Going to Law School Used to be a Sure Thing. Not Anymore.

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on November 01, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

So you are thinking of going to law school? At one point a JD was a virtual guarantee to a great job. Now it is not a guarantee to any job, legal or non legal. To put it bluntly, going to law school used to be a sure thing. Not anymore. In all fairness, the same can be said for a lot of graduate degrees, but there is something more depressing about the struggles recent law school graduates have experienced in the work force.

A recent article in the Washington Post sums up the life and times of the unemployed JD: "The job market for lawyers is terrible -- and that hits young lawyers the worst. Although the National Association for Law Placement ... reports that employment for the class of 2009 was 88.3 percent, about a quarter of jobs were temporary, without the salaries needed by most new lawyers to pay off crushing debts. Another 10 percent were part-time. And thousands of jobs were fellowships or grants provided by the new lawyers' law schools."

The employment problem was further compounded because there were more young lawyers coming out of law school looking for fewer jobs. The Post adds that from 2007 to 2009 the number of LSAT takers increased a whopping 20.5%. Although many lawyers are not math people, it is easy to see how these numbers are not adding up.

So what is a young (or old) lawyer to do in the wake of the job scarcity? And whose fault is it anyway? Three years later and thousands of dollars in debt, the options seem equally scarce for the unemployed JD. Demanding a refund from a law school alma mater does not seem to work. In the end, attending any graduate school should be a cost/benefit analysis. There are jobs out there. Sometimes an applicant may just have to get creative in the pursuit.

The J of JD does not stand for jobs, and many schools make the argument that it is the knowledge, rather than the paycheck, that they are preparing their students for. Although school's may over promise when it comes to the benefits of a law degree, those students thinking of going to law school also have the responsibility to look into the real cost of loans and the current and future job market. Happy hunting everyone.

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