for borrowers. 

    Trevor Wallis

    Contributing Writer

    Trevor Wallis is a St. Louis-based personal finance writer who teaches people how to achieve freedom through good money practices. He’s written for Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Rewards Credit Cards and Online Loans. When he isn’t writing, he’s roasting specialty coffee and planning new ways to use credit card rewards to explore the world with his wife and newborn son.

    Reviewed by

    • Courtney Mihocik
      Courtney Mihocik
      Loans Editor

      Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.