In this NY Times Op-ed last week Steven Harper bashed the ABA for not doing enough about “the crisis in legal education.” The problem: too many law students with too much debt and not enough jobs.

The author singled out three law schools with sub 40% employment rates for 2014 graduates and average law school debt of $140,538 – $187,792. Of course, that debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. With that kind of debt load, it’s not like graduates can unring the bell. Many will be forced to take low paying jobs with suffocating debt.

Even though overall law school enrollment is declining:

Too many incoming law school students still believe they will be among the lucky few who get decent jobs.

I wish someone would do a poll of incoming law students on how many believe they will graduate in the top 15% of their class. I bet it’s well over 50%. That sort of wishful thinking is a big reason why so many people still go to law school despite overwhelming evidence that it might not be a great idea.

According to Harper, the main reason for the problem is that there are no negative consequences for law schools:

The underlying difficulty is that once students pay their tuition bills, law schools have no responsibility for the debt their students have taken on. In other words, law schools whose graduates have the greatest difficulty finding jobs that require bar passage are operating without financial accountability and free of the constraints that characterize a functioning market.

This problem has been evident since the 2008 financial crisis. It’s not going anywhere and no one is going to do anything to stop it. The best protection for prospective law students is to protect school

So you think Uncle Bob has enough pull to get you a job when you get out? Ok. Get that in writing now, before you even start. Otherwise, you better call Saul.

  • Guest

    I think you are being too coy about telling us your underlying message. Let me help you: To prospective law students – based on the debt load you will incur, the non-discharability of your debt, dismal job prospects, less legal work due to tort reform and outsourcing, you will very likely be unhappy with your career choice. You will not make a lot of money. Your stress levels will not justify the costs, both emotional and real, to practice law and call yourself a lawyer. You will, more probably than not, do better in a different vocation. Stated simply and another way: Dont go to law school.