For decades, law school has been viewed as a ticket to success and a solid career. And while many law school graduates do have great careers in the legal field, others struggle with crippling debt and no job prospects. The recent economic crisis has highlighted a problem that’s existed for years. A few key factors that are contributing to the problems law school graduates face:
The Default for Directionless Graduates
Many college graduates don’t have a career plan, and law school has become a default option for many of these graduates. One draw of law school over other graduate programs is that no specific degree or set of courses is required for admittance. Although there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a specific degree, liberal arts graduates often see a law degree as a ticket to wealth and their only chance at finding steady employment.
Too Many Schools and Increasing Enrollment
Between 1963 and 2009, the number of ABA-approved law schools increased from 135 to 200. Total law school enrollment rose by 104,997 (Source: http://www.abanet.org/legaled/statistics/stats.html). Law schools continue to admit more and more students even as previous graduates struggle to find jobs. Many graduates from top tier schools have trouble finding jobs in the legal field, and graduates from lower ranked schools experience even more obstacles.
Skewed Job Placement and Salary Statistics
Wealthy, connected graduates skew average starting salary and job placement statistics. Schools count any employment as a job, even temporary positions or jobs in completely different fields. Many students aren’t surveyed and those without a job may not be included at all. Prospective students may assume that every graduate is surveyed and that employment means a job in the legal field. Law schools don’t put much effort into clarifying these statistics.
The Bottom Line
Law school should not be a default choice and one should not assume a law degree will guarantee great job prospects. If you are considering law school, talk with lawyers about the industry and what you can expect upon graduation. Don’t enroll in a law program just to make a lot of money or obtain a lucrative job. Choose law because you have a keen interest in the field and want to make a difference.