Friday, September 16, 2011
Dean Ken Gormley of Duquesne has published an editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette defending law schools. It was written in response to an earlier commentary that had complained about the lack of high paying legal jobs.
"Articles like the one in the Post-Gazette and a spate of recent stories in national publications bemoaning the inability of law schools to guarantee lucrative salaries for their graduates after they receive their diplomas convey precisely the wrong message."
"The Post-Gazette writer described entry-level legal salaries of $60,000 as "measly." With all due respect, there are many important jobs -- serving on the legal staff of foundations, working for nonprofits assisting children and minorities, serving one's country in the Navy JAG Corps -- that pay such "measly" amounts. As with new graduates of medical schools who perform residencies at salaries that do not translate into instant condos in Hawaii, these jobs provide experience that is irreplaceable."
"It is true that many talented lawyers will become very successful and do extremely well financially. But that should not be the principal purpose of entering law or any other profession. . . . Yet the best reason for a young man or woman to attend law school is the same as it was a century ago: to ably represent fellow citizens and to help the justice system work effectively."
Dean Gormley has hit upon a problem that has not been discussed much recently--that most law students are expecting to graduate from law school and immediately earn a high salary. Getting a high salary right out of law school has never been possible for most graduates. As with most professions, in the legal field, you must start at the bottom and work your way up. When I graduated from law school in 1989, most legal aid offices were advertizing salaries that were barely above minimum wage for about 60 hours a week. A lot of my classmates did not get jobs, but had to work as solos.
Law students and prospective law students today have unrealistic expectations. Just read the Most Prestigious Law School Board sometime. As we have noted in a previous posts (here and here), schools have taught students self-esteem, rather than dealing realistically with life. Life is never easy, especially in this economy.
Of course, Law Prof has already criticized this article, calling it "fantastically dishonest from beginning to end. Almost every single substantive assertion in it is either a flat-out lie or at best a grotesque distortion or oversimplification." I miss the days of reasoned debate, rather than hyperbole.