« on: April 03, 2013, 04:57:06 PM »
Jack, I know that you have been reading all the press about crippling student loans, no jobs, and no practical training . . . I have too. The difference is that these issues are absolutely true in most of the large urban centers where the urban legend continues that there are $150K+ first-year associate jobs in elite law firms. What is not being written about is that in many of the non-urban regions of the country there are jobs to be had . . . small law firms, DAs, Public Defenders, legal services . . . the list is long and the legal service needs are great. However, your point about salary level is indeed correct. The average small-town lawyer makes a good, but not exceptional living with salaries starting at $50,000-60,000 and growing to $150,000 to $200,000 as a senior lawyer. What that means is that student debt becomes the driving force in employment choices, not professional choice. What makes programs like ours different is that we are scaled to directly meet the needs of the community. Our law degree costs about $65K . . . not $150K. As a part-time program, our students are encouraged to start working in law-related jobs all through law school, not only reducing the need for student loans, but in most cases providing the opportunity to try out different practice areas to identify a preferred area of practice. In this scenario, there isn't the rush to finish as quickly as possible, and by doing so, graduate with no meaningful practice experience. In some ways, our format is much closer to the medical school practicum model than the typical ABA program.
Although I do not have an employment statistic available for you . . . I can say that we are unaware of any recent graduate being unemployed . . . since we are commonly the source of matchmaking between local law firms and our graduates. Employment statistics are a little more challenging for part-time programs since a number of our graduates go to law school fully intending to remain in their original profession. Most commonly this includes realtors, small business owners, financial planners, non-profit administrators, etc.
I guess the point is that is that there are viable alternatives to the one-size-fits-all model of "elite" legal education. It is not intended to be a replacement for those who desire an ivory tower, big firm future . . . but after 40 years it has been demonstrated to be an extremely effective model for our community, particularly for non-traditional law students.