The law schools will trick prospective students with bogus statistics about the great career opportunities available to graduates. Don't believe everything you read. First of all, there are the documented lies, like the admissions brochure for my law school alma mater, Arizona State University College of Law (ASU), which listed the average starting salary for graduates with job offers at graduation from private law firms. But what percentage of the class graduates with a job offer in hand from a private law firm? About 10%? Trumpeting the average salary for 10% of the class is d**mned deceptive. I further suspect that some law schools outright lie on their reported career placement statistics. Think about public companies. They have a strong incentive to lie on their financial statements, so that is why they have to prepare their statements in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and the accounting has to be audited by an independent public accounting firm. Despite these safeguards, companies like Enron are still caught lying on their financial statements.
Every year tens of thousands of wannabe lawyers enter law school. The majority will be extremely disappointed by their career opportunities. Law school is a big lie. People enter law school with the idea that a law degree is their ticket to a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle. In fact, just the opposite, law school for most is a ticket to a worse financial state than if they had not attended at all. This news is hard for people to accept, because "everyone knows" that lawyers make a lot of money. Right? Well look at the salaries for government lawyers in your area. They probably start in the 30s. Why would anyone take a job paying in the 30s if law jobs pay six figures? They wouldn't. After a decade or more of service to the state, you salary will most likely max out in the five figures. That's a pretty lousy salary for a job that requires 3 years of graduate school education filed out with inordiante amounts of stress. There are plenty of people without any graduate education earning six figures, and they don't have to pay back the student loans that lawyers have to take out in order to pay for law school. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world and he doesn't even have an undergraduate degree. There are some lawyers who start out with a good salary. They work for what they call "BIGLAW" on the internet message boards. Big law firms pay their associates a starting salary in the six figures. But here's the sad news: only a tiny percentage of law school graduates will ever get these six figure jobs at big law firms. Unless you go to a top law school, the six figure big law firm job will most likely not be yours. There are only 14 top law schools. That's right. Not 10, not 15, but 14. They are, in descending order of prestige: Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, Duke, Northwestern, Cornell, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown. And that's it. Go to any other law school, and your chances of getting a big law firm job will be slim to none. There are also distinct levels of prestige within the top 14. Yale, Harvard, and Stanford are head and shoulders above the rest. Then Columbia, NYU and maybe Chicago round out the top 6. Attending one of these top top law schools will vastly improve your odds. The guy graduating at the bottom of the class at Harvard will have better career opportunities than the guy graduating at the top of the class at an ordinary law school. Outside of the top law schools, the only law school graduates having decent job opportunities will be those who graduated in the top 10% of the class and who made law review. Law review and top 10% are usually the same people because at most law schools the law review members are selected from those whose grades are in the top 10% at the end of the first year. If like me, your grades weren't in the top 10% at the end of the first year, but you managed to graduate in the top 10%, you are screwed because you weren't on law review. Furthermore, most big law firms make offers to their summer associates, who get interviewed and hired during the second half of the second year, thus it's mostly your grades during the first three semesters of law school that determine your entire legal future. If you are reading this, and you're a law student who already received your first semester grades, and they aren't top 10%, then my advice is to drop out now instead of throwing more money down the law school black hole. Despite being warned that the only way to get a decent job in law if one attends a non-top 14 school is to make law review and the top 10%, tens of thousands of suckers will enroll anyway. They think "I will be the one who makes the top 10%" or "even if I don't make the top 10%, things will work out." Let's state the odds clearly: 90% of the class will not make the top 10%. You are not the only person in law school thinking they are going to bust their ass to make the top 10%. 80% of the people start out thinking they are going to bust their ass. And some people from the 20% who are slackers are going to wind up in the top 10% too, because law school grades have a huge random element. One of the biggest slacker/party girls in my first year law school class made the top 10%. She wound up getting a high paying job at a big law firm because the law school gods decided to randomly grace her during her first semester.
Anyone who goes into law school thinking that a law degree guarantees, in and of itself, financial wealth, personal fulfillment, and/or good health is a complete moron. Where you go to school simply dictates how difficult it is going to be to achieve the aforementioned success. It is easier for a HYS to find his or her choice job, be it BIGLAW, DOJ, or NRDC, that it is for a tier 4 grad. That does not mean, however, that every HYS grad will be successful and every tier 4 grad will be unsuccessful.