Pricing people out?

July 29, 2009
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To continue with the theme of law school tuition, I want to know if the astronomical amount people spend to become an attorney has hurt the profession.

Law school costs a lot of money. Students spend more than what the average worker at a minimum wage job would earn annually to go to law school for a year. When it’s all said and done, many students graduate thousands of dollars in debt. According to an April 2009 New York Times article, the average graduate leaves with more than $80,000 in debt.

Some students are lucky – they get scholarships, can work to help pay off their loans while still in school, or have a relative helping out.

Not everyone is so lucky, which brings me back to my original thought. With law school tuition being so high, are we pricing people out of the profession who may make great lawyers but just can’t afford the cost of law school?

Diversity is something law firms strive for. Not only diversity in race and gender, but also in people’s backgrounds and experiences. A white male who grew up attending private school and living in a 5-bedroom house may bring something different to the table than a white male who grew up on welfare.

The profession is making strides in being more diverse, but obviously, there is still more to be done. A co-worker told me she read a blog online that made the argument that law schools are becoming “too elitist” because they are pricing people out of school.

The high price of tuition may be hurting the diversity of the profession, but it also may cause graduates to forgo their idea of working as a public defender or at a legal services organization. If you’ve got $80,000 of law school debt, and your job as a public defender only pays half of that a year, but being a first year at a private firm pays $100,000, suddenly the private firm becomes more attractive. That same NYT article said two-thirds of students said debt prevented them from considering a non-private firm job.

There will always be people who want to be lawyers and people willing and able to pay for it. I do wonder that if law school was more affordable, whether the profession would look differently from a diversity perspective than it does today.
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  • The other important issue is if a private law school is worth it, when you can go to a state school for much cheaper.
  • Law schools are failing the justice system by graduating too many students. Med students pay much more for school because they know they\'ll earn back their investment in a reasonable time. The AMA regulates the number of seats to med students to fit the market. High prices won\'t scare away students if they know its worth it. For many law students, they incur $35,000 in debt for 3 years only to land a job that pays $40,000. The economics don\'t make sense. Slow down the flow of new lawyers. Thanks!
  • Nothing new about this at all. Increased use of student loans to get through law school started when I was in law school in the late Eighties. Combined with Indian\'s declining economy, law students wre going to firms and/or out of state. In the past twenty years, I think Anderson and Madison County has seen only maybe a half dozen new attorneys. Of the other counties I practice in most (Grant, Delaware, and Henry) I suspect the same is true but not so true in Howard and Hamilton Counties. Skip the public defender/firm comparison, we will see fewer (are seeing?) solos as people need to have salaries to pay their educational debt. I expect to see a lot of people unavailable to get legal services in the near future.

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  1. "So we broke with England for the right to "off" our preborn progeny at will, and allow the processing plant doing the dirty deeds (dirt cheap) to profit on the marketing of those "products of conception." I was completely maleducated on our nation's founding, it would seem. (But I know the ACLU is hard at work to remedy that, too.)" Well, you know, we're just following in the footsteps of our founders who raped women, raped slaves, raped children, maimed immigrants, sold children, stole property, broke promises, broke apart families, killed natives... You know, good God fearing down home Christian folk! :/

  2. Who gives a rats behind about all the fluffy ranking nonsense. What students having to pay off debt need to know is that all schools aren't created equal and students from many schools don't have a snowball's chance of getting a decent paying job straight out of law school. Their lowly ranked lawschool won't tell them that though. When schools start honestly (accurately) reporting *those numbers, things will get interesting real quick, and the looks on student's faces will be priceless!

  3. Whilst it may be true that Judges and Justices enjoy such freedom of time and effort, it certainly does not hold true for the average working person. To say that one must 1) take a day or a half day off work every 3 months, 2) gather a list of information including recent photographs, and 3) set up a time that is convenient for the local sheriff or other such office to complete the registry is more than a bit near-sighted. This may be procedural, and hence, in the near-sighted minds of the court, not 'punishment,' but it is in fact 'punishment.' The local sheriffs probably feel a little punished too by the overwork. Registries serve to punish the offender whilst simultaneously providing the public at large with a false sense of security. The false sense of security is dangerous to the public who may not exercise due diligence by thinking there are no offenders in their locale. In fact, the registry only informs them of those who have been convicted.

  4. Unfortunately, the court doesn't understand the difference between ebidta and adjusted ebidta as they clearly got the ruling wrong based on their misunderstanding

  5. A common refrain in the comments on this website comes from people who cannot locate attorneys willing put justice over retainers. At the same time the judiciary threatens to make pro bono work mandatory, seemingly noting the same concern. But what happens to attorneys who have the chumptzah to threatened the legal status quo in Indiana? Ask Gary Welch, ask Paul Ogden, ask me. Speak truth to power, suffer horrendously accordingly. No wonder Hoosier attorneys who want to keep in good graces merely chase the dollars ... the powers that be have no concerns as to those who are ever for sale to the highest bidder ... for those even willing to compromise for $$$ never allow either justice or constitutionality to cause them to stand up to injustice or unconstitutionality. And the bad apples in the Hoosier barrel, like this one, just keep rotting.

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