How the GI Bill Can Fund Your Law School Education

Pursuing a law degree can be an extremely rewarding path for military veterans, but the cost of law school may seem prohibitive. The good news is that the GI Bill provides an invaluable tool to help fund veterans’ legal educations With strategic planning and informed use of benefits, the GI Bill can make achieving your law school dreams much more accessible

GI Bill Overview for Law School Funding

The GI Bill comprises several education benefit programs for military veterans, with the two most relevant options for law school funding being:

  • Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) – Chapter 30
  • Post-9/11 GI Bill – Chapter 33

Both can help pay for law school, but the Post-9/11 GI Bill is usually the better option because it comes with more benefits, such as

  • Full tuition and fee coverage
  • Monthly housing allowance
  • Annual book stipend

With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, tuition and fees are paid directly to the law school while you receive the housing and book stipends

Key Steps for Using GI Bill for Law School

If you want to use your GI Bill education benefits to attend law school here are key steps to take

  • Research law schools – Identify programs that align with your goals and criteria. Consider rankings, location, cost, offerings, and more.

  • Take the LSAT exam – Most law schools require LSAT scores as part of the application process. Study rigorously and aim for your best possible score.

  • Complete applications – Work on your law school applications over the summer before you plan to start. Focus on early application for the best options.

  • Compare financial aid packages – Evaluate each school’s offered scholarships, grants, work-study, loans, and GI Bill coverage.

  • Apply for GI Bill certification – Once accepted, work with your law school’s veterans office to apply for GI Bill benefits.

  • Submit paperwork annually – Maintain your GI Bill each year by completing required documents on time.

GI Bill Coverage Specifics

When using the GI Bill for law school, be aware of key details on what is and isn’t covered:


  • Tuition and fees
  • Required books and supplies
  • Housing allowance
  • LSAT fees (one-time)

Not Covered

  • Living expenses beyond the housing allowance
  • Transportation costs
  • Computer and other equipment
  • Bar exam fees
  • Student health insurance

Knowing what benefits are included can inform your law school financial plan.

Supplementing with Yellow Ribbon

One way to enhance GI Bill coverage at law school is combining it with the Yellow Ribbon program. Here’s how it works:

  • Participating law schools provide additional funds to bridge the gap between GI Bill benefits and tuition costs
  • VA matches the law school’s contributions

This can make an expensive private law school much more affordable. Be sure to research if your law school choice participates.

Tapping Federal Student Loans

In addition to the GI Bill, utilizing federal student loans through the Direct Loan Program can provide supplemental funding:

  • Direct Unsubsidized Loans – Up to $20,500 per year
  • Direct PLUS Loans – Cover remaining costs after other aid

Loans can help cover additional law school costs not handled by the GI Bill. Just be sure to borrow responsibly.

Seeking Scholarships and Grants

Beyond federal education benefits, applying for external scholarships and grants can really round out your law school funding strategy. Options can include:

  • School-based merit scholarships and grants
  • Military and veteran scholarships
  • General graduate scholarships
  • Diversity, community service, and field-specific scholarships

Seek out every possible source of aid to minimize reliance on loans.

Working During Law School

Working part-time during law school can provide additional income to help cover costs. Options include:

  • On-campus jobs in areas like the library, IT, administration, etc.
  • Clerk positions at law firms to gain experience
  • TA, tutor or research assistant roles

Just be cautious not to overextend yourself between work, classes, and studying.

Planning for Budget Shortfalls

Even with the GI Bill and other aid, you may face out-of-pocket costs for law school. It’s crucial to plan for these by:

  • Starting a dedicated savings fund well in advance
  • Living frugally and minimizing expenses
  • Temporarily relying on family/spousal income if needed
  • Limiting borrowing by prioritizing federal student loans

Proactively facing potential budget gaps will prevent desperation down the road.

Paths to Law School Affordability

Paying for law school is a major investment, but utilizing the Post-9/11 GI Bill can make achieving your legal education goals far more attainable. Combine your benefits strategically with scholarships, grants, work-study, federal loans, and personal savings for the most affordable path. Approach financing with eyes wide open and a prudent plan in place. With discipline and determination, you can avoid excessive debt and graduate poised for success in the legal profession. Let the GI Bill help pave the way to a bright future.

Gi Bill Pay For Law School

What are the costs of going from the military to law school?

As with anything else worth doing, backwards planning is a must. Heading from the military to law school is only helpful is that degree is worth the cost.

Several variables play into this. What kind of a lawyer do you want to be? How highly ranked is your law school? How are you financing your education? If you’ve got a GI Bill sitting on the shelf gathering dust and you’re not otherwise going to use it, law school may make a ton of sense. But remember, it’s three years of your life, and successful law students aren’t working jobs while they go, they’re treating law school like a full-time job.

A law degree is three years of full-time schooling (four years part time) at a cost of roughly (in 2021) $65,000 a year. The GI Bill will pay 100% of tuition costs for any public school. Most private law schools, including the elite ones like Yale and Harvard, also have unlimited Yellow Ribbon Program participation. If this is not familiar terminology to you, go look it up.

It’s important. I’ll wait. … … …

(Pro tip: If asking you to open a new tab to search for “yellow ribbon program” is too much…maybe law school isn’t for you)

Okay, so now you know just how important it is to have a 100% GI Bill rating. It opens up so many opportunities that aren’t otherwise available.

Living allowances are also paid by the VA on Chapter 33/GI Bill (only while actually in class, not during the summer) so my law school income looks like this:

-VA covers $195,000 of total tuition

-Roughly 24 months of living expenses at $1800 a month (based on the BAH of your school’s zip code)

If you can extend $45,000 over three years (plus whatever money you can earn during the summers) you can go to law school absolutely free. Adjust as needed using a BAH calculator for the zip code where your future school is located.

I want to underscore this important point: This is the biggest financial advantage you have as a vet.

Where other students must weigh the cost of their attendance, often in loans that balloon with interest, to the point where they often settle for a school that’s lesser than what they qualify for because of available scholarship money, you don’t have that problem. You can literally attend the best school you get into free of charge if you’re at 100% GI Bill. This is an immense advantage for your long-term financial health and career prospects.

You have an absolute competitive advantage in going from the military to law school. USE IT.

Gi Bill Pay For Law School

But that’s not all. There’s a super saiyan level of achievement that’s out there for those of you at the very top of the money-grubbing tables. Law schools are notorious for their pricing structure. Specifically, they essentially use the people paying full freight tuition to fund merit scholarships for students who they are attempting to attract.

But what if you’re not the plebe barely scraping in, but rather someone who they WANT to attract? Some schools, especially the public schools, will re-code merit scholarships to “living stipends” to encourage you to attend their schools. These payments skirt the VA regulations and end up directly in your pocket.

This is a real thing, I promise.

I’m advising a student this fall who has 100% GI Bill and has been accepted into the University of Michigan Law School, a top 10 school, with a $20,000 annual scholarship award. It has been re-coded to a living stipend that will deposit directly into his account while the VA pays 100% of his tuition. Yes, he is getting paid $60,000 by the University of Michigan to go to law school on top of what the VA is paying him. For technical reasons, this is really only a “thing” at public universities. You will not find this deal, almost assuredly, at Harvard or Columbia. You may, however, find it at Texas or UCLA. Know that it’s out there. Do your homework and take the smart path from military to law school.

Thinking about the rankings

There are over 200 ABA-approved law schools in America. But the classist nature of the legal sphere renders almost all of those J.D.s degrees “lower class” and MOST of them next to useless. Allow me to explain:

Law schools are traditionally tiered by a publication called US News World Report. This publication controls the prestige surrounding law schools and, thus, how lawyers sell their attorneys to clients. There are 14 traditional American law schools (the T-14) that have occupied the top 14 places in the USNWR rankings since the inception of the rankings.

If you have a degree from one of these 14 schools, you’re in pretty great shape relatively in the job market. They are schools with a “national reach”. This makes sense. If you have a degree from Harvard, you will be competitive in every American market as long as you sell yourself properly. If, however. you don’t have a degree from one of these 14 schools, the region where you want to work matters FAR MORE than the ranking of your school.


The University of Arkansas is ranked #90 by USNWR. The University of Arizona is ranked #47. If you want to work in Little Rock, however, you’re MUCH BETTER OFF attending Arkansas than Arizona. Why is that? Because the networking opportunities and the “reach back” of the alumni in the Little Rock market are going to allow you to place into a job much easier out of Fayetteville, Arkansas than out of Tucson, Arizona. These schools are 40 spots apart in the rankings, but they’re essentially the same school aside from one consideration: one is the school you should attend if you want to work in Arkansas and the other is a school to attend if you want to work in Arizona.

In this way you should be working backwards. Choose the market where you want to work and THEN choose the law school that feeds that market. Want LA? Try UCLA, or USC. Want Miami? Try UF or UMiami. Each market is different, but it’s always easier to network into a location from a regional school (again, stressing this is NOT T-14) in the local market than from some market outside the domain, even from a higher-ranked school.

Law school admissions operate on a “rolling admissions” system that runs roughly from September 1 through right up until classes start the following August. Unfortunately, many applicants take this to mean they can operate in an “I’ll get to it when I get to it” mindset. The contrary is actually true.

On September 1, law schools have more open seats and more scholarship money available than they will have at any point in the cycle. Though most schools don’t start admitting applicants until, at the earliest, November, the wisdom among the professional admissions counseling industry (yes, this is actually a thing) is that each applicant’s goal should be to have all materials READY TO GO on September 1.

That means your LSAC transcript processed for your undergraduate GPA, your completed LSAT score, your essays, your character admissions, and your letters of recommendation are all processed by that date. If you are missing one portion of the application, that’s fine on September 1. You’ve got a few weeks or so to get it corrected before you start losing opportunities. If you’re not close to it by September 1 it’s really time to step on the gas. If you’re missing materials at Thanksgiving, you really should be thinking about waiting one more year to start law school.

So let’s take an example military to law school path:

Let’s say you’re getting out of the military in February of 2024 and want to start law school in August of 2024. That means that hopefully you will have started preparing for the LSAT in fall of 2022 at the latest, taken your time to take the LSAT (maybe more than once) to get the score you want, have notified your recommenders and submitted all your transcripts, and then ideally you can have all of that out of the way so you can spend the summer of 2023 before working on your essays. In this ideal way, you can start your application cycle on September 1 of 2023 without the stress of everything coming late in the spring and no seats being available for even strong applicants.

Where do mistakes happen? This same applicant instead decides in Christmas of 2023 that she actually wants to go to law school and, for financial reasons, MUST start in August of 2024. This is a very typical situation where the applicant has set herself up for failure. She suddenly NEEDS an LSAT score on the first go, she NEEDS all her materials processed IMMEDIATELY and gets incredibly stressed when it takes the average 4-6 weeks. If she bombs the LSAT in January, something that happens when you don’t prepare properly, she feels the walls closing in, lowers her standards, and convinces herself that she’ll “be at the top of her class at a lower ranked school anyway.” Please trust me when I say that it doesn’t work this way.

Mark talking here: I personally used The Princeton Review to prep for the GRE and found their test service truly be second to none. At first glance, the price tag on these services can appear hefty, but when you factor in the difference that a good LSAT score can make on your career outcomes, the ROI is WELL worth it. To check out The Princeton Review’s LSAT 165+ prep course, go here and use code “LSAT165” to save $200. You can also check out their self-paced course.

This is how you do it wrong. Do not be like this. You’ve got to prepare, ideally, 1.5-2 years before you want to start your first day of classes.

There are more considerations when it comes to heading from the military to law school and succeeding.

First, outside some small exceptions, you need a mastery of the English language in order to do well. This includes the ability to write coherently and read critically for hours on end and, yes, type under pressure. Law school is not “idea time” where you get to go argue about the law with other intellectuals. Instead, law school is a series of classes designed to help you “think like a lawyer” which is a stupid axiom for an outdated methodology of instruction.

What this involves is reading dozens (per class) of old court opinions, understanding the key information in them, and outlining the resulting rules into a coherent doctrine of existing law in order to prepare you for your single exam. Yes, most law school classes have only one exam. It almost always counts for 100% of your grade. It is stressful, even for those of us who have been on deployments. If you cannot read and write to a high level, and enjoy doing it, you’re setting yourself up for failure by attending law school.

Furthermore, law school is not graded against an objective standard. Instead, you’re graded on a standard curve. That is to say, you will be ranked first-last with all your classmates.

A decent way to imagine what that’s like is to think of a specific, competitive, selection course in the military where everybody already had to be a big fish to qualify to attend. Now imagine that everyone is gunning to be number 1. You could all theoretically be badass, but someone is still coming in last. Welcome to law school!

Certain jobs have strict grade cutoffs. Many high-paying jobs hire immediately after only your first (of three) years of law school. That means you have essentially 8 total tests that more or less determine your eligibility for some of those jobs. This is also stressful. That’s not to say you cannot be successful if you don’t end up at the top of your class, this is just something to ponder before attending.

Gi Bill Pay For Law School

One last thought, many of your classmates are coming into law school with significant pre-existing opportunities. Either they have a parent who is already a lawyer, some previous experience working at a law firm in another capacity, or someone is going to pull them up after they graduate no matter how they perform. Law school may be designed to be somewhat of a meritocracy, but the professional legal sphere is not.

Many people get jobs for reasons outside of their skill level and ability. If you are not one of the pre-selected, be aware that the legal field is incredibly classist, incredibly elitist, and that you are going to have to fit in to the job you want.

That leads me to my last piece of advice: try to identify what kind of a lawyer you want to be and talk to one before you go to law school. Yes, email one and ask them how they got to where they are because you’d like to be like them someday. Before heading from the military to law school, first learn what being a lawyer is like. It really is that simple.

As you can see from my unending writing, law students and lawyers love to talk about themselves. Head down to the JAG or TDS office and set up a meeting. Ask to be hooked up with someone that does what you want to do. All of those officers have J.D.s. They all know SOMEBODY who is doing what you want to do. Take advantage of your hookup.

If you’re already out, ask around your family and friends. SOMEBODY knows a lawyer. See if you can’t set up a 10-minute phone call and ask them how they got to where they are. Bonus point if they’ve been to law school in the last 5 years.

(Mark’s pro tip: go on LinkedIn and search “army lawyer” or “air force law” to pull up veterans wo are working in law. Message the people that look interesting and ask for a 20 minute call to learn more about their work.)

Post 9/11 GI Bill | The Do’s and Don’ts of 2023


Does GI Bill pay law school?

As a veteran, you may be eligible for several benefits when applying to law school. The GI Bill can cover the cost of tuition, fees, and other educational expenses. Additionally, many law schools offer veteran-specific scholarships and resources.

Will the army pay for me to go to law school?

Service members interested in joining the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAGC) may be eligible for the Army to cover the cost of law school using the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP). Service members continue to serve on active duty and the Army covers the cost of tuition.

Will the VA pay for the LSAT?

Veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill can get reimbursed for test fees. This means that Veterans or service members can get reimbursed for the fees they pay to take the SAT, ACT, the graduate school exam (GRE), even the LSAT and MCAT for law and medical school admissions.

Will GI Bill pay for Harvard law?

What does the GI Bill cover at HLS? The GI Bill combined with the HLS Yellow Ribbon Program covers: 100% tuition.

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