Legal Careers Lose Their Allure, Drop to Dentistry Status

College grads who want wealth and social status are passing up law and medicine for careers in investment banking.

A career at a hedge fund or private equity firm can offer financial rewards that outpace earnings at even the biggest law firms. Partners at the nation’s largest 100 firms made an average of $1.2 million in 2006, but many senior investment bankers will take home an average of $2.25 million to $2.75 million in bonuses and salaries, the New York Times reports.

But even more important than money are the glamour, control and quick path to financial rewards in investment banking, according to the article.

Lawyers no longer enjoy the prestige they once held, and the quest for billable hours has taken away the notion of law as a noble profession. Doctors and lawyers “have slipped a notch in social status, drifting toward the safe-and-staid realm of dentists and accountants,” the story reports.

The change is reflected in the number of students applying to law schools. The number of applicants dropped 5.2 percent in 2005 from the year before, and another 6.7 percent in 2006, when 83,500 applied to law schools.

Richard Florida, who wrote the book The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, says young people consider creativity and flexibility to be hallmarks of a prestigious career. Careers in law and medicine have “lost their allure, their status. And it isn’t about money,” he told the Times.

Temple sociology professor Kevin Delaney told the newspaper that executives who work for hedge funds and private equity firms can make or lose a million dollars based on the trades they make. They “love the idea of being responsible for their own fate.”

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