The law school debt crisis and what it means for you

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Blog-Debt-Crisis-10_30_2015A “The Week in (Law) Review” special edition report 🎓💼

The Law School Debt Crisis

If you’ve been engaged in the national dialogue surrounding law school recently, then you’ve likely come across the grim employment outlook, plummeting application numbers, and rise in less-qualified students studying law now than in years past. This past week, Law School Transparency (LST), an advocacy group whose stated mission is “to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair,” released a worrisome report finding that law schools are admitting at high rates students whose LSAT scores indicate a high risk of failing to pass the Bar exam.

LSAT_Risk_Chart

LSAT scores and their associated risk of never passing the bar (Credit: Law School Transparency)

In 2014, 37 out of 203 American Bar Association-accredited law schools admitted classes in which at least 50% of students were estimated to be at “serious risk” of never passing the Bar, up from just nine such schools in 2010. LST’s “2015 State of Legal Education” report notes:

We are not aware of a time when so many law schools had something like an open enrollment policy. Law school entrance has long been very competitive, but since 2003, it’s become easier to get into law school every year. Last year, 4 in 5 people who applied to law school were admitted to at least one school. To a real extent, we’re in uncharted territory.

Also this week, The New  York Times published “The Law School Debt Crisis,” a shocking editorial that exposed the business model of for-profit law school such as the Florida Coastal School of Law, where the median LSAT score of admitted students in 2013 was in the bottom quarter of all test-takers nationwide – students with such scores, unsurprisingly, are unlikely to ever pass the Bar. Despite this,  a year’s worth of tuition at Florida Coastal costs $44,730. 93% of the school’s 2014 graduating class had debt and the average was nearly $163,000. In the words of the Times, “In short, most of Florida Coastal’s students are leaving law school with a degree they can’t use, bought with a debt they can’t repay.” Florida Coastal Dean and Professor of Law, Scott DeVito, issued this letter in defense of his employer’s business model; but even if the outlook isn’t as bleak as the Times editorial suggests, there’s little disagreement over the fact that law school is not a safe investment for everyone.

Our advice to you

Law school is not a guaranteed path to a prosperous life, and the burden of law school debt is serious. If you’re considering law school, it’s important that you ask yourself:

1. Do I really want to be a lawyer?

If you answered…

No: Don’t go to law school. Simple enough, right?

Maybe: Research. Read up on the current job market for lawyers. Contact any practicing lawyers that you have in your network and ask them what their day-to-day job is like and what it entails. Make sure you have as clear a picture of the realities of the profession as possible.

Yes: Make sure you’ve done your research. If you have, ask yourself question number 2.

2. What are my real chances of achieving my ideal employment scenario after graduating from law school?

The quality of your employment prospects out of law school is greatly influenced by the caliber of school that you attend, and your chances of getting into a top school are greatly enhanced by a strong LSAT score. The average LSAT score generally falls between a 150-152. If you find yourself below this number, it’s important to very carefully consider how strong your drive to become a lawyer is; if it’s sufficiently strong, you might wish to power on in pursuit of your dream. Likewise, if you’re not totally committed to a life as a lawyer, you might be wise to reconsider your plans.

So, you’ve read this through and you’re still frothing at the mouth to practice law? You’ll want to check out our LSAT prep resources to maximize your chances of success on the test. 🎓💼

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