July 15, 2011
A Three Tiered World of Employed Law School Grads: Understanding The National Jurist's Ranking of Best Law Schools for Standard of Living
The September issue of The National Jurist will publish its ranking of 135 law schools by a standard of living metric that uses median starting salaries, average debt payments, estimated federal and state taxes and cost of living adjustments for the regions where graduates were employed. 63 schools were excluded from the ranking because the percent of graduates with a known salary was below 40%; seven schools were omitted due to lack of data. The top 50 law schools can be viewed at Best law schools for standard of living. (Hat tip to TaxProf Blog). From Best law schools for standard of living:
The National Jurist first did the standard of living study in 1999 and reported that graduates who entered private practice at six law schools at that time had a lower standard of living than they did as students. Since then, salaries have increased dramatically, improving the standard of living at almost every law school in the nation. Debt repayment options also improved in 2009 with a new federal law.
However, there are big differences between schools. For example, graduates at the University of Texas take home a net of $101,308 after debt and taxes, and modifying for cost of living adjustments. More than half of the schools in the study netted less than half of that amount, with six lower than $25,000.
Crunching the Numbers for Employed Law School Grads Practicing Law. In Why some grads are worse off, even while most are better off, Jack Crittenden, Editor in Chief of The National Jurist, writes
[O]ne has to take a close look at the data to understand what really happened to the legal profession over the past ten years.
Large law firms increased the number of hires, and they significantly increased their salaries – from $70,000 in 1998 to $160,000. That means that there is a segment of the population — 22.3 percent — that is far better off than 10 years ago. But there is a segment — the 18.7 percent who landed jobs with firms of two to 10 attorneys and those unemployed — that would be worse off — except for the fact that loan repayment plans are much more flexible. The other 50 percent of graduates saw modest improvements in standard of living.
That has created a world of tiers. For the top tier, the 22.3 percent who get jobs at firms with 101 or more attorneys or land prestigious clerkships, law school is a very good financial decision. Even if their debt is high, their salary makes up for it. For the next tier, the 9.3 percent who get jobs at law firms with 11 to 100 attorneys, the 13.5 percent who go into business and the students who land other clerkships, law school is most likely a wise decision, so long as they watch their debt. For the third tier, the 18.7 percent who work for a small law firm, the 5.7 percent who enter public interest, and the 11.4 percent who work in government, law school is a poor choice, unless they planned for the lower salary.
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Posted by: John Edison | Jul 26, 2011 5:28:39 AM