Lots of Debt, No Jobs? Not Just Law Schools Getting a Bad Rap.

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Forgive me, but I was almost happy to see this article today on CNN.com talking about how MBA students are taking on too much debt before finding there are no 6-figure jobs waiting for them. Yay, law schools are not the only evil graduate program accused of bilking poor, innocent ambitious students and forcing them to forgo financial security and quality of life for the next 25 years.

Ok, I’m being a bit overly dramatic. But you have to understand: I’ve spent the last 8 months exploring whether law school is worth the cost anymore, whether lawyers regret their careers, and what advice they offer to the next generation following in their footsteps given what they know about the current economy. Next month, my new book is coming out. It’s called: The Law School Decision Game: The Prospective Lawyer’s Playbook.” As part of my research for this book, I surveyed and interviewed 300 lawyers in order to pass their advice onto those of you (1) considering law school and (2) already in law school who are trying to build careers as lawyers. After reading the CNN article this morning (before my coffee) I felt I shouldn’t hold out on you – it’s important to share one of the many facts I learned while writing the book:

 Although prospective lawyers believe the rank of a law school is more important than the cost of attendance, ACTUAL PRACTICING LAWYERS BELIEVE THE COST OF ATTENDANCE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN CHOOSING A LAW SCHOOL. 

As you move forward to create your schools list for this year, I urge you to include schools where you will be in scholarship range or that will be cheaper to attend because of cost of living, in-state tuition, etc. You don’t have to make the choice about where to attend right now, but please at least give yourself the option because you might have a change of heart about spending the money when it comes time to make the decision. Loans can feel like play money, but it’s not fun anymore when you are paying them back.

For more information read these previous blog posts about Financing a Legal Education and listen to my Law School Expert Blog Talk Radio Show where I interview Derek Roberti, PhD, JD, about his book: Should I Go To Law School? The $100,000 Gamble.

I promise to share more little tid-bits from the book in the coming weeks.

3 thoughts on “Lots of Debt, No Jobs? Not Just Law Schools Getting a Bad Rap.

  1. Hello Ann,

    I always enjoy your insightful posts and your site is indeed a great source of information. I am a non-American (Japanese) 28-year-old female, working full-time as a legal staff in a multinational electronics company, after gaining a undergrad degree in my home country and a Master’s in Business Law (French and European) in France. I’ve been giving a serious thought on whether or not to study abroad to become lawyer/solicitor in one of the countries with the Common Law system.

    While I’d like to try applying for an American law school, because it has been a dream for a long time to study international public law at an American law school and work at an international organization as a Legal counselor/officer, the costs of attending and sitting for the LSAT (and losing the current income) have been great barriers to me. As someone coming from a country where most people don’t choose to be on debt except for buying a real estate, I am almost giving up the idea as there is a possibility of graduating with 120 K dollars’ debt. With 5 years of work experience, I will have managed to make saving of 60-80 K but no more.

    In an attempt to make an informed decision, I found two articles: one published on of September 14, 2011, by the ABA journal (“Americans with advanced degrees are increasingly filing for bankruptcy”), and another one published on April 30, 2011 by the New York Times (“How law students lose the grant game, and how schools win”). You wrote in other posts that the law school candidates should consider schools giving them grant, but the article shows how difficult to keep a GPA high enough to maintain grant. So it seems to me that the American system is not sustainable for the law school students. If you have heard anything from your former clients currently enrolled and having obtained a grant, I’d appreciate it if you could share their experience with us. Thank you!

    • Hi Mikki,
      Almost all of my clients who have attended law school on scholarship keep their scholarships or even have them increased after outstanding academic performance as a 1L. I say “almost all” because even though I haven’t heard of this happening to any of my former clients, it could have happened and I just don’t know about it. Obviously we have different cultural sensitivities about debt between the US and Japan, and the decision is a personal one. However, the NYT article about Golden Gate Law School was about one school (admittedly, one that was picked on for a practice used by many other law schools). I say this to my clients: If you have very good grades in college, then it’s likely you’ll have very good grades in law school. If you have mediocre grades in college, you will probably do fairly poorly in law school (there are, of course, exceptions to both generalities) so you should not take it for granted that you’ll be in the top 10 percent of your class. Lastly, I do think law students are partially to blame for losing their scholarships – many just assume they will meet the criteria and do not look into the realistic possibility that they may not.
      In my book coming out in early October, The Law School Decision Game, these issues are discussed and I think you would greatly appreciate the perspectives of the 300+ lawyers I interviewed.

  2. Thank you very much for your comments, Ann. I see your points. I’m definitely looking forward to your new book and in the meantime I’ll try to read your other book. If I ever apply for the US law schools, it will be for 2013, so if need be, I will surely contact you.

    With kind regards,

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