Want to Use the Law to Advance Social Justice? Choose the Right Law School

Find the school that will support you on this path.

Anna (she/her)
8 min readMay 20, 2021


Don’t be swayed by the fancy library. Choose wisely! Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Have you spent the past couple of years working in the trenches trying to change the world but now find yourself wondering if a law degree would make the system work faster/better?

Or are you still an undergraduate student and someone whose passion for issue “X” (be it the environment, international human rights, criminal defense, or juvenile justice) led you to conclude you “must” earn a law degree to accomplish your specific social agenda?

Either way, I strongly urge you to not take anything for granted and fully research your decision to pursue a law degree. Assuming you are past that stage, let’s get down to the business of evaluating what factors are most important for public interest law students when it comes to choosing a law school.

It may not be all about the money, or is it?

Needless to say, you are not considering a law degree because you want to earn the big bucks. But that doesn’t mean you can discount the HUGE role finances will play in your decision to go to law school. You need to consider both the amount of money coming OUT of your pocket in the form of tuition and expenses and the amount of money that comes in from the school itself.

As you may have read, many law school graduates emerge with debts of $200,000 or more. And that figure doesn’t include undergraduate debt or debt from other graduate degrees.

Let’s start with all the factors related to money that public interest law students need to think about when considering law schools.

1. Public school v. Private School Tuition Costs
This may be a moot point depending on the number of scholarships you receive (see the next item), but it still requires a mention. At one time, many years ago, the choice probably was a no-brainer. Unless you received a full scholarship at a private school, the public school undoubtedly was dramatically cheaper.

However, that is often no longer the case with state budgets funding less at state institutions (like at my alma mater, UC Berkeley’s School of Law…



Anna (she/her)

9X Top Writer. Proud grad of CA public schools. Committed to justice & leadership development. Wife & mom of 2 girls & 2 big dogs. Love to eat almost everything