Law school is an expensive endeavor no matter what your background is. Tuition can be astronomical, housing, especially in big cities can seem punitive, and there is a variety of school supplies you will need to be a successful student.
But these are not the only costs associated with law school. One significant cost that gets thrown under the rug far too often is textbooks. So, how much do law school books actually cost?
Law school books are extremely costly if you purchase them brand new. New textbooks can cost anywhere between $1,500-$3,000 a year. Some of the more individually expensive textbooks cost $300 or more. Renting or buying used textbooks will cut down significantly on book costs.
$1,500-$3,000 a year is a scary number, $1,500 is a month of rent for me in Washington D.C. I don’t even want to think about how much beer money that is. As law students, we are already paying our fair share in tuition and fees, and many of us will be in debt for the rest of our lives because of it. We might as well try and lessen our financial burden by saving money now.
Luckily, there are quite a few ways that you can save money on law school textbooks and I am going to tell you about your options. I’m also going to give you some dos and don’ts on saving money on law school textbooks.
How to save money on law school textbooks
Textbooks are a racket, there I said it. There is no reason why a Con Law casebook should cost $300, especially when 95% of the newest edition is going to have the EXACT SAME material as the previous edition. The same could be said for pretty much every law school subject and yet textbook companies continue to make minor edits to books and publish new editions, and professors continue to require students to purchase the newest edition.
That being said, you don’t have to be the sucker in this transaction and waste money on a book you don’t need. So here are your options:
Rent your textbooks
Generally, I save somewhere between 50-75% when I rent my most expensive textbooks instead of buying them brand new. Not all of your law school textbooks are going to cost northward of $200, but for the ones that do I would recommend that you consider renting them.
If you consider renting your textbook, stay away from campus bookstores. Campus bookstore pricing is massively overinflated, even for book rentals. Instead, check out websites such as Amazon Marketplace or Chegg.
Scan your textbooks
This is by far my favorite method for getting textbooks and something that is EXTREMELY COMMON among law students nowadays. My law school library had a copy of every classroom textbook available for rent but students were not allowed to take them outside of the library. So, I would take the textbooks for each class to the library scanners, scan the readings up to a few weeks ahead, and save them.
The best thing about this method is obviously it is completely free. The downside is that scanning hundreds of pages can consume a lot of time. Another disadvantage is that not everyone likes readings textbooks on their laptop, many students may read better with a physical textbook. If you are one of those students, then saving with scans might not be worth it.
That being said I scanned all of my textbooks after my first semester of 1L year and it proved to be extremely effective. I saved tons of money, I did not have to worry about reselling or returning books at the end of the semester, and I never carried around physical textbooks!
Buy used textbooks
There is literally no reason why you would buy a brand new textbook if the book is more than $50. Unfortunately used textbooks are only an option when the professor does not require the newest edition of the book.
Sure a used textbook might have some old highlighting and scribble inside, but a used book is still just as good as a new one, and typically half the price.
Resell your textbooks
Whether you decide to buy your textbook new or used you should make your best effort to resell your textbooks at the end of the semester. For textbooks that come out with yearly new editions, you probably will have to take a big price cut, but you will be able to recoup a significant amount of your investment in the books that don’t have yearly editions.
Some law students fall into the trap of believing that you should not resell your books because they will be useful for the bar. I want to dispel this rumor. You will never use your law school textbooks to study for the bar. You are going to do what literally every single graduating law student in the country does. You are going to spend several thousand dollars on a Barbri bar review course or something comparable, realize how inefficient law school was, and NEVER OPEN a law school textbook again.
Search for the best deal on books
There are literally dozens of rental and used textbook businesses out there and all of them are on the internet. The internet makes it so easy to compare prices for textbooks across a variety of different businesses. Take advantage of this and do some research to find the best price.
Not getting your books is NOT an option!
You are a first semester 1L, you came to law school straight out of undergrad, and you have fond memories of never buying textbooks because your professor literally never assigned readings out of the book. I get it, one of the frustrating things about undergrad is that professors sometimes require textbooks but then you don’t open the book a single time throughout the semester. My strategy in undergrad was that I would never buy a textbook until well into the first month of class. This way, I would confirm whether I really needed the book or not.
Fast-forward to law school and things are completely different. You absolutely need every required textbook in law school. Whether you buy, rent or scan is up to you, but you have to get your hands on the reading. You will never have a class where you don’t have to rely heavily on your textbook. So throw out that undergrad mentality of textbook avoidance because it will not help you in law school!
Avoid the campus bookstore like the plague
Remember in undergrad when the textbook prices were massively inflated at the campus bookstore and you could typically save half by buying online? Same deal in law school, textbooks are inflated at the campus bookstore. Every now and then I found that some of the rentals were relatively reasonable, but generally the only reason you should go to the campus bookstore is to restock on pens, pencils, and notebooks.
It’s true that law school textbooks are expensive, but there are a variety of ways you can save money. Whether you buy used, rent, or scan, you will save a considerable amount compared to what you would have paid for a new book.
You can check out more ways to save money in law school here!