Good Thing I Never Wanted To Be A Lawyer…

August 13, 2015 1 Comment

I could never truly understand the psyche and the mentality of someone who chooses (voluntarily) to enter the law profession. Most people dislike lawyers because they represent people and corporations without caring about who they are, what they have done (or accused of), who they have wronged or how culpable they are. I guess this makes the legal industry the most non-judgemental industry on the planet (justice is blind, after all), but try explaining that to the innocent person you’ve locked away, or some murderer you’ve just allowed to walk free.

Then again, we all do what we have to do to make a living for ourselves, and the same can be said about why people hate bankers. Then again, even with the bad rap the financial services industry gets on a daily basis, you’re significantly better off becoming a money manager than you are a lawyer.

Why exactly would I say that? According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay for a Lawyer is $113,530 a year. That’s an hourly rate o $54.58 an hour. Not to mention, the industry is projected to grow as fast as 10% within the next 10 years, which is just on par with the rest of the economy. With statistics like that, why would anyone second guess a career as a lawyer.

Pre-law students often enter law school with romanticized notions of what they’re going to do with their law degree, which includes (but not limited to) international law, sports law, criminal defense, civil rights law, etc. However, just getting a J.D. means that you can call yourself a lawyer. That’s it. You don’t actually attend law school for any areas in concentration (like a B.A in Business Administration for Management or Accounting).

What law students don’t understand is that part of a legal education is professional development, which includes being able to make meaningful career trajectories. This means law students must be prepared for a possibility of obtaining a job that is outside the realm of the legal industry, or possibly no job at all.

Last year, according to the American Bar Association’s Employment Data of Law School Grads, the unemployment rate of recent law school grads was 9.8% in 2014. Putting this in perspective, the average unemployment rate of recent (or young) college grads was only 7.6%. Having a higher unemployment rate than the average college grad doesn’t exactly support he notion that you can do anything with a law degree. If anything, it shows that recent law school graduates are at a disadvantage in the workplace.

Although, there isn’t a significant difference in the unemployment among recent law school grads and the average college grad. One can point out that a 2.3% differential shouldn’t be enough to discourage anyone from becoming a J.D.

However, when comparing a J.D. with just a B.A. or B.S., you’ll understand that this 2.3% differential means that law grads have the same exact job prospects as all other college grads. The only difference is that college grads don’t have an addition $84,000 debt ($122,158 if you attended a private school), and three years of wasted time. Keep in mind, this is just the cost to attend law school. It doesn’t account for the money spent for undergrad, which the average, which is well over $30,000 per student.

Can a J.D. improve your chances of obtaining a job outside the legal profession? It probably could. Then again, it probably can’t. There are a couple of businesses where a law degree isn’t required, but having one gives you a particular advantage. These jobs referred to as J.D. Advantage jobs, and according to the American Bar Association, 11.2% of recent law school grads have full-time positions at these kinds of jobs.

So if a law degree is considered a flexible tool for obtaining any job you want, why is the unemployment rate among recent law grads so high? The problem with applying to jobs that do not require a law degree is dealing with employers who will question your educational history. They’ll wonder why you decided to attend law school on a whim if you have no idea what you wanted to do with your J.D.

Hiring managers may see your fancy new law degree as ‘wasted time.’ While you were spending three years of your life attending law school and trying to pass the bar, they can hire ‘fresh-out-of-college’ employees who are ready to get into the workforce and gain valuable, marketable skills. Managers may also see your law degree as a sign of a new employee abandoning their job for a lucrative legal job at the first opportunity. Neither of these scenarios is impossible, considering the data shows that law school grads have no greater job prospects than ordinary college grads.

In addition to this, there is evidence to suggest that many of these J.D. preferred jobs pay less on average Not to mention that the words ‘J.D. advantage’ are so broad that they are virtually meaningless. With that being said, almost anything can be considered a J.D. Advantage job, so long as the person holding that job is willing to take on a job with some critical thinking skills and little involvement with the law.

The question is, who is going to borrow/spend all of that money to attend law school, only so they can obtain a job being a secretary. (Not all J.D. preferred jobs are like this, but the concept is all the same) The fact of the matter is, people should actually attend law school if they REALLY want to be a lawyer. If you’re in law school because you believe to can do anything with your degree, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Now I’m not one to suggest that law school is bad for everyone. I’m sure there are plenty of J.D.’s who don’t regret their decision at all. However, I don’t think these same people took out so much money in loans just because they believed a J.D. was some inflexible degree that could land you a job at almost anywhere. I mean, when was the last time you’ve heard somebody say they were attending medical school because ‘you can do anything with a medical degree.’ You attend medical school because you want a profession in the medical field. It should be no different for any law student.

Despite the fact that there is a significant shortage of lawyers, there aren’t enough legal jobs being created. Alternative to wasting the time and the money, there are some internships students can take while they’re undergrad in school. Sure, being in an unpaid internship probably isn’t ideal, but it is far less expensive than $70,000 in graduate student loans.

From my perspective (bias, considering that I’m in the finance industry) students would probably be better off going into accounting or finance, or getting their MBA. Going for your MBA will still add to your already add to your average $30,000 student loan debt, but its’ far less expensive than going to law school, or even medical school for that matter. Not to mention, the employment rate for professional MBA holders was a whopping 95% in 2013.

There is really no reason why anyone should suffer trying to get their law degree, especially if they’re planning to enter the most hated profession on the planet.

Again, this is not to say that law school is a bad idea. If you have your heart set on becoming a lawyer, go for it. For some people, the idea has never crossed their minds and they are doing pretty well. Consistently, we find that the average college degree has become nothing more than the new high school diploma. Plenty of new college grads tend up employed in jobs that do not require a college degree. All I’m merely saying is that there is no need to take it one step further by ending up in a career that does not require a law degree.

6,621 total views, 2 views today