Saturday, November 9, 2013

Who Should Go To Law School Today?

Who Should Go to Law School Today?

At the MAPLA conference in late October, which I have covered in several postings, Washington University School of Law Dean Kent Syverud described three things:

  • Who should go to law school today;
  • Who should not go to law school today; and
  • Which school a student should pick. 

Who Should go to Law School Today?

You should still go to law school, despite the debt-to-annual income ratio, if you:

  • Care passionately about obtaining the skills needed to change the world;
  • Will make sacrifices to earn the J.D. degree;
  • Will be astute at figuring out how to get an affordable education;
  • Will be flexible and adaptable to the changing career landscape; and, 
  • Will be adaptable to obtaining new skills as that landscape changes.

Who Should not Go to Law School Today?

Dean Syverud also advised that you should not go to law school if:
  • You don't know what else to do;
  • It only helps college or university career office statistics; or
  • You plan to make a lot of money. 

On this last point, data assembled from Illinois and Missouri lawyers about a decade ago shows that the average lawyer makes an income of about $110,000.  That number may have changed a bit, but I suspect it is reasonably accurate even today.  I'll provide the links when I get back from my trip this coming week.

Which School is the Best Fit for Today's Student?

Finally, Dean Syverud identified the best school for today's prospective law student. It should:

  • Have utmost integrity and deliver on its promises;
  • Deliver key skills in a quality way;
  • Have every member of its administration, faculty, and staff helping graduates find jobs in this tough job market; and,
  • Offer an affordable education for that student.

Using Pre-Law Advisors:

In this difficult time of transition, Dean Syverud suggests that the role of the pre-law advisor is coming back. He said 70 percent of students have not talked with a pre-law advisor about whether to attend law school, which school to choose, and how to keep the cost affordable.  Instead, prospective students rely on:
  • Websites;
  • Blogs;
  • U.S. News rankings; and 
  • Law school publicity. 

Several of my postings have looked at the cost of law school, the job market, the value of a law degree, and whether I'd go to law school today.  As I have noted earlier, I believe deeply in informed decision-making. After my experience with the midwest pre-law advisors,  I agree that pre-law advisors should play an important role in the decision-making of prospective law students.

Dec. 14, 2013 Update:  LSAC data on law school applicants for 2010 to 2014.  In light of it, law schools will compete even more heavily on price.

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