October 31, 2022

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 parental education, undergraduate debt, scholarship aid, bar passage rates, starting salaries, and perceived J.D. value of today’s law students. Notable updates include the following:

  • Recent estimates indicate that 1 in 5 law students was a first-generation college student, and 2 in 5 law students received a Pell Grant to help fund their undergraduate studies.
  • Nearly half of enrolled law school students are carrying undergraduate debt, with the average outstanding undergraduate loan balance of nearly $28,000.
  • The median grant amount awarded to full-time law students decreased from $22,050 in 2019-20 (adjusted for 2021 dollars) to $21,400 in 2020-21. For the first time since 2010, the number of overall grant recipients decreased (from 78% in 2019-20 to 73% in 2020-21).
  • Between 2020 and 2021, a majority of states reported decreases in first-time bar passage rates among graduates of ABA-approved law schools. Of the 37 jurisdictions where pass rates declined, seven reported decreases greater than ten percentage points. However, given the anomalous circumstances surrounding bar examinations in 2020, comparisons to 2021 should be interpreted with caution.
  • While the total number of recent J.D. graduates who are employed rose by about 2,400 in 2021, the distribution of employment across sectors remained relatively unchanged from 2020. 57 percent of recent graduates held jobs in private practice, while business, academic, and judicial clerk positions each represented 11 percent of recent graduates.
  • A longitudinal study of Class of 2008 college graduates found that, among those who earned an advanced degree by 2018, a majority agreed their graduate education was worth the cost. However, those who earned an advanced degree in legal professions and studies (including J.D. recipients) were the exception—just under half (48%) agreed their graduate education was worth the cost.


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.