If one of your adorable children or grandchildren expressed a desire to go to law school, how would you respond?
As those of us with high school or college-age kids well know, the cost of a higher education has gone up at something like four or five times the rate of inflation over the past several decades–a paradoxical, unintended consequence of all the well-intentioned efforts by the government to “make college more affordable.”
In the case of law school, it’s worse: the Great Recession has severely damaged the market for new law graduates, to the point where even the super-elite (and super-expensive) East Coast law schools cannot place all their graduates in legal jobs. Even at more cost-efficient schools such as our beloved alma mater, a law degree is still a gamble in economic terms. Law students who don’t have a parent or friend in a position of power in a firm that has no anti-nepotism rule face the prospect of graduating with six figures of debt accrued over three years, on top of whatever unholy sum they borrowed for undergrad, and being unable to land a legal job where they can earn enough to pay the loans back. Oh, and don’t forget, if that unemployed law school graduate goes completely broke, the student loans probably can’t be discharged in bankruptcy!
Over and above the economics of a career in law, there’s the issue of quality of work life. The practice of law has changed considerably in the last 25 years, and not always for the good. I’d hazard a guess that most of us have found the profession to be something very different from what we thought it would be like back in Contracts I. A non-trivial number of our classmates have gone into non-legal careers for just that reason.
So, what’s your advice to the potential next generation of lawyers in the family? Discuss in the comments.
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