Written in 2016, this Steven Waechter article calling law school financial suicide is still on point today. The article contains important facts and great analysis:
Of those, about 354,000 were self-employed sole practitioners, and they were earning an average of $49,000 in 2012 according to the IRS, a 30 percent decrease for that cohort since 1988 in inflation-adjusted dollars…
This massive overproduction is supposedly justified on several grounds, including an impending wave of Boomer retirements, which the BLS statistics show to be utter nonsense; and the huge unmet need for legal services in underserved poor and rural communities. The logic here is that the army of surplus law-trained labor, rendered unemployable due to the massive glut of graduates, will then be available to provide free or deeply discounted legal services in furtherance of social justice. I guess they are to live in wigwams and eat squirrels scavenged from the side of the road as they do so…
Imagine landing a $35,000 associate position – which might be generous for rural practice – when you have $180,000 in student loan debt, and $12,000 per year in payments of interest alone. The penalty for going to law school and failing to become a lawyer is complete financial annihilation, which is also increasingly the reward for success…
Encouraging more young people to flush away their financial future on law school knowing that employment opportunities are severely limited is counterproductive, unethical, and downright vicious..
Read the whole thing. Send it to anyone you know who is thinking about attending law school.
I’m not advocating that no one go to law school. If you have a job lined up before you start because you will practice with a family member, then your analysis is different. Two of the most impressive young attorneys I’ve encountered in the last few years practice with a parent who is a great lawyer.
Thinking a family member can get you a job doesn’t count. The family member has to be able to hire you.
Your dad may golf with the managing partner at Butler Snow. That could help–if you finish in the top 5 in your class. In which case, you would have gotten an interview anyway.
Many people attend law school for the wrong reasons. A lot of trial attorneys are ex-jocks. Many of them become lawyers because of a thirst for competition. That was likely the main factor in me becoming a trial lawyer even though I was just a jock wanna-be.
The problem with competitiveness fueling a legal career is that it does not translate well. This is not a game of pick-up basketball. This is nothing like a game of pick-up basketball. This is more like trying to build a house with someone following behind you trying to tear it down.
And that’s before we even wade into to mind of the decision makers in litigation. Clients, in-house counsel, supervising attorneys, adjusters, judges, jurors, appellate judges. They all have their own way of viewing things. It may be different from yours. That can create a lot of frustrations and anxiety in the profession.
The worst reason for going to law school is because you can get in. Figure out what you want to do.
I am a huge fan of this profession. I like my colleagues. I find many lawyers who are hard to deal with endearing in a weird way. I get that they are trying to do their job–not do mine for me. It’s not personal.
But this is a hard profession. It’s not for everyone.