“[L]aw school is a pie-eating contest where the first prize is more pie.” If that sounds familiar, you may have read Is Law School a Losing Game?, the New York Times article that was widely circulated last week. The 3-page article details why law school is becoming a risky bet when considering the debt to income ratio of many new graduates. While it’s unfortunate that the author profiled a graduate who seems oddly nonchalant about his career and finances, the article does a nice job of explaining the complexities of the problem, not just reducing it to the oft-heard “law students should know better” or “try harder” or “supply and demand will take care of things” or “the ABA should cap the number of graduates every year.” Complex problems rarely have simple answers.
Complete our student loan debt survey here.ABA president, Stephen N. Zack, acknowledges that for lawyers making the median starting salary of $60,000 “it will be very difficult to pay” over $100,000 in debt, and has called for law schools to provide more accurate information about job prospects. Making matters worse, many law students have debt before even setting foot in a law school: A new report shows that average borrowing for a bachelor’s degree has significantly increased over the last decade, and student loan debt generally has surpassed even credit card debt. (Wondering what’s up? Check out this infographic.)
Adding a new twist to the problem, last week the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a bar applicant without a plan to repay his debt fails the character and fitness requirement for a law license.
I’m reflecting on all this just after passing my 2-year mark of loan repayment, and my emotion surprises me: I feel really, really lucky. Why? I know so many people who have barely paid on their student loans at all. Which is not to say that it’s been easy for me, I just know that it could be much, much worse. I think most of my classmates acknowledge that our law school employment statistics are not close to what we see in real life, and I am no exception, which makes me curious what “realistic” employment statistics would look like. And, in the interests of seeing the bigger economic picture, I’m curious how new lawyers are really dealing with their debt burden.
If you graduated from law school in the last 10 years, please take our Practice Blawg survey below. Are you part of the 25% of new lawyers in temporary jobs? Or are you working two jobs to make ends meet? We’d like to know so we can push this discussion further.
What am I going to do with this information? First of all, it’s anonymous. Second, I promise to crunch some numbers and let you know what I learn. Third, even though we obviously can’t fix what’s going on with the economy, we’re hopeful we can add some resources to practicelaw to help lawyers navigate their student loans. If you have any ideas, there’s a space for them on the survey, or leave us a comment below. At the very least, we want to acknowledge that it’s a problem and get some dialogue going beyond the usual “are there too many law schools” debate.