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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Oliveri: Why Law School Is Worth It

National JuristNational Jurist op-ed:  Why a Legal Education Is Worth It, by Rigel Oliveri (Associate Dean, Missouri):

Lawyers have always gotten a bad rap. The old saying about everyone hating lawyers until you need one is very true. And lately legal education has come under heavy fire as well. Law schools are criticized for teaching too much theory and not enough practice, for being too expensive, for churning out too many graduates into an already-saturated legal market. The lucky few who do get jobs at big firms are stressed out, bored, and disillusioned with their work – at least, according to the critics.

It’s not that these critiques don’t have some truth. Law schools do need to focus more on practice skills and experiential learning. The employment market for lawyers has gotten tougher, especially for people seeking the plum jobs at big law firms. Student loans, for lack of a more elegant term, suck.

But, and here is where I finally get to my point: The law is fascinating. It is incredibly important in people’s lives. And a legal education is an amazing opportunity to get the tools to understand, and most importantly, work within this system. ...

[I]t breaks my heart to hear about young people who are interested in law deciding not to bother applying to law school. Our society is shaped in innumerable ways by law. We need another generation of the best and brightest to learn the craft, to continue helping people with their legal needs, to make sure our government works the way that it should.

Legal Education | Permalink


Is a legal education worth the money? I couldn't see the answer from this or from Mitchell's exact same sales pitch in the ny times.

If you promise a value analysis (ie "worth it") please do a value analysis.

Posted by: Jojo | Mar 15, 2014 5:34:29 AM

Ummm. This IS a value analysis. He's saying that learning about something fascinating and important is worth the money.

Posted by: Brant Lee | Mar 15, 2014 8:55:21 AM

What a flaccid and specious sales pitch. I note that none of her proposed "reforms" will in any way jeopardize her compensation package.

How precisely does law school "give you the tools to work within the system"? I understood how to read and perform research prior to wasting my money and time buying an overpriced law degree. If part of the law impacted my life, I didn't need to go to law school to learn how to look up laws and read them on the Internet.

Posted by: JDs are going fast. Call the number at the bottom of your screen. | Mar 15, 2014 9:25:11 AM


The article's theme wasn't that law (or law school, which the author conflates with law) have no value. To the extent that anyone challenges that premise, it's the ultimate straw man fight.

Rather, it was that law school was worth it -- that is, worth the cost. There was no discussion of the cost. Film school, anthropology, french literature, and art history all have value. So do tee shirts, coffee cups, and haircuts.

The issue, and the one that is unanswered, is whether they are "worth it." Meaning, worth the price. Law has value, but is that value worth the present multi-hundreds of thousands of dollars cost.

Answer that question. Law clearly has value, but how much value does it have?

Posted by: Jojo | Mar 16, 2014 10:16:42 AM

Law school is getting a bad wrap right now that is going beyond a normal market adjustment. If we applied the sort of economic analysis that is proposed by authors like Campos and others for law school to degrees in other fields there would be no doctors, no engineers, no social workers and certainly no artists or musicians. We'd all be community college grad accountants (assuming, of course, that high school even makes economic sense in the short term). The literature seems pretty sparse on the long term economic benefits of a legal education.

Posted by: John Treu | Mar 17, 2014 2:16:01 PM

@John Treu,

That's a spiel better directed towards the Department of Education, Sallie Mae, and the other entities who want law school loans paid back with interest. It rather forces the sort of economic analysis that is proposed by authors like Campos; if one cannot make their student loan payments because they are un/underemployed and/or underpaid and default a year after graduation or so, their licenses can be yanked and their careers ruined. They'll certainly never pass another C&F examination. Obama is already trying to reduce PSLF forgiveness (the Republicans want it eliminated entirely), and who knows what will happen to IBR/PAYE if the Dept of Ed ever switches to a reality-based accounting system instead of the unicorns and sunshine model they currently employ...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 17, 2014 10:07:38 PM