Law School Insights: The costs of (applying for) an undergraduate legal education

Teaching experience

It is admission season and law schools around the country have begun inviting applications for their respective entrance exams. While the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) may be the most obvious choice, potential candidates also generally apply for admission to other law schools, in order to avoid the risk of putting all of one’s eggs in a single basket.

However, many a time, the cost of application fees can lead to a reduction of options.

In 2015, we ran a piece in an attempt to gauge the average cost of a five-year legal education at a national law university. Back then, we found that the average annual fees at the NLUs was around one lakh and ninety thousand rupees.

That figure has since increased to upwards of two lakhs per annum.

In this article, we attempt to calculate how much one has to shell out even before the law school journey begins, the cost of applying for a legal education.

Application Fees

As mentioned above, it is generally wiser to have a back-up if Plan A fails. The most commonly taken entrance exams apart from CLAT include, in no particular order,

  • NLU Delhi’s AILET
  • Symbiosis’ SET
  • LSAT
  • The newly introduced (and much litigated) Maharashtra Law CET.

Other exams usually applied for are the ones for entrance into the KIIT Law School, Christ Law, IP University’s law schools etc.

Below is a table of the application fees charged for five entrance exams:

Exam Application Fees*
CLAT 4,000/-
AILET 3,000/-
LSAT 3,800/-
SET 1,500/-
MH-CET 650/-
TOTAL 12,950

* For general category students

Assuming one applies for all of these tests, the total sum paid for application fees nears Rs. 13,000.

Law Coaching Fees

Going by the presumption that almost every potential candidate interested in the undergraduate legal degree participates in some sort of professional coaching, the fees paid for the same constitutes a significant chunk of the cost of applying.

In our 6-Question survey on legal education, 58% of law students who took the survey said that they had prepared for the entrance exams for one year or less.

On the basis of that number, we found out the fees charged by law coaching institutes for one-year courses.

Coaching Centre Fees for 1-yr course
LST 50,000/-
Paradygmlaw 39,000/-
IMS 40-50,000/-
CLAT Possible 85,000/-
CLATapult 25,000/-

On average, opting for a one-year course at one of these coaching centres can set you back around fifty thousand rupees. Add this figure to the application fees for various entrance tests, and the cost of preparing for a legal education can be upwards of sixty thousand rupees.

Whether this sum, coupled with the high fees at some of the top law universities, can end up deterring a student from choosing a career in law, is something that requires a closer look.

Though scholarships in some law schools, and organisations like IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access) can help in overcoming the latter number, there seem to be no such options before legal education actually begins.

While it may not be possible to expect law coaching centres to subsidise their fees, one area that can be looked at is the application fees. For example, for the AILET, NLU Delhi exempts students from Below Poverty Line families from the application fee.

The CLAT however, does not have such an exemption. It is high time it does.