I would hope that before you decide to take on an average of $88,000 – $127,000 in debt you would do your due diligence. You are, after all, about to enroll yourself or your child in law school. According to Steven J. Harper, in a recent New York Times Op Ed, Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs:
Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones. Since 2006 alone, law student debt has surged at inflation-adjusted rates of 25 percent for private schools and 34 percent for public schools.
There are so many dirty little secrets that need to be exposed before anyone can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want to gamble with law school. And, yes, I am very deliberate to use the word gamble. And informed. There’s the graduation rate secret. At least 10% of those entering an ABA accredited school do not graduate. In 2010, the ABA reported 52,488 1Ls. Yet the class of 2013 was only 46,776. And the class of 2014 graduated 43,832, verses the 48, 697 who started. A loss of 11% and 10%, respectively. I’m not even going to discuss the non-ABA accredited schools. Just don’t do it. Period. The school are just as expensive, but the graduation rates plummet, as do the bar exam passage rates. And the salaries will never reach ABA accredited levels. There’s the bar passage rate secret. The rate was under 50% in California in 2014; 10-15% of graduates from ABA accredited schools NEVER pass the bar exam; and a whole other bunch of dirty secrets, and there are more here. Just keep Googling for more stories; they are never ending). The lack of jobs secret. Oh, hurrah! We’re up to 71% employed after 10 months with a job, any job, that required a law degree, but there are secrets in those numbers. Prior year stats were based on employment after nine months, not 10. The 2012 and 2013 rates were closer to 62% employed. Total. These job numbers include part-time and non-permanent jobs. Long-term and permanent positions are averaging around 57% per year, after nine months. And my favorite, the myth of the $160,000 first year associate. According to NALP, good luck with that: I’m a writer by nature, and did not go past Algebra 2 in high school (except for that stats class I postponed until my last quarter in college, and was so happy to get a C so I could graduate), but I’ll take a pass at the equation here: You take the 10% who never graduate law school, plus the more than 40% who don’t get a job after nine months, swirl in all of those who never pass the bar, and the amount of debt you are taking on versus the job opportunities, drizzle on top the true salary potential, and the answer can only be: I love lawyers. I love the profession and business of law. I am NOT saying, “Don’t go to law school.” I am saying, “Go to law school knowing all the facts, and weighing if this is the best option for you.” What school are you attending? How much is the tuition? What’s the graduation rate? What’s the job prospect rate? What’s the LSAT passage rate on the first try? What is the AVERAGE salary of a 1st year attorney graduating the law school? How many NEVER get a job that requires a law degree? How much debt will you accrue (tuition, books, living expenses)? How are you financing this? What are your expectations upon graduation? What is the reality for a student of your caliber, attending the law school of your choice, upon graduation? You want to be a lawyer? Ask the right questions and gather your facts so you can make an informed decision. Law school is too risky and too expensive to be your “plan B” until you figure out what you want to be when you grow up. The shorten form of advice I give when asked: “Unless you have a scholarship, or your parents are paying cash, don’t do it. The risk is too high.”