Following up on my previous post, Will Donald Trump Solve The Law School Crisis?: Quartz, Trump’s Disregard for the Judicial System Has Accidentally Made Law School Cool Again:
When US president Donald Trump signed his immigration ban on Jan. 27, law enforcement, customs officials, and airports were thrown into disarray. The executive order, which temporarily barred people from seven predominantly Muslim nations, as well as Syrian refugees, from entering the country, left people stranded in airports in the US and abroad. Families waited frantically for news of loved ones detained or were otherwise unaccounted for.
In this crucial time, lawyers from across the country stepped up to help. Many were immigration lawyers who work regularly on political asylum cases, but many others were not. Lawyers arrived at airports in drove over the weekend, carrying signs offering free legal assistance. They stayed there until the ACLU, representing plaintiffs affected by the order, won an emergency stay blocking parts of the executive order.
Suddenly, in the face of US president Trump’s bold—albeit hastily planned—agenda, lawyers seem heroic. And for the first time in what feels like the better part of a decade, the legal profession is being talked about as something other than a soul-and-money sucking dead-end.
Over the past decade, law school statistics have been pretty grim. With tuition high and legal employment low, enrollment naturally began to drop. Then there were the law schools getting busted by the American Bar Association for trying to fake their employment statistics. Law professor Paul Campos, who started the blog “Inside the Law School Scam,” went so far as to accuse the entire law school system of cheating its students. Others have taken aim at the rise of for-profit law schools as particularly egregious scammers of both the federal government and students.
But this past application cycle saw an 8% rise in LSAT-takers and a stabilization in law school applications. Big law firms have also started raising salaries. Just as importantly, being a lawyer may be becoming cool again—or, if not exactly cool, truly admirable. ...
Even if law school remains a difficult and potentially costly path, the importance of good lawyers is becoming increasingly clear. “This new administration is challenging some things that we’ve taken to date as long-standing legal truths, ranging from civil rights and civil liberties to administrative regulations,” says Adrienne Davis, a law professor and the vice provost at Washington University. “So yes, we need more lawyers.” ...
So what should students considering law school do about this debt-and-low-pay problem? Bishop suggests students look “for schools that have a high return on investment—either the cost is low or there’s a good chance of getting scholarships, so that you’re not accruing so much debt. And then people are going to have to make different choices, making conscious choices—go into a firm in a few years to pay off loans, and then shift careers.” North Carolina’s Wilson makes a similar suggestion. “There is the tendency to go to the highest ranked law school,” she notes, but going to the highest ranked school is not a good value proposition if you are interested in social justice work.”
Ultimately, Trump is changing the way Americans think about activism. Marches and protests are one way of voicing dissent. But as we’ve already seen, a law degree and bar admission can prove more powerful than even the most cleverly worded sign. Trump has announced many ambitious goals for his presidency. But one of his accidental accomplishments may be to make lawyering great again.