As you can see, even the high salaries of Big Law can’t keep up with the tuition law schools are charging and the associated debt that new lawyers are taking on.
Law School Cost vs. Home Prices
Debt also isn’t just an abstract dollar amount; it has real-world implications. Of those 95 percent of graduates who borrowed, our study showed that more than 80 percent indicated student debt had disrupted the trajectory of their career or personal life, causing them to weigh salary more heavily in their job selection or put off home purchases, marriage, children, or vacations.
Let’s take a closer look at home purchases. Homeownership is often considered a marker of success, with one recent study showing that nearly two-in-three respondents rated the importance of homeownership to define their personal success at an eight or higher on a scale of 1–10. Another survey found that 74 percent of people in the United States say owning a home is a higher measure of achievement than having a successful career, raising a family, or earning a college degree.
House prices have increased 81.5 percent in the United States over the last decade, so it may be fair to think putting the cost of home ownership next to law school tuition over the last 35 years would look similar to the increase in law school tuition over the same time. However, the animated graphic below, showing the inflation-adjusted increases in both the average US law school tuition fees and the average sale price of houses sold in the United States, demonstrates that law school tuition increases still blow away housing increases.