Kaplan Survey Says: Pre-Lawyers Getting More Naive

By William Peacock, Esq. on July 30, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A few months ago, Kaplan released a survey that asked the question: why in the heck are people still applying to law school? (Our paraphrase.) It's not out of some foolish belief that things will improve over the next four or five years, is it? Didn't you hear kiddos? BigLaw, much like Hip Hop, is dead.

It's not just BigLaw either. It's the crushing of the public interest budgets due to the state and federal debt crises. And while our nation's various governing bodies may recover financially, and we may get some public interest jobs back, is it really worth paying over $100,000 for a J.D. to get a $50,000 per year job?

Well, we got our answer. Apparently half of all applicants were planning on pursuing non-legal careers with their JD. Now, per a new Kaplan pre-law survey, that number has risen to 56 percent of respondents.

Imagine that. People getting a doctorate of jurisprudence as a means to pursue a career that has nothing to do with jurisprudence. (Per the previous survey, 43 percent of respondents were headed into the business world.) What was that old joke again? Something about law school as a finishing school for liberal arts kids with no career path? (That's me!)

Sixty-three percent of those who plan to pursue an alternate career made that decision, in part, because of the barren job market. Does the desire for the means (the law degree) justify the ends (poor career prospects)?

The pre-lawyers aren't completely blind to the facts, however. Though they all plan to go to law school, 79 percent think legal education needs "to undergo significant changes to better prepare future attorneys for the changing employment landscape and legal profession." For some reason, that statement reminds me of the significant other who thinks her betrothed is a good person inside, but really, someday, needs to stop drinking and sleeping around.

And then there is the real kicker: 68 percent of those surveyed would favor a pro bono bar admittance requirement, similar to New York's recently mandated 50 hours of pain.

Seriously folks? You're chasing a degree that you won't use, and if you do, you won't be compensated nearly enough to pay for it.

Pro bono is beyond important. There are millions of people in this country that need, yet cannot afford, legal representation. However, the solution shouldn't be to burden new, debt-laden, unemployed, soon-to-be working-poor, recent graduates.

The truth is, if you are motivated by a love of the law, and by helping others, and have no expectations of getting rich, please, by all means, start The Paper Chase. From Kaplan's survey results, it seems that many of you are, in fact, that altruistic. My brother, class of 2017, certainly is.

If you're chasing BigLaw dreams, or hope to bust into business, reconsider your options. An MBA is cheaper. And though BigLaw's impending death may be exaggerated, those jobs were rare to begin with. Now, they're like soul-crushing, enslaved 80-hours-per-week, unicorns.

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