Was law school worth it? Only 20% of recent grads strongly agree, pilot study says
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A pilot study of law graduates from seven law schools quantifies the decline in satisfaction with the decision to go to law school.
The pilot study (PDF) found that only 38 percent of recent grads said they had a “good job” waiting for them at graduation, and only 20 percent of recent grads strongly agreed law school was worth the cost.
The study, conducted with Gallup by the Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis, surveyed more than 7,000 law grads from seven law schools in the southeast. The Access Group consists of nearly 200 law schools.
The study found that the percentage of law grads who reported they had a “good job” at graduation was highest for those who graduated in the 1960s, and declined in the decades that followed.
Seventy percent of law grads between 1960 and 1969 said they had a good job waiting for them at graduation, compared to 66 percent of those who graduated between 1970 and 1979, 64 percent of those who graduated between 1980 and 1989, 56 percent of those who graduated between 1990 and 2009, and 38 percent of those who graduated between 2010 and 2015.
There was a similar decline in satisfaction. Asked whether their law degree was worth the cost, the percentage who strongly agreed was 75 percent for graduates between 1960 and 1979, 50 percent for graduates between 1980 and 1999, and 20 percent for graduates between 2000 and 2015.
Asked whether they would go back to law school if they could do it over again, the percentage who strongly agreed was 68 percent among graduates from 1960 to 1979, 54 percent among graduates from 1980 to 1999, and 37 percent among graduates from 2000 to 2015.
The study report, “Life After Law School,” acknowledges that the survey isn’t representative of all law schools, but it says it does provide insights into how law schools experiences influence outcomes.
The surveyed alumni are from Campbell Law School, Elon Law, Mississippi College School of Law, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) Shepard Broad College of Law, Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, University of Richmond School of Law and Vanderbilt Law School.
Other findings include:
–On average, the law grads had borrowed nearly $86,000 in combined student loans.
–Twenty-seven percent of the alumni reported total annual personal income of $180,000 or more, while 31 percent reported personal income of $90,000 to $179,999, 31 percent reported personal income of $24,000 to $89,999, and 4 percent reported personal income of less than $24,000.
–Among graduates who are not retired, 82 percent are practicing law and 18 percent are not. Among those practicing law, 51 percent work for law firms, 18 percent are in solo practice, 17 percent work for the government, and 2 percent work in legal services or for the public defender.
–Forty-nine percent of the law graduates who are working are “engaged” at work. Among all Americans, only 30 percent say they are engaged in their jobs.
–The odds that employed respondents are engaged in their jobs are two times higher if they had law professors who cared about them as people, 1.3 times higher if they had at least one law prof who made them excited about learning, and two times higher if they had a mentor at law school who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.