in education, Uncategorized

Are Law Schools Misleading Their Potential Students About Job Prospects?

When I graduated from college, I strongly considered attending law school. I even studied for and took the LSAT. I ended up not going that route for a variety of reasons (cost being the primary one), but countless others have in the intervening years. Their experiences have not been uniformly positive. A new movement has sprung up to advocate for transparency in law school admissions. Specifically, people want law schools to give an accurate accounting of their graduates’ job prospects, a key statistic when you’re about to fork over $150,000 and three years of your life.

New York magazine has a great piece charting one team of lawyers who are determined to keep law schools honest:

[L]aw-school tuition rose 317 percent nationwide during the aughts, compared with a 71 percent spike for undergraduate tuition. At New York Law School, it now stands at $46,200 a year—comparable to Harvard Law’s. But neither the cost nor NYLS’s lowly ranking (it’s 135th on the U.S. News & World Report list) has deterred the students who fill classes that, according to the complaint filed against the school, are a fifth larger than in 2000. It may help that NYLS has consistently claimed what the lawsuit refers to as a “sterling” 90 percent placement rate, a rate that Anziska, Raimond, and Strauss argue simply does not compute.

The questions this case raises are difficult to answer, but whatever happens may have significant implications for the future of legal education in the U.S.

  • As a lawyer – (i have yet to read the New Yorker piece), I can tell you from my own experience that the way law schools generate job placement numbers and salaries (at least when I graduated in 2005) is as follows: upon return of your cap and gown OR when picking up your diploma, you are handed a sheet that says "please indicate where you are working and starting salary range." Filling out that form is not mandatory. So guess what? Only those who have been successfully placed at a top tier firm making a solid six-figure salary respond. The unplaced attorney, who is going to start down the road of "document review attorney making $22 per hour" is not going to fill that form out. Result? SURPRISE!! 90% of our students are at top law firms making over $140k per year to start!

  • Ok – so read the piece. There are two things I know: (i) at best there is a COMPLETE lack of transparency in placement rates, and at worst, its outright deception; and (ii) only those who love the FIELD should attend graduate school, of any kind. I am probably in the every decreasing, idealistic minority that believes school/education is not and cannot entirely be about a means to some commercial gain. It has to be about something else. If you make the educational pursuit a commercial one, then ultimately you lose – either you find yourself in a career or life where you are "pot invested" and waking up saying "what has my life become?" or you end up as someone with a 6-figure debt hanging from your neck with no real way to pay it off.