Ever since I could remember, obtaining higher education was usually the key ingredient that lead to a successful and fulfilling life. Although this maybe true for some educational degrees, a clear indication of what a degree can do for your future may not always be so clear cut. With the staggering increase in university and college tuition fees virtually every couple years and the need for higher education in an ever-evolving society, many students are taking the plunge in thousands of dollars of debt with the hope that the light at the end of the tunnel would lead to a worthwhile career in the future. This is all to true for law school students all across Canada and the United States, except for one minor detail…… someone didn’t mention that the light at the end of tunnel for these students may have never existed in the first place.
I’m sure everybody has had, at some point in their life, contemplated about being a doctor or lawyer, as these lucrative professions usually lead to an upper class lifestyle. The latter was true in my search for a future career I would be passionate about and something I could envision myself doing. Maybe it was the way the media portrait lawyers as successful business mongrels driving around town in their 2013 Mercedes AMG C63 or the $1000/hour earnings of Harvey Spectre, the senior partner of a multi million dollar law firm in the show Suits. In pursuit of a dream of being a lawyer blindly, I began on a rigorous path of studying to write the LSAT ( law school admission test) and enter law school. This journey took me 4 consecutive months of uninterrupted time with my face buried in stacks of books as tall as my vanity dresser, literally. It wasn’t until I finally wrote the test in February 2013 and started actually reading about the profession that I could be making a dire mistake.
Law school is flawed in almost all aspects of its structure and educational composition. With associate professors at universities across the US making anywhere between $250-350k a year in salary, it is easily understood why law schools cost the average student 47k/year in tuiton fees alone to participate in the upper legal society, not including Stanford or Harvard which regularly charges $85-90k/year. Considering that a law degree generally takes 3 years to complete, the average student would be staring down the barrel of a 200-300k debt-loaded gun upon completion, which might even include debt accumulated from undergraduate studies. Now this might seem like a seriously inflated number, but statistics around the country back this figure up and the sad part about it that it is only getting higher and higher. People that come from extremely wealthy families that can eat caviare for lunch and have chef Gordan Ramsay cook breakfast for them are the only people who can afford to pay these types preposterous fees to obtain a law degree, but the majority of people can’t afford to fork up their entire families life savings to fund these costs. And this is where the end of your life begins.
With the towering cloud of debt accumulated from law school ready to fall the moment you graduates from law school, getting a job as soon as possible is really one of the top priorities for every student. With more than a hundred different law schools in america pumping out approximately 100 students per year, its quite clear that the economy is quickly being saturated with recent graduates that need jobs desperately, and fast. But what if there are too few jobs in the job market to meet the needs of the thousands of students graduating every year? Unemployment. This is exactly what is happening in the states right now and lawyers are fighting the very institutions that put them in this position, literally. In recent news, not dating back to cases that went to trial in the past, a bunch of young graduates (75 of them) are filing at least 15 different class action suits against the very institutions that granted them their degree.
Why you might ask? Because their law schools have posted false statistics about employment opportunities and salary data to attract prospective students. Some law schools have post a 87% employment rate after 9 months of graduation, which to the uneducated person is an extremely high statistic, right? In actuality, this number encompasses the employment of full time and part time workers in the field relating to law AND outside it as well (This means people working at Walmart and Burger King part-time counts!!!). The irony about this is that only 10% of those people actually obtain full time legal work and the other 90% of those are stuck working odd jobs to just survive. And those people who actually land a well paying job in a reputable law firm are usually the people who graduate as the top of their class and from a top tiered law school, such as Harvard, Stanford, UCLA and NYU. Who would have thought that coming out of law school with 150k of debt, that they would be making a 40k/salary a year (Table 1). So where does that leave everybody else that graduated from less reputable schools? Starbucks is always in need of night-shift barristas.
Countless numbers of unemployed lawyers are finally being heard and the public are starting to recognize that if law schools are to survive, a reform is in order. The number of law school applications have fallen by approximately 1/4 and the number of LSAT takers has fallen by 16% in the last two years and 33% since 2008 when the recession hit . And being a lawyer isn’t all that glorious that people thought it would be. A lawyer generally works 65+ hrs/week in a high pressure and face pace environment leaving very few, if any, time with the loved ones and family. Maybe this as a sign for a need to really sit down and contemplate if the whole ‘”high tuition, low demand, low satisfaction” is the right thing for prospective students and if it is worth the risk. With the number of aggravated students growing per year, the pressure for law schools to change the way it does business is slowing building. And when that bubble explodes, whooiee!! Sit back and enjoy the fireworks. Just ask this student what he thinks of the almighty law school system.
With thousands of young lawyers unemployed and many more being pumped out by top tier law schools every year, its no wonder that people like the guy in the video are further encouraging people not sign up for law school. The job market needs to pick up from this stunt of unemployment amongst the legal sector and give the chance to the thousands of young lawyers who have already saturated the market to obtain meaningful work. In the meantime, if you are really contemplating about going to law school, make sure you sit down give it a real long and hard thought of whether 1) you have an infinitely large bankroll and if not, then 2) if you are really passionate about it and willing to say goodbye to your family and social life.