Law school may not be a good idea

by Kelly Gardner

Most students are used to having parents and peers encourage them to pursue the career of their dreams. We all know the saying, “If you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.” Unfortunately, in our changing economy there are no longer unlimited options that lead to great success.

According to NBC Chicago, Matthew Willens, a personal injury attorney, will be funding a $1,000 scholarship to a graduate student wishing to go anywhere besides law school. While you may be wondering why a lawyer would be trying to dissuade students from entering into his own profession, Willens said it’s “simply a supply-and-demand issue.”

The truth is, it comes down to the facts. There was a large demand for lawyers in the 1990s and 2000s which helped lead to high pay and increased help for students in the form of government-guaranteed loans. These perks were great incentives for young professionals to seek careers in law. However, now there are too many individuals who want to become lawyers. As students are graduating from law school they aren’t finding jobs suitable for their education level.

According to Slate magazine, in 2007 77 percent of law school graduates were employed in a law-related job within nine months of graduation. That figure dropped to 65 percent in 2011. If these numbers aren’t slightly unsettling to you, let me direct you to the next issue.

It’s also important to take into account that the average salary for attorneys is decreasing, while the cost of law school tuition is still increasing. In 2009, the median starting salary for graduates was $72,000. It dropped to $60,000 in 2012. Meanwhile, most law school graduates have to carry the weight of  $100,000 or more in debt while working jobs that are completely unrelated to their legal skills. This is surely not the picture they had in mind when they planned for the future.

The surge of law students is not the only factor contributing to the confusion—law schools are also to blame. Throughout time, the validity of employment statistics put out by law schools have become less reliable. Law schools have felt increased pressure to show they are producing successful students, leading them to supply vague, false, or misleading statistics to potential students. When a school says it has an 85 percent employment rate, that could mean half of those students are working in fast food restaurants or retail stores. It does not necessarily these law school graduates are employed in the legal field.

The confusion caused by these schools misrepresenting the numbers has led to some recent graduates filing class-action lawsuits against several law schools. Students frustrated with the conditions they are facing in the workforce are looking for any possible solution. At the very least, these students are looking for a way to escape the enormous debt accumulated while in law school.

Political science senior Janelle Alisuag is looking on the brighter side of the issue. She says she has known she wanted to be an attorney all her life. Alisuag is not surprised that a lawyer would be trying to deter students from entering the field. However, the scholarship opportunity will not persuade her to pursue a different career. “There’s always room, it is what you make it, it’s who you know now,” she said. Alisuag has served as president and vice president of San Diego State’s Pre-Law Society, and has held internships at two legal firms in San Diego. While she is realistic about difficulties she may face in the future, she sees a law degree as a versatile tool that holds value even if it’s being used outside the courtroom. She even named San Diego local Tony Loretti as a great example. Loretti is a personal injury attorney, part owner of the Tilted Kilt restaurants, and has an avocado farm. His law degree has helped him be a savvy businessman, while also allowing him to pursue other interests.

Willens’ $1,000 “Anything But Law School Graduate Scholarship” may not be much, but the message says a lot. His point shouldn’t be the deciding factor in a student’s decision to pursue law school, but it most definitely should raise a red flag. Willens views his scholarship as a way to redirect the intelligent students who wish to become lawyers into fields where they are needed and will succeed.  Students who dream of becoming lawyers should not let this stand in their way. They should proceed with caution, and most importantly, with a realistic grasp of the current situation.


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