These two Valparaiso law grads exemplify challenges of difficult legal job market
The problems faced by law schools and their graduates are examined in a New York Times article that focuses on Valparaiso University Law School.
Law school debt has risen from an average of about $95,000 in 2010 for borrowers at the average school to about $112,000 in 2014, the Times reports, relying on data from Law School Transparency. Yet the proportion of recent law grads who find work as a lawyer is down 10 percentage points from the high point of the last decade.
Among recent Valparaiso law school grads, fewer than 70 percent had jobs and fewer than half were in jobs that required a law license. The school has offered buyouts to tenured professors, and 14 out of 36 full-time faculty members have accepted them or retired. The law school is also planning to cut the number of students by about one-third over the next few years.
The New York Times spoke with two recent Valparaiso law grads on different career paths. John Acosta, a former police officer, graduated in the top third of his class and is starting a law firm with a former, seasoned prosecutor. He passed the bar exam on the first try. He had considered a few offers from law firms, but they offered him “little more than a desk and a business card,” the Times says. “Any revenue he brought in would have to be shared with the partners 50-50, and they would not be reciprocating.”
Another law grad, Sarah Tapia, has failed the bar exam twice. She is working in the clothing department of a Meijer store, but she is determined to eventually pass the test. “In the meantime,” the Times says, “she has a crushing amount of debt and a job that doesn’t pay her enough to so much as dent it.”