ABA Journal



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


Surprise, surprise - I would have never guessed that individuals with $135,000 worth of debt on average for a law degree and who, in this market, consider themselves privileged to have a paid legal job of $41,000 a year would regret their decision to go to law school and resent the field that gleefully misled them about job prospects. I only wonder what the other 45% of graduates who never even got legal jobs think.

But hey, as long as the law schools made awesome profits in the last few years due to dubious and misleading advertising, that's all that matters. Why do long-term prospects for the legal field matter when some individuals (ie: the law schools) in the short-term have done so well?

By Perspectives, perspectives on 2013 12 20, 7:08 pm CST

Look at the bright side. Law profs and law school administrators have taken home ever-increasing salaries and, for profs, smaller work-loads. What a glorious country. Dean O'Brien of the New England School of Law - $650 k a year. Leduc at Cooley? $500 ish. What a scam.

THis is where the money is going folks. What a joke. I have ZERO pity for kids today - a simple internet search shows the scam for what it is.

By guest on 2013 12 20, 7:14 pm CST

Absolutely. Only I would have found some way to stay in law school in 1973 instead of going back in 2010. I dropped out of UNC after first year to go to work because my bride and I could not afford for both of us to be in school. We couldn't afford the $325 tuition. Who knew?

By W.R.T. on 2013 12 20, 7:15 pm CST

I regret going to law school every day solely because of my debt. The job sucks, but most jobs suck. The only difference is the barrier to entry in law costs more than a house.

By DCW on 2013 12 20, 7:16 pm CST

Law school was a life destroying decision. Reason #1-Debt.
Reason 2- Debt

The Jacob Marley analogy kind of works, but Marley was penitent over his personal greed and the chains he wore were not indebted chains.

With all due respect, this is very old news and there is a simple fix: Restore consumer bankruptcy protections and take away the student loan gravy train and read the work of Alan Collinge who has been discussing all of this for almost a decade by now and who has done more real lawyering as a layperson than an entire country full of lawyers at all levels.

The law schools can cover the cost. A 75 million dollar fine per law school would alleviate the burden on the taxpayers for the discharged debts.

By Basking in my "cultural cachet" on 2013 12 20, 9:44 pm CST

And this number is from a state with diploma privilege that saved many of them the money of bar prep.

By Steve on 2013 12 21, 12:33 am CST

Matt Leichter did some great work in the past and Wisconsin is on the lists, and the "Idle Lawyers" category at the bottom speaks for itself.

Old Debbie gets to do her journalism and the world turns and is to busy and moves on and in the end no one cares!!!!!!!

By Basking in my "cultural cachet" on 2013 12 21, 12:54 am CST

The trolls have short memories, but that certainly won't stop them from entering the forum and blaming students on ruining their lives by pursuing an education once they catch this article. So consider this my troll wall. There was little written about the dangers of the market from 2000-2007 prior to the economic recession. Most of the articles were focused on the incredible health and resilience of the market, the demand hours and a movement by some upper-tier school graduates for a "quality of live" movement. Ironically, after the recession began, there was little talk of quality of life anymore in the legal media... people just wanted to live.

By Troll Exterminator on 2013 12 23, 3:25 pm CST

I decided to go to law school when I was 10 years old.

When most children were telling adults who asked what they wanted to be when they grew up that they wanted to be firemen or nurses, I would say "I am going to be a lawyer".

If I could have gone directly to law school without attending college I would have. It was just a means to practicing law.

I attended college at USF and it seemed logical to apply to law school there.

I never considered what would happen if I was not accepted or if I did not pass the bar; I just assumed that I would.

I loved trial work and before I had responsibilities (read was responsible) I would be willing to try cases for free (and sometimes did).

I left my first job to go solo and spent 35 years as a trial lawyer, jury trying over 200 felonies and superior court civil cases in California and more than 300 court trials.

And I did well enough as a solo to retire in my 50's.

I have never questioned whether going to law school was a good decision, for me it was the only decision and I never looked back.

In my opinion the only reason to pursue a profession is because you love it and not for the money.

If not, get an MBA.

Life is too short.

By StephenG on 2013 12 23, 7:00 pm CST

"I decided to go to law school when I was 10 years old."

Such polluted sources issue in a muddy stream where only monsters can swim.

By Basking in my "cultural cachet" on 2013 12 23, 7:19 pm CST

If by "do over" you are asking whether if I could go back in time (the late 1970s was my decision point) and decide once again whether to attend law scholo, the answer would be an unequivocal "Yes".

I would not go to law school in 2013, however. That would be sheer Idiocy.

By Yankee on 2013 12 23, 7:49 pm CST

Here is what I've learned since graduating from law school:

If your talented enough to make a good living grinding it out as a lawyer, your talented enough to make an even better living in some other business.

By Derf on 2013 12 23, 9:24 pm CST

Yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Might do it a bit differently, but I would definitely do it again.

By John on 2013 12 24, 4:35 am CST

"One word: Plastics"

By greyghost on 2013 12 24, 3:25 pm CST

If law is a "grind" for I would urge you to do something else.

The analytical skills learned in law school are useful in life in general but there is no "lawyering" taught there.

Life is far too short not to do something you love every day.

As "polluted" as one cynical commenter characterized that sentiment.

By StephenG on 2013 12 24, 5:12 pm CST

My two cents and I apologize for writing from a client perspective!!!

I agree with the professor:

First, it does not matter if it is an Ivy League school (where pushy richy spoiled kids Shakespearean English kids go to law school) for a foreign born IT techie seeking a law degree or for a medical doctor born and raised in India! It is the same Torts law, rules of evidence, Frye or Daubert, rule 12b6 or objections to the opposing council, it all comes to substance and how the law student applies that law to t eh facts of case, to the clients like me.

The most famous people cases in the past decade are handled by the lawyers who went to tier two or tier three law schools. The part timers who venture into law school after decades of corporate experience or teaching experience do a better job than a 20 yr old Ivy League lawyer does. I have seen it! Pull up the ABA counseling competitions winner lists! Most of the time ivy leagues lag behind. Matured students win those competitions. LSAT score or brain power is over-rated.

As a client, I would love to hire a 60 yr old lawyer who understands my culture and my real issues. I would love to see that lawyer placing herself in my client shoes rather than 1 20 yr old who never had a kid talking about visitation or custody and she does not know what she is talking about.

My apology, 99% of normal people don’t want to do anything with Ivy league lawyers. They are like coach bags designed to stay for a show. These ivy leagues go to politics like Ted cruz or obamas. They really don’t practice law for the people or to the people.

Just my two cents!!!

By Punitha on 2013 12 24, 6:37 pm CST

BTW I VOTE FOR TIER 4 PUBLIC INTEREST LAW SCHOOL and I suggest my daughter goes to one.

By Punitha on 2013 12 24, 6:38 pm CST

Those foolish law graduates should stop complaining and implement the perfect solution to overcome their low pay and and law school debt. Simply start their own law school. All they need are few students and provisional ABA accreditation, and their debts are paid! If they don't get enough students, open up another campus.

By William Able on 2013 12 24, 6:43 pm CST

I agree with you Stephen G. pursue it because you love it.

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.

Well I found this interesting because given what I know now I would never visit Wisconsin again.

But I digress, pursuing a legal degree is a journey of love for the law for those who truly want to be successful. I agree with Stephen G.

By concernedcitizen on 2013 12 25, 12:25 am CST

12, Derf, nailed it. I've done okay, but I know that I'll never get ahead in this job. If I had applied myself like this and saved that 100k and worked those 3 years instead of doing school, I'd be a bank president or something. Huge, huge difference in hours, stress, and pay. Or, I'd own an electrical business - even less stress and time for more pay.

By associate on 2013 12 25, 2:31 am CST

Whenever the word "average" is used, it is usually not used correctly but in this article let's say it is per this situation. If $41k is average, that is incredibly low. This means that the spread of the data is higher and lower than $41k which means that many make less than that posted amount - but how many data points were collected? The higher the number, the more credible that an avg of $41k becomes. And because $41k is a very low average, anyone making over $100k would be an outliar and would skew the overall data. So this means that very few, if any, are making $100+ and if they are, this data should have been taken out of the analysis to assume a normal data distribution.

By SdW on 2013 12 26, 3:40 am CST

The legal profession job market was as bad as today in the 70s and, like then, it will recover. Law school enrollment has dropped nearly 20%, which means jobs v. graduates will balance out in the near future, with most predicting around 2017. So all is not lost for us who've found ourselves in a brutal job market.

Also, I went to a terrible law school, passed this past July's bar on first try, and landed a job I thoroughly enjoy that pays plenty well for me. I simply love the law, though, so I agree with the comment above that you don't do something for the money. The 40% who said they wouldn't do it over probably did it for the money.

By Hilli on 2013 12 26, 4:56 pm CST

Really Hilli? Do you have any statistics to substantiate your claim? Or anything beyond your hollow perception of reality that you enjoy venomously sharing on these forums? Here's a tip: just do a quick search on student debt and suicide or student debt and mental illness on the internet. Then tell me it has anything in comparison to the 1970s. Your cockamamie assertions are disservice to the profession and mankind as a whole.

By Perplexed on 2013 12 26, 6:57 pm CST

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. Law is fascinating, though I would have loved to know then what I know now. I am also more fortunate than many, if not most, of those JDs who graduated when I did, so my answer to the title's question should have little to no bearing on anybody else's decision on whether to go to law school.

Real question should be "would you study the same undergraduate major today as you did when you went to college." My answer to that would be a resounding 'doubt it,' unless it was a second major with a STEM degree to accompany it.

By NoleLaw on 2013 12 26, 7:26 pm CST

No doubt, law school worked out well for a certain set, and I really don't see the purported "huge risk to the profession as a whole" from the "buyer's remorse" of a throng of unemployed/underemployed graduates who missed the golden ring.

By B. McLeod on 2013 12 29, 8:48 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."

In other news, just under 60% of young lawyers in Wisconsin believe those gifts DID come from Santa Claus.

By Doug on 2013 12 30, 2:29 pm CST

So very much can understand regrets but over money?? Later down the road one sees the principles and virtuous fights are way more important than money. If something sucks, change it! It won't yield gracefully but being erosive still changes things. The problems have been identified. Attack them.
In the meanwhile, how about every disgruntled attorney taking on some family/CPS cases,you will quickly see how those saddled with debt in lower paying jobs are cheated justice because they cannot pay$150+/hr for attorney. You will see how moneyism is destroying families with corrupt courts and CPS systems. You can make a million or you can make a difference. In the end no obituary lists a person's financials.

By Cheryl on 2013 12 30, 3:51 pm CST

Yeah--I'm nuts enough to do that....

By BMF on 2013 12 30, 4:29 pm CST

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