Let’s be very specific about the employment statistics for my alma mater – the University of North Carolina and Chapel Hill. As Paul Campos, author of the Inside the Law School Scam blog, notes, someone considering law school as path should only go to law school in order to practice law – which is to say, go to law school to be a lawyer, where the JD is required.
According to a report filed with the American Bar Association, UNC Law School reported a total 2011 graduating class of 247. (Statistics for those who graduated in May 2012 are not yet available.)
Only 169 of the 247 students (or 68 percent) had full time jobs at the time the numbers were recorded (typically 9 months after graduation) where a law degree was required. Nine other graduates had gotten part-time or short-term positions requiring a JD.
To my mind, that statistic is dreadful.
But let’s assume you think that going to law school, spending more than $150,000 in direct tuition, cost of living, and opportunity costs, justifies an outcome where you have a 1/3rd chance of not having a job where a JD is required.
37 of the graduates who had “long-term” jobs where JDs were required were employed as either solos or in firms of fewer than 10 lawyers.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with such work. Most criminal defense work is done by small firms, or solo practitioners. But these are generally low pay jobs where a group of recent graduates get together in a firm they start to share costs, and try to survive by getting hired on cases.
Or they are lower-paid jobs in small firms that do not have the income to justify paying anywhere close to six-figure salaries.
Many students when they apply to law school have very little idea about what it means to be a lawyer. Their ideas about law school or the practice of law are from television, the movies – dating back to the 1970s film The Paper Chase, the 1980s LA Law, the 1990s Boston Legal and Ally McBeal, and various John Grisham novels turned into films.
They also are thinking about BigLaw life, in firms larger than 250 lawyers, where salaries can start at $140,000 to $160,000, depending the city.
Just how many law students did UNC place into such positions in 2011? Twenty-Six (26).
That’s right, you had about a 10 percent chance – 1 in 10 – of getting a high paid BigLaw job out of UNC if you were part of the 2011 graduating class.