Paul L. Caron

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gallup: Only 23% Of Law School Grads Say Their Education Was Worth the Cost

Gallup, Few MBA, Law Grads Say Their Degree Prepared Them Well:

Masters of business administration (MBAs) and law degree graduates are less likely than other postgraduates to say their graduate degree prepared them well for life outside of graduate school and that it was worth the cost. Only two in 10 MBAs and law degree holders say their education prepared them well, while half of medical degree holders say the same.


These results come from the Gallup-Purdue Index nationally representative study of postgraduate degree holders in the U.S., which includes more than 4,000 adults who received a postgraduate degree between 2000 and 2015.

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The really amusing bit of all this is that the Gallup-Purdue Index is funded by none other than the Lumina Foundation, that non-profit de facto marketing & lobbying arm of Sallie Mae whose actual mission statement is to radically boost the percentage of Americans with college degrees (or equivalent*) from today's ~35% to 60% by 2025, and whose implicit mission statement is that student loans are wonderful vessels of opportunity that can never harm anyone. They can't be pleased about these results.

*Or equivalent being the eleventh-hour reference to all manner of MOOC and certificates and stackables and all the rest of it that Lumina has begun counting towards that 60% ever since they realized 1) we ain't getting to 60% with traditional degrees alone and 2) people might borrow money to obtain these alternative thingies.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 22, 2018 9:27:05 AM

It's not surprising to me that most law grads didn't think law scholl prepared them for work. I don't think that is the point of law school. If you want to learn how to do something, you have to watch some one do it and practice doing it. You can't become a good baseball player by going to a class about the history of baseball and its rules. Law school is not to prepare students to be good or capable lawyers. The purpose of law school is to ensure that all members of the law guild are socialized to acceptable norms of behavior and beliefs, and also to provide employment for law professors.

Posted by: brad | Feb 22, 2018 10:19:50 AM

The medical degree figures are particularly perplexing. I can understand the 42% who found it not 'worth the cost." Getting an MD is expensive and it's often hard to recoup that cost after graduation, particularly with the delay introduced by residency.

But I don't know what to make of the 50% who said that medical school didn't prepare them well for "life outside of graduate school." That leaves me wanting to ask, "Compared to what?" If life after medical school refers to working in medicine, then I have have trouble imagining those four years were worthless. They might have been better, but it makes no sense to say that they didn't prepare their students to be doctors. I certainly would not want my medical care to be in the hands of someone who had not gone.

On the other hand, if preparation for life outside refers to having a happy marriage, investing money well, and the like, then those numbers are absurd. They went to medical school and learned medicine. If they want to live their lives better, they'd be better off attending church and reading widely.

I suspect the real problem is that Gallup's questions are too vague. Questions like "worth the cost" and "prepared me well for life" aren't specific enough.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Feb 22, 2018 10:37:45 AM

interesting but incomplete, as it confounds professional degrees (law, medicine) with a wide basket of others. "MD" is specific, as is JD & to a large extent MBA. The PhD, MS, or MA can be a subspecialty in physics or chemistry OR an equally specialized studies degree with widely varying commercial value, scarcity, and utility. At least, one would want to break the PhD into STEM/non-STEM, and probably into top-level fields (chemistry, english, etc) for this to be more than minimally informative.

Posted by: doc | Feb 22, 2018 10:41:44 AM

The question on "Doctoral Degree" is too broad in scope. It should be split into at least three categories: "Doctoral Degree (Sciences)", "Doctoral Degree (Liberal Arts)", and "Doctoral Degree (Other)".

Posted by: CBI | Feb 22, 2018 11:03:12 AM

Maybe undergraduate degrees should be included in this survey.

Posted by: Ralph | Feb 22, 2018 11:12:55 AM

Three red flags here. One, the Gallup release reports the percentage of students who "strongly agreed" with the statement. How many "somewhat agreed"? Two, the release states the results are based on a poll of 4,000 graduates from 2000-2015. What was the data set for law students? Three, where is the poll? I can't find it on the Gallup website. Were there other questions with favorable results? Were there caveats and fine print about error rates, etc.?

Not saying the information is correct, but we all know how organizations can cherry pick data and information to paint a picture a certain way. Hopefully Gallup will release the complete data so we can see for ourselves.

Posted by: Steven Freedman | Feb 23, 2018 7:43:37 AM

The results of this poll is most likely due to the lack of professionalism taught in law school. Students should appreciate that a law degree prepares graduates for more than law practice. Lawyers are leaders in our society. The vast majority of representatives in Congress and in state houses across the country possess a JD. Law graduates also serve in corporate leadership roles, serving on boards of directors and as corporate executives. Too many law graduates fail to appreciate that their rigorous training prepared them to lead our society.

Moreover, law graduates would recognize that their education was worth the cost if law schools provided more formal career counseling sessions. Perhaps law schools should have sessions during orientation that inform students about the variety of opportunities available after graduation. Law schools are placing graduates into high paying law firm jobs. But too many law graduates are unhappy because of the long hours and stress. Law schools should encourage students to explore careers in legal education, JD advantage jobs in areas such as human resources that offer a 9-5 schedule, or the flexibility of a career as a solo practitioner. Law graduates that want the flexibility to work when they want can also pursue short term legal jobs.

Posted by: Professionalism | Feb 24, 2018 2:16:44 PM

“The results of this poll is most likely due to the lack of professionalism taught in law school.”

This is a deeply insightful comment, but only in an unintentionally ironic way given its context and very probable author.

“Lawyers are leaders in our society.”

Not all law schools are Harvard/Yale/Stanford. Most of us end up closer to the bottom of society than the top, regardless of whether the metric is clientele, socioeconomic station, or actual influence in society (yeah, yeah, lawyers driving 15-year old Corollas to do real estate closings for $100 have the ears of presidents and popes, sure they do).

“Law graduates also serve in corporate leadership roles, serving on boards of directors and as corporate executives.”

Again, not all law schools are Harvard/Yale/Stanford, and even at that echelon, well, they don’t have the representation in corporate leadership that their counterparts from HBS/SBS/Wharton have. Frankly, I doubt they have the representation these days that graduates of top advanced-degree STEM programs have in major companies. Who do you think Amazon has greater need of, lawyers or software engineers?

“Law schools are placing graduates into high paying law firm jobs.”

Yeah, per NALP 4,238 of 37,124 grads from the Class of 2016 got jobs at large law firms. That’s, erm, 11%. One graduate in nine. Recent law school grads are also twice as likely to be unemployed as recent four-year college grads. Oh, and speaking of NALP and high paying jobs, let’s remember that their median starting salary thirty years ago for the class of 1986 was $66,201 in 2018 dollars. The class of 2016 had a median start of $65,000. Thirty years, man. It speaks for itself.

“The vast majority of representatives in Congress… possess a JD.”

Not just wrong, but sloppy. Now I just went to dummy law school and not-Harvard and have troubling discerning “sententious” from “tendentious,” but even such a mediocre person as myself knows that 222 is not a majority of 541. 222 members of the 115th Congress have law degrees. As there are 1.22 million lawyers in the US, it follows lawyers have a 0.01% chance of getting into Congress. Now if that’s your latest sales pitch so be it, but I doubt there’ll be many takers.

“Perhaps law schools should have sessions during orientation that inform students about the variety of opportunities available after graduation.”

The law, in its majestic equality, gives the graduate of Columbia and Cooley, Harvard and Infilaw the same opportunity to apply to jobs at employers that will only hire grads of Columbia and Harvard.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 25, 2018 11:13:56 PM