When Dina Allam graduated last spring from Ohio State University with a joint law and master of business administration degree, she thought the combination would catch the eye of employers who could appreciate a mix of analytical skills and business know-how.
But after months of looking for a nonlawyer job that would put all that education to work and help pay off some of the nearly $85,000 in student loan debt, Allam began to think she'd made a mistake by going the law degree route.
"People don't see the value in the joint degree. They think I'm confused," she said.
In hindsight, Allam said she would have forgone the juris doctor degree and pursued just the MBA. But at the time she started law school, she was convinced that a J.D. diploma could open doors to a wide variety of job options.
"They made it sound like there were so many careers you could go into," said Allam, now a client engagement manager with Wipro Technologies in Columbus, Ohio. "I definitely think all the interviews I had were because I was in business school and not because I had a law degree."
Law schools and placement professionals frequently tout the versatility of a law degree as a path to alternative careers. But even in good economic times, the advantage of a juris doctor degree in landing a job in another field may well be overblown.
With student loan debt at an all-time high and law schools churning out about 44,000 degrees each year, graduates looking for nonlawyer jobs are finding that they often are priced out, overqualified and undervalued.
The upshot for many is that, while they appreciate the knowledge they gained, they find that they are no more marketable — and sometimes less — than if they'd avoided the law school ordeal altogether.