Reason Not to Go to Law School #7

Delusions of Grandeur

Many young law students and law school applicants have dreams of earning the coveted $160,000 salary (or whatever happens to be the going rate at big New York law firms), or the equivalently high amounts offered in DC, Atlanta, or other secondary markets.

The vast majority of people who apply to law school will never make that much money.  Visualize Law has provided a chart breaking down the fates of applicants into the law class of 2008.

This chart, unfortunately, presents an overly rosy view of your future career opportunities.  Going by these numbers, over 20% of law school graduates will find jobs earning top dollar.  And, if you assume that a large amount of the people making less than $160,000 are in markets that pay a lower amount that is still equivalent (or better) after taking cost of living into account, it looks like almost everyone makes bank.

However, anyone who’s applied for a big law job can tell you that unless you go to a top 20 school or are in the top 10% of a school ranked 21-100, you’re pretty screwed.  Tier 3 or 4?  don’t even think about it.  And, remember, being at the top of your class or in a top school just gets you the interview.  Many of those students still don’t land the fat big law jobs.

So where did Visualize Law go wrong?  First, I’m assuming they got their data based on where law schools report their students end up.  But, that data suffers from a self-reporting bias.  Students who earn $160k are more likely to report back on their job offers than students who earn less or don’t land a job at all.  But, good luck getting a school to disclose how many students didn’t respond to the surveys.

And, it doesn’t take into account the huge number of lawyers in the class of 2008, myself included, who were laid off and unable to find another big law job.  I’m part of that magical 10% at the top, and I’m pulling in unemployment checks.

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