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Numbers Of Potential Future Lawyers Hits 13 Year Low

Paul Caron of the University of Cincinnati College of Law reports over at TaxProfBlog that the number of college students taking the Law School Admissions Test has fallen to a 13 year low  and the decline shows now signs of stopping. Here are some figures and a chart that tell the tale:

 

 

It’s not that hard to understand why this is happening. While I’m not going to claim that young lawyers are in worse shape than, say, people in blue collar jobs who found hammered by the Great Recession, the decline of the “Big Law” jobs especially was a familiar story to many between 2007 and 2009. Even now, hiring at many of these law firms is far below what it was in pre-recession days, and the corporate clients that use these firms are far more cautious about their legal budgets than they used to be. Further down the pecking order, where most law students who manage to graduate and pass the bar end up, the market at mid-level and lower firms isn’t much better, but neither is the pay. For students coming out of law school with a seemingly unmanageable level of debt, it’s a tough situation. For that reason alone, it’s no surprise that people would be less inclined to even incur the expense of going to law school.

David Segal made note in the sharp drop in LSAT takers back in March, pointing out that it reflected a rather grim future for aspiring attorneys:

The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape and will have a hard time absorbing the roughly 45,000 students who are expected to graduate from law school in each of the next three years. And the problem may be deep and systemic.

Many lawyers and law professors have argued in recent years that the legal market will either stagnate or shrink as technology allows more low-end legal work to be handled overseas, and as corporations demand more cost-efficient fee arrangements from their firms.

That argument, and news that so many new lawyers are struggling with immense debt, is changing the way law school is perceived by undergrads. Word is getting through that law school is no longer a safe place to sit out an economic downturn — an article of faith for years — and that strong grades at an above-average school no longer guarantees a six-figure law firm job.

“For a long time there has been this culturally embedded perception that if you go to law school, it will be worth the money,” said Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency, a legal education policy organization. “The idea that law school is an easy ticket to financial security is finally breaking down.”

In May Paul Campos wrote about this over at Salon:

Approximately half of the 45,000 people who will graduate this year from ABA-accredited law schools will never find jobs as lawyers. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over the next decade 21,000 new jobs for lawyers will become available each year, via growth and outflow from the profession.)

Most of those who do find jobs will be making between $30,000 and $60,000 per year.

People currently in law school are going to graduate with an average of $150,000 of educational debt. This debt will have an average interest rate of 7.5 percent, meaning the typical graduate will be accruing nearly $1,000 per month in interest upon graduation. Unlike almost every other form of debt, these loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

In short, one out of every two law graduates will not have a legal career, and most of the rest will never make enough money to pay back their educational loans. This means they will either have to rely on other sources of income (spouses, extended family) to service their debts, or they will have to go into the federal government’s new Income-Based Repayment program. This program will keep people in debt servitude for 25 (soon to be reduced to 20) years, during which time the balance on their loans will grow, making it almost impossible for them to qualify for mortgages and many other forms of consumer debt. Finally, the debt – which for many law graduates will have grown to more than $1 million – will be discharged, meaning, of course, that taxpayers will be left to pick up the tab.

All this adds up to a completely unsustainable system – one in which the cost of acquiring a law degree no longer bears any rational relationship to the benefits the typical graduate can expect to receive from it. In this regard, the economic disaster that legal education has become is merely a particularly stark example of the increasingly absurd financial structure of higher education in America.

In many ways, what’s happening in the legal profession is an example of the Higher Education Bubble that so many have written about. Ultimately, the only way things will change is if Law Schools themselves start changing. For one thing, perhaps they need to start reducing the number of students that the accept every year. We don’t really need 45,000 new lawyers every year, and the days when Law School was a safe place to wait out an economic downturn are long gone, and college students are noticing. For one thing, the schools need to be far more honest with students about the employment situation in the legal market, and the fact that things are not going to return to the heady days when a degree from a top ranked school was an easy ticket to a six-figure a year job (leaving aside the fact that said job will guarantee you have essentially no life for five or more years after you graduate) are long over. Students and potential students need to realize the risks that they’re taking, perhaps by actually talking to other lawyers and recent graduates and learning what the world is like outside law school. Because it isn’t always pretty.

So, go to law school if you want, but you’d better make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Fewer lawyers? Nooooooooo! Save us, Jesus!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. Anderson says:

    the number of college students taking the Law School Admissions Test has fallen to a 13 year old

    How did it fall to him? What is a 13-year-old going to do about it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. @michael reynolds:

    The differences in the number people graduating law school even now and what they were when I graduated (holy crap it was) 20 years ago next year is pretty astounding. I’ve never really believed that the market had that much actual demand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  4. @Anderson:

    Gah, Typo.

    Although I have met some lawyers who act like 13 year olds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Somehow this will result in my lawyer charging me more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. @michael reynolds:

    Every lawyer’s most important client is Mr. Green

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. JohnMcC says:

    Substance.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. Ben says:

    As someone who graduated in 2007 in the top 3 in my class at a tier 3 law school and found that I couldn’t get a job as an attorney ANYwhere, man I really wish someone had sat me down and explaining things to me. I had a 172 LSAT score, but my undergrad GPA was only a 3.4, so Tier 1 was absolutely out. So I figured, go dominate at a small school and a job will be there, probably at a smaller firm. Man, was that a bitter awakening. I was basically told to spend the next 2 years volunteering at a firm, and then MAYbe then they’d consider taking me on as a 30K paralegal. I said F that and took a job as a network engineer at an ISP making twice that. I often talk to former classmates of mine, and very few of them are doing a job in law at all. That was a nice useless chunk of debt that we all took on, and I’ll always have the fun of explaining to people why I have a JD and I’ve never used it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. Janis Gore says:

    Who in the hell needs lawyers? I need a plumber.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. @Ben:

    One of my classmates ended up joining the circus after law school.

    Okay, technically she ended up taking a corporate job at Ringling Bros Corporate HQ here in Northern VA..

    And I was friends with a fairly successful Bankruptcy Attorney who one day decided to walk away from the entire practice of law. Last I heard, she was Business Manager at a landscaping company in PA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. anjin-san says:

    It’s a good thing. I’ve known people who were not smart enough to be good waiters who graduated from law school and passed the bar in CA. At some point colleges and universities started looking at degrees as a product they were selling, and professionalism/professional standards have declined across the board as a result.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. CSK says:

    Nothing, I repeat, nothing, is worse than having a Ph.D. in a subject such as English or history. If those people don’t find work in academe (virtually impossible now) , they don’t work. Having a doctorate in a humanities subject is worse than having a conviction for a really loathsome felony on your record insofar as potential employers are concerned. It’s good that some lawyers can make the jump into different careers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  13. Peter says:

    This dropoff in law school applications is a very good thing, but there’s a very long way still to go. Law school is always going to remain a highly attractive option for the simple reason that it’s easy: no math, no science, no computers, mostly essay tests without right or wrong answers . It’s basically an extension of liberal arts college.

    Another factor is that most applicants are in their early 20′s, and at that time of life people think they’re invincible. Bad things only happen to other people.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  14. Peter says:

    @Ben:

    You are luckier than most unemployed law school graduates would be, as you had sufficient technical skills to find work as a network engineer. Law school primarily attracts technophobic types who can’t do math or science or computers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. @Peter:

    I’m sorry my friend. but I cannot agree. Law School is not “easy.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. Barry says:

    People should read Paul Campos’ blog, Inside the Law School Scam.
    He goes heavily in to the statistics. In short, if you are not going to a top 10 or 20 law school, you are taking a very serious risk; you’ll acquire $150k-$250K debt, and the odds are against you getting a job paying over $60K. In fact, for most law schools, the odds are about 50-50 of getting an actual full-time, permanent job requiring a JD and bar passage (i.e., actually working as a lawyer).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “I’m sorry my friend. but I cannot agree. Law School is not “easy.” ”

    In the sense that a standard liberal arts graduate can (given good grades on the LSAT) enter and complete a JD, it is.

    Try entering the sciences or engineering at the grad level, starting with a BA in something else.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  18. MBunge says:

    @Barry: “In the sense that a standard liberal arts graduate can (given good grades on the LSAT) enter and complete a JD, it is.”

    All that proves is that you don’t have to be particularly smart to be a lawyer, not that it’s easy to become one. It’s also true you don’t have to be particularly smart to be a whole lot of things and that the folks with the brainpower to be scientists or engineers can often be lacking in other areas.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  19. @Barry: @MBunge:

    Sorry guys, but lawyer jokes aside I am not going to accept any argument that starts with the premise that people who go to law school are dumb.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  20. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Well, I agree with your general point, but I did years ago read an article about a young woman who was applying to an unaccredited law school. Her reason for so doing, she said in all apparent earnestness, was that there ought to be a law school that accepted stupid people, and she figured this was the one. Much hilarity then ensued in the letters to the editor of that paper.

    I swear on my copy of Blackstone’s “Commentaries” that this a true story.

    The law school in question is still unaccredited.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Brian Tamanha will be happy to hear this.

    @Doug Mataconis: As one who has absolutely no love lost on lawyers in general, it is sad to admit that 4 of my best friends are lawyers… and each is smarter than the other and all are smarter than I. Also strange* to say, each of them holds themselves to a stricter set of ethics than anyone I know (except maybe me, but I am weird).

    * Strange only in that most non-lawyers think they have no ethics…. until they need one. Then their lives hang on those ethics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. David says:

    I stopped practicing about 8 years ago. Graduated in 91, 6 years in the JAG Corps, 4 years in telecom regulatory work. The last two working for a small DSL company handling their regulatory stuff for 5 states. Their funding dried up after Worldcom had their little accounting error. Did small firm stuff for a couple of years and decided I really hated clients. Now I manage right of way agreements for a large telecom company. If I could go back and take a different path, I would probably take the opportunity and not go to law school. Could have gone with computer science and been in the market at its pinnacle. Doing pretty good now, but always have the what if at the back of my mind.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Janis Gore:

    Who in the hell needs lawyers? I need a plumber.

    Sorry Janis, no plumbing. Carpentry, taping, and painting if I have to. Good with doors, windows, cabinets and crown mold. (also framing, drywall, and forming of concrete, but only when desperate. One day of concrete leaves this 54 yr old crippled for a week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. @CSK:

    Anyone who goes to an unaccredited law school is, I will admit, an idiot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. SKI says:

    Stopped private practice about 8 years go as well and went from corporate restructuring (bankruptcy) into actually restructuring businesses in health care. Now in hospital administration.

    Law school isn’t easy. It is incredibly useful in how it rewires your brain. However,the financial cost of getting your brain rewired doesn’t make sense for most. IF you can go to a top school (nationally or regionally if you know for sure where you want to live) and have the smarts and work ethic to do very well and are willing to have little life outside of work for years as you climb the partnership track, then it makes sense. Or if you are financially secure enough to not care about the $150,000…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Wr says:

    @Peter: yes, because writing an essay is so easy. Let me guess — you’re an engineer, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  27. Mark Tipton says:

    With all due respect to those that have been there, knowing as I do that the vast majority of politicians happen to have law degrees and that the last time I looked, there was roughly one attorney (practicing lawyer) for every three hundred people … I have to believe that this is a good thing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. george says:

    @Wr:

    @Peter: yes, because writing an essay is so easy. Let me guess — you’re an engineer, right?

    Doing graduate studies in something like physics or electrical engineering without a strong undergrad math background is like doing graduate studies in say French without having a strong French language background. Which doesn’t mean its harder than something like law assuming the background is there, just that there is specific knowledge needed, so if you don’t have that background it can be extremely hard.

    Going from physics BSc to physics MSc is no harder than going from general BA to a law degree. Going from general BA (without a lot of math) to a physics MSc is extremely difficult, and I doubt even 1% of physics graduate students could do it if they’d tried that path. Same thing for a physics BSc without say French language trying to do a MA in French – extremely hard. For some degrees, the prerequisites are vital.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. Ben says:

    @Peter:

    Not lucky per se, my undergrad was Computer Science at an engineering school. It’s not a popular path for law students, but I wasn’t the only STEM guy at my law school.

    And speaking as someone who has been through both the STEM and law paths, anyone who says law school is easy is speaking out of pure ignorance. Law school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was far harder than undergrad, and far harder than any job I’ve had since. You don’t just have to learn things and regurgitate. You need to completely reboot your entire method of thinking, as someone else already said upthread.

    The part that I AM lucky on, is that I was able to get a partial scholarship for law school, and only came out of it with about 40 grand in debt, instead of the 100-150 that most of my classmates had.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. KK says:

    Science and math have coexisted very long both rely on each other although you will accomplish your study but in the end if you did do it you would find out that you also had to complete both science and maths ,although the path might take a bit longer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Under his definition, remember that the colon indicates a subsequent list the defines the previous clause, I respectfully (for a change) disagree. But i will give you your basic assertion–law school is not “easy (as commonly defined).”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Barry says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I didn’t say dumb, please note.

    Law school remains as thevonly professional grad program which people with no special preparation can enter and complete; that’s not the norm.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Barry says:

    The reason that that is important is that a lot of people had the option of going to law school, upon finding out that thei BS/BA was not employable (and esp. in a down economy, this covers far too many degrees).

    Until very recently, data on actual outcomes was not available, and the law schools continue to publish complete garbage about employability.

    This led a lot of young people to go to law school, acquire vastvamounts of debt, and find out that thei JD was not worth anything on the job market.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. swearyanthony says:

    The real market to get into is being a college administrator. Not sure what degree is best for that but that is where the real money is…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Peter says:

    Law school is one of the few feasible alternatives if you are one of the tens of millions of people who can’t do math. Note that you can have a very high I.Q. score yet be completely math-phobic. More generally, some people think in what for the lack of a better term I will describe as a “non-precise” manner; they can write excellent essays but aren’t so good with tests that have clear right/wrong answers. Finally, there’s the fact that law school requires no specific undergraduate preparation, as others have noted.

    MBA programs generally don’t require many undergraduate prerequisites, but they are not suitable alternatives for many law students because they have quantitative reasoning courses, make much more extensive use of computers, and have more right/wrong tests. Not to mention the fact that they have marketability issues of their own.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Spartacus says:

    What’s really amazing is that lawyers’ billing rates have risen steadfastly over the years even though there’s been a huge glut of attorneys for some time now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Just Me says:

    Sorry guys, but lawyer jokes aside I am not going to accept any argument that starts with the premise that people who go to law school are dumb.

    I don’t think people who go to law school are dumb-and my very math oriented husband would probably hate law school (he is smart and would pass but he would hate it).

    I do think law school and liberal arts in general are often a place for those who are math phobic to head, when they start thinking about future goals.

    I don’t think it is about who is dumb or stupid, but more who would rather avoid math/engineering/hard sciences. At one point for people who didn’t want to major or work in those fields law school was a safe place for the smart but not math oriented person because there was some job security-now not so much.

    I do think the job market is heading in a direction away from graduates with liberal arts oriented degrees. Outside of academia there isn’t much of a market for somebody with a Humanities or British Lit degree.

    I do work with a woman whose daughter has en environmental engineering and her JD and she works for a company out of Boston and gets paid really well. I suspect that we may be heading for an age where the law school graduate who finds the super high paying job is one who also has degrees in other demand areas where their expertise in both areas will be in demand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  38. SKI says:

    @Barry: Law School is fundamentally different from other professional degree programs. You don’t go to law school to learn the law. You got to be trained on how to think like a lawyer. It is a very big distinction.

    The only other program which attempts to approximate the model is an MBA – and that seems to teach you how to work collaboratively (and use far too many power points) more than how to actually remits thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Pharoah Narim says:

    I think this could be a great trend for the simple fact that with less lawyers–less lawyers will be available to enter politics. I’ve always thought that this is a problem with the political class–its too homogenous and frankly–nothing about having a poly sci degree with a JD has translated into any discernible aptitude amongst the political lawyer class to gather data, analyze it, and come to conclusions about the centers of gravity of real problems. All we get are band-aids to fringe symptoms of problems. When it comes to laying an axe to the roots…our Harvard-flavored lawyer class consistently grovels in the dark searching for the light switch of vision. I have much more confidence in engineer types to solve problems. Lawyers are great at making arguments and writing legislation but haven’t shown the ability to do any real heavy lifting in problem solving.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Peter says:

    Here is a rather colorfully put claim that math anxiety/math phobia is really just a form of self-indulgence, albeit a trendy one, that most anyone can overcome with a bit of effort. I got a laugh out of this line:

    It’s totally fine if you’re not a genius, just quit acting like a math-shy half-wit. If you’re faced with a math problem on the job, or in any situation, you can say, “Math is a little tricky for me,” or, “I’ll need a little help with this,” or, even better, “I’ve got to work on my math.” But fleeing in terror and declaring, “I’m bad at math!” while expecting to be given a sympathetic pass for your cowardice ends now. I mean it!

    Followed by:

    … nearly all of us have the functioning gray matter needed to learn math. If there is something wrong with you in that regard, there are ways of finding out. Unless you’ve been professionally diagnosed with a disorder that is known to cause difficulties in learning mathematics, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able achieve math competence.

    If more people grasped these points, fewer of them might be spending $150K+ on unmarketable law degrees.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  41. Barry says:

    @SKI: ” Law School is fundamentally different from other professional degree programs. You don’t go to law school to learn the law. You got to be trained on how to think like a lawyer. It is a very big distinction. ”

    One hears this used a lot. Is there any proof?

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  42. george says:

    @Barry:

    @SKI: ” Law School is fundamentally different from other professional degree programs. You don’t go to law school to learn the law. You got to be trained on how to think like a lawyer. It is a very big distinction. ”

    One hears this used a lot. Is there any proof?

    Actually I think this is probably true of any graduate studies program, perhaps to different degrees. Certainly after completing a Phd in physics you think very differently than a BSc in physics – and again, its not about what you know about physics (which will be out of date fairly quickly anyway), but in how you approach problems, in your awareness of just how limited your understanding is of even things you thought you knew were (I’ve been told the whole point of the defense is to make that clear), and in what constitutes knowledge in the first place.

    Come to think of it, there’s probably a reason so many physicists tend towards philosophy as they age – as undergraduates you’re very sure of yourself and your knowledge, whereas the more successful you become in physics (or so I’ve read from numerous Nobel Prize winners) the less certain you become of both yourself and your understanding. In short, you have to learn to think like a physicist, rather than a student (with convenient book fed knowledge, fixed experiments, and an exam-based view of nature).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. Ben says:

    @Barry:

    It depends on what you consider “proof”. I can tell you my own experience agrees with that saying. The main goal in most of my classes was not to learn what the law IS, but to learn how to take the elements of a statute and apply it to a fact pattern. Especially in criminal law, 90% of that is state law, and since every state’s criminal laws are subtly different, we had a “model penal code” that we worked off of, unless we were specifically told to use a specific state’s criminal code. The law that we applied wasn’t the point, it was the ability to apply a law, any law really, to a fact pattern and argue one way or the other.

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  44. Just Me says:

    Unless you’ve been professionally diagnosed with a disorder that is known to cause difficulties in learning mathematics, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able achieve math competence.

    I think there is some truth to this, but will be honest while I could do math-slowly and with some practice (unlike my kids who seem to all have their father’s “math is easy” thinking), I am pretty sure I would have struggled through a college engineering program and can’t say there is much in applied math that interests me enough to want a career in it.

    I do think society tends to respect those who are comfortable with math, but also tend to allow for the “I am bad at math” excuse to work.

    I also think having fewer lawyers in government would be a boon to our government. I would love to see more variety in not only area of education but also occupation. I also think government needs to move away from such a heavy emphasis on high level employees coming from a small cluster of elite colleges and universities, but that is a different discussion.

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  45. grumpy realist says:

    @SKI: Hah. Am just about to graduate from law school, will most likely go back into entrepreneurial work afterwards. Law school at least has made me totally fearless about contracts, negotiations, IP licensing agreements, and civil procedure.

    I have been lucky to have a good paying job as a patent agent all the way through law school, which I’ve done part-time. Not enough to pay for both living expenses and law school tuition, but certainly has covered everything else aside from law school tuition. Also was lucky to get a scholarship my first year which covered at least some of the tuition.

    Will be one of the few of my classmates graduating with no debt. Would I have done it had I been required to take out debt? Definitely not.

    If I knew then what I know now about law school, would I have done it? Maybe not. This at least has put a period to my degree-collecting mania. Six degrees is enough for anyone.

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  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Ben: Actually, I’ve heard quite a few engineers say that law school was a piece of pie. Learn the rules, analyze the situation, apply them to the facts.

    I have to say my worst experience in law school has been Legal Writing. The prof and I didn’t get along. (I heard through the grapevine later that she didn’t like part-time students because she considered us Not Serious Enough.)

    Certainly wish that law schools wouldn’t have this caste system….everyone seems to look down on the part-timers.

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  47. george says:

    @grumpy realist:

    @Ben: Actually, I’ve heard quite a few engineers say that law school was a piece of pie. Learn the rules, analyze the situation, apply them to the facts.

    I don’t know, the engineers I’ve talked to who’ve done both law and engineering (and I’m an engineer who’s never taken law) say law school is on the same level as graduate studies in engineering. Now grad studies in engineering is much less of a grind than undergrad engineering (until you’re actually writing up your thesis), but its conceptually harder because you’re doing (at least semi-) original work.

    I tend to believe them, I suspect grad studies is pretty uniformly hard across the disciplines, and a law degree is in effect a graduate degree.

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  48. James Joyner says:

    With all of the talk about whether lawyers can do math, it occurs to me that there’s a pretty fundamental mathematical issue missing from this whole discussion: What is the relation between the current size of the law school applicant class versus the size of the law school applicant pool?

    I know that the US population is aging. And we actually had a net decrease in the number of people in the 24 to 44 year bracket between the 2000 and 2010 Census. But I don’t know what the data show for the 22 to 26 or so demo that presumably constitutes most law school applicants.

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  49. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The biggest career mistake I ever made was going to law school. Eventually it all worked out, but that took nearly two decades of tilting at windmills along with rivers of blood, sweat, alcohol and tears. I hardly can fathom the combination of debt and piss poor prospects faced by law school graduates in this day and age. Grim. Just grim.

    The major problem with law school is that it doesn’t teach you anything about the actual practice of law. There’s not even a precise analogy for it. The best I can come up with is to imagine if the U.S. Air Force Academy taught its students how to fly jet fighters by having them watch a video of a pilot reading someone else’s book about how that other person flew cargo planes. The degrees of separation between law school and lawyering boggle the mind.

    That law school applications are declining is a good thing. There already are far too many attorneys. And Gen. Y is facing very dark days. To start out with such overwhelming debt nearly in all cases will turn what in any event will be a disaster for them into a flaming toxic train wreck of a disaster.

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  50. Barry says:

    @James Joyner: “With all of the talk about whether lawyers can do math, it occurs to me that there’s a pretty fundamental mathematical issue missing from this whole discussion: What is the relation between the current size of the law school applicant class versus the size of the law school applicant pool? ”

    good point, James. The number of LSAT takers has dropped sharply, more sharply than the number of admissions, I believe.

    This stuff is covered extensively in Paul Campos’ blog ‘Inside the Law School Scam’. One thing that’s mentioned is that most of the schools with reduced class sizes are not showing much in the way of increased LSAT scores in their smaller classes; they are not *not* cutting off the bottom of the applicant pool, or of the overall population pool of potential law school students.

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  51. Barry says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Tsar Nicholas says:
    Monday, November 26, 2012 at 15:19

    The biggest career mistake I ever made was going to law school. Eventually it all worked out, but that took nearly two decades of tilting at windmills along with rivers of blood, sweat, alcohol and tears. I hardly can fathom the combination of debt and piss poor prospects faced by law school graduates in this day and age. Grim. Just grim.”

    I feel for you.

    The current situation, from what I gather, is if you had paid four times the tuition for sharply reduced job prospects, salaries and job security.

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