The Argument Resurfaces: Buy Low on Law School?

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 02, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Earlier this year, I suggested that it might be a good time to "buy low" on law school. After all, with plummeting demand caused by abysmal post-graduate employment rates, coupled with schools' refusal to cut class sizes significantly and obsession with rankings, it's an applicants' market -- especially if you have "good" LSAT and GPA numbers.

Then again, what good is a degree without a job?

Since then, we've gotten a few more stats and trends, and it seems that the job market could be headed for correction, and optimistically, that correction could happen as early as the Class of 2017 -- the students who are applying right now.

Trend Lines: Decrease Class Sizes, Economic Recovery?

The Wall Street Journal outlines a few conflicting theories on how the next few years will play out. In one argument, a law school professor (note the inherent bias and self-interest) argues that if the class size shrinkage continues at its present rate (it declined 8.7 percent year-over-year at ABA schools for students enrolling in the Fall of 2012), and the present (abysmal) number of jobs maintains year-over-year, by the time the Class of 2017 reaches the market, the employment rate for grads will exceed the rate (70 percent) of pre-collapse Class of 2007.

Market inefficiency! Apply now!

Projection Problems

Those are two big assumptions though, aren't they? Can (or will) schools continue to cut nearly 9 percent of their incoming class sizes (and the revenue that accompanies those students)? And will the legal job market continue to be so blah, or, optimistically, will it actually improve?

And, as others point out, what about the backlog of unemployed graduates from today, tomorrow, and 2016? And what kind of jobs are being created -- low pay, unstable doc review gigs, or actual careers?

Question Remains

Should you buy low? We're sticking to our most-recent guns: if you can get a scholarship, or if you have no alternatives whatsoever and can get into a school with a decent or great pedigree, then yes, law school is worth considering. You simply need to be okay with the fact that BigLaw, and big salaries, are for most, out of the question.

But if you are paying full sticker price, or are looking at third-tier schools and diploma mills, the $150,000 or so of non-dischargeable debt would likely be the worst possible decision you could ever make.

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