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Lawrence Mitchell, the dean of Case Western Reserve University's School of Law, recently wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times that defends law schools and argues that law school is still worth the price of admission.
It's truly a troubling time for young lawyers when deans have to take pen to paper to urge the youngest and brightest to attend their schools. After all, it wasn't that long ago when law schools were seeing a slew of new applicants; applications in 2012, however, fell significantly.
Now, as Mitchell points out, law schools are likened to investment banks that profit off the weak and innocent so that insiders (the schools) can fatten up. Defending law schools from "relentless attack," Mitchell makes several points:
First Jobs Don't Matter. Mitchell acknowledges that the legal job market is bad and that most students will have trouble finding a first job. But Mitchell points out that a recent law grad will likely have a 40- to 50-year career and will be well-prepared for a job in law, or in some other field. So what you're doing now as a recent graduate likely doesn't matter. Sure, tell that to the legions of unemployed law grads. When you're not working, you'll hear a lot about the utility of a law degree in other fields. But just how many lawyers out there actually know of someone who got a job in the arts, investment banking, business, or other industry simply because they went to law school?
What Else Are You Going to Do? Mitchell suggests that spending thousands of dollars to attend law school may be your best alternative, because what else would you be doing? Mitchell then throws out salary statistics for practicing (i.e., working) attorneys and compares these to salaries for jobs in other industries. But again, the problem is becoming a practicing attorney in this job market to attain these lofty salaries in the first place.
It's Not as Expensive as Medical School. In short, this argument goes like this: You should buy a Mercedes because it's not as expensive as a Ferrari. Mitchell writes that medical school tuition has increased four times more than law school tuition. If that doesn't make law school the bargain of the century, what does?
Baby Boomers Will Soon Die. Spoiler alert: In Breaking Bad, Walter White's wife simply waits for her husband to die so that she can resume her life without fear of being married to a drug kingpin. Similarly, recent law grads have time on their side because as soon as all the baby boomers die, there will be a glut of jobs available. Or so suggests the dean.
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