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The Thomson Reuters Institute asked thousands of law students about the value of their legal education during the pandemic. The results indicate many students have doubts about whether law school is worth the price, with 30% of respondents saying remote learning is not giving them enough of an education to succeed relative to its cost. Many faculty shared this concern, with 21% giving a similar low score to value. As is true with many higher education institutions, law schools that switched to all remote learning but did not lower tuition as a result of the pandemic faced a backlash from students and the public. Harvard Law school, for example, is facing a class-action lawsuit over its tuition.
While the Thomson Reuters Institute focused on the effect of the pandemic, concerns over the value of a J.D. are nothing new. In October, the ABA Young Lawyers Division released its own findings that law school graduates average $165,000 in debt. One in four have owe more than $200,000 upon graduating. Because of this, many recent graduates feel obligated to take the highest paying job they can get, rather than pursuing an area they are passionate about. Recent graduates are also likely to postpone marriage and children because of high debt, not take a vacation, and be unable to afford a house or car. Combined with the difficulty experienced with remote learning, it is no surprise some law students are doubting whether their degree will be worth the cost.
Despite these doubts, there have been some positives lately, too. Law school enrollment is up again this year. And while the bar exam has been troubled (to put it mildly) in several states this year bar passage rates are up. Additionally, according to the TR survey, law students and faculty are both focused on resolving the same issues, particularly improving student engagement. Resolving these shared concerns could lead to a greater ability for law schools to offer online classes, reduce tuition, and ultimately graduate more students.
The Thomson Reuters Institute has published its findings in a white paper you can read in full for more information. FindLaw is a part of Thomson Reuters but took no part in the survey.