By Brian McKay
I am truly considering law school. Actually, I am just doing going to do it. An MBA in Boise, Idaho hasn’t proven to be worth much (actually nothing for me) and writing for a website with no revenue model might just not have a paycheck in the future. It is time to get paid and maybe three years of complete hell while working full time might be the ticket. Heck, I really like risk anyway.
One of the worst things to be in 2009 was a law school graduate or a new lawyer. Legal costs were cut dramatically across all demographics at the same time people started buying kits at Target to do at home haircuts and staycation entered the lexicon. A new attorney reviewing contracts, often saw that work outsourced to India. While the thought of having someone in India review your contract might be disconcerting, they apparently did an amazing job for far less.
Still, no one wants to hear that their crucial contract was reviewed in India. If there is an error, that is certainly coming back on the firm. Slowly, lawyers have been making a comeback and less contracts are sent overseas.
With the sudden drop in employment prospects came an equally abrupt drop of students attending law schools. In 2015, the amount of applicants for law school fell to a 15-year low, falling 6.7% from the prior year. Student enrollment has been running below 40,000 for the last 3 years.
Basic economics say this is favorable. When supply becomes seriously constrained it starts to command a higher price. Students graduating now have a better chance at finding good employment. Also, the attorneys that deferred retirement when their portfolios took a major hit in 2008, have seen their portfolios recover nicely since and are leaving the field.
As law schools keep seeing their enrollment drop, they are offering new financial aid packages and scholarships to entice students. Now the ROI looks even better as the cost drops and chances of good employment rise.
As early as 2013 the market for new lawyers wasn’t improving with far more graduates than jobs. That has been changing dramatically since. By 2020 there could be a full blown shortage. That means that starting law school in 2017 could get you on the market at just the right time.
While the big firms still have a glut of applicants, government positions are dramatically under filled. The biggest opportunity for lawyers is now in rural areas where a complete dearth of anyone practicing law has been a problem for years. The demand is there, but the supply isn’t.
Law school isn’t for everyone. Actually it isn’t for a lot of people. It is brutal and highly competitive. A new lawyer can face long hours at certain firms as they establish themselves. A Juris Doctorate is also not a guarantee of a high wage right out of school and you could be left carrying some pretty substantial loans.
It is still worth exploring for the right people. Do you possess strong critical thinking skills, like taking on a debate and have some serious tenacity? It might just be for you. A good lawyer can also make a positive impact in the world, even despite all the lawyer jokes.
The law school ROI is about to change in favor of new grads and could be the career change you are looking for.
Brian McKay is a co-founder of zenruption. He already has a B.A. and an M.B.A. We think he is nuts to subject himself to another 3 years. Obviously none of us expect him start dating for at least another 4 years.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license