Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Law School Satisfaction

law school satisfactionHere’s a sobering stat: only 20 percent of recent graduates say law school was worth the cost.

Only a third of them have been able to land a good job after graduation. This is in contrast to the 70 percent of old-timers who graduated in the 1960s to find a good job awaiting them.

The figures come from a recent study (“Life After Law School”) by Gallup and the Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis and this article from the American Bar Association.

The report surveyed more than 7,000 law grads – new and old – from seven law schools in the southeast, including Campbell Law School.

The results express in numbers what observers have been saying for years: that since the mid-2000s there has been a sharp drop in satisfaction with the decision to go to law school.

You can view the study here.

Half-Century of Decline

The study found that a whopping 75 percent of graduates between 1960 and 1979 said they were satisfied with their decision to attend law school, while only 50 percent of graduates between 1980 and 1999 and 20 percent of graduates between 2000 and 2015 said they were satisfied.

Only 38 percent of graduates from 2010 and 2015 said they walked out of Torts 101 into a “good job.” By comparison, 70 percent of graduates from 1960 and 1969 got one, and 56 percent of graduates from 1990 and 2009 did so.

Asked whether they would go back to law school if they could do it over again, 68 percent of graduates from 1960 to 1979 said they “strongly agreed,” compared with 54 percent of graduates from 1980 to 1999, and 37 percent of graduates from 2000 to 2015.

Here are some of the study’s other findings:

  • On average, recent grads had nearly $86,000 in combined student debt.
  • Twenty-seven percent of alumni reported total annual personal income of $180,000 or more, while 31 percent reported personal income of $90,000 to $179,999, 31 percent reported personal income of $24,000 to $89,999, and four percent reported personal income of less than $24,000.
  • Among graduates still working, 82 percent are practicing law and 18 percent are not. Among those practicing law, 51 percent work in firms, 18 percent are in solo practice, 17 percent have government jobs and two percent work for legal aid or public defenders.

The study used a Well-Being Index to gauge job satisfaction or “engagement.” This index considers five elements: Purpose Well-Being (liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals), Social Well-Being (having strong and supportive relationships and love in your life), Financial Well-Being (effectively managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security), Community Well-Being (liking where you live, feeling safe and proud of your community) and Physical Well-Being (having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis).

Using this index, Gallup found that 49 percent of all graduates who are presently working say they are “engaged” at work. Among all Americans, only 30 percent say they are engaged.

Among those who were happy after law school, most say they had at least one law professor who cared about them as a person or got them excited about learning. Many said they had a mentor at law school who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.

What do you make of these findings? Are you engaged at your job? Why or why not?



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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