Applying to law school can be an expensive process. The total cost depends on several factors, including whether the applicant purchases LSAT study aids, how many times an applicant takes the LSAT, the number of schools applied to and an applicant's financial need. Applicants with greater financial resources can spend thousands of dollars, while applicants with little to no resources can apply while paying very little if they use some initiative and creativity.
Law School Admission Test (LSAT)
All law schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA) require applicants to submit a Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score as part of their application. The fee for taking the LSAT is $136 as of 2010. The Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) has established a fee waiver program for applicants who can demonstrate extreme financial need. If an applicant is approved for a fee waiver, he can take the LSAT up to two times at no cost.
LSAT cost: $0 to $136
Credential Assembly Service
In order to apply to law school, an applicant must register with the Credential Assembly Service (CAS). An applicant arranges for his or her college transcripts and letters of recommendation to be sent to the CAS, which then summarizes them into a report. When an applicant applies to a particular law school, the school requests the applicant's report from CAS. The cost to register with the CAS is $124. Additionally, each CAS report costs $12. However, if an applicant has been approved for an LSAC fee waiver, she can receive up to four CAS reports at no charge.
CAS cost: $0 to $124 plus $0 to $12 per application
Law School Application
Each law school requires applicants to submit an application. Although some law schools do not charge an application fee, most do. Of the schools that do, the fees range from $15 to $100. Many law schools will offer unsolicited fee waivers for applicants who have a high enough LSAT score. The fee waiver allows an applicant to submit an application to that school without paying an application fee. An applicant may also contact schools directly to apply for a fee waiver based on need.
Application cost: $0 to $100 per application
LSAT Preparation Courses and Materials
Most applicants spend several weeks or even months preparing for the LSAT exam. LSAT preparation books are a low-cost tool to help an applicant become familiar with the format and content of the test. Most libraries carry LSAT preparation books for prospective students looking for a low-cost way to prepare. Some prospective students take LSAT preparation courses or hire private tutors. The courses can be watched on video, taken online, or taken in a classroom. The costs of these services vary widely, but range from $450 to more than $8,700.
LSAT preparation cost: $0 to $8,700 and up
Professional Essay-Writing Services
Most law schools require an admissions essay as part of the application. Although it is usually not necessary and fairly uncommon, some applicants hire companies that specialize in writing or editing admissions essays. Depending on the level of service, these fees can run from $100 to over $1,000.
Essay-writing service cost: $0 to $1,000 and up
- Law School Admissions Council: LSAT and Credential Assembly Service Fees
- Law School Admissions Council: Fee Waivers for the LSAT and Credential Assembly Service
- Law School Admissions Council: Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools
- Princeton Review: LSAT Test Preparation
- TestMasters: Private LSAT Tutoring Packages
Melissa Heath has written about insurance, finance, and law-related matters since 2003. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota, and is a licensed attorney in Minnesota.