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Would you go to law school if you had a do-over? 40 percent of young lawyers in this survey said no

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Would you go to law school if you had a do-over? 40 percent of young lawyers in this survey said no

Dec 20, 2013, 06:18 pm CST

More than 40 percent of young lawyers in Wisconsin would not go to law school if they had it to do over again, given what they know now, a survey has found.

The survey, chronicled in a report (PDF) by a State Bar of Wisconsin task force, found that young lawyers in the state still owed a median of $90,000 for their law school studies. Said one respondent: “I think about my debt several times a day. Unfortunately there is no solution to it, so I just drag this debt around with me, like Jacob Marley was forced to drag his chains around for all eternity.”

About 600 lawyers in the bar’s Young Lawyer’s Division responded to the August 2013 survey. About 72 percent of the respondents had graduated from law school since 2008. Nearly 80 percent reported they were earning less than expected in law school; lawyers in this group had an average law practice compensation of about $41,000.

“Given that many of these respondents may be trapped in a profession because of debt,” the report said, “there are huge risks to the profession as a whole with such a large number of individuals who now have buyer’s remorse.”

The financial pressures are having an impact, according to the task force. “More than half of respondents reported that as a result of having law school debt they have: delayed a major purchase, had their happiness impaired, made suboptimal career choices, delayed marriage or having children, requested a forbearance or deferment, or found it difficult to pay bar dues or court fees,” the report said.

About 38 percent said they had thought about changing their profession, but only about 1 percent actually did so. “This signifies a large measure of unrest by young lawyers, which could become unrest for the profession at large,” the report said.

Task force co-chair Arthur Harrington told the Wisconsin bar’s Board of Governors that new lawyers “are facing a depression, both economically and emotionally,” according to an Inside Track story published by the state bar. TaxProf Blog and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog noted the article.

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