Raising the Bar: Is Law School the New Thing?

by RyanD on October 3, 2012

Law school is the new rage among post-graduates who are looking for a career. After all, these students view the legal field as a golden ticket. They buy into stereotypes about lawyers and the money those lawyers make. Is law school a good bet? Is it the good investment that students think it is? In today’s economy, that question is very much up for debate. Enrollment is up in law schools around the country. At the same time, job placement numbers are down. With the costs of attending law school going through the roof, students thinking about this option face a difficult choice.

Rising enrollment and interest in law school
A New York Times article by Rebecca Ruiz notes that 2009 was a high-water mark for law school interest. With the recession putting people out of work and keeping newly minted graduates out of the workforce, many sought refuge in the quiet recesses of law school. This provided those students with a temporary reprieve from their student loans and an additional three years to figure something out. The result was a saturated legal market. With the recession squeezing legal jobs, this created an ugly situation. The numbers have shifted in 2012, with law school enrollment heading down. Still, the market has more students than it does jobs.

The guarantee of work
When students look at employment statistics put out by schools, they see a rosy picture. At schools in the top tier of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, the employment numbers are in the 90 percent range or above. The average salary for those students often tops six figures. The issue here is clear and must be understood. Those numbers are often indicative only of the students who responded to the survey. This means that in the majority of cases, the employment picture is not nearly as rosy as it might seem.

There is a real chance that this guarantee of work will run dry for today’s law students. The legal field is highly competitive, with top students eating up the high-paying jobs at large corporate firms. This leaves students with less than excellent grades to compete for the small number of government and public interest jobs that are out there. Depending upon where a student goes to law school and where he lands in the grade spectrum, there is a serious chance that this promise of work might be an empty one.

Is it worth the cost?
Cost is another concern that must be taken into account. Most students will spend $50,000 or more in tuition and cost of living to go through one year of law school. This brings the full tab above six figures. Can a student justify this heavy cost? Some students inevitably will. Law school is worth it for those students who understand what they are getting into. Students who want to be lawyers and are willing to work hard can still do well in this field. It is probably a bad bet for those people who are simply hiding out while the economy tanks.

Another thing to consider is the level of school that a student can get into. The top schools are much more proficient at putting students into jobs that will pay off the student’s loans. Students who fail to land in a top school might reconsider whether law school is the right choice. It is still possible to do well from a lower-ranked law school. The challenge, however, is much greater for those students.

About the author:  Ryan D is a proponent of strong education, which is why he always stays updated on his online college and blog news.




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