Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To Go To Law School, or Not To Go...

I often get asked by students and others I know: Should I or shouldn't do it? The "it" is Law School. My usual response, which is often perceived as a "dodge", but is really the truth, is that "it depends". 

Will you, for example, be starting at Harvard or Yale? Then, I think the answer to the aforementioned question for most would be: "Almost certainly, yes."  My answer would probably not differ a whole lot, even for that next category of Law Schools, say through and including the "Top 20-25" Ranked in U.S. News, for example.  All those "top" schools carry a certain cache either nationally or regionally, each have their share of Superstar Professors, and if you graduate in the top half (or even somewhere below that), in all likelihood you are more or less assured a well-paying and/or interesting job opportunity somewhere.

The challenge is those Second, Third and certainly Fourth/Fifth tier schools. If one has a crystal ball and knows that you will take an immediate shine to the study of Law and are shoe-in for Law Review and will graduate at the very top of your class, then I would say "go for it". But the brutal reality is quite different and none of us have that crystal ball. While I always try to emphasize the positive and highlight the great training law school can provide (warts and all, and there are some large ones, that deserve a real popping), does it really justify the opportunity cost of three years, $150,000 in debt, and your fair share of petty slights and pride swallowing moments?  It depends, but for most, almost certainly not.

Check out this one post which  highlights some of these concerns with respect to New York Law School (confused at times, with the far more prestigious, NYU). The post elaborates on the recent NYT article which was quite critical of the outgoing Dean, who himself has been a proponent on the need for significant changes of law school pedagogy (read: focus on the more practical real world stuff, and lessen the burden on law firms and non-profits to shoulder the burden of training new lawyers.)  This story is far from over; to paraphrase the line from one of Churchill's famous speeches, it is "not the end nor is it even the beginning of the end, but perhaps it is the end of the beginning." When the "end" does arrive, I imagine a very different Law School environment and curricula than the one we have today.


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