Law school is valuable beyond law
October 8, 2015
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What do Nelson Mandela, John Grisham, Henri Matisse and Gandhi have in common? They are all law school graduates.
For whatever reason, law school has now gotten a bad rap. This writer, who is also a lawyer, wholeheartedly disagrees with these criticisms. The evidence shows that law school has tremendous value, whether one aspires to practice law or follow a different career path, now is a particularly favorable time to apply.
Certainly, law school is expensive. The average debt for a law school graduate is $84,000 at a public school and $122,158 at a private school.
However, most advanced degrees are costly. Getting a Master of Business Administration degree from top business schools ranged from approximately $108,000 to $118,000. The estimated average loan debt for 2013 graduates of medical school was $169,901.
Law school is well worth its price tag. Students learn to think analytically, speak and write concisely and persuasively, simplify complex ideas, research, negotiate and strategize to reach desired results. Colette Stone, founder of Stone & Associates, a highly successful local law firm, opined that, “The cost of law school is not too high when you consider the power and versatility of these skills.”
A legal education prepares students for a wide range of careers including business, real estate, journalism and law enforcement. Justin Berkowitz, a graduate of Columbia Law School and this writer’s son-in-law, rejected the traditional practice of law. Instead, he was the east coast editor for Car & Driver Magazine before joining BMW Mini in the product management division. Berkowitz explained, “I am a walking example that a legal education opens so many doors…it provides a great skill set applicable to many different professions.”
While the legal job market has experienced a downturn since 2007, along with the rest of the economy, the gloom and doom regarding job prospects for lawyers is exaggerated. U.S. Department of Labor data in 2010, during the height of the recession, showed that the unemployment rate for lawyers was six times lower than the overall rate.
More importantly, there are strong signs that the market is returning. Recent projections show that demand for law jobs and the supply of law jobs should be relatively equal in 2015 and demand may exceed supply in 2016. Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Law School at John F. Kennedy University Dean E. Barbieri explained, “When the economy gets better, the need for lawyers gets better.”
While lawyers do work hard, the same can be said of many other careers. Additionally, those long hours are generally well compensated. Lawyers earn the fourth highest median salary, $113,00 in 2010, topped only by medical doctors, dentists and CEOs.
Now is a great time to apply to law school. Applications have dropped significantly so competition is decreased and admission standards have been lowered at many schools.
Law school is not for everyone. However, a legal education should not be rejected because of recent, largely unfounded but highly publicized, criticisms. Law school deserves a second look.