Law School: still a good investment for African-Americans

, The National Law Journal


African-Americans should not be dissuaded from attending law school by published law school tuition rates.

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What's being said

  • Legal Eagle

    I suspect BlackPrince206 is a dean of admissions at one of the lower-tier schools that is struggling to fill its next first-year class.

    Sure, some firms care about diversity, which is why they like to hire minorities to fill the firm's bottom rungs, the paralegal, staff attorney, and contract attorney positions, for the worst pay and the worst hours, to do the most menial work. Then, on Picture Day, the firm will be sure to include as many of those minorities to "brown up" its firm brochure.

    Law school propaganda notwithstanding, if you're a Latino or African-American student considering law school, you have three sensible choices, (1) Harvard, Yale, Stanford; (2) a full, unconditional, 3-year scholarship; or (3) thanks, but no thanks.

    Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are the only 3 schools worthy of the insane amount of debt required to get a law degree right now. If there's a school, any school, willing to fully and unconditionally fund all 3 years of your legal education, then by all means go. But make sure it's unconditional. Don't let them trick you with a scholarship that only lasts one year that then forces you to pay full freight because you didn't finish in the top ten percent.

    If you don't qualify for #1 or #2, then don't go. Better to avoid those huge student loans and get real world experience, working, traveling, volunteering etc., anything to avoid going deep into non-dischargeable debt to join a "profession" where subtle-if-not-overt racism still runs rampant.



  • blackprince206

    Think Like a Lawyer is forgetting a few things. Recruiters at biglaw firms (all firms really) are willing to dig a bit deeper into the candidate pool to find qualified minority applicants, especially Black and Hispanic candidates.

    The top-60% of students in any top law school class (thinking top-100) can probably practice law effectively, but the traditional suffering that typically occurs for all but the best students results from scarcity of jobs. Black and Hispanic law graduates are somewhat immune to that suffering for the exact reason cited in the article: they represent only 4% of the profession while they represent 13% and 9% of the U.S. population, and that dearth of Black and Hispanic talent leads top employers to take fliers on lower-ranking black students. Some may leave the firms due to normal attrition while a few find that they cannot cut it. Still, a good number of them thrive.

    It's worth the investment (and slight risk in some cases) for top law firms because corporate clients that purport to seek and promote diversity do not want to be represented by law firms that do not. It sends a bad message.

    Moreover, corporations often raid the cupboards of top law firms for their Black and Hispanic in-house talent, which accounts for some of that attrition I mentioned earlier.

    Many white's may not want to accept it, but it's true. The scarcity in the legal profession means that many of the rules just don't apply to URM students. For now, it needs to be that way. Law school is a great investment for URM candidates, even if they have to go into a little bit of debt (i.e. Debt<$75K)

  • Legal Eagle

    In a legal market saturated with unemployed/underemployed lawyers, African-Americans should go $100,000 into debt to join a "profession" where subtle racism still persists??


  • Think Like a Lawyer

    There are several inaccuracies in this piece. First the average ABA debt numbers are understated: they report only the amount of money loaned to a student during law school, and not the interest accrued or debt incurred after graduation and before the Bar Exam (not to mention undergraduate debt). Remember, GradPlus loans accrue interest while you are still at school. The average debt load of a graduating law student is much higher, in the 150 to 200k range. Paul Campos did a piece on this in his blog--http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/08/law-schools-significantly-understate.html.

    Second, law grads are turning to alternative industries out of necessity, not out of preference. Law students who think their J.D. is going to give them a leg up in the business world are delusional. See http://thepeoplestherapist.com/2010/11/03/extremely-versatile-crockery/

    Third, many, if not most, scholarships offered by schools outside the t-14 are crap. They are often partial and require you to maintain an unrealistically high GPA. Some schools place all their scholarship recipients in the same intro classes so that, by virtue of grading curve, many will lose their scholarships. Campos also did a piece on this.

    Fourth, the ABA job placement number is overstated. It does not count non-respondents and counts those practicing as solo attorneys and at 2-10 lawyer firms as employed. You have absolutely no chance making it at as a solo or in one of those 2-10 firms straight out of law school. This has been written about extensively-- to summarize, overhead costs of solo or tiny firm practice are high; you do not actually learn how to practice the law in law school; good luck trying to get malpractice insurance; law, more than many other professions, is about having the right forms, knowing the judge, knowing opposing counsel, knowing how much time something will take, you simply cannot know this as a newbie.

    Fifth, Ms. Pratt graduated from law school when its cost was much lower (adjusted for inflation), median income much higher (again adjusted for inflation), and employment prospects much better. To make a connection between Ms. Pratt's success and your decision to go to law school is spurious.

    Evidently, "It is difficult to get a [woman] to understand something, when [her] salary depends upon [her] not understanding it" (Upton Sinclair). If Ms. Pratt actually did a careful analysis of her own graduates, she would find that law school is not worth it for all but a sliver of Dickinson Law graduates. The reality is that schools like Ms. Pratt's need to close and the overhang of unemployed and under-employed law grads needs to clear before law school is again a smart choice. I implore a prospective student of Dickinson to do the math and read up on the realities of the legal practice on sites such abovethelaw.com, jdunderground.com, http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com, and http://www.lawschooltransparency.com.

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