Center for American Progress Report Entitled: What Can We Learn From Law School?

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For those considering law school, this is a good read, a summary report entitled: What Can We Learn From Law School (click title for pdf) December 2011 by the Center for American Progress. I highlighted some quotes:“This report explores the field of legal education with the hope that putting a magnifying glass to this small part of higher education will help us better understand the problems that face all colleges. (see sidebar) It details the steady rise in law school enrollment, despite high tuition rates and a heavy reliance on student loan debt. And it describes the unpleasant surprise that awaits law students upon graduation: Though a few lucky grads will make more than $130,000 per year, most new lawyers can expect annual salaries of around $63,000. With monthly loan payments near $1,000, graduates are finding that membership in the legal profession is not the golden ticket they thought it would be.”

 p. 7: The high demand for legal education is somewhat surprising given its hefty price tag.  It’s difficult to locate the cause of this steep rise in tuition. Though some have claimed that stringent accreditation requirements drive price, a 2009 GAO study showed that this assumption is incorrect.

So not only student enrollment screening has become more lax, so has ABA accreditation.

p. 9 On the whole, this low default rate does not seem like a big deal. But for the individuals who fall into the default category, it can have devastating effects. Federal student loans are not dischargeable through bankruptcy.

That University of Maryland student that filed for bankruptcy should have had access to this report before going to federal court.

p.13: Though the return on investment in law school has been in question for young graduates since at least 2008 and possibly even earlier, this news was not widely reported until recently. This may be due, in part, to the fact that statistics about the legal profession as a whole mask the circumstances that young lawyers face. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on the legal profession show that the growth in law jobs slowed over the past several years. In other words, law schools are able to admit large classes, maintain the same educational model, and continue to push tuition higher because students still turn out in droves for a chance to be in their entering classes.

Basically, as long as the 0L public continues to buy into it, the law schools will continue to rope you in. You have the power to stop this madness, stop buying into the law school degree can open so many doors and you can do anything with a JD. It is obviously not true. These people are laughing in your faces at this point. You are now willingly and openly proceeding towards a known danger.

To ensure students, colleges, and policymakers react to the forces that are changing the value of college degrees, the following policy changes should be implemented:

• The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, should collect and publish average employment and salary data for recent entrants into an occupation. Would provide 0Ls reality of the legal market and what they’re getting into.

• The BLS should work in conjunction with the Department of Education to make this information available to prospective students. So 0Ls/general public are not duped by misleading and in some cases blatantly false statistics provided directly on the law schools’ websites who have obvious financial interest to skew data and currently no repurcussions to ensure accurate information.

• Accreditors in all sectors of higher education should create standard definitions for employment and salary statistics, and require member schools to make such information readily available to students. Accreditors should audit member schools’ adherence with these standards from time to time. Audit, compliance then the federal government can fine them, and they would lose money they hold so dear.

 The beginning of the report appeared to be slanted by providing the reader with the impression that although the legal industry is shrinking/worsening and the value of the JD degree is decreasing the legal education sector only accounts for a small amount of those enrolled in graduate degree programs. However, this report doesn’t provide any statistics to support that.  It is a good read for general summary which hints to the reader that law school, especially at this point of America’s development and economy is not a good investment, no matter how you play with the numbers.

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4 Comments »

  1. A Law School Victim Said:

    Maybe as another blogger wrote: move to another country. This would be for other reasons; not to avoid debt but to be in a place where education and life learning is revered…I do not think there’s a true answer. No one can control another and unfortunately, they’re breeding more. Why does the person who ‘does the right thing’ try hard, and to better themselves are tortured by insecure nuts who plan the rest of their lives deluded that they will “get over on the system” and have a right to mistreat/take advantage of others. That’s just evil.

  2. Nando Said:

    The suggestions listed would be a good start. In addition, the (corporate) media should report the facts, as well. If they devoted 1/100th of the space or coverage that they currently lavish on which movie stars are dating each other, then the shrinking legal job market and misleading job stats would truly be common knowledge.

    While the WSJ and NYT have covered the law school scam, unfortunately a lot of young people do not read newspapers as much as prior generations. At least, the student debt catastrophe is now recognized by millions.

    • A Law School Victim Said:

      I agree. When you say young people I hope you are not just referring to the high schoolers, college grads, etc. Believe me there are alot of voluntarily ignorant (choose not to read or avail themselves of the library) people in their 30s and higher. Sometimes I noticed that younger people will listen depending on the environment and age because they are confused as to their next step in life. I think it is said to say the reality of “don’t look to law school” or higher education for help, it’ll set you back even more. Anyway, I noticed that whenever I go to the library to read some extra newspapers, newsweek or National Geographic, it’s mostly old people (like senior citizens) who read similar papers. We have to acknowledge ignorant attorneys, who if they studied their own culture, religion and politics would conduct themselves in a manner that was actually civilized.

      • Nando Said:

        Great minds…? When I made that statement, I was referring to those even in their thirties. When I go to the library, I notice that senior citizens are checking out books, while guys in their 20s and 30s are listening to their iPads and goofing around online. What is scary is that many of these willfully/voluntarily ignorant is that they often have children. If the kid never sees his parents read – or engage in anything more intellectually rigorous than watching TV, or entering hot dog eating contests – how the hell is he going to become intelligent? (As opposed to merely over-educated?)


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