Dean of Law School: Trust Me, You Really, Really Don't Want to Go to Law School

By Kevin Fayle on July 02, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

While many attorneys out there are watching the economy bludgeon then throttle their dreams of becoming rich and important partners, many aspiring jurists who wanted to go to the University of Miami School of Law are about to witness the economy bludgeon and throttle their dreams of becoming attorneys in the first place. 

The law school received more acceptances than its algorithm, or whatever, predicted, so now the school is offering students incentives to defer their enrollment until next fall in order to avoid an overcrowded 1L class.  The incentives aren't much, but apparently the dean of the school is hoping that this will give people some time to think over whether they really want to enter the legal world, or whether they're just looking at the current economic realities and thinking "Law school - why not?" 
Dean Patricia White had this to say about the current state of the legal profession, and why people shouldn't just skip blithely into law school:

While I would like to believe that this year's elevated acceptance rate reflects the great sense of excitement about the Law School and its future that led me to become its new Dean, I fear that some of it may be related to the shortage of jobs in the current economy. Perhaps many of you are looking to law school as a safe harbor in which you can wait out the current economic storm.

If this describes your motivation for going to law school I urge you to think hard about your plans and to consider deferring enrollment. Law school requires an enormous investment of work, energy, time, and money. It is very demanding intellectually and emotionally. Beyond this, in these uncertain and challenging times the nature of the legal profession is in great flux. It is very difficult to predict what the employment landscape for young lawyers will be in May 2012 and thereafter.

The good dean has a good point.  Part of the problem right now, in my humble opinion, is that most BigLaw firms instituted a policy of aggressive expansion.  Back in the Nineties and earlier this decade, it seemed like a great idea.  There was lots of money, which enticed more people to become lawyers, which prompted the law schools to expand and recruit larger and larger class sizes. 

Now, the money's dried up, and the blowback from the implosion of all that growth is knocking some attorneys back to square one in their careers.  The signs of the apocalypse are everywhere: the lockstep model is starting to crack; the death of the billable hour looks more and more likely; and corporate counsel are rising up and demanding flexible fee schedules and more accountability.

Oh, and there was also the shower of fire and brimstone that rained down on Heller, Thelen and others, but that's so obvious that it's almost not worth mentioning. 

While Dean White might have a selfish interest in keeping the class size small so that the school's graduate employment rate stays high - thus preserving their rank of 71 - the message in her letter to the incoming students is clear and true:

Flee. Flee while you still can.
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