Yesterday the US News University Directory published a news piece with the headline, “Law School Students Use Passion and Flexibility in Struggling Job Market.” Never the kind to turn down an opportunity to roll our eyes at idiocy, we read the article.
The headline is off to a great start: redundant and almost completely inaccurate. “Law school students” because somehow “law students” wasn’t clear? That headline might lead one to believe this article would be some kind of focus piece on individual law students who have done something passionate or flexible with their law degree. Nope. Note even a little.
The article is actually about pre-law students, and no one is actually using passion or flexibility- they just think their hypothetical future selves might. The job market is struggling, though, so at least they got something right. Well, actually, the job market itself isn’t struggling, but people in the market are. …Well, not even really in the market yet. But whatever. Close enough?
The article claims that despite the difficulties of the current legal market, students are still “flocking” to law schools. Students are flocking to law schools the same way lemmings would flock off a cliff if a Stopper lemming was dropped in the middle of a herd and some Builder and Digger Lemmings got the rest to safety. Law school applications are headed for a 30 year low, and despite some schools voluntarily cutting class sizes, there’s a good chance numerous schools will find themselves with empty seats. There’s still a flock, but the context demands mentioning it’s a significantly smaller flock.
The article goes on to cite a survey by Kaplan Test Prep, which says that half of pre law students plan to use their law degree in a nontraditional legal position because of the condition of the legal market. And Jeff Thomas, Kaplan’s Pre-Law guy thinks that’s just okay:
While we'd always counsel students to go to law school with the intent to practice law, society is filled with lawyers in all types of positions - politicians, lobbyists, authors, law enforcement officials, executives at professional sports leagues, and more - which shows that law degrees can be applied to a broad range of career options.
We could point out that if you’re planning on doing something other than practicing law, you’re better off getting a degree that’s much more on point (and probably cheaper) than a law degree. If you want to be an author, get an MFA. If you want to be a police officer, study criminal justice or go to the police academy. If you want to be a politician, get an MRS and wait for your husband to hit his term limit. There are just so many other, better choices than a JD for alternative careers.
We could also point out that if you don’t intend to practice law, but instead want to use your JD to be a politician, lobbying, author, police officer, or professional sports league executive, you’re going to first need to practice law. For most of these, look at a stay in the legal profession of 15 years to life, maybe 12 if you get out on good behavior.
But we’re not going to say that. What we’re going to say is that if you believe a test prep company about the viability of alternative career paths, you’re embarrassingly gullible. Test prep companies are only going to make money if you’re planning on taking a test they can prep you for. There’s no politician or writer version of the GMAT, GRE, or LSAT. You don’t sell test prep programs by telling people to get an entry level position in their target field.
Furthermore, if you believe a test prep company about the viability of alternative career paths, fire your test prep company, because they’re obviously doing a pretty terrible job at teaching you logical thinking. That’s probably on your test somewhere, and you officially suck at it.
According to the survey, while half of these bright pre-law minds don’t plan to actually practice law (because they’ll be exploring that alternative career path), 71% of them are going to law school so they can have a career they are passionate about. Here’s what law school has given us at ConDaily a(n increased) passion for: beer, wine, spirits, sleep, not getting enough sleep, client-hating, and confusing parenthetical placements.
The only sense demonstrated by anyone referenced in the article comes from the 43% of pre law kids who said they would postpone or alter their law school plans if they did not receive enough financial aid. At least some of the flock gets to the edge of the cliff and says, “Oh hell no. Not without an umbrella.”