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Guest post by Jennifer K. Halford, Esq.
Many college students question if they should go to law school. They are filled with noble aspirations of changing the world. And they think a law degree will enable them to do so.
But there are things that law schools don't tell you. Things that I wish someone had told me before I went to law school.
Here are 5 things law schools don't want you to know:
1. A law degree does NOT equal a job. Approximately 45,000 students will graduate from law school this year. And only 28,000 attorney jobs will be available, the Economic Modeling Specialists told Smart Money. Do the math.
2. You will pay a LOT for that law degree. Private university tuition averaged $39,184 this past year, according to the ABA. Public schools for in-state students averaged $22,116. Now multiply that amount by three years.
3. You will be paying for that J.D. for a LONG, LONG time. Nine out of ten 2012 graduates will leave school with student loan debt, FinAid.org reports.
The average debt owed is $91,100. Yet, almost one-half of the 2010 graduates earned only $40,000 to $65,000 during their first year of practice. The average salary was $84,111, according to NALP data.
Many graduates will take a job to pay their debt - and it won't be a job where they feel they are changing the world.
4. You may even pay for someone else's degree. Ever wonder where the money comes from to fund the scholarships distributed to the "A" students?
Law school scholarship funding usually comes from tuition discounting, Jerry Organ, law professor told Smart Money. Law schools increase overall tuition to pay for merit based scholarships. Essentially the "B" and "C" students subsidize the bill for the "A" students.
5. That degree doesn't mean you are ready to practice law. You still have to pass the bar exam, pal.
And you still have a lot to learn. Law school teaches you the law. But it doesn't necessary teach you to "practice" law. That can be a tough reality for first year associates - especially with unthankful clients, demanding partners, and feeling like you are not changing the world.
If you still want to go to law school after being told what law schools don't want you to know, then good luck potential 1L. We can use your resilience in the profession.
Jennifer K. Halford is an attorney whose practice focuses on business law and estate planning. She is also a professor at California State University, Chico, where she teaches Entrepreneurial Law.