Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Are Pre Law Students Making a Big Mistake?

As the Wall Street Journal reported this past week law school applications were up 2% this past year despite the fact that thousands of lawyers have been laid off since the down turn in the economy began. William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law said "law school is not as safe a bet as it once was". Henderson, who specializes in the economics of the legal profession additionally "there are few law schools that can guarantee law students that they'll find a high paying corporate job, is it really worth going $120,000 or $140,000 more into debt?" Henderson among many others raise a good question, does it make sense to forgo three years worth of income and accumulate six figures worth of debt?

However, if receiving a law degree isn't a ticket to the good life then what is? Business schools continue to raise their tuition and yet MBA graduates also are struggling to find work. The government has even announced that they're looking to lay off 140,000 postal workers! I guess we could all become Am Way distributors......


  1. In the long run, a legal education is still probably a good investment -- if that is what you want to do. I knew a few people in law school who enrolled just because they didn't know what to do with their lives. I think that's a big mistake.

    The legal profession is aging, so there will be a demand for attorneys in the future. But given the changes in the legal market, I don't think current students should count on making $150,000 right out of school. And students should not downplay the impact of high student debt. The cost of upper-tier law school tuition is ridiculous. I have so much student debt that it is really affecting my career decisions.

    The world could use a few good lawyers. I just think people should be sure about their decision before they run off to law school, because once the debt is incurred they may find themselves locked in.

  2. You're missing the obvious alternative: Medical/Dental school. It is too bad so many people are wasting their time getting a degree in the humanities.

    As for the debt, people just aren't willing to sacrifice. I have almost 200k in student debt and I'm making all my payments on a government salary. I just don't have a television, a second car, or take very many vacations.

    Peter is right. If you really want to be a lawyer you can do it, even with rising costs and decreasing salaries. But if you don't want to be a lawyer don't waste your time and money going to law school.

  3. Can paralegal positions work as a viable intermediate step for those intending ultimately to become lawyers? I don't have a good read on that, but wonder about the possibility. In looking for open positions through my usual sources, I see significantly more openings for paralegals than lawyers.

  4. I have known a couple paralegals that did night school classes or went back to school in order to get law degrees. In both cases the firms they worked for were particularly cooperative. I don't know how common that is.