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What’s the value of a law degree? $1M in a lifetime, report says

Jul 17, 2013, 07:42 am CDT

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“The data covers graduates from 1996 through 2008… Future earnings are estimated based on historic data.”

So the entire study is totally bogus?

By associate on 2013 07 17, 7:51 am CDT

Associate - The answer to your question is “no.”  If you’d kept reading in the same sentence you would have come to: “and looks at salaries through 2011.”  Reading is fundamental. 

Good to see that Kyle McEntee hasn’t given up his day job as clown.  The recovery will get to him last.

By Pushkin on 2013 07 17, 8:26 am CDT

Did the survey include the total cost of law school as part of the increase in earnings?  If not, then the total cost of student loans plus interest could result the 25th percentile actually making less with a law degree than they otherwise would have as a college grad.

By jackiechiles on 2013 07 17, 8:37 am CDT

This does not factor in the cost of law school both in terms of tuition, student loan debt, and lost opportunity costs from being in school for three years.  This study says that they didn’t factor in those costs “because they vary too much”.  What a self-serving crock!  They could have pulled an average cost of law school and student loan debt and loss of opportunity costs is easy to calculate.  Leave it up to law profs to do math! Take into consideration those costs and we’ll see whether their still is a JD advantage, at least for the 50% and down.

By Bogus on 2013 07 17, 9:41 am CDT

@jackiechiles,

No, the study does not factor the cost of law school into the study (or taxes).  From the Inside Higher Ed link:

“The median value is $610,000, and the 25th and 75th percentiles are $350,000 and $1.1 million respectively. These numbers do not include tuition costs or taxes. Simkovic said he did not factor in tuition costs because they are so varied across law schools.”

And of course, past performance is no guarantee of future returns, as the financial advisers are required to say.

Isn’t Seton Hall one of the law schools laying off faculty?  That’s right - it is.

By Unemployed Northeastern on 2013 07 17, 9:45 am CDT

Total bunk. When you take biglaw out of the equation, most lawyers work the s-tlaw/doc review circuit for a few years before falling back into a job that they could have gotten without a law degree. According to the BLS, private sector employees in American, earn an average of $29.13 an hour when you include wages and benefits. How many doc review gigs pay that much? And then we need to take into account student loans! A JD degree provides a HORRIBLE return on investment unless you are in the top 10%. You basically have less earning potential and a huge oversized mortgage payment to go along with it with no house! The numbers don’t lie.

By Don'tLie on 2013 07 17, 10:51 am CDT

For grads of classes from 2009-2012, the increased earnings will likely be close to nil on average. Many of those working as lawyers are making $50-60K.year, and even if they move into Big Law, they’ll never make up the difference. Throw in the significantly higher debt load and they might be worse off, especially if they’re stuck in sh*t law and will be stuck with IBR payments for 25 years and then a huge tax bill when the loans are discharged. 

Any argument that law school outside of the top-25 or so is a good choice is misleading at best and fraud at the worst.

By DCW on 2013 07 17, 11:39 am CDT

This report is complete bunk and the authors should be ashamed.  I have lost respect for them and I hope they know that this damages their credibility as researchers and academics.

See also: http://abovethelaw.com/2013/07/another-garbage-study-offering-misleading-statistics-on-the-value-of-a-law-degree/

By BM on 2013 07 17, 12:01 pm CDT

This study is a good start. I would also like to see a valuation for a license to practice law, which I believe is worth many millions of dollars to a competent, entrepreneurial lawyer. The operative words are ‘competent’ and ‘entrepreneurial’.

A license to practice law is worth millions of dollars because it allows a competent, entrepreneurial lawyer to charge extraordinary rents while enjoying 1) a protected monopoly in the practice of law, and 2) the protection of a professional guild. (granted, this is often contingent on kissing the right backsides at the regulatory bar) 

This valuation has relevance in matters of attorney discipline, and shows the stakes at risk when a valuable law license is subject to the license holder’s discipline sanctions, or loss of the license, i.e. disbarment.

Some here may disagree, but if a private practitioner is not earning a six figure annual income, such attorney may be in the wrong profession. Exceptions may include lawyers in government, public service, or teaching.

By petitioner pro se, in forma pauperis on 2013 07 17, 12:03 pm CDT

Based on the comments above it’s pretty appalling how people rely on gut feelings and the media frenzy to make major life decisions such as whether to go to law school or not. If money is a consideration, people would be much better off taking the time to read what the data shows.

By Patrick on 2013 07 17, 12:06 pm CDT

And the authors of this report are not biased in any way at all - no, not at all.  After all, as professors peddling a losing product, they would have nothing to gain by writing a report that would try to revive the value of the product they are selling - nothing at all. 

And I love a report that bases its conclusion on past value in a market that has undergone dramatic changes.  But no, let’s ignore the dramatic changes and, in order to keep those tuition dollars flowing, let’s claim that those that enter the field today are going to have the exact same opportunities as those who entered it in 1950 because, hey - nothing’s changed!

Anything - including losing one’s integrity - to keep those tuition dollars flowing…

By Goal: To Keep Those Tuition Dollars Flowing on 2013 07 17, 12:16 pm CDT

LSAC says that law school applications this year are down 35%, which does not mean that law school entrants will be down that much next year, because there used to be qualified candidates who did not get accepted anywhere, but it does seem to have made a sizeable dent in law school entrant for next year, especially among the lower ranked schools. It will be interesting to see how big the actual drop in number of entrants is. It will also be interesting to see how many (if any) law school applicants did not get admitted anywhere. Are there any candidates so bad that no law school will be desperate enough to take them, or will finally anyone who wants to go to law school get a chance?

By Kit on 2013 07 17, 12:56 pm CDT

It is one thing for a law professor to bury her head in the sand. It is entirely another matter for law professors to publish a study based on a skewed, self-serving representation of junk data.

Have they no shame?

By noobesq on 2013 07 17, 1:04 pm CDT

It would be interesting to know what the average value of a law degree would for those graduating in the early 1980s, using the same methodology described in the story above.  Although I may be wrong, my gut tells me that it would be significantly more than $1 million.

By Yankee on 2013 07 17, 1:47 pm CDT

BM, it’s a shame that you use such dishonest references to support your idea. Also, you may want to check the author’s response to the above-the-law garbage article that you quote.

See here: http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2013/07/the-economic-value-of-a-law-degree.html

By Rob on 2013 07 17, 3:55 pm CDT

On the humorous side, can I just call that company that has the commercial saying, “its my money and I want it NOW!”

On the serious side, I am looking at the $350K number.  We must subtract law school ($100K) and our opportunity cost of not working for those three and a half years ($50k X 3.5=$175k) and certainly the interest from loans and the time value of money would be a substantial sum (roughly $50k).  So the $350 turns into (350-100-175-50=$25k).  That $25k will also be eaten up by everyone wanting you to pay for stuff because that think as an attorney you make $200k/year.

This formula doesn’t really apply to me because I did part-time school and worked, but I understand why people are frustrated looking at this.

By AzAttorney on 2013 07 17, 4:14 pm CDT

Boy, talk about a buried lede!

“About two-fifths of those with JDs in the sample studied were not employed as lawyers.”

This is a massively important finding, roughly gibes with ABA/BLS statistics, and is almost completely ignored.

Amazing.

To the extent that those non-lawyer JDs would have obtained their current salaries *anyway* (call them JD-disadvantage jobs…) then law school is the financial disaster many claim.

What did the study have to say about this non-lawyer JDs?

By cas127 on 2013 07 17, 5:39 pm CDT

The premise is certainly credible for the classes of graduates covered, but ends with 2008, the first year that a major portion of the graduating classes would likely have been impacted by the recession.  Five years later, there is still not much recovery in the alleged recovery.  The job prospects for current graduates still appear quite bleak.  Especially for those who did not place in the top half of the class.

By B. McLeod on 2013 07 18, 7:24 am CDT

Should I be surprised that an extra three years of school (law school vs four-year bachelors) will earn people more money over their lifetime??

Perhaps a better comparison would be law degree vs a Masters in a STEM field.

By Francois on 2013 07 18, 12:05 pm CDT

This study is a good example that lawyers (especially law professors) are bad at math (and time-value-money). 

AzAtty @16 almost nailed it.  According to this article, “the study does not factor in tuition costs.”  The study states that the law degree has a value over a “life time” between $350k to $1.1M but it totally disregarded the “sunk cost” that AzAtty mentioned that a law student already spent (wasted or missed).  A sunk cost of $100k (student loan for law school tuition) plus missed opportunities cost of $150k ($50k * 3 yrs) equals $250k at graduation (or $250k of PV at year 0 for TVM calculation).  Assuming 5% interest rate and a work life of 30 years, that $250K at graduation (or year 0) has a negative value of roughly $1.1M after a work life of 30 years.  And this does not factor in the student loan interest paid during this time span.  So according to this study, a law student will probably break even if the student is at “75th percentile” and had a work life of 30 years.  BTW, the negative $250k at year 0, over 40 years has a negative value of $1.8M.

You should go to law school only because you like law as a profession but not because it is a wise investment. 

When buying products or services, don’t ask the salesperson for financial advices.

By Bean Counter on 2013 07 18, 12:53 pm CDT

For those wants to vet my calculation, Excel is an excellent tool.  If you are not familiar with the FV function or would like to see the calcualtion like me, just think that at year 0 you have $250k at bank (or would have that if you did not attend law school), that $250k grows to $262,500 at 5% interest to the beginning of year 1, copy your formulas in the Excel to year 30 or year 40.  You will see that initial $250k grows to $1.1M or $1.8M and that is the money your missed by not having it on year 0.

By Bean Counter on 2013 07 18, 1:03 pm CDT

Bean, who is giving you 250K to start with?

By Paul on 2013 07 18, 1:33 pm CDT

Sunk cost and opportunity cost must be new concepts to you - that is the money you spent or missed already by attending law school.  If you need to learn more, please take managerial accounting 101. 

Also, don’t worry about living expenses during those three years, you have to spend that whether you attend law school or not, so living expenses are non-factor in this calculation.

By Bean Counter on 2013 07 18, 1:44 pm CDT

Leave it to law professors to fail to apply net present value analysis and a discount rate to the lifetime earnings, so that the present value of the lifetime earnings can be compared directly with the tuition and lost income opportunity cost of law school.

The net present value of the median increase in lifetime earnings of $610,000, assuming that the increase is realized as $12,200 a year in higher earnings over 50 years, and using a discount rate of 5%, is $222,722.29.  Your lost income and tuition cost better be lower than that if you are planning to go to law school.

By Ha Ha Ha Law Professors Doing Math on 2013 07 18, 1:59 pm CDT

Bean Counter - We seem to be pointing out similar issues with the logic, except that you are looking at the future value of the law school costs, and I am looking at the present value of the higher income.  But come on, you are going to scare people talking about Excel, especially using Excel to do real math, not to make charts or add up columns.

Below is a calculator that anyone can use to calculate the present value of an income stream, just set the “Principal” to 0, the “Payments per Year” to 1, the “Annual Interest Rate” to a reasonable discount rate (5 - 10 %), the number of years to 40 to 50 (the likely number of years a lawyer works) and the “Payment Amount” to either $610,000 (the median upside) or $1,000,000 (the average upside) divided by the number of years you have the lawyer working.  Leave the “Balloon Payment” blank, hit the calculate button, and you will get the present value of the increased income in the “Principal” box.

http://www.bretwhissel.net/cgi-bin/amortize

By Ha Ha Ha Law Professors Doing Math on 2013 07 18, 2:14 pm CDT

To Ha-Ha - great to see that another person sees the same problem of this study. 

The study’s mistake can be proved by PV of future income or FV of out of pocket costs.  If we start talking IRR, someone’s head would really explode.  I pick the method of FV for out of pocket costs because it has less variable than making assumptions of future income streams.  Also, that is the same analysis I did before attending law school.  I did not have to factor in student loan interest in my own calculation because I saved and invested (with some luck) to pay for my law school tuition.  I had no illusion that law school is a wise investment - I went to law school because I wanted to learn and knowing that maybe (a big maybe at the time) I would break even over my working years.

By Bean Counter on 2013 07 18, 5:03 pm CDT

@ Bean Counter and Ha Ha - I too saw the study not taking account of PV v. FV.

But I think that the bigger problem is that making more money is not that good a reason for someone to decide to go to law school. If your only objective is to maximize the amount of money you make, law is probably not your best choice. Surgeons generally make more, and some actors and athletes make more. Investment bankers and stock brokers can make more. Entrepreneurs and business owners and business executives can make more.

The one thing that you can do by going to law school and passing the bar that you can’t do any other way in most or all states is practicing law. If you have researched what lawyers do, and have a burning desire to do that, if you start law school and even first year taking the standard first year courses you can’t imagine anything more fascinating, then maybe going to law school is a smart choice. Even if you would have made an extra million or two as a CPA or financial analyst, but you would have hated every minute of it, and you love law, then studying law and making two million less is probably a good choice. If you hate every minute of law school, and hate every minute of your first three legal jobs, then law school was probably a bad choice - unless you hit the jackpot in your fifth year as a lawyer, win a huge case, and never have to be a lawyer again, which is probably less likely than winning the lottery, although it does happen.

You may be able to quantify the PV and FV of happiness in your life, and factor that into the equation. Just think about whether someone could pay you enough to spend your life doing document review, and compare that to what it actually pays, and what it costs to get the opportunity to work in a JD preferred or required field, and do the PV or FV adjustments as described above. If you don’t include how much you love or hate law in the equation, you won’t get the right answer.

By Kit on 2013 07 18, 5:46 pm CDT

Kit:  I cannot agree more.  That is why in my original post @20 I ended with the following:

“You should go to law school only because you like law as a profession but not because it is a wise investment. 

When buying products or services, don’t ask the salesperson for financial advices.”

My original post merely points out the flaw in the study that law school has a great value of $1M, and the salesperson has every incentive to sell you the product by misrepresenting the value of the product. 

People should go to law school because it is what they want not because they are tricked by the salesperson into thinking law school is a great investment…

By Bean Counter on 2013 07 18, 6:18 pm CDT

@ Bean Counter - Yes I should have specifically credited your post at 20 for moving me to second your opinion - that the only good reason to go to law school for three years is because either going to law school makes you happy or you are confident that being a lawyer will make you happy. If you are happy with your decision to go to law school, yes you can probably make enough money that poverty will not mar your happiness. If being a law student and being a lawyer make you miserable, it is very unlikely that you will make enough money quickly enough to make up for that.

By Kit on 2013 07 18, 9:01 pm CDT

Then there is the logical fallacy that if you start law school and hate it, you should still continue so you don’t waste the money you already spent.


In fact, one of the saddest decisions about law school seems to me to go to law school for one year that you absolutely hate, and decide to go on for two more years because you spent so much money first year. If you hate everything you study first year, you will probably be miserable the other two years as well, and for as long as you stay in law, with very few exceptions, in spite of the fact that first year is definitely the worst. If you have mixed feelings first year, love some parts and hate some parts, you may find a place that law works for you, but first year gives you a sample of most major parts of law, and if none of it is what you are looking for first year, chances are that none of it will ever work for you, and you might as well not throw good money after bad.

Besides, what you learn first year is probably the part that is most useful to non lawyers.

So if you know someone who is unsure what to do about law school, please make it clear to them that going one year and quitting will at least let them know that law is a bad choice for them.

Going three years and hating it is just making things worse, not better.

Thomas Edison failed many times before he figured out how to make a light bulb that would stay lit for more than an instant. Someone asked him wasn’t he sad that he had spent so long working on making a light bulb and still had nothing to show for it. He said that on the contrary now he knew over two hundred ways not to make a light bulb. If you go to law school for a year and hate it, at least you know for sure one way not to take your career. Two more years is not necessary to learn that law is not interesting to you. Use those two years, and the money, to try something different. Then you will either discover what you do want to do with your life, or at least you will know three or more things you do not want to do with your life, which is more useful information than you would have learned continuing in law school.

By Kit on 2013 07 18, 9:13 pm CDT

The problem with the decision about whether to go to law school (or not) is that you are making a huge gamble with your future without knowing anything about how successful the gamble might be.  If there were just some way to accurately predict the probability of graduating in the top 10% (or even the top 30%, for that matter), then you could make a reasonable decision about the lost opportunity costs and actual costs of attending law school.

Fortunately, it worked out well for me.  I went to the prestigious (but low cost) University of Alabama Law School after resigning my commission as a Captain in the Army.  I gave up about $40,000 per year (salary and allowances back then) and incurred $33,000 in student loan debt.  After going to work for the largest law firm in the state, my law earnings curve crossed my Army earnings-cost of law school curve at about 6 years after graduation.  For me, the return on investment has been much better than the article projects.

If you think about it for a minute, however, none of us would accept a personal injury contingent fee case under the same hazy circumstances, unless we had a better way of defining the probability of success.  There are so many variables related to the connection between going to law school and financial success (e.g., whether you end up in the top 10%, whether you make law review, will you clerk for a prestigious firm in your first summer, same for the second summer, etc.) - and you have absolutely no idea how those variables will turn out when you make the decision to attend law school.  As a former engineer who took a couple of prob and stats classes, I would have to conclude that the decision to attend law school has a high probability of an adverse financial outcome for a significant number of attendees, and the probability of a less than satisfactory outcome for many more.

By BhamJim on 2013 07 19, 5:42 am CDT

What Beancounter said…  along the same lines, I thought…well, if I put the cost of law school tuition plus living expenses ($100K tuition plus $100K opportunity costs) into my current annuity and let it sit for 30 years, that’s $1.6MM, so law school today is an iffy proposition.  However, the we are not considering the rise in average hourly legal fees over time.  Assuming there will be more of that.  If those wage increases outpace inflation (which it did for me), the picture skews better for law school.  I think one of the biggest problems for law school right now is declining wages against an inflating tuition.  I don’t think this situation is going to be reversed any time soon.  When folks are figuring out ways to outsource legal work to India, you know we are in for some deflation.

But I went to law school because I love the law, and that love has never failed me.  I am happy with my choice.  However, if money is your motivation, all I have to do is see how my entrepreneurial real estate developer clients make money (I am but a line item in their budget) to realize that working for an hourly rate for anyone is not the way to fortune.

By Pegster on 2013 07 19, 6:25 am CDT

#31 first you were explaining then you bragged a bit. Good for you. It’s a dated study. It’s not quite as bad as being a lawyer in the depression. A man I worked with sorting mail at the post office graduated from Temple Law during the depression.

By FRANK MARTIN on 2013 07 19, 7:45 am CDT

BTW - the study was conducted by 2 law school profs.  Not that they would be biased about getting applicants interested in law school or anything.  I’m sure there are some investment opportunities in Nigeria like all the email spam claims, too - just send a check (to pay the taxes, legal costs, or whatever), and millions can be yours!

By BhamJim on 2013 07 19, 8:05 am CDT

Sorry if this has already been pointed out but I got tired of reading the posts. :)  I note several flaws were cited in the study but it seems to me that the fundamental flaw is one that could not have been addressed - the simple reality that in the past few years the economics of law firms have been fundamentally (and in my mind permanently) altered such that the numbers upon which this entire study were based no longer apply.  Between the economic downturn that has forced general counsel to re-evaluate the legal services that they purchase coupled with the technological advances that permit greater efficiencies in many aspects of providing legal services it is doubtful that things will simply return to the status quo when the economy rebounds.  General Counsel, having learned that they can get better value for their money are not simply going to say “hey the economy’s better let’s get back to doing things the old fashioned way and let biglaw over charge us for services.”  Having gotten a taste of more efficient service models they will continue to insist on them so to assume that things will return to the days where big law lawyers could demand a premium only to pass the work off of their subordinates as their own are largely over and the numbers based upon them have no relevance to what can be expected in the future.

By Rob on 2013 07 19, 10:14 am CDT

That’s it? That is like $25,000 a year more over 40 years. I should have gone to another graduate program that was cheaper and less volatile.

By Gunslinger on 2013 07 19, 12:36 pm CDT

i have been an attorney for 30 years.  I was in the bottom third of my class at law school at Mercer University in Macon Ga.  i hope and pray that my son will go to law school even if he never practices law.  I have done better financially than I ever dreamed and I could make more if i wanted the stress.  Light years beyond any of my friends with only an undergrad degree(one of whom just retired from the county sanitation department as a driver).  After undergrad, I knew nothing.  After law school, very little. Getting experence and hard work are the keys.  A law degree gives you options and opens doors like nothing else.  No matter what you choose to do a law degree helps. Even a marine biologist, believe it or not.  Think about it…. Or better yet dont. 

Dont go to law school. Its too much money. The competion to get into good law schools is tough(I want my son to get in).  the competion for lawyers is tough.  I dont need the competition.

By william on 2013 07 19, 1:39 pm CDT

I’ve been out just under 10 years, attended a well respected law school in the West, but not necessarily a “top” law school in the rankings, did relatively well in law school (not a stellar perforamnce, however), and have been working hard at the same law firm ever since and am a fairly young partner in the firm. I’ve already realized at least $1.5 Million in income since graduation. It’s attributed to two main factors: (1) a law degree to open the door and (2) hard work.

By jim on 2013 07 19, 4:11 pm CDT

A word to those who think the practice of law is like be a Medical Doctor.  It is not.  No big insurance companies to pay you unless you defend them, no real need for you if your neighbor is lower in fees.  The real fact is that a Law Degree is like a degree from a Mechanic School. It is knowledge that may or may not be useful.  Run all the numbers you like, If you don’t have a love of the Law, you are fooling yourself.  Lady Justice is the most jealous woman I have ever met.  She will take you, use you, abuse you, and then throw you away.  She demands your life and your love and doesn’t care if you have payroll, food, gas, or a home to live in.  Only go into the Practice of Law or even Law School if you are ready to commit to the Lady. Money is not the reason.  Plumbers can make more with the only difference is the matters they handle can’t report you,sue you, or talk back to you.  It is the love of the subject, not the cost or rewards that is at issue——-You want stress, GO TO LAW SCHOOL—BECOME A LAWYER—38 YEARS OF IT

By DUGGER on 2013 07 19, 4:47 pm CDT

And another pro-law bubble story promoted by the ABA, who would expect that?!?

Frankly, the $1 million valuation is bunk. You can become a Wall Street trader (no college/advanced degree required) and make that kind of money every 2-3 months. You can become a tradesperson and make a total of $1 million in under 10 years (you need vocational training, but no 6-figure degrees). For that matter, take the money you would have paid for law school (for the few people who can actually pay with cash) and invest it. Even with various crashes and recessions, I bet you would still come out over $1 million.

By KG on 2013 07 19, 5:04 pm CDT

If the median increase over a BA is $610,000 in lifetime earnings, that averages out to $20K per year over a 30-year career.

I expect that’s about right.

Notice the substantial difference between the average ($1 million) and the median (nearly 40% lower).  Perhaps another post has commented—anyone with a smattering of statistics knows exactly why!

I don’t think it makes sense to present this type of quantification, because it suggests to readers that they, as individuals, can expect a comparable income boost. 

The most that statistics of this nature can ever tell you is that by going to law school you will join a group which typically makes $610,000 more over a lifetime than a group of college graduates.  To try to plan your own individual career on the basis of such information is probably worse than having no data at all.  It tricks you into thinking you have an insight that these numbers cannot give you.

By Gosh It's Late on 2013 07 20, 2:19 am CDT

Does this study take into account the unemployment and underemployment figures of recent law graduates?  Does it take into account the additional student loans (and interest on those loans) that graduates will have to repay?  Does it take into account the money you could have made while you were in law school or during the months you spent studying for the bar?

One of my best friends just got a job out of college as a teacher and football coach and will be making approximately 60k a year which, by the way, is about what I make after 7 years of practice.  He has no student loan debt because he went to a public school, worked while in school, and paid cash.  So lets subtract $150,000.00 in student loan debt from that million, $180,000 in opportunity cost from the three years that you were in law school, and $35,000 in opportunity cost for the months spent studying for the bar and waiting on results.  That brings it down to more like $635,000.00 without even taking into account the following:

1)  The fact that lawyers are more likely to be unhealthy than many other professions due to stress, lack of work/life balance, and rates of depression and addiction within the profession.  So tack some medical bills on to that.

2)  Professional licensing fees and CLE costs over the course of your career.  Subtract another $35,000.

3)  Consider the fact that lawyers don’t typically have pensions and have to spend a lot more to fund their retirement (assuming they live that long - I do not know any retired lawyers and I think it is because most of them die).

4)  Much higher than normal wear and tear on personal vehicles from all the driving required for the job.

All in all, over the course of a career, I think most lawyers break even with their undergraduate degree only counterparts, which is why I tell everyone I know to avoid law school these days.  It is not the great thing that it once was.  Not even close.

What it does provide is a near instant opportunity to start your own business.  Although not all are successful, I think solo firms tend to be more successful than any other start-ups (restaurants, for example).  So there is give and take.  I do like being able to set my own schedule and it’s hard to put a dollar value on that.  I certainly don’t think it would be worth it do be a big firm associate these days.

By Jason Lee Van Dyke on 2013 07 20, 10:47 am CDT

#‘s 37 and 38. I would like to thank Professors Simkovic and McIntyre for joining the conversation! It is always nice to have the other other side present their views in such a clear and unbiased fashion. I certainly hope #37 your son does manage to get into a law school. I understand it is not to difficult to do these days as long as you (Dad) can pay the tuition.

By Been There, Done That-35 Years on 2013 07 20, 11:49 pm CDT

Ridiculous commentary. A law degree is worthless, as are all other degrees. Hang it on your wall and watch no money come in ... BOOM! Reality moment.

What one does with the degree is where the value lies. Value is not measured in dollars only. Right, Mother Teresa? The self-deluded can sit down now. From experience, most law degree holders are extreme under producers. Stuffed shirts. Empty headed. Heartless.

The misguided focus of the article is directly proportional to the misguided aspirations of law school applicants. If you are in for the money, you are probably an awful practitioner. (I never practiced, I always did it for real.) And you are going to be sadly disappointed.

The marketplace is flooded with mediocrity. Is there any family who doesn’t have two or three blood relatives who passed the bar? Whose kid isn’t going to law school? Ditto for med school and their hypocrisy [sic] oath.

Law is so pervasive in our socialist progressive society that everyone has to practice it daily just to stay out of prison. Guess that end meets with the Royal Maoist politicians’ goal that all citizens be jailed into submission. Just get the gestapo who replaced our peace officers to arrest them for practicing without a license ... even if they represent only themselves.

Your reality is becoming laughable. ROTFLMAO ©2013

By Blue & Gold on 2013 07 22, 9:46 am CDT

One of the other factors in comparing incomes for attorneys is that the higher incomes tend to be in cities with much higher cost of living.  I have worked in San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Tokyo, as well as a number of more mid-sized and even small communities.  The higher end paychecks come with higher end personal expenses, including homes and private schools for your children.  A more helpful study would adjust income for those location-dependent costs.  A $200,000 income doesn’t mean as much if you can’t afford a house payment. 

In essence, given the low relative rewards for many law school graduates, it appears that in many cases, the lower achieving law students are essentially subsidizing the educations and thus incomes of the top students.  The costs of law school construction and operation, including faculty salaries, are spread across all students, but the top students benefit the most from the diversity of the faculty skills that are purchased with the tuition of all of the students.  If only the top 50% of law students actually attended law school, the number and quality of faculty would be reduced, with fewer options for courses outside the core curriculum, along with fewer opportunities such as clinical programs and symposia.  I assume that the reduced competition from the bottom 50% would not appreciably raise income for the top 50%.

By Raymond Takashi Swenson on 2013 07 22, 1:18 pm CDT

See “Tulip mania”.

By ms.chief53@yahoo.com on 2013 07 22, 1:27 pm CDT

This study was done by professors…they profit from the operation of the law school scam.  That’s like a study by two fracking industry execs that comes to the conclusion that its safe.  The only way this study could be relevant are for graduates of the the top 10 law schools.  The rest?  This study isn’t worth the self-serving paper its printed on.

By SME on 2013 07 23, 11:46 am CDT

I don’t doubt that it was worth a $1,000,000 for an attorney who graduated years ago.  I know plenty of middle aged attorneys from T3-T4 schools who make in the top 5% of income in the united states after years of building up a practice; and the T1 partners at big firms or even experienced corporate lawyers for sure make that money.  But today’s grads?  Past performance is not an indication of future returns…

By Student loan serf on 2013 07 23, 1:22 pm CDT

SME has a point.  They should publish a study by two mooncalves for balance.

By B. McLeod on 2013 07 23, 5:53 pm CDT

I agree ...at least the moon calves perspective would be more realistic.

By SME on 2013 07 23, 6:10 pm CDT

So besides tuition which is discussed elsewhere, what about bar dues which will run well over $10K during my career, insurance premiums, practice materials and other expenses? Anyone who claims a JD is a good value hasn’t looked at the median lawyers’ experience.

By Doc on 2013 07 29, 12:01 pm CDT

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