Law school investment may not pay off for most law graduates

law degree

Investing in a law degree is no guarantee of the good life. Image: CC maveric2003/Flickr

The value of an investment in law school is being seriously questioned. Law school tuition continues to rise and fewer jobs with good pay are available. Even so, law school enrollment has ballooned during the recession, and the market is flooded with young, starving lawyers.

Law school debt overwhelms lawyer salaries

The number of people taking the LSAT jumped more than 20 percent between 2007 and 2009. But in 2010 a growing number of law students and law school graduates are unemployed, underemployed and deeply in student loan debt. Annie Lowery at Slate reports that as of 2008, public law school students graduated with an average of $71,436 in debt. Private law graduates averaged $91,506. Lowery writes that a starting salary that would make law school a good investment is about $65,000. Most jobs available to law school graduates pay from $45,000 to $60,000.

Minority of lawyers see a good ROI

Vanderbuilt law professor Herwig Schlunk published a study in 2009 about investing in law school titled “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be … Lawyers.” Lighthearted title aside, Schlunk raises serious questions about whether investing in law school will ever pay off for most students. He factors in high student loan debt as well as the opportunity cost of lost income while going to school. Schlunk concludes that investing in law school will only pay off for a small minority of “hot prospects.”

Take my law degree back … please!

A law student at the Boston College Law school has learned Schlunk’s lessons the hard way. AFP reports than an unnamed student wrote an open letter to the dean of BC Law, where tuition exceeds $40,000 a year. The student, deep in debt, was about to become a father and had little hope of finding a job when he graduates in 2011. Instead, he offered to quit BC Law in exchange for a refund of his tuition, describing the offer as a win-win situation. He could return to teaching and be able to provide for his family without being weighed down by crushing debt. At the same time, BC Law would not have to report his future unemployment to US News and World Report, a magazine that publishes annual rankings of U.S. law schools. BC Law didn’t accept his offer.


Washington Post



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