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Is it still worth going to law school

arco222arco222 Registered Users Posts: 12
edited May 2013 in Law School
Some of the messages out there, given the terrible law market (by disgruntled graduates I assume), is that if you are going to go to law school, go only if 1) You are going to a top five (to T-14), OR (2) you go for almost no Cost or (3) You have a guaranteed job when you get out.

Now I am hearing recommendations that NOBODY should waste their time going to law school, no matter what the school, even top of T-1 . . for the following reasons:

1) Even if you go to a top law school and get a job with big law, your days there are almost invariably numbered after a few years, and then you will simply be another unemployed lawyer AND you will be miserable while working there.

2) That a JD degree makes you unemployable in almost all other fields, i.e., is not a very versatile degree, which is contrary to what I heard before I attended law school, i.e., the J.D. degree opened up lots of doors.

3) In other words, there is such a gross oversupply of lawyers, and the changes to the market are structural and will never return to the heady days of yesteryear (fortunately, I graduated in the yesteryear), that law is no longer a viable profession for a young person.

This question is not only academic. I am often asked by young people whether they should attend law school. The question is how do I advise people who ask my opinion? Any other opinions out there?
Post edited by arco222 on

Replies to: Is it still worth going to law school

  • jwinazjwinaz Registered Users Posts: 1
    edited May 2013
    There's no one-size fits all answer to this question, but many of the concerns you raise are valid points.

    An answer depends very much on an individual's background in relation to those points above. Factors, such as a person's financial situation, the type of school they are admitted to, any aid they may be receiving, and so on and so forth are all relevant.

    It's true that the legal economy is in shambles and that law school costs have outpaced the returns on investment for many people. But it would probably be too strong to say that no one should attend law school.

    It depends on the circumstances.
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered Users Posts: 34
    edited May 2013
    My response is usually: "Go to Harvard [or Yale] or go for free. If neither applies, don't go at all."

    My other response is: "Would you buy a house in 2007? No? Why not? Then why get into the legal education bubble right before it bursts?"
  • arco222arco222 Registered Users Posts: 12
    edited May 2013
    ^^^^^^ Only Harvard or Yale? Not Penn, NYU, UC????

    You lost me on the "legal education bubble right before it bursts" comment. Are you suggesting you expect a lot of law schools to crash and go out of business? With applications down 50% over the last few years, isn't the bubble already bursting? Or are you suggesting no jobs for graduates, in which case we are well past the crash.
  • crankyoldmancrankyoldman Registered Users Posts: 2
    edited May 2013
    Let's stick to the facts: the ABA is requesting that all law schools publish employment data for recent grads-and if you look at the numbers, in light of the cost-well, the numbers are pretty bad. So next time someone asks you if s/he should attend law school, tell them to check out law school transparency or similar. The numbers are there; if someone wants to take on 150K in debt to attend a law school with 50% employment, that's their decision.
    But you can tell them that a law degree is good for one thing: practicing law. Anyone who tells you anything else is either misinformed or intentionally misleading you.
  • bluedevilmikebluedevilmike Registered Users Posts: 8
    edited May 2013
    Here's my philosophy:

    1.) If you get into a T6, go. If not...
    2.) ... but you get into a T14 with good scholarship money, go. If not...
    3.) ... but you get into a T28 with full tuition, AND which is in a geographic region where you'd like to practice law, go.
    4.) If none of the above applies, think long and hard about whether or not to go to law school. Really. This is a bad market.
    5.) But if you're really dead set on it, then go to the (a) best school in the region where you'd like to practice, (b) make sure to get very good grades, (c) while keeping your debt inhumanly low.
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered Users Posts: 34
    edited May 2013
    arco222: my understanding is that CCN do not do debt forgiveness for students, at least not the way Harvard does. Harvard basically sets every single graduate up on a payment schedule, so long as they are in a JD-preferred job, and caps the amount of their income that can be repaid.

    So no, do not pay $250k for CCN.

    Yes, I am aware that law school applications are down, but (1) they are not down to the point at most JDs will get jobs that justify the cost of law school, and (2) there's a huge issue you are ignoring.

    The federal government has basically put itself/the taxpayer on the hook for the bulk of these loans. I simply do not think that our federal government will happily write off tens of billions of dollars in student loans, every single year from now until the end of time, while law schools raise tuition and have only 50% of their grads get jobs. I don't know if you know this, but our government is broke, and they simply cannot afford to lend a quarter-million each to twenty thousand students who will make $40k a year.

    I cannot predict the exact form that the government response will be, but I would be shocked if it did not involve financial accountability on behalf of the schools. Both conservatives and liberals want that type of accountability, and trust me, the day that the feds refuse to lend money to schools, cap the loan amounts to certain institutions, or go in for a clawback - that is the day that many law schools will be forced to close their doors or radically change their operation.
  • sosomenzasosomenza Registered Users Posts: 111
    edited May 2013
    Do you like the law? How about researching and technical writing? Are you willing to work at a small firm, building a practice one client at a time, with the distinct possibility of having to take PI cases? Does the idea of pro bono work appeal to you? If these things appeal to you then be a lawyer.
  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 Registered Users Posts: 13
    edited May 2013
    1.) If you get into a T6, go. If not...
    2.) ... but you get into a T14 with good scholarship money, go. If not...
    3.) ... but you get into a T28 with full tuition, AND which is in a geographic region where you'd like to practice law, go.
    4.) If none of the above applies, think long and hard about whether or not to go to law school. Really. This is a bad market.
    5.) But if you're really dead set on it, then go to the (a) best school in the region where you'd like to practice, (b) make sure to get very good grades, (c) while keeping your debt inhumanly low.

    I agree fully with all this, with the exception that if you already have a job lined up post-graduation, law school is a much better bet.
  • bluedevilmikebluedevilmike Registered Users Posts: 8
    edited May 2013
    I don't remember the CLS/NYU loan repayment as well as I do HLS/YLS, but I remember thinking they were somewhat stricter than HLS/YLS but basically similar.
  • ariesathenaariesathena Registered Users Posts: 34
    edited May 2013
    Here's the thing. In this job market, with tuition this high I see little reason for any school to not guarantee its results. It does that either via scholarships or some guaranteed loan repayment. If they aren't doing that, they are telling you something - they don't think it's a worthwhile risk.

    Don't look at what people say when it's your butt on the line; look at what they do when it's their butt on the line.
  • arco222arco222 Registered Users Posts: 12
    edited May 2013
    I would guess that only a very few schools guarantee their results, and probably only among the top of T-1. Most of the schools are too busy fudging their employment statistics by hiring their own students or counting as employed those working in non-legal jobs.

    The government should cut back on the loans to all of these schools, but I just don't see it happening any time soon.
  • TempeMomTempeMom Registered Users Posts: 15
    edited May 2013
    I'm a 16 year lawyer. I recommend to people not to go unless it's free or you can get out for very little debt (under $40-50k).

    I mostly agree with Blue Devil above....except it's not that easy to insure "good grades" especially as lots of students who did great in college still take a couple semesters to figure out how to write exams worthy of the top 20% of the class (or better). Which means essentially you have one year to pull up your rank before hiring starts during third year...which is statistically difficult. Some people considering going to law school don't appreciate that you can't effectively just hang a shingle after graduating. Most lawyers aren't viable until after at least two-three years of well-rounded and guided practice.

    I would WHOLEHEARTEDLY discourage someone who is "non traditional student" (eg couldn't or didn't get into most law schools they applied to and/or don't have an academic record of success) from spending $40k a year a private law school.
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