Photo: Flickr Chris
This week Dealbook looks at what, if anything, can be to done to fix the high cost of legal education in this country. It asks if it’s smarter to pay law professors less and/or replace them with practicing attorneys who theoretically wouldn’t charge much since they’re already drawing a big paycheck elsewhere.
The Times isn’t convinced it would work—why earn less at a university (around $130,000/year) when you can make “well over a million dollars a year” as a partner at a firm?
To get some insight, we spoke with a New York-based attorney who graduated from a top-tier school and asked to remain anonymous. She thinks the article overlooks one key reason people teach in the first place: the rewards of the job.
“It’s great for the resume, and I know many practicing lawyers who would be great teachers. I knew a partner who did it at NYU and he loved the experience he got. They already have full salaries, so they wouldn’t have to be paid the same way,” says the criminal litigator, who works for a major firm in Midtown Manhattan.
As someone who graduated toward the end of the recession two years ago and watched her friends struggle to find a job, our source sees the system as deeply flawed. She also sees it skewed toward those willing to write off the debt as “future pay,” or students too entitled to care. For these reasons, she’s fine with lowering teachers’ pay.
“I think anything they can do to decrease the cost of tuition is a good thing,” she says, adding most law schools aren’t worth their salt, and that students must compete to get into “the best [and most expensive] school.”
“In New York, it’s a hard market to break into if you’re not in the Ivies. People don’t care about undergrad, but in this profession, you’re going to get asked where you went to law school for the rest of your life. A lot of firms only interview at the top five, 10, and fifteen schools,” she said.
Though she landed a prestigious job, some of her peers weren’t so lucky.
“One friend had a full scholarship to a third-tier school that got downgraded to a fourth-tier school, and she’s had a hard time getting her foot in the door,” she said. “I think people should anticipate that even with the degree, the job’s not a guarantee.”
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