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.And, of course, every story needs a poster child:
Last summer a young lawyer wrote to me about her struggles to find employment. Her story was all too familiar: After graduating with honors from a middling law school, she was unable to find a real legal job, and was reduced to taking a series of temporary, low-paying positions that did not allow her to even begin to pay off educational debts that, three years after graduation, had ballooned to nearly a quarter of a million dollars.
Rather than merely lamenting her situation, however, she explained to me she was more fortunate than many of her fellow recent graduates: “I know that I am better off than a lot of these younger lawyers. I get job interviews. I can afford the apartment I share with my friend. I have a great resume. I am an excellent researcher and writer. I rarely go to bed hungry anymore.”I don't want to sound insensitive here (which is usually a prelude to somebody sounding insensitive), but I have two conflicting responses.
First, as a college professor I am daily aware of the fact that my own industry has been allowed, primarily via massive government subsidies in the form of guaranteed loans and research grants, to price itself out of any market reality. And I'm not even sure where the money is going, because it certainly doesn't appear in my paycheck or in the resources I have available for my students.
That said, however, the students do bear some responsibility to do basic checking to see if this degree or that will them employable. And they need to do that checking with somebody besides their admissions counselor or university advisor, (I've always wondered why people in clothing stores ask the sales staff--which is working on commission--"If this looks good on me" as if they are going to get an objective answer.)
No matter what your dreams are, you have to be independently wealthy for it to make sense to be majoring in a degree where only half the graduates will get jobs.
Part of the problem is that we have deluded our children into thinking that college is a place where they can "find themselves" or "major in what interests you." Maybe once, when the bills could be paid in a reasonable amount of time.
But every fall, when I see the expectant happy faces of freshmen lining up outside our Financial Aid office to sign promissory notes, I can't help but think . . . .
. . . in four years a whole bunch of you are going to wish you'd gone to plumbing school.
Plumbers don't go to be hungry.