Law For Love, Not Money
While the costs of legal education continue to increase as employment prospects decrease, you could argue that a law degree does not have the same value it had in the past. Maybe it doesn’t, but a recent study out of New Jersey has found that a JD is valued at more than $1 million over a lifetime.
Seton Hall University School of Law professor Michael Simkovic and Rutgers University Business School professor Frank McIntyre conducted the study, entitled “The Economic Value of a Law Degree.” They found that despite a decrease in starting salaries and full-time employment, law school graduates are still better off than their peers with bachelor’s degrees. In fact, a law school graduate will make $1 million more over his or her lifetime.
“The data does not suggest that law graduates were unaffected by the recession,” the study says. “Rather, earnings dropped for both law graduates and college graduates after the late 2000s recession, and law graduates maintained their relative advantage. It is this relative advantage—not absolute outcomes—that measures the value of the law degree.”
The study also credits attorneys with maintaining the value of a law degree by adapting to changing times. “Predictions of structural change in the legal industry date back at least to the invention of the typewriter,” the study says. “But lawyers have prospered while adapting to once threatening new technologies and modes of work—computerized and modular legal research through Lexis and Westlaw; word processing; electronic citation software; electronic document storage and filing systems; automated document comparison; electronic document search; email; photocopying; desktop publishing; standardized legal forms; will-making and tax-preparing software. Through it all, the law degree has continued to offer a large earnings premium.”
While the study has limitations, namely that it does not reflect data for the most recent law school graduates or account for the cost of tuition, the findings certainly prove that young people need more than just a BA. Something beyond the basic degree is needed.
Law is a wonderful pursuit, but people should not go to law school with the idea that they will automatically make a lot of money. Go to law school because you have a passion for law, government, business, and helping others in society. If you love what you do, money will follow.
If you are interested in additional Law Student studies, in October 2013, I wrote, “The Newest Law Students, Don’t Want to Be Lawyers.“