You Know the Legal Job Market Must Be Bad ...


When even the American Bar Association is telling people to think hard about applying to law school.

According to the association, over the past 25 years law school tuition has consistently risen two times faster than inflation.

The average private law student borrows about $92,500 for law school, while law students who attend public schools take out loans for $71,400. These numbers do not include any debt law students may still have from their time as undergraduates.

Before the recession, the ABA cites statistics that show an average starting salary for an associate of a large law firm of about $160,000 a year. But by 2009, about 42 percent of graduates began with an annual salary of less than $65,000.

And those are just the newbies.

Flanagan & Einwohner partner Stewart Einwohner says he has been getting resumes for pro bono work from experienced lawyers.

And those are the people who finish law school.  When they're rationalizing the decision to assume tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt, people forget that a substantial number of students never do get through law school, or medical school, or business school.  Those people end up deeply in debt, and very possibly have lower earning power than they did when they left for school.

Every so often I get emails from kids fresh out of college, stuck at home with no job prospects", asking me what to do.  The only good advice I have is "Don't go to law school"; firms have been retrenching and there is now a multi-year backlog of would-be associates grovelling for work.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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