I agree that this outlook is refreshing. But let's crunch the numbers.
Consider $125,000 in loans, payable over 25 years at 7.2 percent.
$125,000 in principal
$144,845 in interest
$120,000 in opportunity cost (From not working those three years of law school)
That works out to $15,593 per year for 25 years. To break even, you have to average $15,593 more annual NET INCOME per year for 25 years.
Who knows how much you would have made without law school... but it's plausible, maybe probable, that a legal education will pay off by the 25 year mark for the median law student out there.
The BLS says the median pay for lawyers (not starting salary) in 2010 was $112,760. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Legal/Lawyers.htm
sales managers in 2010 was $98,530. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/sales-managers.htm
computer systems analyst in 2010 was $77,740 http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm
Network Administrator: $69,160 http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm
Here's a list of some other business field careers and their medians. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/sales-managers.htm#tab-7
A legal career pays off against almost all of those careers (for the median person).
I think it's a good investment in the long run for most people, but:
1: A lot of people are below the median. And a large portion (impossible to know how large) won't make enough money for it to be worth it. However, maybe they would have sucked at everything else.
2: Law school doesn't teach you how to be a practicing lawyer or how to make money.
3: Law school is inefficient and the tuition was rising far too rapidly.
4: Legal jobs are so diverse, that it's extremely difficult to predict what kind of work you will be doing after graduation.
5: The first five years can be brutal for the massive portion of attorneys who start at less than 60k per year.
Jack, love the analysis, but the opportunity cost element of this equation is overstated if you ask me.
The reasons are:
1. You will not save any of that money. You'll consume 100% of it by living day-to-day.
2. The day-to-day living is already accounted for in loans on the other half of the equation.
So, this is really taking the same variable and working against law school on both sides of the ledger.
Now, what is more accurate to say is that by working, you'll eat a little less ramen. At the end of both periods, though, you won't have anything to show for it. In the work case, you will break-even, in the LS case, you will have debt. Once you account for the debt, you account for the entire impact of not-working.
Also, I am one of the majority of law students who, no way, no how, will get a lucrative job offer upon graduation. Just won't happen.
I'm already resigned to starting my own practice, and I already know that's a road fraught with pitfalls.
Seems like the law is a great career for people who are either ultra-brainy (can pull a high class rank) or highly entrepreneurial. It is not necessarily a great move for people who are merely moderately bright and get a minimal set of credentials. (Unremarkable class rank and bar passage.) Those folks might have had a great career in the law 50 years ago. Not so much today.