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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sharing is Caring: Law School is Slowly Crumbling Away


All that wailing against law schools by unemployed law school grads is finally paying off: law schools—like the wicked witch that is an imperfect but not altogether inappropriate metaphor for them—are melting, melting before your schadenfreude-laden eyes!
Inside Higher Ed reports that at least three of America's 1876456 law schools are modestly shrinking their incoming class sizes over the next few years, which will very slightly decrease the number of horribly embittered24-year-olds over that same period. The deans at those schools cite "moral" factors, but there may be something else at work, as well:
Applications to law schools dropped about 11 percent this year after a spike last year... Individuals seek professional degrees when they don't think there could be better options in the workforce, and spike in recessions. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of individuals taking the LSAT jumped from 151,398 to 171,514, according to the Law School Admissions Council. But with some economic recovery in 2010, that number receded to 155,050.
Read between the lines, aspiring lawyers: the panicked rush to law school that the recession caused is over, and there's now a glut of people who not only went to law school for purely desperate reasons, but graduated from law school into the worst job market in recent memory. So not only did they not really want to be lawyers in the first place, but their idea of just doing it as a safe and well-paid backup also failed! Plus they're in debt up to their eyeballs! So the fact that the trend in law schools is just now catching up with their predicament won't do fuck-all for them! It's sad, and you have our full sympathy. Unless you actually do land a job as a corporate attorney, at which point you lose our sympathy and gain our pity. 

Despite what the article implies, people still want to become lawyers. Becoming a lawyer is still one of the most prestigious professions and as much as people bash my colleagues, we are helping to make a difference. Those few schools are scaling back their numbers while there are new schools opening so it will balance out. What the article does not take into account is the people who genuinely want to be a lawyer. The people who were asked "what do you want to be when you grow up?" and they answered, "A lawyer." There are people, like me, who genuinely love the law. I read the stories about law students who graduated jobless and in ridiculous amounts of debt and remained unaffected. I don't think the recent backlash against law schools will have an impact on the number of people who genuinely want to practice law. If anything, it will deter the people who go to law school because they didn't know what else to do after graduation since it is no longer a guaranteed way to graduate with a 6 figure job offer. Everyone does not go to law school in hopes of landing a 6 figure income. Public Interest lawyers. The article ignores the fact that going to law school does not necessarily mean you want to become a lawyer. How many trained lawyers are politicians? How many trained lawyers serve as CEO's and COO's of Fortune 500 companies? A JD does not require that you take your talents into a courtroom. The divine thing about a JD is that it is a valuable asset in almost any industry.

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