Running from the Law

Dan Miller —  October 5, 2010 — 9 Comments

The October 2nd edition of The Tennessean says the average law school student now graduates with $100,000 in student loan debt.  And the average starting salary for a law school student is $40,000.  Add to that the fact that the American Bar Association tells us that only 88% of the law school class of 09 has found work of any kind in the legal field.

I did a quick search for jobs that would be expected to pay more than $40,000.

Taco Bell manager — $52,333

Plumber — $39,217

UPS driver — $75,000

Garbage Truck driver – $52,000

Meg Whitman’s nanny – $47,840

Graphic Designer — $43,560

And the last I checked, none of these required seven years of in-school training.

Add to the seven years of school the “opportunity cost,” meaning what was given up to spend those years sitting in a classroom.  Assuming you could have gotten a job that already paid $40,000 – that would add $280,000 to the $100,000 in debt.  And certainly the $100,000 didn’t cover all the costs – perhaps another $50,000 in real money was added to the mix.  So somewhere in the neighborhood of $430,000 has been “invested” in the process of becoming an attorney – for the opportunity of making $40,000 – if you could find a job at all.

Okay, that’s not an attractive scenario.

Yes, I talk about fulfilling and meaningful work and you may not think some of the above options are that meaningful.  But the most common frustration I hear from attorneys is that their work is not meaningful.

Our academic system is broken.  They are selling a myth and false dreams.  I predict we are going to see a revolution in our traditional educational system as people continue to discover alternative methods of “education” that do lead to meaningful, purposeful and profitable work.  And oh yeah, there really is a book titled, Running from the Law.

  • Josh Bulloc

    It used to be that we worked for a higher quality of life which came fro an increased income. Somewhere we got mixed up and started thinking the reason for work was for the money. Now with an increase in pay we get a decrease in quality of life.

    Josh Bulloc
    Kansas City, MO
    How can I help?

  • Scott Moore

    I wrote a similar post about the this issue on my blog ( Frankly, I see the university model of higher education, like so many other industry models, as antiquated and failing rapidly. Look at a university brochure. It looks like they’re selling a resort vacation or country club membership.
    Yes, there are some professions that require a specific degree, certification, or license. There are even alternatives to traditional education for many of those fields, though. There are going to be a lot of empty campii in the coming years as wiser students and parents look for a better value for their educational dollar. The university is quite possibly the worst value for your money and your child’s time.

  • Sutton Parks

    $430,000 and 7 years invested in becoming a lawyer, and whether you find a job or not, people still say things like:
    What’s black and tan and looks good on a lawyer? A Doberman Pinscher.

    I’m sorry, I had to drop a lawyer joke. By the way, why does California have the most attorneys and New Jersey have the most toxic waste dumps? New Jersey got first pick.

    Ok, I’m done.

  • Kirk Martin, Celebrate Calm

    We work with intense, creative children, most of whom are more suited for entrepreneurial work as adults. We have been seeding the idea with parents of redirecting tuition money into very specific technical training, internships and helping their kids start a business.

    For some families, investing $150,000 in a family business makes more sense than spending it on a generic liberal arts degree. We recently conducted a live broadcast of a new workshop titled, “Survive the Education Earthquake.” The response was overwhelming. As usual, Dan’s on the cutting edge here!

  • Bruce Gulde

    Relating to the law profession, this appears to be an example of simple supply and demand — too many lawyers. This applies to many professional fields: There is a call for nurses, teachers, etc. because there is a current shortage. Many people then rush to get educated/trained in such fields, and by the time (years) the training ends, that particular job market is flooded.

  • Loren

    Yes, there is flooding of markets (I saw it whe I graduated with an Engineering degree). However, I still landed an above average paying position 1 month after college. I had showed excellence in my education (even worked for some of the professors) not the highest G.P.A.. I also controlled my education debt. I went to the college that the professionals in the field said was in the top ten for the field, not the big name school. I worked 30 to 40 hours a week and went to school full time. I co-op (like a payed intern)andall the funds when for school. Yes there were some loans and some grants. I had 10K in debt. My continued display of character, excellence and continued learning made a career for me that was pushing three figures a year (I only worked 45-50 hrs/week).
    Our educational system is dependant on the student demanding to learn and demanding the topics not covered. Howerever, the real issue is our love of money not God. The entire focus is on how much did you make last year and what did we buy with it. Then (to the delite of the banking system) we purchase with credit. The entire monetary system is designed to keep us wanting the latest thing and to keep us in debt and yes the governments owe them too.
    Define your life by what you like to do (what you are meant to do), your relationships and clearly define your needs, wants and wishes. Then work WISELY to get them.
    Don’t be a slave. Or should I say don’t worship idols.

  • Alessandra

    What is scary to me is that I want to pursue a Master’s in Illustration and I’d like to go to a school I really like, but the costs are scary…I mean 50,000 dollars and maybe even more for this degree sounds a bit pricey, especially since I’m already in debt from my undergraduate degree. I really hope something happens soon where the costs of schooling will be forced to be lowered by the government. A lot of European countries offer schooling for almost free. What is up with this discrepancy? And what is up with all this interest charged on student loans, it shouldn’t even be legal! After all people are going to school to try to make their life better…it’s not like they are borrowing money to go on vacation!

  • NArdia

    i too have a school loan debt of $100,000 i npuruist of a masters degree to get s promotuion snd now not working at all. Umm makes you thiunk?

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