A law school education can exceed $150,000. If you finance your law school education with loans and graduate with $80,000 of debt, the monthly payment on your loan(s) for a 10-year repayment plan will be about $1,000 per month. Thus, it is very important for many students to begin early to identify sources of financial aid. There are three basic sources to look into: the law schools themselves, government loans, and independent (or private) loans.
The first place to begin is with the law school's financial aid section of their web site or the school's office of financial aid. Financial aid regulations change and law school financial aid offices are the most up-to-date sources of information.
The Law School Admissions Council is an excellent website for financial aid information. On this site you will find information on FAFSA and FFELP (see below) and guidelines for applying for financial aid step-by-step.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a need-analysis form developed by the US Department of Education. (You MAY NOT submit the form prior to 1 January of any year, but have it completed and ready to mail or submit online right after the new year.)
Almost all law schools participate in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP). FFELP will provide information on Stafford loans (secured and unsecured). Once your financial needs are determined (by each law school) you will then be able to apply for government loans (Stafford) and private loans.
Grants and scholarships provided by law schools are generally based on need. Work-study opportunities are also often available; however considering the academic demands, first year students are discouraged from working. The financial aid programs of schools vary and deadlines often come early. Therefore, information regarding such opportunities should be gathered early on in the application process.
LSAT, CAS and law school application fee waivers are available to the truly needy. For LSAT/CAS fee waivers, go to the LSAC web site for waiver forms. If an application fee waiver is sought, it should be requested from all schools applied to. Such requests do not affect admissions prospects. In pursuing any waivers, start early and plan ahead.
Some final points: (1) If you anticipate wanting or needing financial aid, start looking into it early. (2) Make a realistic budget for yourself including food, rent, insurance, books, transportation, educational expenses, etc. (3) Keep a copy of everything you submit to various lending institutions/agencies.