Good call, Mr. Weissmann, though we totally beat you to it.
Now is a good time to go to law school, as shrunken demand and class sizes, along with a recovering job market, mean that you aren't tying an anvil of debt around your neck and diving into the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
But that doesn't mean you should go to your nearest school and pay full sticker price -- as with all legal rulings, there are caveats and fine points.
Employment Numbers are Recovering
As Mr. Weissmann's Slate article points out: the flat growth in employment percentages in last week's NALP report mask a decent recovery in terms of quantity of jobs, as the Class of 2013 was abnormally huge thanks to a lot of people with the terrible notion of riding out the recession by obtaining a $150,000 law degree.
Plus, in recent years, we've seen an over-correction: students simply aren't applying to law school, which has led us to recommend now as the time to "buy low" on a law degree.
Why? Not only do you stand a much higher chance of getting a job (according to Slate's figures, if the number of jobs stays perfectly steady, the class of 2016 will be looking at around 91 percent employment in long-term, full-time work. Even without school-funded gigs, it'd still be 88 percent.
And that's assuming a flat job market, rather than one that grows. (If we're not at rock bottom now, God help us.)
Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.
Major, Massive, Heavy Caveats
The Slate piece misses one significant factor: since the crash of 2009, there have been more graduates than jobs. Some of those people have moved on and accepted positions outside of the industry, but there is still a significant backlog of graduates that will temper some of the job growth.
Second, Weissmann mentions this, but it bears repeating, with emphasis: do not go to diploma mills. Seriously folks, if top-tier grads are begging for gigs, what chances will you have with a non-tier degree? If it doesn't have a ranking, it shouldn't get your tuition. Get a decent LSAT score, and thanks to the dearth of applicants, schools will fight to admit you and maybe even toss some scholarship funds your way.
Finally, keep this in mind: you aren't going to school to get rich anymore. When we were wee lads and lasses in undergrad, law school job fairs were parading signs with recent grads' median starting salaries ($160k in Los Angeles!). Now? According to NALP, the median is $95,000, or $30,000 less than it was in 2008.
Plus, salaries fall into a bimodal distribution curve, which means a handful of people will get BigLaw money, nobody falls in the middle, and everyone else ends up making $65,000 or less.
As we've mentioned recently, sticker cost is less of a consideration if you are willing to work in public interest, but even then, you'll have to be okay with starting at between $42,800 and $50,500, and dedicating ten years to the service of mankind.
That's a lot of caveats and considerations, but if your dream is to be a lawyer, assuming you can get into a decent school and are okay with rolling the dice on your financial future, then yes, now is the time to apply, especially with the shortage of applicants.
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