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Scholarships & Financial Aid for Law Students

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

You’ve decided to pursue a career in law. You’ve selected a great law school, and now you are asking yourself, “how will I pay for law school?” Many law students find themselves asking the same question. However, there are many financial aid options for law students. It just takes some research and determination to find the one that suits you.

Always start with the law school of choice. Most universities and colleges offer law students a wide range of financial aid options. They can apply for federal and state financial aid, as well as law scholarships. And it doesn’t stop there. Many organizations offer scholarships to law students, too.

Financial Aid Options for Law Students

The financial aid office and your university’s School of Law or law department are great places to start. By speaking with college officials in these departments, you can discover the many law financial aid options available to them.

Federal and state financial aid is available to defray the cost law school. Most colleges and universities offer federally-funded financial aid, as well as state-funded aid for undergraduate and graduate law students.

Some law financial aid options include federal and state grants, federal college work-study, and federal loans. Grants are gift aid that does not have to be repaid. College work-study programs provide students the opportunity to work part-time to help pay for some college expenses. Students typically work up to 20 hours per week. Law students can also obtain federal loans to supplement any other aid they receive.

To be considered for federal financial aid, law students must apply for it by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The federal deadline to submit the FAFSA is usually June 30. Once the FAFSA is submitted, it is automatically sent to the state, where it is determined if state financial aid is available and if the student qualifies. Because the FAFSA is often used to determine eligibility for state and university financial aid programs, most states and many universities maintain separate deadlines for FAFSA submission. Be sure to check these deadlines and complete the FAFSA well in advance.

Other law financial aid options include law school loans. At Sallie Mae, for example, law students can receive multiple loans to pay for their law school education. The options include Stafford loans, which are low-interest loans; Graduate PLUS loans, which are federally-funded loans for students in graduate school; and, private loans. In addition, Sallie Mae can provide loans specific for taking your bar exam—the Sallie Mae Bar Study Loan. This loan can only be offered once in the minimum amount of $1,000 to as high as $15,000. Repayment plans for this loan are flexible.

Law Scholarships and Law Grants Offered by Colleges and Universities

Law students can take advantage of grants and scholarships. Most universities and colleges offer grants and/or scholarships through their financial aid office or through their Law School division.

At Wayne State University (WSU) Law School, for example, students have a number of scholarships to consider, in addition to federal and state financial aid. One particular aid option is the Dean’s Scholar Program. This program provides a tuition scholarship which is renewable with a high standing grade point average. Another option is WSU Law School’s merit scholarship in the award amount of $10,000 for incoming students. WSU also offers tuition scholarships based on academics and financial need.

Most law schools offer scholarships, so check your school of choice’s scholarship options before seeking scholarship opportunities elsewhere.

The Yale Law School provides an example of offering grants to its law students. The Mary A. McCarthy Memorial Fund award one or more grants to Yale law students in the amount of $500 to as much as $10,000.

Most universities, like Cornell University Law School, Harvard Law School and Berkeley Law, award almost all of their law scholarships based on financial need.

Smaller schools, like the University of Richmond School of Law and the University of Toledo College of Law, award both need-based and merit-based scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are awarded through the admissions office. The school will either invite students to submit a second application or award students without a second application.

You must file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for most university grants and scholarships. The deadline for the FAFSA is usually on June 30th. To qualify for university scholarships, some law schools, like Chapman University School of Law, only require you to submit a FAFSA. Many other schools require the FAFSA and a separate financial aid application such as the Need Access Application required by both Berkeley Law and Northwestern University School of Law.

Law Scholarships Offered by Organizations

Besides colleges and universities, many organizations related to the law field offer law school scholarships. Here are a few examples:

MALDEF Law School Scholarship Program —is awarded every year to Latino law students. This scholarship is awarded to students with a financial need, who demonstrate good academic standing, and who are committed to serving the Latino community.

The Federal Circuit Bar Association: William S. Bullinger Scholarship —awarded to law students with financial needs in the amount of $5,000.

Judge John R. Brown Scholarship Foundation: Brown Award for Excellence in Legal Writing —awarded to law students in the amount of $10,000. Students are required to submit four copies of legal writings, and a letter of recommendation to be considered.

Other awards include:

  • American Bar Association (ABA).
    The ABA is a national association for professional lawyers and judges.
    Award type: More than 20 grants, essay contests, and fellowships available to law students.
    Amount: $100 to $5,000
    Requirements: Please check the website to look at specific scholarships.
    Deadline: Varies
  • Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA)
    The FCBA connects professionals who practice law in the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
    Award type: Various memorial, leadership, and need scholarships and a writing contest from their Charitable and Educational Fund.
    Requirements: Entering or current law students interested in topics within the US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit who have financial need.
    Amount: $5,000 to $10,000
    Deadline: Scholarships April 15; Writing Contest June 26
  • California Bar Foundation
    The Foundation works to provide justice for all Californians.
    Award type: Public Interest Scholarships
    Amount: $2,500 to $7,500
    Requirements: California Law School students with financial need, good academic standing, and dedication to serving the public
    Deadline: March 18
  • Byron Hanke Fellowship
    This fellowship from the Foundation for Community Association Research, a nonprofit research organization, was developed to support a student whose studies are related to community associations.
    Amount: $2,000 to $4,000
    Requirements: U.S. or Canadian graduate or law students doing community associations research
    Deadline: May 1
  • American Association for Justice (AAJ)
    AAJ is a professional organization working to promote justice and trial by jury.
    Award type: 5 types of scholarships available to law students
    Amount: $1,000 to $3,000
    Requirements: Please check website for requirements on specific scholarships.
    Deadline: Varies
  • Elaine Osborne Jacobson Award
    Elaine Jacobson was the wife of Richard S. Jacobson and a supporter of healthcare for the poor.
    Amount: $3,000
    Requirements: Woman attending a North American law school who is committed to providing services for, and in support of, under-served populations.
    Deadline: April 15
  • American Association of University Women (AAUW)
    The AAUW seeks to break barriers by providing scholarships to women who want to develop professionally or educationally.
    Award Type: Various fellowships and grants
    Amount: Please check website for specifics on each scholarship.
    Requirements: Vary
    Deadline: Varies

State Scholarships for Law Students

Several state offer state scholarships for law students. An example is: Berks County Community Foundation: Howard Fox Memorial Law Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to 2nd year law students who are residents of Berks County, Pennsylvania. The award amount is $3,000.

Law students should also investigate scholarship opportunities with their state bar associations. For example, the Virginia State Bar holds an annual Law in Society scholarship essay contest for Virginia high school students. Awards range from $100 for an honorable mention to $1,750 for first place. First place winners are also entitled to a trip (expenses paid) to the annual meeting of the Virginia State Bar.

Special Scholarships for Law Students

There are some special scholarships for law students to consider. For instance, the Paralyzed Veterans of America offer a $3,000 scholarship for law students interested in Veterans’ benefits or disability law. Recipients of this scholarship are obligated to represent one Veteran client at no cost each year for up to three years.

Another example of a special scholarship is administered by Roscoe Pound Institute, called the Elaine Jacobson Award for Women Working in Healthcare Law. This scholarship awards $3,000 to a woman enrolled in law school who are advocates of healthcare for children, women, and disabled individuals.

Federal Financial Aid for Law Students

For all federal financial aid programs, you must submit a FAFSA application. As a law student, you should look into low interest federal loans before seeking private loans.

These three federal programs are available to law students who have financial need:

  • Direct Loan Program
    Law students can borrow Direct Subsidized Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans with an interest rate of 6.8%.

For each program, your school’s financial aid office will determine the amount for which you are eligible. Graduate PLUS loans and Direct Loans require separate applications provided your school’s financial aid office.

Private Loan Programs for Law Students

If you still have unmet need, your next option is a private loan. Private loans are available through organizations, banks, and lending companies. They require credit checks and may require co-signers. Here’s a list of the largest lenders:

  • Sallie Mae is the largest supplier of graduate student loans. The Smart Option Student Loan allows students to borrow the amount of unmet need in their financial aid package that is not covered by grants, federal programs, and scholarships. .
  • The LawEXCEL Education Loan Program is available from Nellie Mae, a subsidiary nonprofit of Sallie Mae that provides the most education loans in the US. They can be contacted at 1-800-9-TUITION (1-800-988-4846).
  • KeyBank, a financial services company, offers the LawAchiever Private Loan for students who are attending accredited law schools. You can call them at 1-800-KEY-LEND (1-800-539-5363).

Tips about Financial Aid and Scholarships for Law Students

Here are a few tips to keep in mind while applying for law financial aid, and law school scholarships:

  • Consider all your qualifications for scholarships. Make a list. If you’re a woman, a minority, or if you are low-income, write it all down. Look for scholarships and grants based on that list.

  • Look locally. It may be easy to get caught up in the hype of larger national scholarships, but they are highly competitive. You might have a better chance of winning scholarships offered locally by lawyer organizations and bar associations.

  • Talk to Law School officials to find out what is available to you.

  • Try to get federal loans first by submitting a FAFSA application. Be prepared before filling out the FAFSA, and apply online for faster approval. Make sure you have all pertinent information for filling out the form.

  • Know your deadlines—both federal and state financial aid. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of qualifying for financial aid. If you apply after the deadline, your need is handled on a first-come, first-serve basis.

  • Research online. There are many sites that list law school scholarships offered by organizations. Check law-related organizations’ websites for scholarship options.

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