In my understanding this 18.5k is the max you can take out yearly in Stafford loans for graduate/professional ed. You are definitely able to take out that much in unsubsidized loans regardless of financial need (exceptions for drug convictions, so if you have one of those... sad). If your income is low you might get some subsidized loans as part of that 18.5k. Grant aid, law school loans, and private loans would cover the rest if you were to get grants. If your expected family contribution (EFC) is low enough you might get a grant though many schools don't have lots of money for grants. Usually you get stafford loans, then grants, then law school loans for need-based aid. Private loans would need to cover the rest of your expenses (your EFC and maybe some cost of living not included in the school budget). Does that make sense?