Don’t Go to Law School…Yet
We’re having a debate here at Law Street over whether or not now is a good time to go to law school–this is Matt DeWilde’s argument against taking the leap, click here to read Brittany Alzfan’s opinion on why law school right now may be a good choice.
When it comes to the question of entering law school right now, unless you like gambling with over $100,000 on the line or you got into Harvard Law, you might want to hold your horses. Going to law school now will still most likely result in massive amounts of debt and only a small chance to get a job at a top law firm when you get out. I do believe that law school will one day be a smart choice again, but that day is at least several years down the road.
There are many reasons why now is not a good time to go to law school. For one, law school prices have started to trend downwards, but are still high across the board. You will most likely end up in massive debt, especially if you haven’t finished paying off loans you took out for your undergraduate degree. The best law schools are still going to set you back close to $150,000 and it is very hard to find a respectable school that will cost you less than $100,000. All that being said, it would be totally worth it if you could make six figures right after graduating, but you most likely won’t luck out in the job market. In fact, you will probably be happy if you can find a job that pays marginally better than one you could get with just your undergraduate degree.
Median pay out of law school is around $60,000 a year, $10,000 lower than it was in 2008. Also check out this graph from the Association for Legal Career Professionals. While it is true that there is a sizable percentage of graduates making good money–about $160,000 a year, they’re still in the minority. In fact, there was a high concentration of graduates making between $45,000-$55,000 out of law school in 2012, which is only marginally better than the $44,000 graduates averaged their first year out of undergrad.
The counterargument to these facts is that the job market has stabilized, and with a smaller law school class more students will get good jobs. But there are problems with this logic. One is that the best paying jobs are still only available to those who graduate from elite law schools, which have not had to drop class sizes to the same extent as mid-level law schools. So while it may now be less likely that you will be unemployed when you graduate, do not expect the big bucks. Also, just because the job market has stabilized now does not mean it will start improving over the next three years while you’re in school. Going to school with the assumption that the job market will improve is an incredible gamble.
While going to law school today might not be as bad as enrolling in 2009, it is still not a great option. But there are signs that we could only be a couple years away from a law school rebound. One is that law schools are starting to lower their prices. There could very well be wide-scale tuition decreases over the next few years, meaning it would make sense to wait until those have come to fruition. As prices go down, so does the gamble.
So if your dream is to be a lawyer and you really want to go to law school, do not give up hope, but be patient. Prices should go down and the legal job market is likely to improve a bit–albeit in mainly lower paying jobs. Perhaps try to find a job as a paralegal for a few years, then go to law school. Paralegals can earn up to $50,000 out of undergrad and it’s great experience to put on law school applications. Gain work experience, and in a few years take advantage of lower priced law schools. While it may be better to apply to law school now than it was a couple years ago, it’s still a risky decision. Waiting a few years could very well improve your prospects.
Matt DeWilde (@matt_dewilde25) is a member of the American University class of 2016 majoring in politics and considering going to law school. He loves writing about politics, reading, watching Netflix, and long walks on the beach. Contact Matt at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [thisisbossi via Flickr]