The ABA issued its “disappointing” report on diversity, and one of their suggestions stood out to us:
Educate law school applicants about planning for the financial aspects of a legal education, including the risks associated with mortgaging their futures (i.e., acquiring excessive student loans) and that they are not guaranteed to secure employment with a $150,000 per year salary.
That is an education that should be given to all prospective law students.
We know someone who went to culinary school, and the school was very helpful in aiding the students secure tens of thousands in financial aid without spending a lot of time telling them that minimum wage was what they would likely be making and that, therefore, making those loan payments would be really difficult.
Law school is kind of the new culinary school — you could spend tens of thousands, even $100,000+, and have trouble securing an adequately-paying job after graduation.
Of course, these sorts of facts are available with research, and the fact is most students know these things before they take out the loans.
But like mortgage officers who should have spent a little more time explaining the long-term realities of taking out a mortgage you cannot afford, law schools should be really aggressive in explaining the realities of the legal market.
Information readily available in most admission packets tells students the average salary (which is driven way up by those students that are making the $160,000) and what percentage of students are employed within six months of graduation. But there needs to be more. Granted hand-holding of people applying to law school should not be necessary, but many young people are starry-eyed and think that the bad news doesn’t apply to them. Reiterating the chances that it really, really could be them is not a bad idea.
Schools also need to break down for students the school’s position in the market. The hard and painful fact is that those $160,000 firm jobs most often go to students in the top 20 schools and those with a regional reputation, with the number of spots per school declining as you move down the ranks.
The schools should be straightforward about where most students end up — which may very well be that you can attend x school and get a job you like with normal hours making $65,000 per year (the breaking even number, the dean of Northwestern said).
Be honest, let people know what they are facing and let them decide. If application numbers are any indication, the fact is many will still plan on attending, despite the uphill adds. Kids!
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