January 27, 2022

Roadblocks to Repayment: An Infographic on the Financial Challenges Facing Black Law Students

Brien Courchene, Policy Associate
Policy and Advocacy


Completing law school and pursuing a legal career is no easy feat. But often overlooked when discussing legal education is how Black law students in particular face a disproportionate number of obstacles compared to their White peers when charting their path to becoming a lawyer. And recognizing how these obstacles can add up to harm student outcomes is key when advocating for equal and accessible legal education in America.

From starting in a position of lower household wealth, to higher debt accumulation for legal education, to amassing bigger debt burdens during repayment, to other lopsided burdens – data shows that Black students face more headwinds than their peers when pursuing a career in the legal field. To better understand the hurdles students encounter, AccessLex examined recent data and outlined the various financial obstacles Black law students face before, during, and after attending law school. We produced an infographic that illustrates both large and small barriers to success and how together they can negatively impact students.

The data demonstrates that Black law students are more likely to enter the legal field at a financial disadvantage, with White household wealth at a level ten times that of Black household wealth. Additionally, two out of every five Black law school students will come from a home where neither parent obtained an undergraduate degree – which can make preparing and navigating the application process, as well as the student loan repayment process, much more challenging. Also, Black law school students must comparatively shoulder more student loans and on average leave school with close to double the debt of their White classmates. This is compounded by the fact that nearly two out of three Black law students accumulate over $100,000 in education debt. Lastly, during repayment, Black law school graduates will operate in a job market where only two percent of the lawyers in the United States are Black.

When lawmakers in Washington discuss both big and small changes to how students finance their legal education, it’s granular points like these, taken together, that illustrate how Black students have the most to lose from policy changes that would limit or impede access to legal education. All of these disparities – either marginally or significantly – decrease opportunity and worsen student debt burdens, which in turn widens the opportunity gap for Black lawyers and exacerbates inequality in our society.

Congressional leaders are tasked with ensuring essential resources are provided to and meet the needs of students. It’s critically important that advocates are mindful of all the obstacles students face when pursuing a law degree – especially those of the most vulnerable and historically disadvantaged.

Check out our new infographic – “Roadblocks to Repayment” – for more data points on the challenges facing Black law students.