Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Caveat Emptor and Law School Transparency
In this blog series, we recently raised the issue of whether there is sufficient transparency in relation to law schools via, for example, third-party “watchdog” websites and the law schools’ required ABA disclosures.
In my opinion, transparency is a boon to potential law students in this context. Granted, much information is publicly available to anyone considering law school nowadays. But for now, choosing a law degree still remains a surprisingly popular choice despite so many warning signs. Caveat emptor is still a quasi-viable doctrine, that’s true, and some potential incoming students should, as potential future lawyers, learn to discern hope and belief from facts. But do they? Not so much, it appears.
Unfortunately, statistics still show that nationwide, only 51% of law graduates are employed in law firm jobs, well below the trend over the past 25 years. I know, I know, not everyone wants to work for a law firm, but still; only half of our graduates getting a typical job is astonishingly shocking, I think. An ABA website function lets the general public find out the number of “bar passage required” jobs held by 2013 graduates – not impressive unless the school is highly ranked or in a relatively remote area of the nation. See another list of the best and worst performers here.
To put this in perspective: the average debt taken on by law school graduates is $84,000 (for public law schools) and $122,580 (for private law schools); a 37% increase over eight years. Another source found the 2012 median debt to be $140,616. So, a ballpark figure shows that an “average” student may well be more than $100,000 in debt for a – certainly in some states such as California – less than 50/50% chance of getting a “real” law job.
Of course, hope springs eternal, and many students beat the odds and end up, over time at least, in good and hopefully mentally rewarding jobs. For now, though, the more pressure that’s exerted on keeping law schools honest in relation to job prospects, debt, etc., the better, in my opinion.