The Unsustainability of American Legal Education Term Paper by noripj

The Unsustainability of American Legal Education
Presents an original study to investigate if an American legal education is worth the cost of the education as compared to future income potential.
# 148917 | 5,790 words | 38 sources | MLA | 2011 | US
Published on Nov 14, 2011 in Education (Higher) , Law (General) , Labor Studies (General)

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This paper explains that, although a legal education is generally presented by law schools and interested organizations as a prudent financial investment, their employment data is often distorted and misleading, making it difficult for prospective law students to determine their personal economic sustainability of entering law school. Next, the paper underscores that the biggest interpretation of data problem is analyzing the "average" beginning salary of law graduates because this data is bimodal thus lowering the adjusted mean; however, this situation is rarely explained or understood by prospective legal students. The paper concludes that not only should prospective students be able to access a clear and concise breakdown of a law school's "terms", which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also law schools should be required to report their employment data in more accurate and less favorable manner. This paper includes figures, and MLA-style sources are to be found in the footnotes.

Table of Contents:
The Principal Problem
How the Employment Data Currently Advertised by Law Schools and Other Interested Organizations is Deceptive and Misleading
Not the Type of Employment Expected
Law Schools Need Not Report on Missing Graduates
The Mean is Meaningless
Two Track Lawyering Market
Requiring Median Wage Info Not a Solution
Law Students Unable to Weigh the Costs and Benefits of Attending Law School
Legislative Responses and the Need for Federal Intervention
Recommendations on Real Reform

From the Paper:

"This bimodal distribution of pay for law graduates is cause for concern for a variety of reasons and raises questions about the sustainability of the American legal education system. By far the biggest problem with this bimodal distribution of pay--and also the reason that advertising average or even median pay is so misleading to prospective law students--is that graduates of both groups end up carrying about the same amount of student debt after graduation. In other words, while "average" wages fail to reflect the actual income of average graduates, the "average" debt carried by law graduates has a very much more normalized distribution. As a result, graduates who end up in the first group (of $30-65k earners) face disproportionately greater challenges in making their minimum student loan payments after graduation. Indeed, prior to the passage of the relatively recent legislative protections mentioned at the beginning of this paper, some sources estimated that nearly 40% of law graduates were on track to default on their student loans, which would have resulted in around an additional 39% in collections fees.
"Adding to this, according to the NALP's study, supra, fewer than 9% of the class of 2009 ended up earning salaries at or around the $160,000 range. For the other 91% of the class of 2009, many of whom graduated with total student debt in excess of $200,000, the return on investment of a legal education can be quite low and has the potential to dramatically impact their quality of life."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Irate Law School Grads Say They were Misled about Job Prospects,, 15 Aug 2010, available online at:
  • Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers, The Wall Street Journal, 24 Sept 2007, available online at:
  • Representative for Graduate Leverage, a company that specializes in helping graduate students manage student debt,
  • (Appendix 2.)

Cite this Term Paper:

APA Format

The Unsustainability of American Legal Education (2011, November 14) Retrieved May 27, 2023, from

MLA Format

"The Unsustainability of American Legal Education" 14 November 2011. Web. 27 May. 2023. <>