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Pretty Much Everyone Regrets Going to Law School

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on March 29, 2016 12:57 PM

If you could go back in time and stop yourself from going to law school, would you? If you answered "Hell yes," you're not alone. A recent survey shows that most law grads regret going to law school.

Why is law school such a universally regrettable mistake? We've got some ideas.

Law School Regret by the Numbers

The survey, put together by Gallup, looked at law grads from seven Southeastern law schools, including highly-ranked schools like Vanderbilt Law, and lower-tier, regional schools like Nova Southeastern University. And while the survey looked at students who finished their J.D. from 1960 on, those who graduated after 2000 had a particularly negative view towards law school:

  • Only 37 percent strongly agreed that they would attend law school again
  • Only 35 percent said law school prepared them well for practicing
  • Only 20 percent strongly agreed that their law school was worth the cost
  • Thirty-eight percent said they were struggling financially; 30 percent said they were "suffering"

Of course, there are two more numbers that we should include: $125,000 and $75,000. That's the average student loan debt for law school grads from private and public law schools, respectively. (For comparison, most Ph.D.'s finish their programs with around $20,000 or less in debt.) That, plus the fact that almost half of the recent grads had no job at graduation, with 15 percent taking more than a year to find one, could explain the suffering and regret.

Where Law Schools Are Improving

A survey shows a major gap between lawyers who finished law school a generation or two ago, and those who started law within the last 15 years. Seventy-five percent of those who graduated between 1960 and 1970 strongly agreed that their degree was worth the cost, for example, compared to just 20 percent of recent graduates.

But while the difference is generally negative, there's one place where law schools seem to be doing better: career services.

Yep, ironic as it is, given how many law school grads regret their career of choice, more recent grads have a much more positive view of their school's career services offices. Thirty-six percent rated their career services offices as somewhat or very helpful, compared to just the 17 percent helpfulness rating by the old timers.

So, recent grads, you can regret your degree. You can regret your job -- or lack thereof. But at least you had that great career services office!

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