Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Dark Side of Law School: Too Much Debt, Not Enough Good Jobs

There has been a lot of blogosphere coverage of Kirsten Wolf, a 32 year old BU Law grad who is on "a one-woman mission to talk people out of law school."

Prior coverage of this theme:

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It's been done several times in the past year...a legitimate news source does a write-up on law school, citing the high tuition, high student loan debt, high expectations law students have to make a lot of money (many feeling misled by law school marke... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 18, 2008 11:28:01 AM


It's probably not worth it if you want quality of life and/or go to a school ranked out of the top 10. Actually, even the top 10 there are problems, as U. Mich. students seem to be having a hell of a time getting employment, and I believe that was a well ranked school (I don't care enough to check, I just know 6-8 that everyone knows).

If you must go to law school with a lower rank, having scholarships such that your overall debt is below say, $30k and it's all federally subsidized/unsubsidized for a small portion, is somewhat of a necessity.

To S.cotus, law schools lie about their employment statistics. Any form of employment whatsoever is counted as employment but it is presented such that a reader would expect it was legal in nature (i.e., unpaid volunteer work, working for family, working outside the field are all considered employment). The salary statistics are skewed because of the way averages are reported, rather than list the salaries or even use a median, or a percentage range breakdown, it's generally presented as a rough mean average, which doesn't take into account the bell curve of reality. And even if it did, you still don't have hours taken into account, which reflect quality of life, as well as locale, commute time, etc.

Anyway I graduated from law school, had scholarships so I've never paid full tuition, and my debt is still depressing. The chances of me starting a family or ever having true financial freedom are fairly low. To top it all off, I despise this profession, and will be taking a paycut to get out in a few years, further extending my financial misery (but at least it'll get me out of this profession).

I suspect that student loan rules will be re-worked to lower interest payments and accrual, extend deferment and forebearance periods, and lower the requirements for qualification for these deferrals. Currently borrowers have a 3 year cap on most deferrals, and a 20% economic hardship deferral qualification. I'd also have to say the sale of student loans should probably be made illegal, and if a loan company goes bankrupt loans automatically discharge. I suspect, unless there is a huge economic upturn, we will be seeing mass defaults very soon, and congress will have to answer the problem.

Posted by: Serp | Jan 20, 2009 3:03:04 PM

To "To Casebook Sherpa" -

Equally hogwash that all people go to law school to "practice law in a traditional environment, the law firm." That's just plain false. Even if it were true, there's still the worry about marketability - is my degree good enough? can I compete? is the market strong enough for me to find a good job? That's hardly hogwash. It strikes me as reality.

- Casebook Sherpa

Posted by: Casebook Sherpa | Jan 23, 2008 8:55:48 PM

To Casebook Sherpa -

People go to law school to become lawyers and practice law in a traditional environment, the law firm. It's only when reality sets in and the primary goal becomes an impossibility that one starts to think about the "marketability" of a law degree and settling for something they never set out to do. Your comment is hogwash.

Posted by: To Casebook Sherpa | Jan 18, 2008 12:41:02 PM

Law School was the best 3 years of my life.

Posted by: Guru | Jan 18, 2008 11:30:43 AM

Let’s see. She went to law school for the money. Despite the fact that she went to law school for the money, she didn’t put enough effort in to research the exact profile of her school’s graduating class. Then she complains about it.

But I will give her this. Some people just should not go to law school. Period. Law school is for people that can handle pressure, and abuse. In fact, I tend to think that law school is *best* if you have not been handed everything in life. So, if you are the type of person who had no problem getting letters of recommendation from high school teachers or college professors, you probably will misunderstand the nature of law school, especially if you go to a law school ranked lower than 10 or so where there is some competition between students that you might not understand.

(In the interests of full disclosure, everyone in my family is a lawyer, and I will only associate with lawyers in my personal life.)

Anyway, the blog host went to BU, and he is smiling in his picture.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jan 18, 2008 10:03:55 AM

Thanks for link Professor Caron. I added to my intial post that, for what it's worth, I believe law school to be worth it. The subject matter is challenging and fascinating and, living in Washington, DC, the market is relatively strong and, consequently, a JD is still a very marketable degree - whether in crafting a PR proposal for a government or private sector client at my current job or working at a firm.

Posted by: Casebook Sherpa | Jan 18, 2008 9:40:16 AM