January 22, 2024

Legal Education Data Deck

Research and Data
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AccessLex prepares the Legal Education Data Deck for the use of the legal education community, policymakers, and others interested in the latest law student trends organized around our three driving principles: access, affordability, and value. The Data Deck is a living document that is updated periodically, and we are happy to announce the most recent version is now available. The updated deck illustrates snapshots and trends on the undergraduate debt, scholarship aid, bar passage rates, starting salaries, and more for today’s law students. Notable updates include the following:

  • Updates from the U.S. Department of Education revealed that nearly half of law students enroll with debt remaining from their undergraduate education.
    • In 2019–2020, the average amount of debt still owed among those with outstanding undergraduate loans was nearly $27,000.
  • Among law students in 2019-2020, 22 percent were first-generation college students and 37 percent were former Pell Grant recipients.
  • 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 medical students.
  • According to the latest data from NALP, the median salary for 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.
  • In 2022, 75 percent of all first-time exam takers from ABA-approved law schools passed the bar.
    • Across jurisdictions, the first-time bar passage rate among ABA-approved law school graduates generally ranged 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.


The data contained herein exists thanks to the work of the Law School Admission Council, the National Conference of Bar Examiners, the National Association for Law Placement, the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Department of Labor. We thank these and other organizations for making such data available.

AccessLex Institute uses these data as the basis for the presentation, analysis, and commentary contained herein, and takes sole responsibility for the quality and accuracy of such presentation, analysis, and commentary.