Objection Sustained: Deciding if Law School is Right for You (Guest Post)

Guest Post by Sonia Martinez.
Sonia is a freelance writer and paralegal who lives in New Jersey.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the owner of this website.

Northwestern University Library

Northwestern University Library

Northwestern University Law School in Evanston, Ill., announced that it will cut its incoming 2013 class by upwards of 25 students. Daniel Rodriguez, the dean of the school, said reductions are necessary to address growing student debt and unemployment. Northwestern, via its website, said it will increase total financial aid by 25 percent over the next two years to help offset the 3 percent tuition increase that will take effect in the fall of 2013.

Northwestern is by no means a trend setter, nor a lone wolf with its recent actions. A 2012 Kaplan Test Prep survey found that 51 percent of U.S. law schools cut their class sizes due to excessive unemployment among graduates. About 75,000 new jobs in the legal profession will be created through 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while 40,000 new graduates will enter the job market every year.

Students wishing to become the next Vincent Gambini or Nancy Grace may want to consider some of the hard facts about this once prestigious profession. Nearly 33 percent of 2012 graduates are not working as lawyers, according to Smart Money magazine, and U.S. News & World Report said the average amount of debt for said graduates is more than $100,000. Sure, if you graduate in the top 10 percent of your class at Harvard, Stanford, Yale or some other big-name school, you are all but certain to make six figures right out of college. The other 90 percent of graduates need to consider the realities they face before making that three-year, very expensive commitment.

The Money Question

A New York Times Op-Ed published last November basically made the argument that law school is worth its weight in US Money Reserve gold. Not surprisingly, the column was written by Lawrence E. Mitchell, the dean of Case Western Reserve University law school. He points to the median starting salary for attorneys in 2011 being $61,500, and the average of all practicing lawyers a whopping $130,490. But several subsequent “letters to the editor” pointed out the aforementioned poor job market, rising tuition costs not adjusted for inflation, and the massive debt graduates must deal with.

Of course, this entire back-and-forth argument is put to rest for students who earn scholarships and grants to cover most or all of their costs. An easy way to determine whether or not law school is right for you is by earning a 170 or higher LSAT score, combined with a 3.75 or higher GPA. Those numbers will almost guarantee you receive a vast majority of funds for law school that do not have to be paid back.

Your Goals vs. Reality

Most young people get into law because of the high-potential returns on their educational investments. But believe it or not, there are still a few people out there who simply want to stand up for and represent the little person. If you are in the latter group, a career as a lawyer can be quite rewarding, especially if success is measured more by justice than money. Those in the previous group must get into a top 20 school and graduate no lower than the top 10 percent of their class to guarantee monetary riches.

The decision to go or not to go will change your life one way or another. If you’re in it for the right reasons, however, there is no right or wrong decision.

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