Has Law School Become the Ultimate Con Game?

Are law schools deceiving young, ambitious minds with the false promises of an ample job supply and high salaries?  It appears that might just be the case.  There is a growing backlash against law schools and what is deemed to be their insistence at deceptive advertising in order to enhance enrollments, and some graduates are even going as far as seeking formal redress against their alma maters.  For example, Anna Alaburda is a 2008 graduate of San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law and passed the California bar exam…a notoriously difficult bar exam, at that…on her first attempt, and yet has been unable to secure any full-time employment since graduation.  She is alleging that the law school misrepresented its claims of graduate employment rates by including part-time employment and employment unrelated to the field of law in its rates, without making any distinctions.  To add insult to injury, her complaint says that she accrued over $150,000 in student loan debt during her years in law school. 

There are numerous and seemingly well-substantiated accusations against law schools’ willingness to misrepresent both prospective salaries and job prospects for graduates in the interest of getting…what else…more students and therefore more student loan money; law school, as with higher education, in general, is very big business.  Here you can find a terrific New York Times story, published earlier this year, on just what a minefield a law school education can now be for students:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2

On the heels of that particular story comes the disturbing news that 2010 law school graduates, one full year later, are wrestling with terrible debt levels and equally terrible job prospects.  Indeed, according to data gathered by the Association for Legal Professionals, barely two-thirds of those graduates…one full year later…are actually in jobs that require the practice of law.  As a matter of fact, the overall employment rate of these folks, in any kind of job, is about 87%, which is the lowest it has been since 1996.  Making things worse is the enormous debt load these graduates are carrying; roughly 50% of them, by the time they left law school, were saddled with $100,000 or more in student loan obligations.

When I was a kid, the professional “gold standard” that was put before many young students was that of the lawyer and the physician; the intellectually-challenging and highly useful natures of the positions were two of the bases for thinking that way, but so, too, were the promises of secure employment and high compensation.  Now, especially for lawyers, those promises have been revealed as myths to all but a relatively few in present-day America. 

The law is interesting, even fascinating, and serves as the bedrock of civilized, well-functioning societies.  However, there are just too damn many lawyers now; something that was once little more than a jovial expression of frustration about how the legal process works has now become a literal truth, and is a resonant statement against the idea that the achievement of an expensive law degree is a guarantee to a better life.      

Agree or disagree; please register your comments below.

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Bob Yetman, Editor-at-Large at Christian Money.com (www.christianmoney.com), is an author of a variety of materials on personal finance and investing, as well as on topics of fitness and self defense, to include the book Investor's Passport to Hedge Fund Profits (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) and the unarmed combat training DVD Thunderstrikes – How to Develop One Shot, One Kill Striking Power (Paladin Press). 

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