Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Reports began circulating last week that the number of those signing up to take the LSAT hit 60,000, a 20% increase from last year and an all time high. Of course, just because oodles of people sign up to take the LSAT doesn't mean that all of them will apply to law school (although the U. of Iowa is already reporting a 53% increase in the number of applicants from last year).
We've previously blogged aboutthe train wreck likely to occur when too many law grads with too much debt enter a terrible job market in which some individuals (including a tier 1 grad) so desperately want a job they'll work for free. The Wall Street Journal blog picked up on a story we'd blogged about concerning the reasons not to go to law school. The WSJ blog editor added his own thoughts:
. . . Law school is absolutely the right move for people of a certain prediliction, namely, those people who really want to practice law for a living. And there are a lot of those folks out there. Yes, there are lots of things you can do with a law degree, but the vast majority of them do, in fact, pursue careers as lawyers.
Back when I was applying to law school, the “pre-law” adviser at my undergraduate institution forced me to think if there was anything else I’d rather do than practice law. I told him yes, there was — and I told him what it was — and he very pointedly discouraged me from applying to law school, at least right away. I, driven by a rather overwhelming sense of fear and insecurity and uncertainty and directionlessness, and a sense that what I really wanted to do wasn’t very practical, didn’t take his advice. It was a mistake.
That was in the 1990s. Granted, times are tough now, but the stakes are higher too. Tuition is more expensive and even graduates of top-tier schools struggle to get high-paying jobs, let alone graduates from more middling institutions.
So, I’d encourage you to ask yourselves, LSAT-takers, is there anything else you’d rather be? Try that first. Law school will always be there
One issue all of this raises is what are law schools doing to help applicants make more informed decisions about whether, or when, to attend law school? Schools hold all the informational cards regarding the employment rates and average salaries of their grads We also know about the debt loads of these students and their prospects in the current job market. Given all that, do we have a moral duty, if not a regulatory or legal one, to provide this information to students - many of whom are just kids fresh out of college - before they plunk down all that money for a law degree? Is what we're doing any different from what mortgage brokers did a few years ago when they encouraged people to buy homes they couldn't afford? While a few professors such as William Henderson and Dean Matasar are raising questions of this kind, so far they are isolated voices.