November 29, 2012

"What else will these thousands of students who have been discouraged from attending law school do?"

"Where will they find a more fulfilling career? They’re not all going to be doctors or investment bankers, nor should they. Looking purely at the economics, in 2011, the median starting salary for practicing lawyers was $61,500; the mean salary for all practicing lawyers was $130,490, compared with $176,550 for corporate chief executives, $189,210 for internists and $79,300 for architects. This average includes many lawyers who graduated into really bad job markets. And the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports projected growth in lawyers’ jobs from 2010 to 2020 at 10 percent, 'about as fast as the average for all occupations.'"

A law dean — Lawrence E. Mitchell of Case Western — argues that "Law School Is Worth the Money"... because what else are you going to do with the money you don't have your life?

27 comments:

bpm4532 said...

Sheesh! That dean leads a very sheltered life. In his view, if your not a lawyer, there's nothing else of value to do with your life? How about create something?

Considering the bimodal distribution of salaries for lawyers is is outright deceit for him to discuss "averages".

Start with the lawyer jokes we need some now. How about the one about the law school deal who didn't understand the slightest thing about statistics...

Michael Parker said...

>>the median starting salary for practicing lawyers was $61,500; the mean salary for all practicing lawyers was $130,490
<<

This tells me either this guy either doesn't know statistics, or he does and there's something really ugly about the salary distribution that he'd really rather his readers didn't notice...

Michael Parker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
echo said...

I presume these alleged wages only prevail amongst those who actually get jobs as lawyers.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...


When all you have is a law degree, everything that happens is somebody's fault.

Mark O said...

When I went to law school in the early 70's, being a partner in a firm was more like being a tenured professor. I didn't think of litigating as a highway to massive wealth. No lawyers had their pictures on the back of the phone book. Then, at the end of that decade, law left the professions and became a business.

Perhaps some bright, young people could reclaim the honor that once went with being one of the professions, clergy, medicine, and the law. Those could be the ones coming into law school today.
Of course, such a change would require law professors to scale back in salary as well. They tend not to be so idealistic as 20 year olds.


Saint Croix said...

In 2011, the median starting salary for practicing lawyers was $61,500

In other words, half of all lawyers start off making under $61,000. And of course he's assuming a 100% bar passage rate, which seems unlikely, and a 100% employment rate, which also seems unlikely.

And I think the future financial prospects for lawyers (and doctors) will be worse than they are today, not better.

He is asking people to take on a hundred thousand dollars worth of debt. And he's giving very dubious numbers to justify what he is charging for tuition.

And here is a scary story on the student debt bubble. The next one to pop?

chickelit said...

There will always be a need for lawyers but not so the price of entry into the Law.

Tom Kelly said...

He is ignoring how much more prosperous the world will be with less lawyers. Beyond a certain level that creates a society under the rule of law, lawyering is primarily a zero sum game that creates no wealth but instead moves it around, at huge expense.

Think of all the wonderful things these non-lawyers will be able to do with their lives!

The Drill SGT said...

bpm4532 said...
How about the one about the law school deal who didn't understand the slightest thing about statistics...


alternately, he knows a lot about stat and presenting the best argument, which is why he mixes mean and median where it is advantageous in both examples.

I enjoy the term "practicing lawyers". Rather than all new grads. It allows him to trim the stats of the 50% of the grads on the left of his distribution.

You know, the grads who dont find lawyer jobs.

same thing on the career side. He speaks of the fact that law school prepares you for lots of work, but then doesn't give the mean salary the larger pool which includes both CEO's and janitors.

PS: My wife, a Law School Grad of 1980, credits Paul Volker and Jimmy Carter for her 30 year JAG career. The lawyer market being sooo bad in 1981 :)

I thank them as well. We met because she ended up on the same base as me.

BarryD said...

" $176,550 for corporate chief executives"

Wait... I thought all the EEEEvil CEOs of the EEEEvil Korporashunz!!! stole $50 Million or more from their shareholders and the proletariat...

EDH said...

...the mean salary for all practicing lawyers...

"Walt! What are you doin'?"

"Makin' it look mean!"

tim maguire said...

Since most lawyers regret the decision to go to law school, and a large mnority leave the field within a few years (if they even praticed to begin with), the only downside for most of these JD's is their failure to transfer large portions of their future income from themselves to their law school.

Patrick said...

This clown ought to be embarrassed by this column. If this is the best they can do, either as an argument to keep law schools open, or as a guy who is capable of running a law school, they might as well close up shop now.

Peter said...

I think most readers would prefer to read someone who's not selling law school; that is, someone who's willing to present the downsides as well.

In any case, a starting point might be: if all you can get into is a third-tier law school, you'd be better off doing something else. Because even if you will truly enjoy practicing law, a JD from a third-tier school is practically guaranteed to qualify you for nothing but unemployment.

bpm4532 said...

Perhaps people should be allowed to sit for the bar exam without having to attend law school. It might lessen the demand and lower the tuition for law school.

Balfegor said...

Where will they find a more fulfilling career? They’re not all going to be doctors or investment bankers, nor should they.

I think the verb in that last clause is wrong -- "nor could they." An awful lot of people go to law school because they're upper middle class but crap at math and science and don't know what to do with themselves.

Obviously, this will exert greater pressure on the "nonprofit" hiring market, since that's generally where budding toffs with no particular skills go, no? They get low compensation, but enjoy social prestige. They might get paid less than a carpenter or a secretary, but nonprofit work is so much more genteel (even if the work they're doing is basically carpentry or secretarial work).

Balfegor said...

Re: bpm4532:

Perhaps people should be allowed to sit for the bar exam without having to attend law school. It might lessen the demand and lower the tuition for law school.

I think that would be an improvement, but you would want to append some sort of 2 or 3 year apprenticeship requirement after passing the bar. The system that prevailed in Japan and Korea until recently looks like a good model to me. No law school. People who passed the bar then spent two years at a legal training institute organised under the Supreme Court. As part of that, they went through rotations working with prosecutors, judges, and private lawyers. And at the end of that training, they were licensed as lawyers.

That was only possible given the small number of passees every year though (~1-2% of exam takers versus 50%+ in the US). In the past decade or so, both Japan and Korea have switched over to a US-style legal system, with 3 year law schools and a much less challenging bar exam. The number of licensed lawyers has ballooned, but just as in the US, lots of them are unable to find work after spending 3 years and gobs of money on a legal education. And sometimes they're looked down on as not real lawyers because they didn't go through the same rigorous selection process as the old cadres.

elkh1 said...

This average includes many lawyers who graduated into really bad job markets.

And many who got hundreds of millions payout for class action lawsuits, malpractice suits, and frivolous nusiance suits... to pull up the average.

Larry J said...

Sheesh! That dean leads a very sheltered life. In his view, if your not a lawyer, there's nothing else of value to do with your life? How about create something?

With over a million lawyers, we're already at the absurd point where roughly one out of every 300 Americans is a lawyer. The majority of lawyers leech from society rather than contribute to the nation's wealth. I'm not saying we need no lawyers. I'm saying we don't need nearly as many lawyers as we have now.

A mean starting salary of $60K doesn't look so great when you're facing upwards of $200K in student loan debt.

cubanbob said...

Michael Parker said...
>>the median starting salary for practicing lawyers was $61,500; the mean salary for all practicing lawyers was $130,490
<<

This tells me either this guy either doesn't know statistics, or he does and there's something really ugly about the salary distribution that he'd really rather his readers didn't notice...

11/29/12 8:04 AM

The good professor also conveniently overlooks that there almost as many non-practicing lawyers as there are practicing lawyers. Factor in the time and expense of that group in to the equation and going to law school is a waste of time and money unless you graduate from a top tier school.

DADvocate said...

I question his income figures. Are those national, a particular state, or just made up?

My sister, soon to be 65 and at the top of her earning curve, is a lawyer in state government. She's as high as you can go and still be protected by civil service laws. She's been an acting assistant commissioner on occasion.

According to the database a newspaper kindly published of all the salaries of all the state employees, she makes a little over $80,000 a year after about 30 years of service. Of course, when she went to law school it was still cheap.

ambienisevil said...
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dcm said...

The income figures are most likely correct. But he states that newly hired lawyers make X. Not law school graduates. As a lawyer and law school graduate, I have many friends and classmates who couldn't or didn't want to find law jobs. their income is not included in this analysis. a big flaw. there are many, many law school graduates who are not finding jobs and their numbers are not included. fuck this asshole.

Kevin said...

Case Western:

Tuition & Fees: Fall 2012 - Spring 2013

Law School
Full-Time Tuition
10 or more hours $44,500

---

Unbelievable. Freaking unbelievable.

Douglas said...

Prof. Althouse neglected to mention that Dean Mitchell is a leading "progressive" (i.e., leftist) corporate law scholar, whose works include STACKED DECK: A STORY OF SELFISHNESS IN AMERICA (Temple University Press, 1998) and The Morals of the Marketplace: A Cautionary Essay for Our Time, 20 STANFORD LAW & POLICY REVIEW 171
(2009).

Bud Norton said...

Case Western recently got a big donation from a lawyer associated with a so-called "patent troll." Maybe that distorts the dean's view as to what kind of money you can make from the practice of law.