I don’t talk much about law schools here.   I try not to bring work home, so to speak.

But this article at The New York Times, Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!, is generating a lot of buzz:

WITH apologies to show business, there’s no business like the business of law school.

The basic rules of a market economy — even golden oldies, like a link between supply and demand — just don’t apply.

Legal diplomas have such allure that law schools have been able to jack up tuition four times faster than the soaring cost of college. And many law schools have added students to their incoming classes — a step that, for them, means almost pure profits — even during the worst recession in the legal profession’s history.

The article focuses on New York Law School (not NYU Law School), a lower tier school which manages to charge more than my alma mater, Harvard Law School, and has no trouble filling its enrollment and then some.

The law school market has the makings of a bubble, as Prol. Glenn Reynolds repeatedly points out, particularly at lower tier schools.  What is good for law schools is not necessarily good for law students, who often graduate with substantial debt and dim job prospects. 

It all is made possible by easy money in the form of government student loans and easy private loans on top of that.  It is not unusual for a law student to graduate with over $100k in debt.

Sound familiar?  Can you say housing bubble?

Is law school worth it?  Depends on what you are looking for.  If you are looking for a high paying job handed to you on a silver platter, then the list of schools which will give you that return is relatively small, and getting smaller.

It may sound trite, but you should go to law school only if you really want to be a lawyer. 

Law school as a default option because you have nothing else to do only is an economically viable option for the wealthy who can afford it, the poor who will get mostly a free ride, and those in the middle who get merit scholarships.

Even then, there are no guarantees.  As in many things, credentials will only get you so far. 

Some of the best and most successful lawyers I have met did not go to top law schools, and almost none of them had expectations that anything would be handed to them on a silver  platter or otherwise. 

For most people, law school should be for those who want to be lawyers.  The concept isn’t brain surgery.


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