Job market discourages law school applicants

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High tuition costs and a poor job market are turning some Fairfield students away from attending law school. But to others, the chance to be an attorney makes it all worth it.

There is “always a need for lawyers … and the people who do decide they want to go to law school are so motivated, you can’t talk them out of it anyway,” said Professor Sharlene A. McEvoy, Fairfield’s pre-law director and professor of business law.

These students are willing to do whatever it takes to fulfill their career aspirations.

“For me, yes, law school is worth the time, hard work and unfortunately the accumulation of debt,” said pre-law student Lorena Gullotta ’14.

However, Gullotta also added: “From my experience at Fairfield, I would say that there are a large number of students who, at some point, talk about going to law school or the law field, but ultimately decide not to follow through.”

The issue arose nationally when USA Today reported that changes in the field of law are leaving some students in an academic bind.

As employment rates for law school graduates fall, enrollment at law schools across the United States has also dropped 15 percent in the last two years, USA Today reported.

Only about two-thirds of law school graduates in the class of 2011 obtained jobs that required passing the bar exam, over a 9 percent decrease since 2008. The overall employment rate for graduates stands at almost 86 percent, the lowest since 1994, according to the report.

The median starting salary for law school graduates has also dropped, falling 5 percent from the class of 2010 to the class of 2011, as reported by USA Today.

Law schools are also feeling this impact. The story reported that in a survey given to law school admissions officers done by Kaplan Test Prep, 51 percent of law schools have had to reduce the size of their entering class, the decline in employment being the main reason.

There has been a significant decline in law school applications because law school is closely tied to the economy and the “job market has been so dismal for law school graduates for the past seven years that it finally begins to dawn on students that it is not worth staying in school,” said Dr. Donald W. Greenberg, professor of politics at Fairfield and former pre-law director.

Starting salaries for law school graduates have also decreased. Many jobs are paying $30,000 to $35,000, which is just not enough for these students to live and pay their debt, said Greenberg.

Low LSAT scores are another serious problem that affects the number of Fairfield students that decide to apply to law school.

Fairfield students are shying away from law school because they have not done well enough on the LSAT to get into the top law schools, so law school is no longer worth the while, Greenberg said.

Greenberg now advises his students to avoid law school unless they want to be an attorney, because he believes it is not worth three years and $150,000 of debt to become only slightly more marketable.

“Law school is a professional school, designed to train students to become competent attorneys … not about developing your intellectual capabilities; that’s a byproduct, not a reason to attend,” Greenberg said.

Yet in an informal survey of 50 Fairfield students, 30 said that they believe applicants to law school are increasing, whereas only 13 believed these numbers to be decreasing. Five other students believed the numbers to remain the same, while three said they did not know.

“I have definitely questioned [law school], wondering if it is for me or if I would be better off doing something else,” said Fairfield English major Giovanna Giampa ‘13, who is considering attending law school after college. “I think that it is all a matter of an opinion. If someone is willing to take the time to study hard and be successful in their time there, I think that law school is worth the hard work.”

Similarly, Greenberg never turns a student away from law school; he just wants to make them aware.

“Be realistic,” he said, “but don’t be deferred if it’s really what you want to do.”

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