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04 September 2007


Credit Debt

Being a lawyer doesn't always suck.


Hi, you made very good effort to make this knowledge full post, your post provide me some great information about the topic above written. You keep all things around a central topic this increase my interest , you did amazing work .


Lets face it, doing a law degree is personal euthanasia. 90% of the law schools should be immediately closed down and their students given refunds. Young people's lives are being destroyed.


I would add that it may soul implications for exoteric perceptions of attorneys and how more they get soul to others, especially those who hump a different jock qualification track . I expect that it would be newsworthy to study this spacing to the opposite programs' graduates' salaries.
shawn matthews

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NJ Could not fill all its state court clerkships circa 2007? Yeah, gotta feel that Rutgers-Camden comparison to Yale clerkships looking even thinner. I guess the career services at RU-Camden might want to change their cheerleading strategies!


I'm not sure if you're aware, but there's a new version of this. It's even more extremely bimodal. I saw it on the NALP site.

law student

Thank you for exposing the truth about legal salaries through this blog entry.

law student

Thank you for exposing the truth about legal salaries through this blog entry.

bob the lawyer

Being a lawyer sucks :( unless you went to one of the best schools

Kansas City Son

Interestingly, in opposite of the salary trends displayed above, 'job satisfaction' surveys I have reviewed indicate that those working at big firms (e.g., earning the most) are the least satisfied with their line of work while those working at small firms (e.g., those stuck in the first hump) rate their quality of life way above the norm. Just think this facet of legal careers is noteworthy. I for one, was more interested in the autonomy and quality of life that comes with owning a small practice than any other opportunity that law school provides - crazy for some, zen for others.

I agree with the overall premise of this commentary. The economics of a law school education just don't make financial sense for the average law school grad when compared with other career paths (e.g., CPA in 5 years, Engineering Degrees in 4). Alas, this appears to me another example of a bloated undergraduate and post graduate university system. In other words, this phenomena plagues the masses who attend pricey private schools to recieve undergraduate degrees that command no viable salary as well. Just my thoughts -


Lee --

A couple of quick thoughts.

You say Penn State is on its way up. I assume you're saying that b/c it has risen in the rankings in the last couple of years. I would suggest considering Penn State's average ranking in the last 7 or 8 years, not considering only where it's been in the lsat 2 or 3. The methodology of the US News rankings is just not sound enough to conclude that a law school has changed or improved (or declined) in any way from only a couple years of rankings. I'm not trying to pick on US News (they do a lot of things right w/ their rankings), but this remains true.

Second, since all of these schools are of roughly similar reputation, I would suggest picking the one you personally feel best about, and the one closest to the geographic area in which you'd like to work. Chances are that you won't get a job right out of law school with a large national firm with any of them (not to say you won't have a great legal career out of any of them). So, regional reputation matters.

Third, one caveat about Penn State. It's going through some turmoil right now. It's partially moving to a campus at University Park. And part of it is still at Dickinson Law School -- so I understand. I've been reading for years now about what a mess that has become. In my opinion, it's a threat to the long-term health of the law school.

Good luck.


Salil -- While the opportunity cost of law school for some is quite high (three years of lost earnings, promotions, etc), it isn't for everyone.

Even though I went to a great college (the University of Michigan), I graduated with a B.A. in English. Thus, the opportunity cost of law school for me was much less than that of friends of mine. I had friends who left pretty lucrative careers in engineering and business, for instance.

But I think I'm like a lot of law students. I didn't have a great interest in stepping out into the real world yet. I didn't have an established career. And I had a liberal arts degree. Not much in opportunity cost.

Canadian in New York

Thanks for the piece. Canada offers a good comparison. Canadian law school tuitions are among the lowest in North America, with McGill Law School (Quebec) offering the lowest tuition on the continent for in-province students. Yet the top Canadian law schools (McGill, University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall) regularly place up to 20% of their classes in Vault top 100 firms, with nearly 2-3 students per firm in the Vault top 10. Interestingly, despite the competition, Canadian firms have not raised first year salaries, such that private sector salaries are only slightly better than comparable government or public sector jobs (exceptions apply of course). The "Seven Sisters" (read most prestigious firms) pay roughly $70K to a first year out of law school. Thankfully, with public support for legal education, students are free to choose any range of opportunities - be it big firm in New York, government of Canada, clerkships or a Canadian private firm.

Michael F. Martin

The easiest way to get rid of the bimodality would be to let lawyers and non-lawyers partner in LLCs -- let lawyers share risk with their clients instead of forcing large corporate clients into an exepert service problem.

It's worth asking the historical question -- how did we end up with the current rule? You know the answer: it was convenient to oppressing minorities.



Looks to me at least two distinct population cobbled together into one artificially.

Law Grad

I graduated from a Tier 2 law school in 1997 with about $75K in debt. Today that amount is down to $22K. Without passing the bar, I couldn't earn the bigger bucks and employers didn't want a JD as a paralegal. My only option was to use the bachelors degree in business; however, employers again didn't want an overqualified employee. Those three years in law school could have been spent working at Fortune 500 companies--I certainly had the stellar grades for that route. It's been painful to watch former classmates rise to partner status while I am worse off than I was before law school. Each time I try to save up or borrow money to launch my own business, those student loans got in the way. Each time I paid for the bar exam and took time off from work, I sank into deeper debt. Quicksand.


Okay, I'm not sure how this works but I have a question for anyone willing to help... I have been accepted to 3 different schools, all very different and I need some advice as to which one, debt vs. cost, living, etc. I've noticed that no one really names the school but I am going to in order to facilite a more specific answer if possible. First, I was accepted to Quinnipiac in Connecticut with a $25,000 scholarship making it cost about $10,000 a year tuition, but it is not in the top 100. Second, I was accepted to the Catholic University in DC with a $12,500 scholarship which would lower tuition to about $23,000, though cost of living in DC is high (I am married), but it is ranked 88 I believe. The last school I was accepted to is Penn State with no scholarship making it about $30,000 a year tuition though lower cost of living and it seems like it has a better "name" for job opportunities and is ranked 77 and has been moving up. Any thoughts/advice/anything that can help me decide?


I have read the comments above and have gained some insight about law school and the job search afterwards. I have applied to law school for fall 2008 entry. I have been in the legal world for the last 6 years working as a paralegal. While I make sufficient money and have good benefits, I still want more. With that said, I know it will sound as though I am looking for more money but after reading one of the comments above I thought I would say this:

I earn roughly 50K a year right now. I will get raises every 8 months of pennies. If I stayed in this field, my salary growth will remain minimal and after 4 more years I may increase my salary by 5K if I am lucky. So say 55K. However, if I attend law school, I will have taken out a 60K loan or more for school. I have applied part time and plan on working while in school. It will take me four years to graduate and hopefully find a job. I believe that although I dedicated 4 years to school, the monetary benefits will out weigh the money I would be making had I not gone to school and remained working. Based on my location and information on salary, I will start making more money than I ever would have been able to make as a paralegal in this field.

SEO wiki

I agree - the interesting part was that the starting salary was alot higher than i originally thought. The graphs where very helpful in represting this.

Bitter 3l

Its nice to see a professor actually shine a light on the fact that law school lies about salaries. Most professors love to hide themselves from this reality.


My comment is basically to everyone regarding their debt.

First- Most people have no problem having overwhelming debt for a car and a home. I live in Southern California the average home costs between $500K to $700K.

You are going to eventually buy a home and an automobile and lets face it you have to pay for utilities. My grandmother has a saying "You are going to owe people for the rest of your life."

You all chose to invest in improving yourselves. I think that is great. Just be happy that the loans have been available for you to even attend school. Most people could not even take out school loans 50 to 60 years ago. There is no guarantee that they will continue to be available in future years, especially with this economy.

While it is true you should consider your debt and job possibilities when choosing a degree program, don't beat yourselves up because you persued and successfully completed graduate degrees.

If you really want to pay those loans off there are ways, look at the student loan website, they have forgiveness programs and they exist for attorneys. Or sacrifice for a few more years.

I am also incurred with a large amount of debt from student loans. But I decided to scarifice and live below my means for a few years to pay off loans and save money. And I am approaching my mid thirties, with no spouse or children.

I was one of those people who got a degree and waitied a few years to discover what made me happy. My B.A. didn't pay off much, nor did I get the level of work I found rewarding. So I have obtained two Masters degrees which is paying me better and I enjoy what I do. I now realize I like law and would like to persue a J.D. once I get my current student loan debt down, or maybe after I start a family.

Because it is a personal goal of mine to continue my education and enhance myself not because I expect to make $160,000/ yr as my starting salary. Honestly you could become a high class prostitue and make that kind of money probably more if money is the main thing on your mind.

So maybe some of you should take more time out to be proud of yourselves for your accomplishments, realize you are going to get into more debt when you buy a home and a car (which depreciates in value rather quickly), get a plan to pay off your loans, and try to enjoy life a little bit.

Look at it this way the government is going to tax you to death when you start making that salary anyway. :)


Oh goodness gracious. I've recently been accepted to a T2 school out West with $15000 scholly- which means about $105000 in loans. Plus 10k from undergrad. I've also been offered $25000/yr at a $27000/yr T4 school.... Where I'm currently an undergrad.

I *really* want to attend the T2, but now I'm petrified to take the big leap. My parents think it's foolish to turn down a nearly-full ride. I suppose they know better than I do.

My financial burdens will be shared with a recently-graduated pharmacist (with 120k of debt, as well)... And even with his 90k salary, I feel as though we'll be pinching pennies if I go to the T2.

Any thoughts from the dear souls who read through my whining? Is the T2 a stupid move? Should I suck it up and go to the T4?

debt help uk

very interesting read, thank you and keep on blogging,


Dear Prospective Law Student:

The only way you will make big money right out the box of a Tier 4 school is if you finish in the Top5% of your class. You have to be right at the top, with law review, or moot court. Think about that. Out of a class of say 300, you need to be one of the top 15 students to get a BigLaw job. Remember, you are competing with 299 other people who are just as smart, got roughly the same LSATs as you and do not have the pressure of raising a child. Think about law school as a full time job that requires 40 hours of studying a week outside of actually being in class. When finals come around, you can double that amount of studying time for 3 weeks or so.

I got into several schools. None of them were 1st Tier. The second tier ones I got into (at the time SMU was 2nd tier, not sure what they are now) were the University Miami and SMU, both are among the most expensive schools in the nation.

I went to South Texas College of Law in Houston, a fourth tier school, since they threw about $10000 a year at me in scholarship money. Even with that money, I finished law school with over 100k in debt (28k from undergrad, 62k from law school and 10k for a bar study loan).

Though I was not a top student, I did finish in the top 25%, passed the Texas bar (one of the 3 toughest in the country) exam with a knock score, and had tons of law clerk and legal experience that I acquired during law school.

I am now well into my 3rd year of practice and make 61k a year. Nearly everyone from my class that I am aware of (with the exception of that top 5% or so) make similar money. Some are more, others well less than me. Many are stuck doing document review for $25-30 an hour, and several have left law altogether because they became disenchanted.

I have consolidated my loans, but still pay $515 a month and will for the NEXT 30 YEARS OF MY LIFE.

The problem is that small and mid-size firms, which make up the vast, vast majority of employers are aware of what is going on and are exploting it. They know you are easily replaceable. This has lead to depressed wages, depressed promotion possibilities and depressed lives.

Even people I know from University of Houston are having a lot of trouble. And remember, Houston is a major, major legal market and people are having tons of trouble.

Ignore the comments from Dale above. One of his arguments mentioned two-income families having an easier time paying back loans. I think that Dale does not realize that given the nature of law and fact that it is a professional, you should not have to rely on your spouse to help pay loans that for your degree. That comment is plain silly.

Think real hard.



Too bad Ken does not have a "competative advatage" at spelling.

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