Law Schools, Money, Rankings, Student Loans, U.S. News

The Law Schools With The Most Heavily Indebted Graduates

Yesterday, we brought our readers some “startling” statistics about law student debt levels. It seems that average indebtedness for law graduates increased by more than $50,000 between 2004 and 2012, with a typical law student saddled by about $140,000 in loans.

In fairness, those statistics probably weren’t all that startling to our readers — many of them are heavily indebted themselves. In fact, we know that many of them are carrying debt loads that surpass even that six-figure number.

Which law school graduates have the most debt of all? U.S. News has a ranking for that…

Now that our readers have recovered from their U.S. News rankings fatigue, we’ve got something they can really sink their teeth into. Here are the law schools with the highest average indebtedness of 2013 grads:

  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law: $180,665 (92% of grads have debt)
  • New York Law School: $164,739 (84% of grads have debt)
  • American University (Washington): $158,636 (88% of grads have debt)
  • California Western School of Law: $157,748 (90% of grads have debt)
  • Northwestern University: $155,777 (78% of grads have debt)
  • Whittier College: $154,267 (92% of grads have debt)
  • University of Chicago: $153,753 (85% of grads have debt)
  • Florida Coastal School of Law: $150,360 (91% of grads have debt)
  • St. Thomas University: $150,166 (91% of grads have debt)
  • University of Miami: $148,513 (79% of grads have debt)

Now these numbers are startling. Even more startling is the fact that these six-figure sums don’t include any debt that might have been accumulated during the would-be lawyers’ undergraduate educations.

It’s worth noting that half of these law schools — Thomas Jefferson, California Western, Whittier, Florida Coastal, and St. Thomas — are in the “second tier” of the U.S. News rankings, meaning that their numerical ranks are not published for public consumption. The rest of the schools’ ranks range from #4 to #140. In addition, five of the top ten — Thomas Jefferson, New York Law School, California Western, Florida Coastal, and St. Thomas (Florida) — are still in the running to win our March Madness tournament for the Worst Law School in America. (Polls are still open; you can cast your vote here.)

Let’s take a look at some employment statistics to see if all of that debt is really worth it. All employment data, including those working as solo practitioners, is from the class of 2013, unless otherwise noted.

As we’ve noted previously, going to a low-ranked law school is like “playing Russian Roulette with your financial future.” As you can see, the differences between having high debt from a T14 law school and high debt from a second-tier law school are quite stark in terms of employment outlooks.

The odds aren’t on your side when you’ve got more than $180K in student debt and a less than 30 percent chance of securing employment as a lawyer. But once again, if you’re willing to bite that bullet, then by all means, please do.

Which law school graduates have the most debt? [U.S. News & World Report]

Earlier: ATL March Madness: The Worst Law School In America — Sweet Sixteen
Startling Statistics About Law Student Debt Levels

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