Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Should Law School Come With a Warning Label?

SafetyA products liability blog has a post on Warning: Your J.D. May Not Be Worth What You Paid For It:

[I]f we were to design a warning for a legal education, what would it say?  One option:

WARNING:  You may not be able to pay these loans back during your lifetime.

We would argue, however, that this warning might not be adequate.  Instead, consider this stronger, more accurate warning:

WARNING:  Go to law school, and you may wind up bankrupt and still liable for the student loan debt.

The data supports the warning, unfortunately.

Legal Blog Watch, Brainstorming Warning Labels for Purchasers of a Legal Education:

I think we need to add some non-financial warnings, too:

WARNING: Go to law school, and a disproportionate number of your friends may be lawyers.

WARNING: Go to law school, and you may someday introduce yourself at parties as a "recovering lawyer."

WARNING: Go to law school, and you may end up as a legal blogger.

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Incidentally,while it's not a fortune, I'm sure my parents and I have given over 250 K in the last several years. Nothing ever changes

Posted by: corwin | Mar 29, 2012 5:38:33 PM

My oldest brother found working as a hs teacher too droll (or something.) He attended what is often named the worst law school in the country. Worked a bit. COuldn't stay employed. Has been on the dole (which means my father and I ) for several years.Fortunately,we both went to med school. He told me, "It's people like George Bush and you who've done this to me." A younger brother-not a surgeon (He's a shrink.and sane.) tells me the elder has a narcissistic personality disorder. It seem quite common among underemployed attorneys.

Posted by: corwin | Mar 29, 2012 5:36:49 PM

The other problem is getting excluded from alternative career jobs. It is almost like you box yourself in with the JD and it takes a lot of work to get out of that box. I remember being told by HR that a lawyer applied for a truck driving job and HR denied the person because they thought he could do better. It's hard out there.

Posted by: LB | Mar 29, 2012 1:28:29 PM

No, lawyers must come with a warning label

Posted by: jkl | Mar 29, 2012 1:25:53 PM

As an attorney, I love the warning,"Go to law school, and a disproportionate number of your friends may be lawyers." In my opinion, most lawyers will admit that lawyers in general have lots of personality issues, to put it mildly. The local bar association in conjunction with my office organizes an annual cruise with CLE opportunities. I have never gone on it. As a retired Navy JAG I cannot see myself stuck in the middle of the Ocean with a gaggle of issue laden lawyers. Cocktail hour, dinner, work out...all those activities are peachy, but never confine me on a postage stamp in the middle of water with my like kind!

Posted by: Lyn | Mar 29, 2012 10:57:09 AM

JEM - you don't learn all that stuff by year 3 of law school either. I don't think people would complain about tuiton if they actually left law school with the ability and skills to open their own practice in an area of interest. But the typical first-year is a waste of space. I went to a top 20 law school, and frankly, until you've been practicing in the real world in one area for at least 4 years or more, you haven't mastered anything.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 29, 2012 7:03:35 AM

Yes, but the difference is that the surgeon is actually trying to help you and has to learn something that you could not otherwise Google for 95% of the time. Law school should be part of a 3-4 year undergrad degree, as it is in Australia, and law schools should be abolished.

Posted by: Wilbur | Mar 29, 2012 4:45:38 AM

So first year law school leaves would-be lawyers capable of teaching themselves the ability to write wills, including drafting for the marital deduction, understanding the rules of evidence, comprehending tax that affects all transactions, learning about conflicts of law, mastering administrative law principles, etc etc? Perhaps the top 5 percent in a law school class can teach themselves with no guidance, but the bottom 95 percent surely are in need of help. It's not that there ought not be more than one year or two years of law school, it's a matter of what is being done and how it is being done. But perhaps when someone goes in for surgery they would like to meet a surgeon who earned a degree after one year of medical school?

Posted by: James Edward Maule | Mar 28, 2012 1:46:17 PM

As a lawyer who is admitted to the bar in CA and NY and is not practicing in either jurisdiction, I completely agree with the warnings. I LOVED law school, but it really should be two years. There is nothing beyond first year that is useful other than clinics and journal, two years is enough for that. Right now I'm working at a startup in a non-legal capacity, much lower pay but much more fun. Luckily I paid off my 100K law school bill before I resigned big law!

Posted by: Eunice | Mar 28, 2012 11:50:13 AM