January 23, 2024

AccessLex Institute Releases the Newest Update to the Legal Education Data Deck

Research and Data


West Chester, PA – January 23, 2024 – Featuring new data regarding undergraduate debt, salaries for recent J.D. graduates, and first-time bar passage, AccessLex Institute® introduced its newest update to the Legal Education Data Deck today.

Through the Legal Education Data Deck, AccessLex identifies trends that affect access, affordability, and value in legal education. The data is gleaned from numerous educational institutions and organizations, as well as federal agencies, including the Law School Admission Council, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, and the U.S. Department of Labor. The deck also includes the latest information on law student outcomes as well as new data from the U.S. Department of Education on law student demographics and debt.

The January Data Deck revealed that nearly half of law school students enroll in law school carrying debt remaining from their undergraduate education. In 2019-20, the average amount of debt still owed among those with outstanding undergraduate loans was nearly $27,000. Findings also indicate that among law students in 2019-20, 22 percent were first-generation college students and 37 percent were former Pell Grant recipients.

A majority of law graduates use loans to fund their graduate education. The report found that the proportion of J.D. recipients who borrowed for law school increased by five percentage points between 2016 and 2020. Compared to other 2020 graduate degree recipients, law graduates borrowed, on average, less for their undergraduate but more for their graduate education. The amount law students borrowed for graduate school exceeded all other graduate and professional degree recipients except those in medicine and other health professions, such as dentistry.

Encouraging data is presented regarding salaries for recent law school graduates. According to the latest information from NALP, the median salary for the employed class of 2022 J.D. graduates increased to $85,000 over $80,000 for the previous 2021 graduating class. However, when adjusted for inflation, median salaries declined from $89,600 to $87,600 between 2021 and 2022.

The Data Deck also reported on bar passage rates. In 2022, 75 percent of all first-time exam takers from ABA-approved law schools passed the bar, but bar passage rates vary among jurisdictions, generally ranging from 58 to 89 percent. Between 2021 and 2022, a majority of states reported decreases in first-time bar passage rates among graduates of ABA-approved law schools.

“Our latest edition of the Data Deck presents an updated picture of differences in the accessibility and affordability of a J.D. compared to other graduate and professional degrees, particularly when considering the enrollment of first-generation college students and former Pell Grant recipients,” remarked Tiffane Cochran, Vice President of Research, AccessLex Institute. “As we continue to engage in ongoing discussions and efforts to diversify legal education and the profession, continuing to monitor and evaluate our progress on these and related metrics is imperative.”

Review the new Data Deck.

About the Data Deck: 

The Legal Education Data Deck utilizes datasets made publicly available by third parties to offer a snapshot of certain trends organized around the three guiding principles of AccessLex Institute’s research agenda: access, affordability, and value in legal education. This is a living document that is updated periodically — AccessLex welcomes comments, criticisms, and suggestions in order to make this as useful a tool as possible for all those we serve. 

About AccessLex Institute®:     

AccessLex Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to helping talented, purpose-driven students find their path from aspiring lawyer to fulfilled professional. In partnership with its nearly 200 member law schools, improving access and positively influencing legal education have been at the heart of the Company’s mission since 1983. Learn more at AccessLex.org.