If you are a college graduate, a college student, or a high school student, and you want to work for someone else, do not under any circumstances plan to go to law school. Instead read Temporary Attorney. Law schools are cranking out lawyers without any regard to how many legal jobs there are, and many lawyers are caught doing dead-end contract document review for $35 an hour.
“$35 an hour? Isn’t that, like, $70,000 a year? That’s more than I can make with my BA in Philosophy!”
Of course it is. But to make $70,000 a year, you will have to give up three years of work at whatever rate you can make with your BA You’ll accrue $80,000 worth of debt. Let’s say you can make an average of $30,000 a year (salary) for three years with your BA; you’re $170,000 in the hole when you graduate from law school. Then you do contract document review at $70,000 a year (contract), which is worth maybe $55,000 a year (salary). It takes you seven years to recoup the cost (including opportunity cost) of law school.
Even assuming that other opportunities would not have appeared in the ten years you would have (had you chosen more wisely) spent in the workforce, and that the contract work isn’t offshored to India, ten years after you begin you’re just starting to break even.
What’s going to happen in your life in the next ten years? What has happened in the last ten? What’s going to happen in the world in the next ten years? What’s the practice of law going to look like?
You may be the hardest-working kid in your college class, with a ticket to a first-tier school and expectations of a cush job reviewing documents in a skyscraper, but do you know if BigLaw going to be hiring in three years when you graduate from that school? Is BigLaw going to be laying lawyers off? Will you be joining the ranks of the basement document reviewers (instead of the salaried skyscraper document reviewers), wishing that you had joined some profession that couldn’t be offshored, like plumbing or auto repair?
If you don’t find a job (and you can safely assume that you won’t), will you have what it takes to start your own practice? Do you have the initiative, the personality, the perserverence, the employed spouse? More importantly, will you know how to practice law, or will you be truly learned in the law with no practical training?
When I was in law school, there were people who were there only because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves. They didn’t want to practice law, but they wanted to delay making an honest living by another three years. Right now law school is looking like a really bad gamble for that type of student — and for most
everyone else but the law schools.
Like the yellow pages, the law schools raise their
rates every year (as Dallas criminal-defense lawyer Robert Guest points
out, in lockstep with GSL guarantees) for a product that becomes less valuable every year. There are a few downtier law schools that focus on turning out functioning lawyers, but most schools drive toward irrelevancy.
Until there are more billets for new lawyers than there are new lawyers, and until there are more seats in law school than there are kids who want to be lawyers, law school will continue to be a really bad idea.
Stay far away.