Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The seven tiers of law schools

Four years have passed since Law School Truth Center sorted the law schools into seven tiers ( I applaud the effort but disagree on some of the assignments: for example, I would not put Duke in with South Dakota.

For years I have said that only 13 or so law schools are worth attending even in principle ( I stand by that claim. But a more detailed breakdown, with descriptions of the categories, may help. Like Law School Truth Center, I have opted to use seven tiers, although I have numbered them from 0 to 6. I have considered only the law schools outside Puerto Rico that are at least provisionally accredited by the ABA, on the assumption that anyone literate enough to read these lines would never consider attending a state-accredited or wholly unaccredited law school. (If you wish, add an eighth tier for those schools that pick up Cooley's rejects.)

TIER 0: Definitely worth attending. Leap at the chance to enroll at one of these schools, even if you have to borrow the full cost.

*** NONE ***

Comments: Formerly occupied by a handful of schools, this tier has been vacant for years and is likely to remain that way until the second half of the century. Not for nothing is it named Tier 0.

TIER 1: Excellent choices for trust-fund babies. Others should seriously consider them while bearing in mind the very real risk of a bad outcome. You cannot, after all, eat prestige for breakfast.


Comments: No, Stanford, your jive ass is not in the same league as Harvard and Yale. Petulant Californian demands for representation in Tier 1 don't sway me one bit.

TIER 2: Rich kids should feel free to attend these. Others should not enroll without a substantial discount and should weigh the risk of a bad outcome carefully.


Comments: Formerly this category also included Michigan and Penn.

TIER 3: Rich kids are likely to consider these insufficiently prestigious. Others should not even apply without a fee waiver and should not enroll without a large discount, probably at least 50% off; even then, the risk of a bad outcome would loom large.


Comments: This category, which has shrunk considerably since 2010 or so, is the end of the group that, as of the last time that I checked (, saw at least 50% of the graduating class get jobs in Big Law or federal clerkships. I advise against attending any school below Tier 3. Even Tier 1 is questionable nowadays.

TIER 4: Expect a disastrous outcome at these unless you get tuition waived, have local connections, and intend to build your career in the vicinity of the school (no farther away than, say, an adjacent state). As always, rich people can go here if they really want to.

Arizona State
Boston College
Boston University
Brigham Young
California—Los Angeles
Case Western Reserve
Florida State
George Mason
George Washington
Georgia State
Louisiana State
Loyola Marymount
New Mexico
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Ohio State
St. John's
Southern California
Southern Methodist
Texas A&M
Texas Tech
Wake Forest
Washington and Lee
Washington University in St. Louis
West Virginia
William and Mary

Comments: Many of these are what Paul Campos has called trap schools. Others are toilets with employment figures that are better than those of typical toilets. All are best avoided, from the faux-prestigious outskirts of Tier 3 to the toilety outskirts of Tier 5.

TIER 5: Don't go near these unless you are independently wealthy, crave a little wind-up-toy law degree, and are too dumb to get into a school in a higher tier even after exploiting your rich connections.

Arkansas—Little Rock
Florida International
Lewis and Clark
Lincoln Memorial
Michigan State
Missouri—Kansas City
New Hampshire
New York Law School
Pennsylvania State—Dickinson
Pennsylvania State—University Park
St. Louis
St. Thomas—Minneapolis
San Diego
San Francisco
Santa Clara
Seton Hall
South Carolina
South Texas
SUNY Buffalo
Wayne State

Comments: Many of these are only a hair's breadth from the bottom tier. Some are likely to close in the coming years. These schools typically feature a mediocre to lousy student body and dreadfully high unemployment and underemployment in the graduating classes of recent years. Unaccountably, a bit of prestige still attaches to a few of these schools. Don't believe the hype.

TIER 6: The survival of these into 2017 offers an argument against the existence of a just god. Anyone who enrolls at one of these should not be allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.

Arizona Summit
Ave Maria
California Western
District of Columbia
Florida A&M
Florida Coastal
Golden Gate
Indiana Tech (soon to be closed)
John Marshall—Atlanta
John Marshall—Chicago
La Verne
Loyola—New Orleans
Mississippi College
Mitchell | Hamline
New England
North Carolina Central
North Dakota
Northern Illinois
Northern Kentucky
Nova Southeastern
Ohio Northern
Oklahoma City
Roger Williams
St. Mary's
St. Thomas—Florida
South Dakota
Southern Illinois
Southern University
Texas Southern
Thomas Cooley
Thomas Jefferson
Western New England
Western State
Whittier (soon to be closed)

Comments: These schools are mostly private. Several are unprofitable commercial ventures. All plumb the depths of the 140s, and even the 130s and perhaps the 120s, on the LSAT. The few people who pass the bar exams are unlikely to find real salaried work as lawyers. Fortunately, this tier is shrinking. Recent years have seen a couple of announced closures, some attempted and achieved mergers (effectively closures), an abandonment to the state, and a closure of a branch. Expansion will almost certainly come from above (Tier 5), not below (the unspeakable world of unaccredited upstarts).


  1. Love the tier descriptions. I wouldn't trust a Cooley grad to walk two blocks to the 7-11 and get back safely.

  2. Old Guy, I would move all of your tier 5 to tier 6, except perhaps Mississippi. And I would move all of your tier 4 to tier 5, except perhaps Arizona, Minnesota, Texas, UCLA, and William and Mary.

    1. That's a fair comment. People may draw the boundaries differently. The categories matter to me more than the exact assignments of schools.

      I considered using fewer tiers, maybe just three: definitely attend (none), consider (about 13), stay the hell away (the rest). Or even just one: don't go to these (all).

  3. It's sad to think of myself as a Tier 4 alum, but the list is an accurate representation of how things are these days.

    The grim truth is that there's just so little per capita billable work in every legal specialty. Every field is glutted- there's a deep pool of talent occupying every niche with paying work- it represents decades of law schools overproducing attorneys. Attorneys who were wildly successful from the 80s until the late 2000s should have very deep pockets to spend on marketing to staunch the bleeding. If those guys are struggling to stay afloat, how will you survive with nothing but a shingle to your name?

    Back 10+ years ago, I told myself "surely a CS patent attorney will be buried in work, I can write my own ticket." I did everything right but still couldn't get more than a few feet off the runway at the end of the day. I borrowed less than almost everyone I know and still haven't finished paying off my loans.

  4. Throwaway AttorneyMay 4, 2017 at 10:43 AM

    This is a very well thought out list. It cannot be emphasized enough that youngsters from working class backgrounds ought to stay the hell away from law absent admission to Harvard or Yale (maybe Stanford if they've got a STEM background). Full tuition scholarships to state flagships (with no strings attached) along with some healthy grants could position a youngster to work in the social justice/save the world sector. However, non-rich kids need to know that even considering the possibility of debt financing a legal education at a lower-ranked school is tantamount to suicidal thoughts--and that they should seek professional help immediately.

    1. Even Harvard and Yale are risky for people of working-class background.

      The save-the-world sector doesn't really exist, at least for non-privileged recent graduates.

      Otherwise, I quite agree with Throwaway Attorney. People who don't come from big money should know that law school is a big risk.

    2. I concur completely. I know many unemployed Stanford, UCLA, USC, Georgetown, NYU, etc. graduates many years out.

  5. Old Guy,

    You are much too generous toward Loyola-Chicago (disclaimer, I attended this dump and I do not include the degree on my resume).

    Only 57% of Loyola grads from the class of 2016 obtained FT, LT, bar passage required employment. 9% of grads were unemployed as of March. The school had a dreadful 77% bar passage rate last July. Despite these pathetic results, the school charges over $47,000 in tuition.

    By comparison, NIU had a 59% placement into FT, LT, bar passage required jobs. And only 6% of grads from the class of 2016 were unemployed as of March. The school had a slightly higher 81% bar passage rate on the July 2016 exam. Full time tuition is only about $22,000.

    At the very least, Loyola-Chicago belongs at the same level as NIU in your ranking. In reality, these schools are so bad, it’s like arguing whether it is better to have chlamydia or gonorrhea. Of course, both of those infections are easily treatable with antibiotics. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in law school loans and a degree from a non-elite law school can set you back for decades.

    1. I'm happy to entertain disagreements at the margins. You've made interesting observations about Loyola Chicago and Northern Illinois. To my mind, the difference of nine points in LSAT scores barely propelled Loyola Chicago out of Tier 6. But maybe I'm wrong.

      I agree, though, that fine distinctions between these schools are unhelpful. Tiers 4, 5, and 6 could be usefully consolidated under the heading "TOILETS".

    2. Actually, gnorrhea is having super resistant strains because of heavy non-prescribed antibiotic use on Pacific islands and open U.S. immigration policies.

    3. OK, two years late to the party, but as a Loyola-Chicago grad who does include it on his resume, I'd disagree.

      But that's not why I'm posting. NIU may not have great credentials, but it does offer affordable tuition. And if you look at WHERE NIU grads tend to practice (in mostly rural areas), NIU makes sense. No, you won't get a job in Chicago at Sidley with an NIU degree (not generally, anyway), but a U of C or N'western grad couldn't afford to practice in Podunk, IL - they wouldn't make enough to afford their loan payments, even with IBR.

      And cycling back to LUC and DePaul - a good portion of their grads work in government: city attorneys, public defenders and states attorneys, all low-paying positions that get them a break (supposedly) on their loan payments, and which NW grads won't touch.

      But there's no real excuse for John Marshall.

    4. Northern Illinois, if fully financed with debt, costs about $150k. That's unaffordable on the salary that one might get in Podunk, Illinois. And a quarter of the graduating class is unemployed ten months after graduation.

  6. Your comment that Tier 0 will likely remain empty until at least 2050 gets at an important point about the long-term oversupply of legal degrees. Even once law schools stop churning out a gross excess of JDs, there will be a massive backlog to work through of unemployed and underemployed lawyers.

    Even if every law school closed tomorrow, it would be another decade before we encountered a real shortage of legally-trained individuals. Think about this and you can realize how screwed the system is currently. Everyone needs to avoid it like the plague.

  7. Nice job on the rankings, but they are over-generous, far too inclusive, and paint an overly optimistic picture of the situation. There should only be 50 law schools, and if that is the case, then there's (1) H and Y, (2) 10-15 regional schools, and (3) 30-35 schools that are the equivalent of a community college/vo-tech, with a whiff of underachievement about them.

    The bottom 50 schools are truly tragic because they not only trap their students, but they let the upper 100 think, "I'm in the clear because I'm not at Indy."

    The midair explosion of 2008 and resultant free-fall plunge of the legal profession makes the act of ranking law schools the 21st-century equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    First class or coach, window or aisle, seat 32C or 3A, the aircraft is rapidly losing altitude, and there's no landing area in sight.

    No one should be going to law school.

    1. Actually, you're more generous than I am. I said "I advise against attending any school below Tier 3. Even Tier 1 is questionable nowadays." Well, Tiers 0 to 3 include only 13 schools, not the 50 that you recommend.

      As you and someone else above have said, however, even Harvard is a scam nowadays.

  8. The new Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics now has lawyers making less than pharmacists, who can get jobs without attending a highly ranked school, by about 5% and making the same as actuaries, a career that does not require a graduate degree.

    Of course, the average income for medical doctors is much, much higher than for lawyers.

    The problem is that the starting salary in big law is much higher than graduates of Tier I and Tier II law schools will often earn years after leaving big law. Campos made that point for one of the more rural states in the Southeast, I don't remember which state, where the bar association surveyed lawyer salaries. It is really something to think about before enrolling in any law school, let alone a top law school.

    You really need to look at that average $115,000 compensation for lawyers even from the top law schools if you are considering big law, and with that type of income in private practice, at least in NY or LA, a top law school is not worth it.

    What is maybe unusual about law as compared to other professions are up or out policies and class year hiring are prevalent in law and these policies are actually legalized age discrimination. So it is lawful for older lawyers from the top law schools to have much, much lower median incomes than starting lawyers from those law schools.

    I disagree that rich people should attend law school at the top schools. That applies only to rich people who are guaranteed a spot in a family business and are going to law school for a legal education and maybe a few years of legal experience. Otherwise, even if one has the cash to fund law school, one is at a serious risk of not having a good livelihood from that law degree in later years. It is years of life and lots of money thrown out often for a middling or poor outcome in later years. By the time a lawyer is in that boat, he may be too old to start a new career.

    The real problem with law is that you cannot work as long as you want. Legal employers want to push out older or more experienced lawyers to make room for younger lawyers. You can only keep that big law job for a limited time, and surely not as long as you wish, and probably not until the age 70, when you first qualify for unreduced Social Security benefits.

    You are at the mercy of the horrific supply demand imbalance of lawyers, even if you went to Harvard or Yale, and that degree disappears in value more the older you get.

    1. In NYC, an ADA makes 50-60k and a cop makes 100k with a little over time. Cops went on strike because they said 100k isn't enough to live in NYC and the cops happen to be correct.

      Law school is a mistake at any level, it just doesn't make sense anymore. When accounting for individual circumstances, it doesn't make sense for anyone to go. Even if you can got to Harvard Law, a person with those kind of abilities has better options.

      Let's say you go to Brooklyn and graduate with no debt and get a job as an ADA, long term, you won't earn what a NYC sanitation makes, and you would have done better than 90 percent of the people you graduated with to achieve that outcome.

      It's laughable, completely laughable.

    2. I'm a pharmacist and we have had a 100 percent increase in schools and more than that for graduates. Foreigners need only take a test to gain a license. The field went from a modest shortage ten years ago to having to move to the deep South for a mundane job. There are also automation issues.
      The schools keep opening up, test scores (much easier than the Bar) go down, and the organization for accreditation is still using a fudged need study from 2001, as more recent data shows large unemployment on the horizon.

  9. Just a couple of quibbles. Drake in the same tier as Vandy, Georgetown, Texas, and UCLA? I'm sure that would be news to Nando. Also, why put St. Johns, Rutgers, and Dozo in a higher tier than Brooklyn and Seton Hall? They seem interchangeable to me. At any of these schools, if you don't finish in the top 10%/law review or have some kick-ass employment connections, you're in trouble baby. You're in trouble.

    1. Well, reread my descriptions of the tiers:

      TIER 4: Expect a disastrous outcome at these unless you get tuition waived, have local connections, and intend to build your career in the vicinity of the school (no farther away than, say, an adjacent state). As always, rich people can go here if they really want to.

      TIER 5: Don't go near these unless you are independently wealthy, crave a little wind-up-toy law degree, and are too dumb to get into a school in a higher tier even after exploiting your rich connections.

      TIER 6: The survival of these into 2017 offers an argument against the existence of a just god. Anyone who enrolls at one of these should not be allowed to roam the streets unsupervised.

      I think that Drake, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Texas, and UCLA all belong in Tier 4. Obviously Drake is at the low end and the other four are near the high end. Maybe you'd move Drake down a tier or the others up a tier. I can accept that.

      As for those others, I drew the distinction on the basis of LSAT scores, jobs, and (where I could find data) salaries. Seton Hall is even worse than it appears, as many of the jobs that its graduates get are dime-a-dozen local clerkships.

      Even the top 10% and law review at a Tier 4 institution, to say nothing of Tiers 5 and 6, may not be worth a tinker's damn.

  10. The Los Angeles Times article about Shittier Law School closing quotes Brian Tamanaha:

    “Given the substantive and enduring decline in applications to law schools, the surprise is that it took so long for one to close.”

    1. Indiana Tech University blew a huge fraction of its endowment on the toilet law school that it never should have opened.

  11. The problem is that there is no way to tell who is going to get a lifetime career in law, and who won't. Just because you went to a Tier 1 or 2 school, it does not mean you hit the jackpot of a lifetime job or a series of such jobs that enable you to work until you want to retire.

    I know a few people from lower tier schools who got what may turn out to be well paying lifetime jobs and many from Tier 1 or 2 who bombed out and are now in low paying jobs, temp work or counsel positions with small law firms that are in name only where the firm has very little work for them.

    This whole law school thing is a gamble today. So if you don't want to gamble, don't go to law school.

    1. Lower-tier schools today will almost never lead to well-paying lifetime jobs.

    2. In terms of older lawyers today, some toileteers have great jobs and some tier 1 and 2 older lawyers have been royally screwed in their careers. It is a throw of the dice. The problem for those attending the top law schools is that the pool of lawyers starting legal jobs is much greater than the number of experienced lawyer jobs for 55 year olds. Say the jobs decrease by almost half from age 26 to 56, which is probably a pretty close assessment. Then factors such as popularity, practice area, geographic location, landing with a stable employer, etc. factor into having a job.

    3. With few exceptions, older lawyers today graduated from law school long ago—long before the scamsters' free-for-all of the past eight or nine years. Perhaps a degree from a low-grade law school was good enough back then. It no longer is.

    4. Many of the older lawyers I know who went to low ranked schools and originally made the big law cut are being forced out of work in their 50s. Because they have low ranked law schools on their resumes, it is much harder for them to find a job in their 50s. These former big law lawyers are populating the temp market if they make the temp cut and otherwise have long stints of unemployment. We are not talking document review here but bona fide big law specialties where large corporations or sometimes law firms hire lawyers for real legal work.

      On the other hand, some Harvard and Yale Law graduates find themselves in the same situation, sometimes after being high school valedictorian, winning a full scholarship to Harvard or Princeton undergrad and/ or being a partner in a regional law firm or assistant general counsel or even general counsel at a reasonable sized corporation.

      The big oversupply of lawyers has created a very tragic mismatch between the demands of the job marketplace and the skills of lawyers. The 50% of practicing lawyers who cannot find full-time permanent work as lawyers need to retrain in another capacity to earn a decent living. That includes many former big law associates who are now in their 50s or older, so beware of law school altogether.

  12. There is no difference between Chicago-Kent, Loyola, and Depaul.

    They all suck.

    1. Chicago-Kent is a festering dung heap.

      When I went there, from 05-08, everyone pranced around like we were somehow better than Loyola, Depaul and (especially) John Marshall. We even had a partner come in during orientation to tell us ("in his opinion!") that we were the second best law school in the city.

      We were the suckers.

      I wasted three years, $90,000 in tuition and $250,000 in lost earnings, all to get a "JD Advantage" job. I networked my heinie off from day one to get a job, sent my resume to hundreds of firms, sent targeted letters to dozens of partners, tried to get work at my old company, volunteered at CVLS, etc.

      All this was for naught. I had a good engineering degree from the best engineering school in the country, had a solid decade of work experience, and wanted to get myself to the next level in my career. I was just too old for firms to take a chance on me. I was 34.

      There were many dozens of the class of '08 who ended up like me. I know people with law degrees and engineering experience working at the PTO as examiners. I know some people who had to go back to their engineering careers. I know some people who wound up in compliance. I know some people who pitifully tried to go solo and pitifully flamed out within a year.

      Sure, I would estimate about 50% of my classmates got jobs with firms. Some are now getting to be partners and making the big bucks. But those aren't good odds to play with if you're talking about taking on non-dischargeable debt and wrecking a previous career.
      Kids, DON'T DO IT!

      The problem is, the lemmings all think they'll be different.

    2. That's a sad story, 7:58. Unfortunately, my experience (older than you but a far better law school) suggests that you probably would have had the same disastrous outcome even if you had gone to the U of Chicago. Old people just aren't wanted in the legal profession.

    3. Same deal here. Graduated in 2009 from a "Tier 1" (ie, 4) law school in my early 30s after a 10 year career as a CS guy. I also worked at the PTO and ended up going back to programming to pay the bills. The vast majority of my friends ended up hanging shingles or getting smallgov jobs.

  13. Great post! My school's a Tier 4 but should be jack-booted down the ladder.

    Is your suggestion that Tier 1 is fraught with unacceptable risk tongue-in-cheek?

    I hope not. Some anecdotal evidence for you:

    I visited my (very small) undergrad's *private* alumni page recently and found profiles for 2 recent Tier 1 grads - both Yale.

    Both Yale grads have some form of 'law school is a scam, do not go' in the advice portion of their profession-specific profiles.

    I was genuinely surprised. I keep well up on the law school scam, but I was surprised.

    Given the bent of my undergrad, I imagine both were interested primarily in being law professors... Both were not employed, or not employed in any capacity they cared to identify.

    How **odd** that some law professors do not have a clue how their very own jobs / niche are being impacted by this credit-fueled, fraud-fueled, government-money-enabled bubble.

    Imagine how quickly these schools would collapse if there were even the slightest reform to lending or debtor rights. *Crickets*

    Even without any reform at all, the schools are going down like a textbook case of a price-fixing cartel. The monopoly rent extraction causes market share decline which undermines and forces down price and busts up the cartel. BOOM!

    Is this not exactly what is happening? Nominal law school tuition keeps rising, but it's all discounted and scholar-shitted away.
    Revenues are way off, and most schools are up to their eyeballs in debt themselves.

    Of course, skools they have a bankruptcy right unlike their graduates because some pigs are more equal than other pigs.

    All of higher education is going down. It was ruined with free money and strong incentives for fraud. Screw the politicians, economics will get you every time.

    Put 'em all in the 7th Tier, Old Guy. Put the Department of Education in there too.

    1. I mean every word of it. Harvard and Yale too are fraught with high risk—risk that I certainly consider unacceptable. Rich people should feel free to attend; after all, losing a third of a million dollars won't matter much to them. Everyone else should think twice.

      The only thing that's "high" about "higher" education is its price. The class of 1947 from a high school was probably ahead of the class of 2017 from an undergraduate program.

  14. New jobs report this morning. Great report but legal sector has only increased by 5,000 jobs in the last year. Only a third of those are attorney jobs. Not a great report for the legal sector because there are so many unemployed lawyers.

    Legal jobs are super-unstable. I am over the age for biglaw and was offered 3 attorney jobs in the last 5 years. Two of those jobs have now disappeared or partly disappeared due to a decline in the volume of work. The third paid about three quarters of the old going rate and may disappear in the near future. I unfortunately picked the wrong job.

    My doctor colleagues have mostly kept the same jobs for life. Not true of lawyers though where it may be necessary to keep changing jobs. Law is an awful career today for many or most lawyers.

  15. Rich people should not feel free to attend most of these places unless you are rich enough that you will never need to depend on the income to have a decent living. Having said that, white males are more likely to be successful in law than anyone else.

  16. Most so called rich people are going to need a steady source of income from work to live comfortably for life. Just because someone's parents are a doctor and a lawyer who foot the tuition and that person will ultimately get a 7 figure inheritance when the parents die, does not mean that the person can afford to go the NYU Law School and spend much of their career unemployed or underemployed. A person who finds a gainfully employed partner may be able to afford that. A person with a stay at home partner with no money is going to have a tough go of that situation in a high cost area. I know people who inherited decent amounts of money (not lawyers) and had poor careers and basically used up the inheritances supporting their families. Some are badly off now.

    So, being moderately wealthy is not a reason to go to one of these law schools.

    For women, a top law school is a good place to find a partner that may alleviate the financial pressures of life. It is a much more iffy place for a woman to have a lifetime and relatively lucrative career as a lawyer.

    People need to understand the up or out class year hiring nature of law and the erosion of the age discrimination laws as well as the age pyramidal full time permanent workforce for lawyers.

    The age discrimination laws do not protect older lawyers. The Supreme Court allows an employer to use "fit" as a reason to fire any older employee. The fact that age is a factor is irrelevant. Fit governs and it is almost impossible for an employee to demonstrate successfully that fit is a pretext for age and to win an age case. So expect to be bounced out of that legal job on account of age in a workforce of severe attorney oversupply and to have great difficulty finding any work, let alone a full-time permanent job as a lawyer.

    1. This also is common in pharmacy, particularly CVS. Why are old people discriminate against, is it that they are less eager to please, is it that they are less energetic, what gives?

  17. I still find it difficult to believe that going to Harvard Law School can ever be a mistake.

    Sure, you may never practice law, but a Harvard Law Degree carries "gravitas" to it that can almost certainly help you find work somewhere. Can't it??

    Anecdotally, my high school principal had a law degree from Harvard.

    1. A Harvard Law degree or other top law degree is a mistake because you give up going to medical school. Many people who gain admission to a top law school could easily get accepted to medical school and then a residency.

      You need to tell the older woman or minority graduate of a top law school who is unemployable in any full-time, permanent job that Harvard Law is not a mistake. It is a mistake because at age 52, it does not enable the many lawyers to get a full-time, permanent lawyer job at all or any job that pays anything near the first year going rate of $180,000, let alone employer-provided health or retirement benefits.

      Older women and older minority lawyers are at the bottom of the employment totem pole in law. Most of them are in low paying work, top law degree notwithstanding.

      The problem is that the value of a top law degree plummets with age for women and minorities because there is acute dual age-sex and dual age-race discrimination in the legal profession. The top law degree is not worth it except for white males.

    2. Since the vast majority of law graduates are male, and the vast majority of law grads are screwed, your whitey advantage meme is weak.

    3. I agree with the following amendments:

      "...except for white, young-with-an-atheletic-build golf-playing, heterosexual (except when drunk or at the Y) males."

      Otherwise, a top degree can work against you fairly easily as if you are ever out of work, potential employers think there must be something wrong with you if you are unemployed and graduated from Harvard or Yale.

    4. This is one of those situations where non-white people see it as "white privilege" and it's actually sub-type privilege. If you are male, play golf, like the right sports, live in the right suburb, are confidently straight and have a pleasant wife, know so-and-so at the Big Deal, I'm not even sure "white" matters like it once did.

    5. 8:23 is incorrect about the vast majority of law graduates being white male. 15% of the current first year class at Harvard Law are women and 44% are people of color.
      That would make a little over a quarter of the class white males.

    6. 51% women at Harvard Law.

  18. Good work on the lists and comments!
    The day is long past when the law could pull someone from a working-class family up into the middle class.
    I thought the Republicans would make short work of cutting off all the law schools from the Federal loan trough. Especially since most of them are w-a-y left of center.
    Guess I was wrong.

    1. Just over 100 days. Give them time.

  19. A compelling and persuasive list that highlights what a bad idea it is to go to law school. The next big battle will be to get truthful salaries posted, instead of the nonsense posted by groups such as USNWR(average annual salary claimed to be $136,260 in 2015 That's just flat wrong, but how many of the gullible see that and think-well, it's in USNWR, so it must be true.

    1. Good point. I think they may have confused the average law professor's salary with the average lawyer's salary. I'm sure they will rectify that typo any day now.

  20. Old Guy,

    I think you are right about the risks of attending Harvard and some of the other elite schools. The cost to attend Harvard is now about $90k a year (tuition and living expenses), which will leave grads owing over $250k when they complete their studies.

    Three grads were unemployed from the class of 2016 as of March of this year (less than 1% of the class). That is a catastrophic outcome for those three grads. 76% of the class obtained big law (firms of 101+ attorneys) and Federal clerkship jobs (we can assume students with Federal clerkships have big law jobs lined up).

    6% of grads ended up in JD advantage / professional positions. Unfortunately, we don’t know if these grads choose to go this route or if they went this route when they couldn’t get a big law job. It is certainly plausible that Harvard law grads are getting hired to work on Wall Street. I trust that these kinds of jobs are far better than the kinds of JD advantage jobs toilet law school grads obtain (toilet law schools count parole officer as a JD advantage job).

    3% of grads obtained government jobs. If these are Federal government jobs, this may be a better career path than big law. Working at the DOJ or as a U.S. Attorney provides a secure and prestigious job where you can never be laid off. You can also obtain a federal pension. This is far more secure than working for a big law firm with an up or out policy.

    Also, Harvard appears to have become less selective. They have a 17% acceptance rate. Interestingly, only 62% of applicants offered admission, matriculated into the school.

    If I was advising my children, and the choice was between Harvard law or the local state medical school, at this point I would advise them to go to medical school. The lowest paid physicians, family practice docs and internists, make nearly $200k. There is a shortage of primary care docs because the American med students go on to become specialists, where they can earn even more money. This is a far more secure career path than working 80 hour weeks at a big law firm, hoping you make partner so you don’t lose your job.

    1. TITCR because it gets to the heart of the matter. The scam persists in large part because it makes incongruent comparisons and doesn't account for individual circumstance.

      For instance, a scam prof or dean will point out that it's ridiculously competitive to get into medical school, but someone who gets into Harvard law can definitely work into a US based medical school.

      Similarly, 30k people take the NYC civil servant exams, but the majority of said people do not have a high school diploma, let alone a four year degree, strong motivation, etc. Someone with a 3.0 UG GPA and 150 LSAT can definitely pass one of those tests given the nature of the applicant pool.

      As stated above, a cop or garbage man makes 100k plus with OT, and a prosecutor makes 55k with several hundred k in educational costs and a seven plus years of education. If you get an ADA position you'd be lucky and you are leagues behind people that didn't finish high school.

      The net of it is that, when one accounts for individual circumstance, law is always a loss unless someone is rich and they are doing it for prestige. Pure and simple.

    2. Good comments, 1:35.

      Federal clerkships do tend to bode well, but they certainly don't guarantee anything. Old Guy had a federal clerkship but never a job in Big Law.

      Some Harvard graduates probably do end up in "consulting" firms, on Wall Street, or in other highly paid positions outside the practice of law. Very few other law schools see much of that.

      Fully financed with debt, Harvard will leave a graduate with a third of a million dollars in student loans. Even if paid over 20 years, that will come to more than $2400 per month—almost $30,000 per year, after taxes. It takes a big salary to cover that much debt. And most of the jobs that pay enough to support those payments don't usually last more than a few years.

    3. """As stated above, a cop or garbage man makes 100k plus with OT, and a prosecutor makes 55k with several hundred k in educational costs and a seven plus years of education. If you get an ADA position you'd be lucky and you are leagues behind people that didn't finish high school."""

      I keep reading this argument on this site. First of all... most "sanitation workers" do not make nearly that kind of money. My client sanitation worker could barely hang on to his rented small trailer.

      Second of all...what person with a high enough intelligence to be a lawyer would want to be a"sanitation worker" instead. You do only have one life you know... and would anybody want to spend it as a "sanitation worker".

      As for being a cop...high stress... lots of them have family problems as a result and in Chicago at least, they have an abnormally high suicide rate.

      I tend to disagree that most lawyers can be doctors. People who go to medical school have an affinity for science and math. People who go to law school do not.

      No matter what you all say... law can still be a challenging and good career... and the fact is, there is the opportunity to open your own business and be your own boss. That's not easy anymore even in the medical profession because of all of the admin headaches dealing with insurance companies, medicare, etc...most doctors seek out group practices where they are employees and don't have to deal with it.

      I've said this before and I will again. Anybody with drive and determination and intelligence can have a successful legal career. The more you do and the more you get known, the more chance of getting more clients. And if you are good at litigation, you can still make a very good living in this field.

      AS for student loans.. not good.. but many law school tuitions are no worse than college tuitions these days. Its a problem with all of higher education feeding off of the government teat...not just law schools.

      So if you want to be a lawyer....go as cheaply as you can and assume you will be working for yourself... of go to the best law school you can that will lead to the best jobs. Or ask yourself what your alternatives are. Liberal Arts grad? not many. Engineer... guess it depends if you want a career as an engineer.

      Nothing is easy out there these days. The economy is failing.... whether you all recognize it or not. Sooner or later this market is going to crash given it is already in a huge bubble. If you are looking to depend on anybody else to make a may be hurting. If you have a law degree... at least with fee shifting statutes, you can seek out justice and still get reasonable compensation for your efforts. Good luck all.

    4. "I've said this before and I will again. Anybody with drive and determination and intelligence can have a successful legal career."

      And you're still wrong.

    5. 9:53 a.m.:

      "Anybody with drive and determination and intelligence can have a successful legal career" . . . well yes, but not EVERYBODY with drive and determination and intelligence who attempts to do so, will be able to do so. Any American child can grow up to be President.... but obviously, a person lives through only about 17 or so presidents in their lifetime. So 99.999% can't. There's only one at a time. Many, many kids would grow up and make good Presidents... but it's a folly for them to start drawing up their plans to redecorate the White House. Or to start buying hoodies with the Presidential Seal.

      Yeah, it's a cool dream. But come on.

      And the word "career" is wildly misleading. Most people hear it to mean 'able to support oneself by pursuing it.' Not get rich. Not become Trump. Not take vacations and have a boat. But simply able to afford to go to work, eat, have an apartment and buy clothes. Yet even this modest, common sense definition of the word 'career' cannot be truthfully used to describe most established solos or small firms today. And it certainly describes no new solos that I know. No, you will not be able to have a 'career' in the remunerative sense. You will absolutely need another continuing income source. 'Contingency' is a word that should be used more than 'career.'

      ". . . if you are good at litigation, you can still make a very good living in this field." Very misleading statement. The great, talented litigators who have been at it a while are still earning livings (using the common sense connotation I described above). They wouldn't say 'great', but whatever. Persons who have gone solo in the past 15 years . . . no earnings is the norm. Which means you are going in the hole with office expenses. Persons starting out since the beginning of the great recession ..... forget about it.

      "What person with a high enough intelligence to be a lawyer would want to be a 'sanitation worker' instead? You do only have one life you know ... and would anybody want to spend it as a "sanitation worker." -- Here's one of the biggest mental delusions that keep this whole train wreck going: class bias coupled with fantasization. Most solo legal work is not mentally stimulating, and certainly not dealing with lofty constitutional issues, international law, or ripped-from-the-headlines legal issues. Pushing PI cases or windstorm/roof damage claims on thin facts is the norm.

      And if you're looking to fee-shifting statutes to earn money, you are depending on others, big time. You just need to find a liable defendant, with the deep pockets from which to collect, and hope to hell the legislature does not bend to the rising public tide of anti-lawyerism. And please do remember that justice is being accessed when a non-injured person's exaggerated claim gets poured out of court. Be grateful they haven't yet enacted Loser Pays.

      But yeah, you have a point. Sanitation workers don't earn $80,000 per year.

    6. @1:35 good points but if I were advising my child between Harvard Law School and the flagship state law school in the state where they definitely wanted to practice, I would try to steer them to the state law school (other than New York or Massachusetts). I've lived in Texas and Louisiana and in both states, a law student who graduates from UT or LSU respectively, would have much better opportunities through alum networks or connections made during school, than a Harvard grad who would always be viewed with suspicion. Really, Harvard just ain't all that.

    7. Again, I advise against going to any Tier 4 institution such as the Univershitty of Texas or Louisiana State.

  21. Agree 100% with 1:35. Another point is that for most older women, law is the first wives club revisited.

    Large law firms employ very few women over the age of 52. The discrimination against older women in hiring is blatant, and many in house employers are not better in their legal departments.

    Major legal headhunters - BCG Attorney Search in New York, for example - will not place women over age 52 at all, elite college and law school, big law experience, the works, even where BCG has 14 local jobs advertised in the lawyer's practice area and two or three of those jobs have no experience cap. Most legal jobs do have these experience caps, so only lawyers with up to 6 years of experience need apply.

    In medicine, you can find older women as patients, and these older women will visit older women doctors. Not so hard to work. Jobs in medicine, unlike law, do not require purple squirrel experience, which means that most lawyers do not meet the advertised requirements for most advertised legal jobs. In medicine, you typically just need board certification in a specialty to get a job.

    Very few women lawyers over age 52 have or can get full time permanent legal jobs. And the compensation, including benefits, if any, of women lawyers from elite law schools and colleges in this age group is at a median much lower than the compensation a school teacher of the same vintage would make in that area.

    For minorities the situation is worse than for women.

    1. Even fields with great job markets have the purple squirrel problem. It's often just a method used by recruiters and HR types to control their workload. Rather than sift through 10k resumes for a position (which would require real effort- you have to read the resume and then talk to the candidate), they make the requirements overly detailed and then use a bot to reject any that don't have the right key words. The upside in IT is that there really is high demand for workers hiding behind this phenomenon.

      Also, the over 50 female lawyer problem is really an over 30 lawyer problem in general. Try graduating law school over the age of 30 and see what happens. Even if you have good credentials, you're probably not getting hired by a firm, certainly not a prestigious one. You're pretty much going to work on the govt dime or you're hanging a shingle. And since great 25 year old attorneys eventually become 30 year old attorneys with great credentials (a best case scenario), they also quickly become unemployable as well.

  22. I know brilliant Harvard and Yale Law grads who ended up unemployed, and their legal careers in full-time permanent employment ended, when they were in their early 50s. They tried very hard to get back on track with no employment opportunities coming their way.

    They had Harvard and Princeton undergrad degrees. Nothing wrong with these lawyers. What is wrong is the acute overproduction of lawyers leading to these bad outcomes. This was 20 years ago. If anything, it is worse today.

    1. I'm in my late 50s and every few months or so, I learn about another lawyer in my graduating class who has become unemployed. They spend a year or so trying to get back on track, and sometimes they get something temporary, but usually they just fade away. I've learned through example though. If it happens to me, I'll just get a teaching certificate and go teach highschool. It's better to spend a year or so reinventing yourself than trying get back in the law game, which isn't going to happen. Absolutely no one would want to hire a corporate lawyer in their late 50s who has practiced in a niche field.

    2. Do you hear about doctors in their 50s becoming unemployed and unable to get full-time permanent work? This throwing out of lawyers increasingly as they age is a problem that very serious in the legal profession. Is a real reason to avoid law school like the plague.

  23. The top law schools should be forced to acknowledge that the only way that the value (both perceived and actual) of their degrees will be maintained is to close all but 50 law schools, and then have a 10-year moratorium on the issuance of law degrees for the remaining ones.

    The top law schools should recognize that in the long run, the fight to maintain a law degree's quality --and be extension, value -- is their fight. And the state bars should have recognized long ago that the fight to maintain the judicial system as we know it is a parallel battle.

    America gets by with 50 states, and can easily get by with 50 law schools. Arguments about access to minorities/regionalists/blah, blah, blah simply don't matter and should be ignored. The legal system as it currently exists by constitution in this country depends on the lawyer being an officer of the court. Over-production of lawyers is a direct assault on our society's judicial system.

    The state bars must take leadership roles, and drain the swamp. Bills in the several state legislatures to force closing through non-funding of the nonessential schools.

    Many law schools will close however the feat is achieved.

    1. Unfortunately, even Harvard is forsaking the duty of maintaining the quality of law degrees. Recently, for instance, it began to accept the GRE in lieu of the LSAT.

    2. Never happening. Even a dean sees himself as an agent for hire, waiting for the next and better school gig.

      I had a pharmacy school professor tell me he likes the over supply of schools. It gives him demand to move around.

    3. The court systems and the practice of trial by jury are embodied in the constitutions of the various components of this country. For better or worse, criminal justice and civil disputes (more or less) are consigned to a system that is administered by state-licensed attorneys. The Constitution has been interpreted to require, among other things, effective assistance of counsel and prompt trials conducted by persons of at least passing competence.

      Yet deans and law school officials have in recent years been assailing state bar examinations and bar admission requirements.

      In the law school arena, the juggernaut of American higher education --read 'adult day care'-- is now colliding with foundations of the state itself.

      Responsible politicians must be made aware of this fact and bring to bear the power to the state to neutralize the threat to our system brought about by law schools.

  24. Imagining The Open ToadMay 8, 2017 at 11:39 AM

    I've seen quite a few comments discussing med school as an alternative, and found this article interesting.

    His main point is that docs also face a lot of opportunity cost - 8 years through med school, then another 6-10 years between internship/residency/fellowship. These latter three being paid, but only around $60K for what he estimates is 80 hpw ($14/hr).

    The upshot of the opportunity cost according to the piece is that the average doctor doesn't catch up on the salary curve until late 40s, when they finally pass the regular peeps who hit the workforce right after college. After that, yes, they're making more and continue to do so. He also writes a bit about the same sort of issues plaguing lawyers, high rates of depression and suicide etc.

    His recommendation is to look at allied professions like being a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner.

    1. Also, I'm not sure that people who can get into a school in Tier 3 or better can necessarily get into medical school. Unlike its legal hackademic counterpart, medical school has meaningful requirements for admission, including quite a few obligatory courses on challenging subjects such as organic chemistry, not to mention a difficult exam with a real standard (none of this business of skating into law school with a 128 on the LSAT). A lot of people end up in law school precisely because it doesn't require anything but attendance at an administration of the LSAT and production of a transcript showing graduation from a school at or above the calibre of Big Bubba's Collidge o' Hawg Callin'.

    2. Unlike law school, attending med school requires careful planning in undergraduate. These poly sci majors just aren't at the law school/med school branch in the decision tree.

    3. Tier 4- you did say rich kids could go here if they really want to, right?

    4. I think people who can get into a Fordham Law can get into a U.S. allopathic med school by applying themselves. The acceptance rate to U.S. allopathic med schools is close to half although each school accepts very few. See

      If you know the game, some of the med schools, not all, call and say they will accept you if you agree to accept their spot.

      If you went to a tier 1, 2 or 3 law school, you should be able to get into a U.S. allopathic med school

    5. @8:35 -- you're right about one thing.

      Admission to medical school is a "game" that rewards those who strategize well. You do need a baseline intelligence, but a lesser intelligent person can gain admission over a smarter person by strategizing better.

      However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that anyone that went to a tier 1, 2 or 3 law school could get into medical school (even one in Mexico). I'm sure there are people at tier 3's that could do it, but certainly not all or most of those students.

      Besides, haven't you noticed how lazy most non-elite lawyers are?? Not sure these people have the stamina for medical school, where there is an exam every other week, AND labs, AND rotations, and, and, and ....

  25. I think that Tiffany Trump going to Georgetown Law is a great decision for her. She is not going to depend on that law degree, and even if she did, her name would help her immensely. Furthermore, she is on top of the White House and will not miss out on an incredible three years for her.

    Sitting by herself in NY (NYU or Columbia) or Boston (Harvard) without really close family there would have been trouble for not much gain for her career wise.

  26. Med school is only one year longer than law school. Some of the residencies, which include the internship year, are only three years, like internal medicine. Others, mostly high paying specialties, are four years. You don't need to do a fellowship. It usually leads to higher pay, sometimes much higher.

    Residencies have health insurance. $60,000 plus benefits for 3 -4 years is a good deal when you figure that a 53 year old Harvard Law grad that just lost a legal job may not make much more than that for the rest of his or her life and may not get health insurance on the job.

  27. 11:39 is incorrect. Medical residencies are for either 3 or 4 years, and not 6-8 years. Fellowships, which doctors do not need in many specialties, are for one or two years Only a small number of doctors complete fellowships.

    So you can be an IM or PED doctor after one more year of grad school than law and 3 more years of paid training. Radiology and OB-GYN are 4 year residencies.

    If you are a lawyer who went to a tier 1 or 2 law school on your list, and you are making $70,000 with no benefits in your 50s after a continuing and exhaustive job search, being a doctor looks awfully good.

  28. I want to congratulate Old Guy on this excellent post. The fact of so many long-term bad employment outcomes of top law school grads needs to be presented honestly and fairly to prospective law students. This post of Old Guy's goes a long way towards starting that discussion in the mainstream press.

    I would hope that going forward there is not only disclosure of, but also successful legal challenges to, the age pyramidal workforce for lawyers. Up or out and class year hiring have no place in a job market where the supply of lawyers so vastly exceeds the demand for their services. The impact of legalizing these practices notwithstanding an acute oversupply of labor is severe age discrimination and acute dual age-sex and dual age-race discrimination in the lawyer workforce.

    It is not just a scam that affects toilet law school grads. The scam reaches to the best educated and most talented lawyers in America. The up or out system relied on by the top law schools to open jobs for their grads belches out too many highly educated and talented lawyers for the career legal job market to absorb for the time it takes for a lawyer to cobble together a career.

    1. "the demand for their services."

      Fresh BigLaw recruits are not hired for their labor. They're hired for their prestige, youth, and partner prospects. Of course large law firms could get the same raw work done by paying an older attorney 60k, and some do. Many firms would rather pay $160k for youthful prestige to keep up client appearances.

      "highly educated and talented lawyers"

      These are not the same thing, but one of the sad truths of the BigLaw scheme is that so many of them get spit out at age 30 having worked 4-5 years in the legal system with very little transferable skill.

  29. The guy writing the Forbes article cited by 11:39 is a cardiologist. Most IM doctors today do not go for cardiology because it takes much longer for the fellowship. Then again, cardiologists, especially invasive cardiologists, as a whole make much more than other doctors.

    If you are a normal OB-GYN, you are taking home $250,000 for life after that 4- year residency, and many of these doctors stop delivering babies when they are young.

    The article is inaccurate and skewed. A normal doctor that started med school after college is a paid resident at age 26, as opposed to a lawyer who would start work at age 25. However, the lawyer's income will likely go way down after big law, while the doctor's income will go way up after residency.

    Be wary of what you read. Just because it is in Forbes, does not mean that it accurate or that the analysis has any relevance to top grads considering top law schools.

    1. One caveat: a doctor making $250K per year is not working a standard 9 to 5 job. We're talking really crazy hours and a whole lot of stress and sacrifice.

  30. The article, frankly, is pretty stupid. Way to many examples to cite, so just one:
    "As physicians are currently working longer due to diminished incomes, the aging physician is another problem currently plaguing medicine. Unlike our sister professions, law and banking, the senior physician does not have a guaranteed income enhanced due to seniority or prior contribution to the field (there are no senior partner positions for docs)."
    Ok folks-a show of hands will be fine-how many "senior partners" do you know? And as a realistic total of the legal profession, what would it be-one-half of one percent of all licensed attorneys? Less? Anyway, the article is riddled with this sort of fact-free analysis.
    And in response to some of the posts above, applying to medical school and law schools are so unrelated it's impossible to compare. To get into medical school, there are strict course requirements-bio/chem/orgo-all with lab, as well as calc and physics. These aren't optional but required. Then there's the physician shadowing, research, other ECs, etc to make yourself look invested.
    Law school? Roll out of bed, take LSAT-or even the GRE for some schools. And for tier 7 law schools, the score really doesn't matter.
    There are no tier 7 medical schools in the US.
    And when was the last time you heard of a "weeding out" class for pre-law?
    You haven't, because it doesn't exist.

    1. Yes, Old Guy's analysis was awful as usual. It was full of evasions and equivocations, and the tiers were essentially meaningless. In the world of logical fallacies, Old Guy most commonly falls victim to false generalization and false precision. He also affects a blistering authoritarian persona most of the time, so I'm not surprised that no one would hire him.

  31. RE: elite law students and medical school

    In terms of raw intellectual ability, a law applicant who scores 98th percentile or higher on the LSAT almost certainly has the raw logical ability to do well in calculus, biology, chemistry, etc. This would be doubly so for those with elite undergraduate credentials, even the effete lib artists, as many of them probably took AP math/science courses in high school. The top 20 schools are so competitive now that you really can't just suck at math and still get in and do well.

    The big wrinkle that a poster points out above is that you have to know by like age 19 that you're going to medical school or it's significantly more difficult. Law you can decide at 25 and suffer limited career effects.

    Imagine if most lawyers were ones who committed to it on some level eight years before they'd touch a real client and eleven before they'd get paid real money. Radically different profession with radically different people.

    1. To go into medicine, one also needs guidance at an early age. I never had this. Nobody told me that specific courses were required for admission to medical school, that I'd have to plan four years of university around that goal. (For that matter, nobody told me what was needed for law school.) Guidance sounds simple, but it's something that many people of modest class background just don't get.

      Furthermore, financial difficulties almost kept me from completing a bachelor's degree. I could not have gone into medical school, law school, or any other degree program after graduation, because I had to repay loans that could not all be deferred.

      By the time I had the wherewithal for another degree, I was too old for medicine. What I didn't know was that I was also too old for law…

    2. "...a law applicant who scores 98th percentile or higher on the LSAT almost certainly has the raw logical ability to do well in calculus, biology, chemistry, etc."

      You cannot use the LSAT as a barometer to determine if one is good at STEM.

      For example, consider my story. I was a math major from an ivy league school. I got A's in all the calculus classes, differential equations, analysis, etc. I got A's in weed-out biology, weed-out physics and organic chemistry.

      THEN mental illness set-in, and I decided to take the LSAT (choosing law over a PhD/research career). My score was a mere 151.

      The LSAT certainly tests something, but I'm not so sure it has anything to do with STEM. This is especially true for fields like biology, which frankly is mere memorization.

    3. Sorry, 8:39, but you've misunderstood the claim. "If you do well on the LSAT, you have the ability to do well in math" does not imply "If you have the ability to do well in math, you will do well on the LSAT". That's the logical error of affirming the consequent.

    4. As someone who has taken (and very done well on) the SAT (before the early 90s changes), MCAT (90s) and LSAT (2000s)...

      The LSAT is basically the English portion of the SAT with some logic puzzles. The English portion is basically a freebie if you're the type of person who is a quick reader with a large vocabulary. The logic puzzle section is harder but can be trained for. I basically got a 155 on my first practice LSAT and trained my way up to the mid-low 170s in a few weekends taking old tests. The test is time limited, but I never came close to bumping up against the limit. It's honestly not a challenging test once you understand the format.

      The MCAT requires a lot more prep, as it actually asks real questions about science and math that have to be learned beforehand. It's a lot of material and you're going to be memorizing stuff for months, even if you have a decent grasp of the material already. I found it to be legitimately hard and I am not a stupid person. The point scale went up to 45 when I took it, with 30s being good and 40s being the equivalent of 170s on the LSAT. I got high 30s.

      Looking back 20 years, going to med school in the 90s would have been a better choice than it seemed at the time. I felt certain, back then, that doctor salaries were not sustainable and going 250k in debt to attend a mid-tier med school seemed risky. I was obviously wrong. Then in the mid 2000s (before the crisis hit) I decided that going into patent law was a sure thing, especially if I could only go into about 50k worth of debt to attend a [trap school]. Oops again. The future is hard to predict. Then again, tech has treated me really well this whole time, so my life choices haven't been all shitty.

    5. Don't be snide.

      My point was that the two may not correlate.

    6. No one was claiming they did.

      The idea that people who score in the 98-99th percentile on the LSAT - a standardized test that deals with logical reasoning taken by a self-selected group of people good enough at "school" to contemplate law school - wouldn't be able to do as well in math and science courses as your average med school applicant is kind of absurd. People who are at that intellectual level and taking the LSAT almost invariably have the study skills, learning capabilities, etc., to successfully apply for and complete medical school. I think any other conclusion is simply anti-lawyer rubbish.

  32. It is possible to take a post-bac premed course. Smart people can do that with a research job at the institution that runs the post-bac so tuition is free or reduced. Many people get into med school this way. In fact, taking orgo at Harvard or Yale may be daunting for some undergrads. A little bit more manageable at the post-bac sometimes.

    It takes a couple of years or even three this way before you go to med school. However, you can save money while working and especially save money in the gap year while you have your applications to med school out.

    The post-bacs that are highly ranked have very good acceptance rates to med school.

  33. The premed research jobs are not low paid. It would not be uncommon to earn $65,000 a year plus health insurance paid for by the employer plus pension contribution plus free tuition at the university that employed the premed. I guess these jobs are competitive, and hard to get, but there are such jobs.

    I know doctors who started premed in their mid to late 20s through the post bac and related work..

  34. You are supposed to get that guidance from your college. Unfortunately, the colleges do not provide effective career guidance, so here we are.

    For those of us who were great at math and science and chose law because our friends were doing so, we really did not understand what we were getting into.

    The truth is that law has been getting more saturated as the years pass. So guidance many years ago would not have necessarily revealed the problems with law today.

    1. I went to an élite college. Absolutely nobody there spoke to me about medical school or law school or anything else of the kind. Perhaps that was because the rich kids who made up the vast majority already had that advice, either from their parents or from the expensive guidance counselors at their fancy high schools.

      I was great at math and the natural sciences; I even enrolled directly in graduate-level math courses in my first year of university (and excelled in them, too). I went into law, late in life, mainly because I'm an advocate at heart.

    2. Old Guy, I'm a lurker and a fan of your posts. This is the core issue and the distinction between law and the medical profession.

      Medical school is a career path that one chooses at a fairly early stage of the undergraduate curriculum. One cannot simply decide, "Hey, I want to be a doctor," and then go to medical school. Law, however, is different.

      Too many lawyers begin their career fumbling through undergrad and then resorting to law school out of a lack of viable career alternatives. "I can't get a job as an art critic, I'll go to law school."

      Couple that with pretty much every law school beyond the Top 20 and particularly Tier 2, 3 and 4 schools dropping their entrance requirements to lure students simply to make money. It's no wonder that the profession is oversaturated, is in crisis, and is being accused of running a "scam".

      People who may have been excluded from entering the legal profession in the past due to the lack of basic intellectual requirements are now being embraced by the profession with open arms. The market is flooded with these people which results in high rates of legal unemployment and dropping salaries particularly for those on the lower end of the bimodal salary distribution.

      As has been pointed out several times, there is no Cooley Medical School out there where those with any old undergrad degree and who score below the 25th Percentile on the MCAT can go and still have a shot to be an M.D. You still have to meet basic core requirements to get into medical school.

      I fail to grasp why anyone would consciously decide to go to law school anymore. I can see the rationalization if you get into HYS and maybe CCN. You still have viable alternatives even if you miss the Biglaw gravy train. Everyone else? Not so much.

    3. Yes, 9:31, the ruining of the legal profession is a disgrace perpetrated in significant part by hackademic scamsters. Now that "law school is for everyone", as scam-dean Frank Wu claimed in You Ass News in 2009, the entire legal profession has been degraded into the sort of trade that sells its ass on a street corner. Come one, come all! No standards of any kind! say the carny-barkers of the law-school scam. And the whole profession has suffered for it.

      At the same time, as you said, for decades people have been drifting into law mainly because it's there. Anyone who can produce an LSAT score, a bachelor's degree in underwater basketweaving, and $300k in borrowed funds can go to law school. That's a lot easier than starting over with prerequisite courses for medicine or another line of work.

      The JD of today is on a par with the MBA of the 1980s. Everyone and her pet gerbil back then was getting an MBA, although not a job to go along with it.

      Perhaps law too should come with prerequisites, such as a reading knowledge of Latin, a couple of courses in the calculus and formal logic, and a stint as a volunteer in a setting where law is practiced. That would weed out the uncommitted and some of the unintelligent.

  35. This comparison of lawyers (and law school) to doctors (and medical school) has got to stop. The two professions are completely different animals, and they shouldn't be spoken of in the same sentence.

    Besides, it's not as if medicine is without its problems, and the salaries doctors actually make are very different from what people think they are.

  36. Excellent job as usual, Old Guy. If I wasn't already a fan and a follower of yours, then I definitely would be now. I especially like how you used some sarcastic humor without overdoing it, ranging from listing nothing in "Tier 0" to anyone in the lowest tier being too dumb to be left unsupervised.

    Mind if I give my own take on it, coming from my sympathetic-to-the-cause but never-went-to-law-school-myself self? No schools in Tier 0, Harvard and Yale (and maybe even Stanford too) in Tier 1, and everyone else in Tier 2. Simple, no?

    1. Thanks for your compliments.

      Your classification works, too. There's an even simpler one: put all schools in a tier of law schools unfit to attend.

    2. You're quite welcome, Old Guy.

      And you're right about that "even simpler" classification too. I suppose that works as well.

  37. 8:50 Most people get jobs from Chicago, Columbia and NYU Law out of the gate. The full-time permanent legal job placement rate is the same as or better than Harvard, Yale or Stanford.

    The problem comes down the road because the law schools rely on up or out big law jobs and clerkships that are not permanent. Biglaw is not accountable for its placement.

    I know that some Tier 1 and Tier 2 grads are begging for work after years of successful law practice in big law and sometimes in house. Honors grads of a Tier 2 are ending up as staff attorneys in big law and are being paid two thirds of the $180,000 first year going rate after serving for years as much higher paid big law associates. That is if they are lucky. Those grads are going to lose the staff attorney jobs in their 50s, if not sooner, because big law has zero tolerance for older associates. Big law is not required to hire older non-partner lawyers and does not do so, with the result that many older top law grads are marginally attached to the legal workforce.

    The market for long-term temp jobs at an hourly rate equal to two thirds of the hourly rate for starting jobs in big law and that do not have anywhere close to full-time work is very competitive. Employers easily can get a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate at $25 to $50 an hour through a temp agency in a very high cost area for as needed work.

    Graduates of Tier 1 and Tier 2 who formerly worked in big law are being displaced from their jobs like refugees. There is no place for them to go to get a full-time permanent legal job. These people need to retrain outside the legal profession to get a skilled, full-time permanent job or live with severe underemployment or unemployment. The reason is that most of the open legal jobs are restricted to lawyers in their 20s and 30s, at the same time that lawyers who graduated from top law schools so often are being forced out of work in mid-career or sooner.

    The long term placement of Tier 1 and Tier 2 is not great because there are not sufficient long-term, full-time permanent legal jobs for their graduates. There are too many lawyers.

    1. Hi there. I guess you're right; maybe we could lump the top 6 schools (Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, and NYU law) into their own top tier and then shove togther all the rest under that.

      And yes, I've heard about how it's gotten so bad that even older attorneys who graduated many years ago in better economic times (including solos) have been closing up shop after 2-3 DECADES of practicing law becuase of how badly they're being hurt by the situation.

  38. If you are an honors graduate of Harvard, Yale, Princeton or Stanford with high standardized test scores and you become a doctor, you are guaranteed a full-time permanent legal job for a career.

    In law, there is a high unemployment and underemployment rate for people who fit your description.

    You ought to use your intellectual capital to get yourself a career.

    Later on, when you are one of 137 applicants for each open legal job, it will be too late.

  39. If you do go to law school, you will face extreme and lawful experience limits that make you not qualified for most open legal jobs once you get older.

    Please look at the case of Kleber v Carefusion, below, where a lawyer in his 50s is challenging experience limits for an in house legal position at a subsidiary of a major drug company under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment law ("ADEA"). The lawyer hired for that position was 29 years old. While the lawyer had some success in the federal district court, his luck is likely to run out on appeal.

    The Kleber case has recently been docketed for appeal to the 7th Circuit.

    Meantime, in a similar case, Villarreal v RJ Reynolds, involving an experienced salesman's challenge of experience limits of two or three years out of college for a advertised sales position at RJ Reynolds, the 11th Circuit held the plaintiff did not state a claim for age discrimination.

    The plaintiff in the Villarreal case has filed a petition for cert with the Supreme Court. Because of the way the ADEA was written, the Supreme Court will likely be forced agree with the 11th Circuit that experience limits on open jobs are lawful.

    You are going to Vegas with your career by going into law. The legal profession has experience limits on most open jobs and extreme levels of job losses occurring among lawyers every day based mostly on there being so many other lawyers an employer can hire. With the extreme lawyer surplus and experience limits prevalent for legal jobs, unemployed and underemployed older lawyers from Tier 1 and 2 schools cannot get hired into full-time permanent legal jobs after losing a job.

  40. Old Guy, I'm curious why you placed Pepperdine and San Diego in a lower tier than UC Hastings and Loyola Marymount. Can you explain?

    1. Not much distinguishes them. All four institutions hover at the border of Tiers 4 and 5.

      San Diego is substantially worse than the other three in employment and a bit worse in the quality of the latest incoming class (as measured primarily by LSAT score). Pepperdine is comparable to Hastings but somewhat worse in employment. Loyola Marymount should perhaps be demoted to Pepperdine's level. I probably kicked Pepperdine down a tier in part to warn the many people who are attracted largely by its fun-in-the-sun location.

  41. What about that non-entity they call Temple University's Beasley School of Law? You can talk about a festering shithole like Thomas Jefferson Skool O' Lawl all you want, but the outlet for creating Philadelphia legal drones slipped by unranked.

    1. Thank you for pointing out the omission. I have updated the list. Temple comes in near the bottom of Tier 4. You'd place it lower, I gather.

    2. I find it bizarre that a barely-a-university* like Temple would have a law school in the first place, but then they also teach medicine and dentistry, so why not law? If you look at it, Temple University is more or less at the same level in the rankings as San Diego State U., and yet the slowly-fading Catholic private school USD is the one with the lawyer shop in San Diego; all the other lawl skools are freestanding. Beasley has a captive market in Philly city law, and I am certain the students are told to aim at niches within Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


      * Temple today is in the middle of a desperate building boom to make the school look more like a university - new library, student housing, adding wings to pre-existing buildings, etc. Before all that it felt like an overgrown junior college, a vibe not helped by the fact that Temple does not have its own separate campus; TU buildings are next door to rowhouses (some inhabited, many not.) Each building has a door guard at a single entrance and all the other ground floor doors are rigged so people can exit but not enter; they did that to stop the muggers from hanging out in the bathrooms (a 1980s problem, so I've read.) All students flash IDs at the guards, otherwise they are stopped. Beasley gets around this by having their own separate ground entrance with a stairway to the "first" floor of the law school; I think the school takes up three floors in a building on Broad Street. They also have their own tiny law library inside another building a few addresses down.

    3. Thanks for the details on Temple's Beastly Skule of Law. Both Beastly Temple and Dreck-sel should be shut down. Filthadelphia needs no law school other than Penn.

    4. They won't shut down "Beastly" because Temple is right on the fringe of North Philadelphia; the area is a working-class black neighborhood.....the college would look like snobs, goons, or racists in the local media if they closed Beasley down, and they look bad enough with the large number of empty rowhouses they own which they are condemning so they can build new student housing or classrooms. They renamed the area (and the former Columbia Avenue subway stop) after local NAACP leader Cecil B. Moore in the late 1980s to deflect from the 1964 Philadelphia race riot, but the realtors call it "Templetown" all the same.

      You and I know that the law is a losing game, but the college probably sees/sells their law school as a way out of a dead end for any of the locals....if ninety percent of the law schools in America had to close their doors in four years or face some sort of academic sanction, Temple would be one of the universities fighting to keep their law school open.

  42. Tier 5r here - making great money, winning large cases. Also, helping clients, and sleeping well at night. Toy degree? Maybe - but a power wheels car will still take you down the road -albeit a tad uncomfortably.

    1. All statistics have outliers. Congratulations on being one of them, and hopefully your luck doesn't run out too soon. That said, it's a bit like advising people to play roulette with their savings because you had an incredible run and came out ahead. The money's in and the statistics are clear: the house always wins.

    2. " winning large cases....sleeping well at night. "

      While we're on the topic of outliers, these things generally do not go together.

  43. But... but... Nova Southeastern has the highest bar passage rate in the State of FL. Isn't that what REALLY counts? We all know clout (tier-wise) can be bought from the individual to organizational level. Hmmmmmm....

    1. No, that is not what really counts. What really counts is well-paying employment.

      Nova Southeastern is a wretched über-toilet. More than a quarter of its graduates are unemployed ten months after graduation. Tuition exceeds $40k per year, and 70% of the students pay full fare (most of the others get only a small discount). The cost of attendance, if fully financed with debt, will run up student loans of $260k at the time of graduation. The outcomes—usually unemployment or low-paying jobs—do not justify the monstrous expense.

    2. Dam dude. Hitting those truth bombs hard af man - but then what you're saying is actually the most rational voice in the room instead of someone who throws meaningless platitudes. It's not really optimism or pessimism as much as objective truth. These are just the facts.

  44. I went to night law school at a Tier 6 school - New England in Boston - while working in an accounting career. I passed the bar without any problem other than needing Bar Bri to figure it all out, but my legal career was effectively over when I put down that pen on day two of the Bar Exam. This was back in the early 90s and the job market was non existent even then for unconnected people. There was virtually no on campus recruiting for graduating students and not much career counseling. The only kind of position I probably would have had an affinity for would have been a public sector position, but I would have considered real estate and did send resumes to a few firms. I wound up just continuing with my modest accounting career. The good thing was that since I was working, I graduated debt free. Why NESL, now known by the flashy name New England Law, sans School, still is relatively thriving is beyond me. Although, the library was actually pretty good, extensive foreign legal selections, Howell's state cases in Law French, good stock of legal periodicals, some 18th century case reporters right in the general stacks. I liked legal research, and some professors actually took note of some of the breadth of some of my research, so that part was good for me. Constitutional Law was a joy, but I am lucky to read a new SCOTUS opinion every 5 years now however.

  45. Well I attended a "Tier 5 school," (based on your list) I graduated, as well as most of my classmates, and got a job at a big law firm right out of law school. So I have less loans and better pay! Check your sources.

  46. summarize your list: Don't go to law school unless you are rich or can get a scholarship.

    1. And, if you get a scholarship, it must not be to a school in Tier 5 or Tier 6. With that little modification, your summary is accurate.

      An even shorter summary: Don't go to law school.

  47. To balance some of the negativity/pessimism about older females practicing law (were those posts BY older females speaking from personal experience?): I graduated 30+ years ago from a "Tier 4" on the above list and have (with the exception of a couple of short maternity leaves of a few months each) steadily and successfully practiced law, first as an associate at one of the larger firms in my city, then making partner, then after close to 20 years at the law firm going in-house at a major company and subsequently being promoted. I am close to 60 and I manage a team of attorneys and paralegals, and out-earn my husband, who has been practicing law at the same firm since law school graduation (Tier 5 on the above list) and I feel confident I can continue this position until I'm ready to retire. My best female lawyer friends are also my age with careers going strong. One stayed in private firm practice for 25 years before moving in-house and later, past 55, accepting a job with the state attorney general's office when she was interested in scaling back her work hours. One of my good friends continues in private practice; after about 20 years at her first firm a larger firm recruited her away as a partner. In her 50s. She does not color her hair or try to look younger than she is. So while I can't speak to the job prospects for current graduates (though I did just hire a graduate of a Tier 4 who has been out 4 years and is doing an excellent job), I can say from personal experience that the female attorneys I know who are smart, experienced, personable and hardworking and want to practice law past age 55 have not seemed to have any problem doing so.

    1. A lot has happened in the 30+ years since you finished law school. Much of today's Tier 4 would have been in a higher tier back then.

      Making partner is critical to the success that you report. Please don't imagine that your case is typical or representative. Likewise, the female lawyers that you know are not representative of today's recent graduates.

    2. This story is anecdotal.

    3. 1. You're in-house counsel. The main issue with older females AFAIK is usually litigation-side. If you go to a large-volume courthouse, the gender discrepancy past middle age is obvious.

      2. Let's talk about this anecdotal data point: "...and out-earn my husband, who has been practicing law at the same firm since law school graduation." (a.) the odds of a new graduate in 2019 staying at a private firm for 30 years are astonishingly low; (b.) what does it say about law as a private business/partnership opportunity if he has 30 years of headway and isn't an equity partner raking more in than his salaried corporate America spouse?

    4. Law School Truth Center makes good points.

      Women beyond age 30 are strikingly underrepresented in many areas of practice, particularly litigation (as Law School Truth Center pointed out) but also transactional work. One reason is the unequal burden of familial responsibilities. Ladies, if you hear that "you can have it all", please ask "at what price?". Not for nothing do many female lawyers end up in pink ghettos such as family law.

      Those graduating from a Tier 4 or Tier 5 law school in 2019 would be lucky indeed to find themselves thirty years later as equity partners making less than in-house counsel at some corporation.

  48. Hi. All the posters here seem to know the legal field very well. Would any of you advise me whether or not I should join the law school that I got into. But read the comment full because I'm in a unique position. I'm a foreign attorney and I got into SUNY buffalo 2-years JD program half tuition waiver. I did not have to take LSAT. The whole would cost me around 60k incl costs of living. Is it wise to pursue the degree in a hope of getting a few years of work experience before returning home?

    1. SUNY Buffalo, as the article above says, is a lousy dump of a law school. Where do you expect to get work experience? Who is going to hire you?

  49. Old Guy:

    There is a lot of truth in what you say, but, damn, there is certainly also a lot of arrogance.

    Let me break this down: You are correct that going to law school now is fraught with financial dangers. I graduated about 40 years ago from a lowest of the lowest tier, but the entire 3 years cost $4,000.

    I have employed many law students over the years (from my same school). Most were from working class backgrounds. Despite the nasty comments made by some commentators that these people are hopeless dingbats, I have found many of these young people to be intelligent and dedicated persons. Most of my former employees remain in contact with me, and I can tell you they are very successful in our “podunk” Ohio city.

    I will also tell you that the best litigator I know graduated from the lowest of the low law schools (having come from a working class background) in the 1960’s and is now a millionaire several times over. He still litigates because he likes what he does

    All this being said. I agree that law schools are a scam. I discourage young people from going into law school because I recognize the ridiculous cost of law school will not equal making enough money to truly pay off the debt (although the majority of the folks who worked for me have been steadily reducing their debt).

    We podunk lawyers must be really good at moving rubber tree plants.

    1. I appreciate your high hopes (perhaps people much younger than ourselves are unlikely to recognize the song), but I think that you're missing an important point: you and I are talking about vastly different eras.

      It's true that a poorly regarded law school may have been a sound bet forty years ago. I have never said otherwise. Law school back then was cheap, and opportunities abounded. There were even many night schools that catered to people who just couldn't afford to stop working for three years or more while attending law school. And a graduate from the 1960s, more than fifty years ago, was even better off than one of 1980 or thereabouts. As I recently mentioned (check February 2021 on this site), few people in the sixties even had a bachelor's degree, let alone a law degree.

      Unfortunately, the dated perspective of baby boomers continues to mislead millions of young people. Even a bachelor's degree nowadays is usually a bad idea. How many people graduating when you did, or when your favorite litigator did, ended up pouring coffee or operating a cash register? That's a common experience nowadays. The unemployment rate for graduates of law schools is several times that of the general public, which doesn't pay a few hundred grand for the privilege of being unemployed.

      Law schools in your days had meaningful standards of admission. They didn't often take dolts. Not so today. Just look at the LSAT scores if you don't believe me, or see the appallingly poor quality of writing that one finds even at many of the prestigious schools.

      And, by the way, Old Guy himself is a hayseed from Podunk.