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Friday, January 17, 2014

The True Value of a Law Degree, or, Why Did Thurgood Marshall Go to Law School?

MarshallR. Lawrence Dessem (Missouri) & Gregory M. Stein (Tennessee), The True Value of a Law Degree, or, Why Did Thurgood Marshall Go to Law School?, 65 Hastings L.J. Voir Dire 11 (2013):

There has been vigorous debate in recent months over whether a law degree is a worthwhile investment. Much of this discussion has focused on whether the economic costs of obtaining a degree pay off over a lawyer’s career. This conversation has largely overlooked the many non-economic benefits of a law degree. In this essay, we seek to re-introduce several non-economic factors back into this important dialogue. We suggest that prospective law school applicants would be wise to consider these non-economic factors in addition to economic ones. ... Thurgood Marshall presumably derived career satisfaction from his decision to attend law school, but he also accomplished life goals beyond becoming a skilled lawyer and beyond what he might have accomplished in other careers.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/01/the-value.html

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Comments

It is a mighty presumption to make to assume that Thurgood Marshall would shrug at the notion of as much as $275,000 in nondischargeable debt to attend law school today, because of intangible, non-economic value. In fact, this is one of the silliest, most counter-reality law prof articles I have come across, which is saying a lot. What are the non-economic benefits of a law degree? You can't pay your bills, you can't answer your phone, you can't support yourself and thereby become a financial imposition on family or friends, you become severely disillusioned and cynical, most of my personal acquaintances who are fellow unemployed attorneys are or are about to be out-and-out alcoholics, and then you get told by six-figure earning law professors that you should DONATE your time and extraordinarily-expensive-to-obtain skills to work pro bono for people, who are invariably in better financial straits than you are, declare bankruptcy because of gambling debts and try to be able to keep their home. Sorry, this pitch rings hollow. And offensive.

- One of America's tens of thousands of underwater attorneys

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 17, 2014 2:22:22 PM

Normally I at least read the article before commenting, but I think that abstract is all I need to know. These occasional articles on the non-economic "benefits" of law school are becoming tiresome to say the least.

Bear in mind that tuition-paying students, several of whom will struggle for years with debt and un-/under-employment, actually funded this tone deaf "scholarship."

Posted by: No, breh. | Jan 17, 2014 3:15:57 PM

Ralph Lawrence Dessem's salary is $247,484. (http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/stl-info/university-of-missouri-employee-payroll/html_7d356bce-2e6e-5f75-9425-4d2f2c53c86b.html) Gregory Stein's is not found in a similar search at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, but the range of salaries for others listed as full professors at the law school run from $150k to $200k.

So yes, let us speak of all these non-economic benefits that a JD brings, as an alternative to discussing the economic benefits which some law professors now enjoy and most law students never will.

Posted by: Morse Code for J | Jan 18, 2014 7:16:59 AM

Anybody wanna bet Dessem rails about the "One Percent" to his captive classes and considers this part of the "non-economic" (to say the least...) benefit of becoming an indentured law schoool servant for life?

You would have thought law professors could not become bigger a** clowns.

Posted by: cas127 | Jan 21, 2014 12:26:58 AM