Friday, September 04, 2009

What Law School Rankings Don't Say About Costly Choices

Law school can be a bigger financial risk than many students realize:
Below school No. 28 (University of Southern California), a graduate has a less than one in five probability of starting his or her career a large law firm. If 80% of law school applicants are convinced that they will make that 20% cutoff, three out of four are destined to be disappointed. With these numbers, does it really make economic sense to go to the highest-ranked school one can get into? In many cases, the answer is no.

An equally important question is whether to go law school at all. A ranking of 50 law schools by the percentage of students who either flunked out or are unemployed or unaccounted for nine months after graduation includes many schools in tiers 2, 3 and 4 of the 2007 U.S. News rankings. Thus law school does not guarantee lucrative, or even gainful, employment. Moreover, overreliance on the U.S. News rankings can be damaging to a law student's financial health.
I know several of my classmates who are less than satisfied by their choice to attend law school. Unless you have a strong, compelling reason to go or can get into a top 14 school, there's a good chance that the expected value of getting a law degree will not justify its cost. Particularly in these current economic times.

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