Why Now Is A Good Time To Apply To Law School
Here at Tipping the Scales, we’re becoming downright giddy as the holidays approach. Perhaps we’re filled with the natural joy and goodwill of the season. Or, maybe we’re just looking forward to our holiday bonus checks. Either way, the law school beat feels increasingly upbeat these days. Every problem seems to come with a silver lining. And no problem feels too big to overcome.
You certainly won’t hear any bah-humbugs from Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington and faculty director of the school’s interdisciplinary Tech Policy Lab. Channeling his inner George Bailey, Calo defies conventional wisdom and claims that “Reports of the death of the legal market are greatly exaggerated.” Sure, many of his graduates are deeply in debt and unemployed (or suffering through the Black Friday shift at your local Wal Mart). But Calo has a message for everyone who’s waiting for the economy to shift gears before applying to law school: “You may be closing your eyes to an opportunity.” It must be a wonderful life indeed!
Don’t believe him? Well, the legal marketplace has made grinches of us all. But give his arguments a read. You might be inspired to come down from Mount Crumpit and sing caroles with the rest of the little who’s. Are you ready? Here’s Calo’s reasoning:
You’ll Get More Aid: “A law school faced with fewer applicants must either lower its admission standards or shrink its class size….Regardless, schools are competing feverishly for good students. An applicant who, a few years ago, would have been wait-listed at a top twenty school, may now find herself with a scholarship.” In other words, you probably won’t be weighed down by as much debt by the time you graduate thanks to more carrots.
Your Chance For Success Is Increased: “A smaller class size, meanwhile, unless offset by layoffs or a long hiring freeze, translates into more individual attention for the students that do enroll.” That’s a big “unless,” mind you. Still, you can only benefit from more one-on-one time with faculty, who now realize that they are no longer immune from the market, regardless of tenure. Expect “serve” and “accessible” to become the mantras of law schools in the coming years.
Expect Greater Attrition (Soon): “…many (many) people will be leaving the work force in the next five to ten years. Some of these people will be lawyers. The demographics are such that knowledgeable folks like the head of the Washington Bar Association are predicting a market gap. They worry that future demand for legal services cannot be met by a dwindling supply.” Of course, not everyone is so optimistic that baby boomers will ever retire. In the least, they will slow down, which should provide more opportunities for young attorneys to gain experience…preferably involving a billable.
Big Law Isn’t The Only Game In Town: “So-called “Big Law” is so visible, especially on law school campuses, that people tend to conflate its woes with that of the entire profession. That clients use big firms less does not necessarily mean they use fewer lawyers. The world is not getting any less complicated or fraught with legal risk. Rather, clients will hire more people in house, look to smaller firms, or rely on the growing cadre of sophisticated contract attorneys.” That’s right: The boutique firm is on the rise! And that means more work will be spread across the entire marketplace. Enterprising attorneys can only benefit as a result.
Technology Only Goes So Far: “And yes, technology is changing the practice of law. Arguing that apps or algorithms will displace lawyers, however, is like arguing that Epicurious.com or smart ovens will displace chefs… Neither will throw on a suit and enter a courtroom in the event a clause gets contested.” Sure, technology is automating wills and contracts. But litigation is an art that requires strategy, an investigative mindset, connections, and a dash of panache. And there’s only one place to develop those tools: Law school.
There, are you feeling better? Sure, tuition costs are rising and traditional opportunities are dwindling. But law schools are like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. Sure, the critics are laughing and calling them names like “bubble” and “crisis.” Eventually, their time will come around again. There is still of business to be had in law. Question is, are prospective students ready to take a risk, get their hands dirty, and go out and earn that business?