July 25, 2010

LAW SCHOOL GRADUATES face a bimodal salary curve. We used to call this a “brassiere curve” back when i was in college, but that’s probably politically incorrect now. But you’ve got two humps — a lower one, where the salaries for most law school graduates cluster, and a much higher one, centered around what those who go to big firms make. The important thing, in calculating the risk/return ratio of time and money on law school, is figuring out which of the two you’re likely to end up in.

As Above The Law’s Elie Mystal notes, “A lot of wanna-be lawyers claim that they don’t even want to make $160K. Fine. But understand the curve. If you don’t make $160K, it’s not likely that you’ll make just a little bit less — say, $120K. It’s not likely that you’ll make the average; it’s not even likely that you’ll make the median. If you don’t win the $160K lottery, chances are you’ll be clumped into the left-hand side of the curve, earning somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 a year. That’s the kind of pay that a lot of people can get without three years of post-graduate education and six figures of debt.”

UPDATE: How it happened.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Ilya Somin says it’s not as bad as it looks. As the higher education bubble talk continues, expect people to talk about this more.

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