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11/08/2011

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Deborah J Merritt

Michael, I agree that law graduates can do many things but I also think the economics of those choices have shifted dramatically since we went to law school in the late 70s. In any event, I think there is a way forward that will inform both potential students and law faculty members about the new legal market:

1. All schools should publish information on number/percentage of jobs that are part-time, created by the school, and for which JD is required/preferred/not required. Sure, some graduates want to work part-time and some want jobs for which a JD is not required. But that is *also* true of applicants. Won't an applicant who wants to lobby, work in a public policy position, or become an entrepreneur after law school be pleased to see that some of the schools' grads go into non-law positions?

Currently I hear some professors taking the inconsistent positions that (A) applicants should be smart enough to understand that "employed" doesn't necessarily mean full-time at a job requiring a JD, but (B) if we tell them that some grads are working part-time or at jobs that don't require a JD, they won't understand that some of these jobs are desirable ones.

2. To accompany these summary data, publish specific information about every employer and job title/description gained by the member of a graduating class. This type of detail enlivens the numbers and will help students see the range of options available with a law degree. The information may discourage some students from applying, while attracting others. But it will help everyone--from prospective students to deans--understand the market better.

If schools published this information on their websites, with live links to the employers, this would also yield enormous good will from the employers--and give students tips on where they might network for jobs. Schools could also give graduates the option of being listed by name on these sites. Most grads, I suspect, will allow themselves to be listed. We would be telling every grad that we value what they do--or, if they are dissatisfied with their current job, that we know about the challenges. And we would be giving current students an important networking tool.

As part of this information, schools could also make clear what types of post-grad employment opportunities they offer recent grads. If schools are hiring grads at minimum wage to reshelve library books, that's pretty negative (and the schools probably will rethink those programs rather than disclose them). But some schools have developed very positive seed-grant or career-start programs that fund grads who are working with employers. I've heard good success stories about some of these programs: grads get some income, continued professional training, and sometimes a permanent position. Some of these programs may be a positive to applicants if described accurately.

3. Collect salary information separately from all other data. As someone who has done social science research, I know that people are reluctant to supply salary data if it can be linked in any way to them personally. But they will provide the data to a truly anonymous survey. So an online survey asking *only* for salary (or salary range) and general job category will get much more reliable information for everyone. Again, this is information that will help not just students but professors and schools.

4. I wouldn't focus too much on uniform data. US News will report whatever it reports, and schools may try to game that system. The ABA will also collect data, and those data have important uses. But the more important information is the information that schools distribute on their own websites and in printed materials--and there's no reason why that has to be standardized. Schools can provide as much detail as they want on their websites--and students will look at that.

I suspect that a number of law schools--most likely those ranked in the 20-75 range in US News (and especially those that have lower tuition rates)--are soon going to realize that it is in their interest to publish the more detailed data in at least one and two above. Those schools will be able to tell admittees in Feb and March: "Check our employment details and level of disclosure against the other schools that have admitted you. If they haven't published as much detail, ask for it. If they won't give it to you, wonder about that."

I think there are many ways to deal with the complexity of the legal market while providing much better information to everyone. And, as Bill Henderson has written, we're all going to need that information to cope with market changes and help our graduates provide the best service to clients and society.

BL1Y

What are these other things I can do with my law degree?

Barbara Seville

Yes, law professors like to breezily assert their mantra that "law graduates can do many things." But, other than law practice, what are they? Name a few. Jobs that could be done just as easily without a law degree don't count.

"An applicant who [already knows that he]wants to lobby, work in a public policy position, or become an entrepreneur" would be nuts to spend three years and $150,000 getting a law degree.

BL1Y

Just to help clarify the objection many of us have to the claim that you can do so many things with a law degree, there is a world of difference between JD, JD+, and w/JD.

A JD is a JD, on its own. It's what's possessed by the typical freshout law grad who came straight from college, has a generalized humanities education and no relevant work experience or connections, and nothing otherwise extraordinary on his resume.

A JD+ is a JD plus something else, such as relevant undergrad or other graduate education, work experience prior to law school, work experience as a lawyer, etc.

Then, there is w/JD, things done with a JD, where the JD did not significantly contribute, such as climbing Everest.

Most of the time when you hear about things you can do with a "JD," people mean JD+, not vanilla JD. But, people rattling off a list of things to do seem to forget that many people don't have the requisite +.

So, if anyone has suggestions for what you can do with a JD, I'd really like to hear it. My unemployment is running out soon and getting rejected from more $30k jobs I'm unqualified for has really taken an emotional toll.

Aliobaid

No, you didn't and neither did I. I was tahugt who he was by Thomas Sowell. It was in one of his columns many years ago. There's a small blurb on wikipedia but you'd think that if you wanted a hero to the black community, James Armistead would have his national day along side MLK. But since it doesn't promote the America torn by racial hatred template, sadly many kids who could use a true American hero will never hear of him.

Erdem

Dawn - Oh my god! I just read that article the other day didn't even think to check out the photo criedt, but perhaps now I should start doing that!May 10, 2010 12:26 pm

Rajeev

Since graduating in December 2010 with my MAHPI I have goettn a promotion at my current company as VP, Human Resources Shared Services Manager. I am now in charge of Training & Development/Compensation/ and HR-Compliance for all of North America. I am loving my new role, and I have a ton to learn since I just landed my new job 3 weeks ago! After 16 years in banking, If it wasn't for my graduate degree from Roosevelt University I would not have been offered this great opportunity! I am also very excited about my pending relocation to New York City since 1/2 of my team in based here in Chicago and the other 1/2 is based out of our New York offices. I will always cherish my Roosevelt memories and forever be grateful for the great learning experience as a student. My investment in grad school has started to pay off, and I very excited about the future! Thank you Roosevelt University! I love my new position!

Ariette

I am a New Zealand citizen who has been liinvg and studying for in Australia since 2006 under a Special Category Visa. While I can remain and work in Australia indefinitely I need to apply for permanent residency as a pathway to citizenship. I do not meet the criteria for skilled migrant worker so would need to be sponsored for permanent residency. I am very interested in the Graduate Development Program to look at starting in 2013. I'm wondering whether my lack of citizenship renders me ineligible, or whether there may be some provision for sponsorship or for the special residency status of New Zealanders. Thanks for your time.

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Law school definitely prepares a student for many professions; there are many examples of law students who forego a career in law but are successful in different fields.

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About the Blog

  • Rising tuition. Misleading employment statistics. Inadequate skills training. Law schools have faced plenty of criticism for their role in the struggles of young lawyers today. The National Law Journal has assembled a panel of legal educators and law graduates to discuss whether law schools are facing a crisis, and how they should respond to their mounting problems.

Law School Review Contributors

  • Brian Tamanaha
    A professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law who writes about law schools on the blog Balkinization
  • Erwin Chemerinsky
    Founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • John F. O’Brien
    Dean of the New England Law, Boston and chairman of the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
  • Kyle McEntee
    A 2011 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School and the executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit group advocating for legal education reform
  • Lucille Jewel
    Professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School who has written about the problems faced by recent law school graduates
  • Michael A. Olivas
    A professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the current president of the Association of American Law Schools
  • William Henderson
    Professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law—Bloomington who studies the legal profession

Law School Review: Further Reading