Law school students trade three years of their lives, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, for the prospect of a lucrative job after graduation. The top programs advertise post-graduation employment rates of 95 percent or higher, and "all but explicitly promise that, within a few months of graduation, practically all their graduates will obtain jobs as lawyers," says law professor Paul Campos at The New Republic. But "the truth is that less than half will." That's because no one's counting the many graduates who have given up looking for work, settled for lousy part-time jobs, or found work outside of the legal profession. Such a vast disparity between perception and reality "suggests the extent to which prospective law students need more and better information" about whether to enroll in the first place. Here, an excerpt:
Some schools have adopted the practice of placing their graduates in temporary positions, which, whatever the rationale, has the benefit of helping to inflate their employment numbers. ... Last year, Georgetown’s law school paid three unemployed graduates $20 an hour to spend six weeks working in, of all places, its admissions office.
Nor have we considered how the “lucky” winners in the big law lottery often accept jobs that make them miserable, featuring insane hours and unfulfilling work, but which these graduates conclude they must take to pay their often astronomical educational debt (adjusted for inflation, public law school tuition has quintupled, and private law school tuition has nearly tripled, since the mid-1980s). If you’re a law professor and you want to get depressed, try to figure out how many of your recent graduates have real legal jobs that pay enough to justify the tuition that funds your salary, and also involve doing the kind of work they wanted to do when they went to law school.