Paying for a legal education can be a truly daunting task. Thankfully, law school scholarships can help relieve some of this financial pressure. Unlike other types of financial aid, such as a federal student loan or private loan, a law school scholarship never needs to be repaid. (This is why scholarships are sometimes referred to as "gift aid" or "free money".) Although law school grants also do not have to be repaid they are typically need-based only and therefore not all prospective students are eligible to apply. In contrast, law school scholarships fall into a wide array of categories and are available to a variety of students. As with student grants, there are need-based options, but there are also merit-based scholarships, diversity scholarships, and a range of scholarships specific to an area of expertise (e.g., intellectual property, social justice, etc.).
This section will dive into the world of law school scholarships: the different types of scholarship opportunities as well as a list of available scholarships to help jump start your scholarship search.
Types of Law School Scholarships
Unlike other forms of financial aid, there are many different types of law school scholarships. To begin with, there are need-based scholarships. Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, defines "financial need" as "The difference between the cost of attendance (COA) at a school and your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)." In addition to tuition, the COA includes living expenses, the cost of books, supplies, and transportation, among other costs. Each law school determines its own COA, as a result, the COA varies by school. However, the EFC does not change based on which law school a student chooses to attend. To determine whether a law school student is eligible for need-based scholarships, the student will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) (which is the same application required for other types of financial aid). Some law schools, such as Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, and Stanford Law School, do not offer any type of merit scholarship; all of their scholarships are based on need.
Students who have exhibited considerable academic achievement, either in college or law school, may be eligible for a merit-based scholarship. Law school applicants with a high cumulative GPA out of college and a high LSAT score should explore whether there are any scholarship opportunities that recognize these achievements. Likewise, a law student who did well in the first year of law school may also be eligible for a merit-based scholarship. These scholarships may be offered by the law school or by an outside organization. At Suffolk Univeristy Law School, over 45% of students receive grant or scholarship funds from the law school.
A student who receives a merit-based scholarship should determine whether that law school scholarship is conditional. Conditional scholarships are a form of financial aid that are dependent on the student's continued academic success. Generally, a conditional scholarship will require a law student to maintain a minimum grade point average or remain within a certain percentile of the class. Should the law student fail to meet this threshold, the student will lose scholarship eligibility.
A number of organizations also have scholarships dedicated to diversity and to serving groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the practice of law. Some law schools have an endowed scholarship dedicated to ensuring greater diversity at the school. To be considered, students may be required to write an additional scholarship essay.
Law School Scholarship Resources
|Attorney Ken Nugent Legal Scholarship
|Scholarship for current law students at an accredited U.S. law school.
|One Lawyer Can Change the World Scholarship
|Scholarship opportunity for incoming 1L students.
|LSAC Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Writing Competition
|All currently enrolled law students are eligible. One winner from each of three categories (1L, 2L, and 3L/4L) will be awarded. In addition, one winning paper will be submitted to a legal publication.
|ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund
|$15,000 over the course of their three years in law school.
|Granted to 10 - 20 incoming diverse law students.
|Lloyd M. Johnson Jr. Scholarship Program
|$10,000 per year for up to three years.
|Open to women and diverse students who have (i) been accepted to an ABA-accredited law school on a full-time basis; (ii) an outstanding or promising academic record; (iii) an interest in corporate law; (iv) demonstrated community service and leadership qualities; (v) a financial need; and (vi) a commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.
|Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
|In recent years, MALDEF has annually awarded 5–10 law school scholarships of $5,000 each.
|Supports law students throughout the U.S. who seek to further MALDEF’s mission of advancing the civil rights of the Latino community in the United States through the legal profession.
|The Earl Warren Scholarship - from NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.
|$10,000 per year for three years (as long as scholars remain in good academic standing and continue to meet the scholarship criteria) for a total of $30,000.
|Awarded every year to rising law students whose commitment to racial justice shows outstanding potential for training as civil rights and public interest attorneys.
|Han C. Choi Scholarship - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|Benefits a 1L or 2L law student who exhibits academic excellence, leadership, volunteerism, mentorship experience, and demonstrates an interest in AAPI civic issues. Special consideration will also be given to applicants who have been adversely affected by cancer (as a survivor, or family member of a victim or survivor).
|The Sharon and Ivan Leadership (SAIL) Scholarship - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|at least $5000 split equally over 2 years. First disbursement will be in September of the second year of law school.
|Awarded to a rising 2L who has outstanding professional promise and leadership potential.
|UPS/NLF Gold Mountain Scholarships - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|Awarded to promising law students who are dedicated to the Asian Pacific American community and who are the first in their family to attend law school.
|The Low Family Scholarship - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|Awarded annually to a law student who has a history of demonstrated leadership in and/or service to the Asian Pacific American Community.
|Chris Nakamura Scholarships - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|Awarded to students who display a commitment to serve the Asian Pacific American community.
|LimNexus Scholarship - from The National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Scholarships
|Awarded to students who display a commitment to serve the Asian Pacific American community.
|The Sidney B. Williams, Jr. Scholar Program
|A limited number of 3-year, $10,000 per year law school tuition scholarship awards.
|Available to minority law students who are pursuing a career in intellectual property law.
|2020 Rizio Lipinsky Lawyer Scholarship
|For future and current students. Will be paid directly to the law school.
|Frank Rothman Memorial Scholarship
|Full-tuition guaranteed for three years and an additional $4,000 stipend each year.
|All applicants to USC Gould are welcome to apply for the Frank Rothman Scholarship. To be considered, you must submit an additional statement.
|The Hatton W. Sumners scholarship
|Provides full tuition and fees, a book allowance, and a living allowance.
|Candidates must demonstrate academic excellence, a sense of civic responsibility, and the potential for leadership. This three-year scholarship requires, among other things, that the recipients rank in the top one-third of their class on an annual basis.
|Gates Public Service Law Program
|Covers tuition, books, other enrollment fees, living expenses and incidental expenses.
|Five scholarships are awarded to first-year students.
|Bridging the Dream Scholarship Program for Graduate Students
|Supports Sallie Mae’s mission of helping people reach their goals through higher education.
|The OppU Achievers Scholarship
|$2,500 for current or future education costs.
|Supports those who create opportunity for themselves and others.
|Dennis Mayer ACC Connecticut Chapter Legal Studies Scholarship
|Assists a Connecticut resident who is attending a Connecticut law school, as a full time or part-time student.
|The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans
|Each award is for up to a total of $90,000. Each Fellow receives $25,000 in stipend support a year (all stipend awards are capped at $50,000 per year), as well as 50% of required tuition and fees, up to $20,000 per year, for one to two years.
|Supports 30 New Americans, immigrants or the children of immigrants, who are pursuing graduate school in the U.S.
|Jonathan Lax Scholarship Fund for Gay Men
|$5,000 and $10,000
|Supports gay men who live in the five-county Philadelphia region (i.e., Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties) and Camden County, who are matriculated in a degree program at an accredited college, graduate, or professional school anywhere, or to gay men attending such schools within the Philadelphia region.
|Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarship
|Covers all tuition costs.
|For minority students attending the SMU Dedman School of Law, UNT Dallas College of Law or Texas A&M University School of Law.