The value of a law degree: A response to scam bloggers

I’ve been following with interest the debate prompted by so-called “scam bloggers” over the value of a legal education and the obligation of law schools to provide accurate data to students about post-graduate job placements.

I empathize with graduates entering the workforce in search of jobs that don’t exist. I appreciate the added stress on those that financed their entire education and are now facing the reality that they have to pay those loans back. But to those who feel shocked and even defrauded by these realities, I lack sympathy. They have no one to blame but themselves.

The country is recovering from the largest recession in our history. Law firms and legal services organizations have cut their staffs to the bone. The number of law school graduates entering the workforce is at an all-time high. What did you think was going to happen?

Law graduates are no different than any other graduate entering the work force. The legal profession isn’t facing anything that the medical profession, the accounting profession and countless others haven’t faced. The need for legal services is as great now as it ever has been. The difference is that the business of law has changed. .

If you want to be a lawyer, you need to change the way you think about a legal career. Law school graduates are smart people, so — right or wrong — don’t cry fowl because your law school tracks the editor of the law review as employed because she is working at Starbucks. If you want to be a lawyer, do your homework. If you are looking to graduate with a six-figure salary waiting for you, make sure you know the following:

1. The gap between the Global 25 firms and the rest of law firms is widening. That means there are going to be fewer high-paid associate positions.

2. Many legal services have been commoditized. That means lawyers can no longer command the same fees for doing the same work. That means the value of what you do as a first year lawyer has decreased. That means you get paid less.

3. The path to partnership will no longer come by grinding out long hours. If you want to make partner, you need to generate business. Equally important, you need to master relationship development.

To be sure, law schools should be held accountable for providing accurate data. To be sure, predatory lending to students should be addressed aggressively.

But, to be sure, law students and all graduates need to take ownership of their future. They need to decide what they are looking to get out of their education in the context of the overall cost of the degree.That’s called a cost-benefit analysis. That’s business. That’s what it means to be a lawyer in today’s economic climate.

Posted on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

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