Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 4, 2013

WSJ Op-Ed: Message to Aspiring Lawyers -- Caveat Emptor

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  A Message to Aspiring Lawyers: Caveat Emptor -- Number of New Jobs Annually: 21,800. Number of Graduates: 44,000, by Chris Fletcher:

There is a crisis in law-school education, but don't expect the institutions to tell potential applicants about it. In short, there are far too many graduates for the number of jobs available, and the majority of those who get jobs are not being paid nearly enough to service their debt. ...

I graduated in 2011 and am one of the "lucky" ones. Within six months of graduation I secured a job in my area of interest, international human rights. ... In my case, although I found employment, my finances are precarious. With $169,000 in law-school debt and an annual salary of $55,000 (which is within the average range for a small firm), I cannot start paying off my debt in a responsible and timely manner, much less afford to have a wedding, start a family, buy a home, etc. ...

If this is my experience, then what about the graduates who are relatively not as "lucky," those with low-paying jobs not in their area of interest? Or those floating between temporary jobs? Or worse, those like my law-school friend and other similarly situated graduates who now rely on government assistance because they cannot find a job and their debt is too crushing? ...

One wishes that moral suasion would prompt law schools to alter their ways—admitting fewer students, making tuition less ruinous—but change is likely to come only through financial pressure when enrollment drops significantly. That day may not be far off. Given current conditions, prospective law-school students would be wise to start off the new year with a resolution to think twice about applying.

(Hat Tip: Grant Nelson.)

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"Within six months of graduation I secured a job in my area of interest, international human rights."

Well, that's your problem. You never had a viable plan for paying off your student loans.

Posted by: john_d | Jan 4, 2013 12:53:28 PM

I am shocked that no one is paying $135,000 a year for a first year "international human rights" lawyer. Especially for a young lawyer who was smart enough to max out on debt to go to a powerhouse like Northeastern.

Good luck in life, kid.

Posted by: Some Guy | Jan 4, 2013 1:54:14 PM

Wait...just so I willingly borrowed $169,000 to get a law degree, knowing full well that your starting salary would be around $55,000/year, and your answer is to whine that law school costs too much?? Well, I can tell you that if I ever need an international human rights lawyer, you can be sure that someone incredibly dumb enough to do that ain't gonna be it.

News flash, made your bed, now sleep in it, and stop whining. You have no one to blame but that guy in the mirror.

Posted by: Bob C | Jan 4, 2013 2:01:42 PM

The previous commentor is ill- informed, in addition to being a callous ass.

No law schools have provided their prospective students with information indicating actual starting salaries average around $55,000 since, maybe, 1990.

The lies and statistical deception by law schools in statements about their graduates' average starting salaries is one major root cause of the problem the guest writer in the WSJ post describes.

Posted by: Jeffrey Antonelli | Jan 5, 2013 5:00:11 PM

Considering that "Chris holds a B.A. in international studies from Macalester College"

$55,000 per year after law school is a major step up.

I doubt this kid could have made more than $30K with his B.A. in exotic vacations.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 7, 2013 10:48:25 PM