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The Law School Series: Law School is Big Business September 17, 2008

Posted by Who? in Business, Lifestyle Design, Random.
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The “I hate law school” traffic has been picking up lately…right on cue.  I don’t think I really started questioning things until second semester but I’m sure I had a couple random google searches along the way.  2nd semester searches mostly consisted of: I hate law school, should I drop out of law school, law school f*&%*$# sucks, why did I go to law school, why did you go to law school.  Trips to CareerBuilder and Craigslistto search for jobs were never far behind.

After having battled with the decision for almost 2 years, I think that the most important thing to pay attention to is this: if you keep coming back to the same thoughts/issues, you might want to consider taking some time off.  I think this stands as a general rule for any tough decision.  If you keep coming back to the same issue and reaching the same conclusion, there is probably something there.

For me, I kept coming back to the fact that I wasn’t happy.  I really enjoyed learning about the law but law school is not about learning.  Learning and intellectual rigor is a part of it, but first and foremost law school is a business.  The third year of law school is damn near useless; you learn the basics the first year, practice and refine your skills the second and they steal your money the third.  Well it can’t be useless otherwise law school would only be 2 years, right?  Put yourself in the position of the law school; a 3-year program means that they can grab an extra year of tuition from you.  If you’re thinking about law school, you need to understand this.  They are a business.  Their job is to maximize revenue.  Let that marinate. 

Take for example ohhh I don’t know…let’s say…Seattle University School of Law?  In my time there, I think the tuition was around $28,500, but that was 2 years ago.  For the 2008 academic year, tuition is $33,720.  So between 2006-2008, SU has raised their price by over 17%.  Law schools may be “non-profit” entities, but they are making big bucks.

The difference between a 2-year program and a 3-year program is $33,720 PER STUDENT.  The Prospective Students page shows this years entering at class is 325 students and total enrollment is 1,067.  So that means that a 3rd year at SU Law generates an additional…drum roll please…10.8 million dollars in revenue.  Ignoring school-sponsored scholarships and the difference b/w full and part-time students, SU Law generates 36 million dollars a year in tuition revenue.  Law school is about money.  I would be more than willing to bet that law schools are the most profitable units at any given school.

If you find yourself going back and forth about whether or not you want to be there- take some time off.  I know it doesn’t feel like you can, but you can take a break- you won’t be behind, you won’t be wasting time, you can and should do it if you are going back and forth.  Don’t be afraid of “wasting time” by taking some time to remove yourself from the environment and clear your head.  Be afraid of wasting an extra $30-$60,000.  Do you know what the reality of student loan repayment looks like if you don’t get that top job? 

No one at my school’s financial aid office ever sat me down and said “If you take out loans for the full cost of attendance (~48k/year), you will be paying $2,500+ each month for a very long time.”  And thats probably a low figure.  Think about that.  That is $30,000 a year AFTER TAXES.  MAYBE, if you are really good AND lucky, you’ll get a job that pays $90,000 a year.  But right off the bat you can subtract $43,000-ish off the top for student loan payments- before income tax, rent, food-anything. 

Bottom line is this: If you’re unsure, take time off.  Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll breakdown the debt/salary/workweek numbers and show you how insane it is to take on debt to pay for law school.

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Comments»

1. Thomas B. - September 25, 2008

The reason there is a three year of law school is for the school to make more money. That’s a good enough reason.

That aside, it seems ABA standards are not rationally related to the purpose of education. Law Firms still require writing samples, there are people that graduate without the skills they need to pass the bar, and JD’s are not viewed by employers as a valuable degree unless you have some other skill that is relevant.

Seriously, why three years of school? As noted above, most employers require a writing sample. That’s pretty much admitting that you don’t learn anything in three years of school. Additionally, if you look at the Federal hiring standards, they view a JD the same way as a two year masters degree. Example, for a GS-9 position they value education as such “2 full academic years of progressively higher level graduate education or masters or equivalent graduate degree or LL.B. or J.D.” So what does that say about a legal education? It connotes that three years of a legal education is merely equivalent to a two year masters in any other field. Pretty telling.

Finally, despite all the talk about a JD being portable, the fact is it is not. Most employers require some type of relevant undergraduate degree, like accounting or finance. What does that mean? It means that a JD is able to tie his shoes, but without something else relevant, they are not intelligent enough to work in a job that a mere B.A. can do.

Get rid of the 90 semester hour requirement and get rid of the third year of law school. It’s a sham to make more money off law students.

2. IHateLawSchool - January 29, 2009

Speaking of I Hate Law School…..ihatelawschool.com

3. annon - March 1, 2009

good point. I had one administrative personnel tell me, “We run a business here.” If your lsat isn’t higher than a 160, but between 150 and 160, they will let you in, but you probably won’t make it passed the 1st year and if you do by a landslide, then they will keep you, knowing full well that all your doing is making them money.

So if your say a C student. You probably won’t have very many job options in store for you unless you have a family member who already owns a law firm.

If you are the A student, you will have many job opportunities.


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