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American law students are borrowing large sums of money. For graduates at many schools, cumulative debts of $35,000 from college and law school have become the norm and debts of $40,000, $50,000 and even more are common. The sums students are borrowing are much larger today than they were ten years ago, even after adjusting for increases in the cost of living. They have risen at a vastly faster pace than the initial salaries at small law firms and government agencies. They have even risen at a faster pace than the initial salaries in many large firms. The new pattern of borrowing suggests some obvious questions. One is whether students' concerns about the burden of high debts affect the choices they are making about the kinds of jobs to seek upon graduation. Another is whether those who are borrowing these large sums are likely to have difficulty making payments after they graduate. As a small step toward answering these questions, nine law schools agreed to administer a common, brief questionnaire to the members of their graduating classes in April 1989. The nine schools, though diverse in many respects, can not be taken as representative of all American law schools, but our findings can be seen as suggestive of issues almost certainly arising in some form at nearly all American law schools. What follows is a report on the findings from the questionnaire.

Publication Date



Assoc. of American Law Schools


Washington, D.C.


Law schools, Law students, Debts, Educational loans, Loan payments, Debt burdens, Standard of living, Salaries, Careers, Legal practice, Lawyers, Earnings, Job choice, Law student debt, Job searches, Surveys, Empirical studies


Law and Society | Legal Education | Legal Profession

Debts, Job Choices, and Financial Burden: Educational Debts at Nine American Law Schools