November 11, 2011

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Brian Tamanaha: Law Students Who Do Not Become Lawyers–Legal Educators in Denial.

Michael Olivas, the President of AALS, responded to my post showing how law schools benefit from the federal loan program by reiterating a claim often made by legal educators: You can do great things with a legal education even if you don’t become a lawyer.

Legal educators who make this claim never back it up with any concrete support. It’s an article of faith that getting a law degree must be good–no matter what it costs or how much debt a student takes on to get it.

Olivas fails to mention that what my post showed (based upon data provided by Thomas Jefferson) is that graduates who got jobs as lawyers earned the highest pay of graduates of the class of 2010 at Thomas Jefferson, and even the graduates who landed lawyer jobs did not earn enough to pay off the average debt of the class. The graduates who did not land jobs as lawyers–two thirds of the class–were undoubtedly worse off.

Consequently, while the many graduates who did not land jobs as lawyers may have benefitted in some way from their law degree (as Olivas claims), most did not benefit financially. More to the point, almost all of the graduates with the average debt who did not land jobs as lawyers are in dire economic straits. What good are all these abstract benefits of a law degree to graduates if they have graduated to decades of financial hardship?

Indeed.

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