The Legal One Percent

Money 2The Rich Get Richer And The Poor Get Poorer In Today’s Legal Climate

A week after Halloween, The New Yorker shared some frightening stats. In 1985, the country’s leading law firms had an average profit of $309,000 ($623,000 in current value) per partner. 30 years later, that number has ballooned to about $1.5 million. This is happening while more than a third of law school graduates cannot find jobs. Moreover, median starting salaries are down by 17%.
The story portrayed a simple and disturbing reality in the legal education and professional world—the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The problem originates with the law schools. The number of law schools and the amount they are charging for tuition have done nothing but increase since the turn of the century despite the number of students attending decreasing.
The business model is unsustainable. While the demand was going down, the supply was going up. Yet the law schools go on. And they pile on the debt. About 85% of law school graduates currently carry a debt load of more than $100,000. With students taking seemingly forever to find jobs, it is making it near impossible for them to pay back their debt.
Still, the largest and most lucrative law firms continue to rake it in. As do the top law schools. The most successful firms only want applicants from the most successful law schools. It makes sense, but in this job climate — where the top firms are the only ones hiring — it perpetuates this vicious growing divide between rich and poor. Grads from the Tier 14 can get jobs virtually anywhere. Grads from the bottom tier cannot compete.
The bottom tier schools could close up shop and stop admitting students just to load them up with debt and throw them out into the harsh real world with virtually no hope of a job worthy of paying off debt. But so far they continue to admit the little amount of students brave and determined enough to step foot on their campuses. And so the cycle continues.
Source: The New Yorker