Shilling me softly

Unemployment, debt, and rock 'n' roll: The lies law schools tell

Unemployment, debt, and rock 'n' roll: The lies law schools tell

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Is law school a bad investment, or a good career move?

Legal eagle hopefuls, it's about time everyone stopped lying to you about law school.

Have you ever dreamt of spending long days and nights slaving over the interpretation of near-indecipherable books, only to emerge three years later with an 800-pound gorilla of debt on your back, and absolutely no feasible method in sight to pay it back?

That, my friends, is what graduating with a Juris Doctor (read: law degree) is like in this day and age.

After all, I should know — I have one of those useless pieces of rolled parchment paper, still residing in its place in a trunk at my parents' house, granting me the lofty privilege of practicing law.

As do a staggering number of bushy-tailed fans of American jurisprudence, by the way. And finally, the New York Times had the moxie to call law schools out on their money-swindling ways.

Dubbing the esteemed law degree "a catastrophic investment," the Times dispels the long-held myth of the $160,000 starting salary for any and every law graduate. It also squarely points the finger of blame at higher education oracle U.S. News and World Report, in addition to the American Bar Association (ABA) and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).

Often viewed as the biblical final word of academic rankings, U.S. News inflates the hopes of jurisprudence scholars with falsely rosy statistics. But U.S. News couldn't lead future lawyers astray without the "trimming" and "finessing" of institution ranking criteria, thanks to the ABA and NALP.

"Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm,” William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves, told the New York Times. “Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty.”

A lawyer who actually feels soiled by lying? Now you know it must be bad.

What do a few fudged rankings here and there matter, anyway? When legal jobs were a dime a dozen, the truth was an inside joke that incensed nary a legal mind.

But with the country's head barely gasping for air above the recession current, the New York Times wrote, "the glut of diplomas, the dearth of jobs and those candy-coated employment statistics have now yielded a crop of furious young lawyers who say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses."

We lawyers and lawyers-to-be could argue all day (which we'd probably find disgustingly enjoyable) about whether or not we were misled in our decision to pursue a legal education. But with student loans valued more than a modest house that can't be dismissed even in bankruptcy, and average salaries falling well below the six-figure mark, there's certainly a lot of beef to debate.

Law school graduates (practicing attorneys or jilted law school expats alike) and lawyer hopefuls, we want to hear from you. Is the legal profession everything you envisioned back when you signed up for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)? Or has life in law law land been one failed bar exam after another? 

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