I've argued in the past that there is an over supply of lawyers due to an over abundance of law schools. My preferred solution has been to lop off and abolish the bottom third of law schools. But perhaps I was not aggressive enough, if this is to be believed:
Not all of today's law school graduates can expect six figure starting salaries, and as as a recent, in-depth New York Times article illustrated, many will struggle to pay back their school loans. This has long been the case. However, the Times article alludes to -- but doesn't fully address -- an important distinction: The future is still very bright for graduates of the country's top law schools.
While law school tuition continues to increase, so does the average starting salary of new lawyers. From 2006 to 2009, the mean salary for new lawyers increased from $62,000 to $85,198, and the percentage of first-year lawyers earning over $160,000 increased by about 10% from 2008 to 2009, according to a report by The National Association for Legal Career Professionals.
In 2010, most large firms reinstated associate bonuses and annual salary increases. For those who can secure a position at a premier firm, law is still a compelling career choice.
Each year, I counsel law school applicants with the single-minded goal of helping them gain entrance to the highest-ranked school possible. How applicants navigate the application process is far more important than how they perform in law school because lucrative positions are widely available for students at the nation's top 35 law schools, even those with average grades.
There's little doubt that this is the case at the nation's top three law schools: Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. But this is also the case at top 35 schools like Georgetown and Fordham. On the other hand, students at third- and fourth-tier law schools may struggle to find law-related jobs in the public or private sector. While attending these schools may make sense for those looking to transfer after their first year or those with a niche interest, it should not be considered a pathway to a six-figure starting salary.
Contrary to the hyperbole, law school is not a route to financial ruin -- as long as you attend a school with sufficient brand equity to land the "Big Law" position you want. It's not a question of winning the "Big Law sweepstakes," but of winning the Law School sweepstakes. If you're committed to excelling during the admissions process, you are unlikely to end up $250K in debt and unemployed after law school.
So we'd be doing future failed lawyers a favor if we killed off the bottom, say, 100 law schools firms.