« on: June 24, 2006, 04:27:29 PM »
Turning back to the original topic for a moment, Stacher's Wall Street Journal article attempts to make a few points.
He writes that 40,000 new lawyers are minted every year. But large law firms lose 40 percent of their associates within four years. Furthermore, 42 percent of lawyers in smaller firms switch firms after three years.
Those statistics do raise some concerns, but at this point, Stracher makes a leap. Stracher writes: "While many go to other law firms, or into other legal jobs, such as in-house counsel at corporations, anecdotal evidence shows that a significant percentage drop out of the legal profession entirely."
What is his anecdotal evidence? Two of his closest friends (presumably these friends were lawyers) are now mothers choosing to stay at home. Another friend of his has become an actor. Another friend is a screenwriter and several are novelists. Then he quotes one commercial firm's director for the following, "The buzz now is lawyers getting three years of experience at a big firm, then going off and doing something entirely unrelated to the law... ."
Stracher then writes,
"The legal profession is really two professions: the elite lawyers and everyone else. Most of the former start out at big law firms. Many of the latter never find gainful legal employment. Instead, they work at jobs that might be characterized as "quasi-legal": paralegals, clerks, administrators, doing work for which they probably never needed a J.D."
It's a rather sweeping statement. But he doesn't really have any statistics for what constitutes "many of the latter never find gainful legal employment" and admits that "hard data about the nature of these jobs is difficult to come by."
Stracher thinks that lawyers need to do a better job of communicating to others outside the profession that most lawyers don't earn $160,000 a year. OK, I would agree with that proposition. Also, lawyers should let the world in on the fact that rock star-lawyer lunches do not happen. You know, I've never heard this rock star lunch expectation from anyone wanting to go to law school. If I do, I'll be sure to disabuse them of that notion. Apparently, he never meets people interested in studying the law for the sake of learning. He doesn't devote any discussion to the fact that the law degree is still a rich and versatile degree.
Stracher says he is annually surprised by students who believe a J.D. is "a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one's peers -- a sure ticket to the upper middle class." He faults the "system" that "makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future."
I think law school debt is a problem. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations out there. But there are still a lot of reasons to go to law school. Stracher doesn't really have enough facts in his article to support his sweeping conclusions. He covers a lot of ground in his article and all his pessimism gets jumbled up with the facts. His solution is to just sweep it all under the rug.