Saturday, July 27, 2013

Survey Reveals Flexibility of Passionate Pre-Law Students Pursuing a Law Degree

Here's the headline:

Adapting to the Current Realities of the Employment Landscape for Lawyers, Half of Pre-Law Students Say They Plan to Use their Law School Degree in a Non-Traditional Legal Job

So started an April 11, 2013 news release published by Kaplan Test Prep.  It goes on to report:
The employment stats don’t paint a pretty picture for pre-law students looking ahead, but flexibility about their future career and their passion for it is driving them forward. According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of more than 200 pre-law students, 50% say they plan to use their law degree in a non-traditional legal field. Of that 50%, nearly three out of five (58%) said the current job market for lawyers factored into this decision. 
Forty-three (43%) percent of survey respondents overall said they plan to use their law degree to pursue a job in the business world rather than in the legal world—which helps explain why 42% said they’d likely pursue an MBA if they weren't already pursuing a JD.
The growing interest in non-traditional legal jobs comes on the heels of the latest report from the American Bar Association which shows that just 56% of 2012 graduates secured long-term, full-time jobs that required bar passage—a 1% increase over the class of 2011.
I reported on this aspect of the job market for law grads in my recent posting here.

The historical NALP data shows that 55 to 58 percent of law grads obtained or sought jobs requiring bar passage, typically law firm jobs.  Thus, up to 42 to 45 percent of law grads historically pursued "JD preferred" (or "JD advanatge") jobs out of law school.  I am cautious about this last statement because remaining grads could fall into other categories on the NALP reports, including "other professional job" and "non-professional job." But the percentages of law grads falling into these latter two categories tend to be below 10 percent -- when taken together -- even in the 2012 job market.

By comparison, one-third to one-half of established lawyers pursued careers outside of law firms.

The April 2013 Kaplan Test Prep survey of pre-law students also found:
Most students say they’re motivated to go to law school by passion, not money: 71% say the primary reason they are applying to law school is “to go into a career I am passionate about.” Only 5% listed salary potential as the primary reason.   
Passion only goes so far, without financial assistance: 43% say they are likely to postpone or alter their plans to attend law school if they don’t get the financial aid package they were hoping for. That line of thinking aligns with advice proffered by graduating law school students: in a separate Kaplan Bar Review survey** of third-year law students, 87% say a law school’s financial aid package should play a significant role in helping pre-law students determine where to enroll."
So, appropriately, students are looking at the big picture and letting the realities of a recessionary economy and the cost of tuition -- after scholarships -- help them decide whether to invest,-- at this time, and in this particular way -- in themselves and their future careers.

Students should have access to complete and reliable information about each law school of interest to them. As a mediator, I hold as a core value informed decision-making based on high-quality information.

For prospective law students and law grads, they are making their next career decision, and certainly not the last one.

Nov. 3, 2013 Update:  Another law professor commented on this survey here in a much more opinionated way.  

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