A Degree of Practical Wisdom: Law School by the Numbers

A Degree of Practical Wisdom: Law School by the Numbers

 As part of my ongoing lament on law schools and the challenges of training good, affordable lawyers for human-owned business, I offered my own story as an example of a financially sensible approach to buying a legal education. My starting salary as a lawyer was about twice my student loan balance, which I thought made sense. The typical debt load of many of today's law grads seems completely out of line with the salaries those young people will receive, assuming they can even get a law job.

Turns out, I was right on the money, so to speak. Jim Chen, the Dean at the Louis Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville is publishing an article entitled A Degree of Practical Wisdom: The Ratio of Educational Debt to Income as a Basic Measurement of Law School Graduates' Economic Viability. In a much, much more scholarly analysis than I brought to the question, he comes to the same conclusion. The article will appear in the William Mitchell Law Review.

Even as the cost of attending law school has increased, law school graduates' job prospects have not kept pace. In recruiting new students, law schools rarely if ever address this economic reality. Whether that failing arises from blissful ignorance, complacency, or willful disregard is ultimately a matter of moral judgment.

If we can't explain why the Law Degree Factory ignores reality, at least I can do my part to help those thinking about law school to be somewhat objective about the decision to pursue law as a career. The typical reasons for going to law school: To advance justice; To serve the underprivileged; To right wrongs and ensure peace, which Dean Chen cites, are great. We need lawyers who feel that way. We just need for them to be able to make a living and pay off their loans, too.

Read more posts about business law by Jim Thomas at his blog, No Funny Lawyers

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