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Inbox - 7/30/14

July 30, 2014
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Letters to the Editor

To the editor:

I am still scratching my head about the June 18-July 1 cover story by Marilyn Odendahl, “Employability begins long before graduation day.” While I enjoyed the article and appreciated the information on the statistics of the four ABA-approved Indiana law schools and their student success rates in finding jobs requiring a J.D. and bar passage, I still wonder about the intention, or perhaps more accurately, the takeaway message, of the article. I think one message that could reasonably be taken from the article is that law school is still a pretty awful investment in 2014, particularly if one’s goal is to become a practicing lawyer. I don’t recall ever meeting a student in law school whose desire was to go to law school for any reason other than to be a practicing lawyer, either in an established firm (the majority of my classmates) or on their own (minority of classmates, for sure). I’m sure there probably were some with goals other than being lawyers, but they were few and far between.

With that in mind, Notre Dame, the law school in the article with the highest 2013 placement of graduates in positions requiring a J.D. and bar passage, has nearly 30 percent of its 2013 graduating class sitting without a job – at least without a job requiring a J.D. and bar passage. The situation is even worse for the other three schools. IU-Maurer, over the years reported in the article, 2011-2013, has approximately 40 percent of its students not placed as practicing lawyers. Only (about) 50 percent of IU-McKinney students are gainfully employed in jobs requiring a J.D. and bar passage. Only (about) 40 percent of Valparaiso students are similarly employed. I would also be interested in what the average starting salaries are of those who were successfully employed in positions as licensed attorneys versus those who took other non-license-required positions. The ABA probably has that data; I just haven’t looked it up.

What I have looked up is the tuition for 2014-15 at each of the four Indiana law schools in the article. Valparaiso will charge about $40,000, IU-McKinney about $45,000, IU-Maurer about $50,000, and Notre Dame about $50,000, give or take a few thousand in fees and not including living expenses, books, etc. Also, I only looked at out-of-state tuition for McKinney and Maurer for comparison to the two private schools. Spending $120,000 to $150,000 in just tuition over three years is a huge investment with no guarantee of becoming a gainfully employed attorney. I am hoping that the renewed focus of law schools on getting students actual practice experience while in law school will improve these employment statistics substantially.

Rich Mitchell, Ph.D., J.D.

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