Here we go again with the tired, worn-out "a JD is versatile" argument. But economic pressure being what it is, the concept has its desperate defenders and, by extension, its earnest detractors whose mantle I proudly assume. Without further ado:
In April of this year, Kaplan Test Prep did a survey of 200 pre-law students. Fifty percent of those students stated that they do not intend to use their future law degree in a traditional legal field. If this statistic extrapolates out to the larger law student population, we have a generation of law students of which only half will ever be practicing lawyers. So if half of law students do not intend on ever practicing law in a traditional way at a traditional firm—what is their intention?
News flash: correlation is not causation. The fact is that now, with access to actual law school employment-data-sans-spin, we see that 50% (at best) of law grads are going to "law firms." That is the reality of the legal market, not the a priori effect of the pipe dreams of the lemmings contemplating law school. (See, I went to law school, ergo I use terms like a priori. And ergo.) If only grads could actually manipulate the state of the market with the sheer force of their efforts and desires - there would be no scamblogs, I can guarantee you that. And, with all due respect, what do 0Ls know about the legal market, anyway, except for those with inside information?
Interest in these jobs skyrocketed as the market fell, with more and more students seeking the J.D.-preferred positions when there were many less traditional positions available. In fact, in 2011, one in every seven jobs taken by new law graduates fell into the J.D. advantage category. (NALP Bulletin, May 2013).
As I have discussed before, 15% of your graduate pool going into a catch-all category does not scream resounding success or market demand for said catch-all category. "Interest" increased due to the lack of jobs, folks. Maybe I just have a funny way of looking at numbers, but if "JD-Advantage" jobs were actually on par with "law firm" jobs then that might be interesting, as graduates would then be trading off costs and benefits between different career paths. As it stands, at 50%, the preference is still lies heavily with "law firms," with government jobs and academic jobs coming in around 20% as well. Some 75% of graduates are opting not to go the "JD Advantage" path, I wonder why...
In my opinion, the category and even the term "J.D. advantage" is a bunch of rubbish.
Agreed. For most, the "JD-Advantage" is the also-ran of law school outcomes. It is the result of the actual legal market drying up, not the increased demand for people with legal training in traditionally non-legal fields. I learned all this the hard way, trust me.
Therefore, all professional opportunities can and should be defined under "working" and not put under some other nomenclature of J.D. advantage. There are few professional pursuits that would not value the analytical thinking and knowledge of the law and ethics that law school offers. This new category describing any deviation from the traditional path is not required and seems to paint in broad strokes a picture of these jobs as "lesser." Jobs outside law firm associate positions are in no way less, and in some cases can offer much more.
Wait, what? ALL professional opportunities should be in the "JD Advantage-working-catch-all-whatever-the-hell" category? In other words, everything from a banker to a barista would benefit from a JD grad, and should be categorized as such by saying they are "working"? O rly? That accurate employment data is so tedious and boring, anyway; let's just call them all "working."
Another News Flash: people go to law school to be lawyers, y'all. For those poor dears who were unfortunate enough to not get into law school in the first place, they can console themselves with this thing called GRADUATE SCHOOL that fills the gap for those who are still looking for analytical thinking and knowledge skills. Yep, those also-rans have to suffer through education in fields like accounting, architecture, construction management, computer science, medicine, business, engineering, history, mathematics, and language, to name a few. How about other fields that require significant training all on their own, such as car mechanics, HVAC repair, plumbers, electricians, the various trades, etc.? No analytical thinking skills or unique knowledge base there, nope, nor sir, sorry, not at all, according to law schools. Next time you need your HVAC replaced, be sure to call your friendly neighborhood JD.
To put it another way - in my own experience, my flashing red neon JD letters did not exactly throw open the floodgates of opportunity. There are many, many others who have had a similar experience. Our would-be employers apparently just didn't get the memo on how awesome we all were. We're JDs…!!!...why are you hiring other candidates when you could bask in the glow of an employee with a JD and mad analytical skillz!?!?!!
So here is what we know—there are fewer jobs in traditional legal roles for entry-level attorneys.
Thank you for telling the truth, for once. Now, wait for it, wait for it...Law Schools to the rescue!
Law schools have already begun a huge era of revitalization of legal education—some might say an overhaul. Some of these changes are meant to streamline legal education, others to provide more practical training. However, there is another factor that is changing law school: teaching to and preparing the ever-growing population of graduates that do not wish to practice in a traditional forum. Brooklyn Law School teaches a business boot camp and has a clinic that incubates new businesses in all facets, not just legal. There are other law schools that have language classes and compliance courses that are not rooted in the law.
The JD turned MBA. Thanks, we already a degrees in business with a sprinkling of applicable laws. They are called...MBAs! See above.
Friends, all snarky-ness aside, there is no "JD Advantage". At least, not in a real, appreciable sense that you can count on being worth three years of opportunity costs and significant student loan debt on the outside. While it may be true that more and more 0Ls want to go to law school for the express purpose of not being a lawyer (although, just think about that, for a minute), the fact of the matter is this phenomenon is due to the imagined preftiege and marketability of the JD being foisted upon an unsuspecting public. LSATs are declining, applications are falling, and the Law Schools are being forced to reinvent themselves in a desperate attempt to be relevant to a broader audience.
The people who are actually looking for "JD Advantage" jobs are the recent graduates who found out the employment statistics were bunk, have no job prospects lined up and need something quick because Sallie Mae is knocking. Employers don't want JDs for reasons that have been described ad nauseaum (more legalese), but the simple fact of this is that only 15% of graduates get these jobs. This is not high market demand. This is not the reinvisioned law degree of the 21st century.
This is desperation, on the part of both the scammers and the scammed. 0Ls, run for the hills.