Law school has taken a beating in the press lately, with unemployed graduates mired in debt making plenty of headlines. But does that mean law school isn’t worth it? It’s not quite that simple.
It’s true that graduates probably won’t waltz out of school and into a six-figure salary anymore. Demand for lawyers is slowing, as tighter government budgets and cost-conscious businesses are cutting back on legal services and relying on more cost-effective paralegals or finance professionals to provide services lawyers used to handle, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
But even in tough job markets, lawyers are still needed. They’re just working in different places. As big business specialties – including tax law and litigation – are slowing down, there is growing attention to issues such as health reform or elder law. This has led to increases in the number of lawyers certified in those specialties, according to data from the American Bar Association.
Fewer recent grads are going to work in large, private firms, but the number of entrepreneurial- minded lawyers hanging out a shingle has been climbing, more than doubling from 2.8 percent in 2007 to 6 percent in 2011, according to NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals.
Additionally, with fewer individuals applying to law school, institutions are starting to compete for applicants with solid GPAs and LSAT scores. Increased scholarship funds may give applicants more bargaining power, flipping the tables on the usual scenario of students paying full freight for a law degree.
Still wondering if law school is worth the investment? Learn more about the changing landscape of law school in the infographic below.
American Bar Association
Comparison of Data for 2002–2011 Atlanta Forums, LSAC, 2012
Median Private Practice Starting Salaries for the Class of 2011 Plunge as Private Practice Jobs Continue to Erode, NALP, July 2012
For a complete list of sources, please view the infographic.