Go to law school, pass the bar, become a lawyer and retire at 65 with a gold watch? For decades, this was one of the clearest professional pathways students could pursue, but that’s changing .

While law school graduates out-earn those with just a high school or bachelor’s degree on average, the legal profession is not immune to the same technological trends that have touched essentially every industry.

Advances in technology such as artificial intelligence allow modern software to scan legal documents, streamline communications and find relevant casework for lawyers. McKinsey estimates that 23% of work done by lawyers can be automated by existing technology.

The cost of law school, like the cost of undergraduate programs, has steadily increased over the past several decades , making it more expensive for students to consider a profession in law.

Among the 187 law schools that report tuition and fees data to U.S. News & World Report , the average for annual tuition and fees during the 2018-2019 academic year was $48,869 at private law schools, $40,725 at public law schools for out-of-state students and $27,591 at public law schools for in-state students.

These costs reflect a significant increase from previous decades. According to data from the American Bar Association , in 1985, tuition cost roughly $7,526 at private law schools and $2,006 at public law schools. Adjusted for inflation, these costs would be closer to $17,871 and $4,763 today.

These high costs are causing a rise in student debt among law school graduates. According to the National Center for Education Statistics , between the 1999-2000 school year and the 2015-2016 school year, the average student debt total increased by 77% among law school graduates, from $82,400 to $145,500.

And these pressures, both financial and technological, are forcing law schools to change.

“People mention that law schools haven’t changed in a while,” James Greif, communications director at the Association of American Law Schools tells CNBC Make It. “I think that maybe they’re not paying close enough attention.”Al Seib/Los Angeles Times | Getty Images Creating lower-cost options At the UCLA School of Law, often considered one of the best public […]

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