It has been over a week since Nelson Mandela’s passing, and the world continues to mourn and pay tribute to the man who fought to end apartheid...
I know it’s hard to work up sympathy for lawyers, but bear with me. For the news of the past few weeks has Mercedes and BMW dealers across the country worried as well. It seems that a law school degree will not guarantee that purchase of a shiny new luxury car upon graduation. In fact, only half of law school graduates will actually land jobs.
So what do lawyers do when they cannot find a job? You guessed it, they sue! An article in the March 16th Guardian reported of such a suit filed in a New York court, and asked:
Are law schools misleading potential students about the value of a JD (professional doctorate in law)? That’s the argument that a handful of New York-based law grads from New York Law School, Hofstra and Brooklyn Law are making in a New York state court. They claim that the schools fudge postgraduate employment rates. They cite one school claiming that 90% of students are employed after graduation, when according to the complaints, only 40% have jobs that require a law degree and a number of students work in temporary jobs at the law school itself, which boots employment numbers.
A June article in the Wall Street Journal reported of more than a dozen lawsuits that have been filed recently across the county alleging that some schools misled students with grossly inflated job-placement statistics.
Aspiring lawyers in Canada seem to have similar difficulties. A CBS report noted that the Law Society of Upper Canada estimates one in seven law graduates will not secure practical training next year. That is despite the fact that articling is necessary for law students if they want to practice in Ontario.
Fueling the anger is the fact that a law degree requires an investment of well over $100,000, often accessed through student loans and paid back with interest. The Guardian article concludes that:
most students aren’t going to throw six-figure loans at an institution that purports to train future lawyers but where the odds of ending up using their degrees, or being able to pay back their loans after graduation, are slim.
Of course, law school is not the only option open to college graduates. Statistics from various business schools, for example, while not quite as detailed, do paint a rosier picture. That said, the above issues have led many to question the obsession Western culture has with a college education.
A July 22nd NY Times article featured the “20 under 20” Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant which allows promising young inventors to develop their unique ideas. Peter Thiel, a Silicon Valley investor, believes more young people should be chasing breakthrough technologies instead of wasting their time and money in college. “You increasingly have people who are graduating from college, not being able to get good jobs, moving back home with their parents,” Mr. Thiel said. “I think there’s a surprising openness to the idea that something’s gone badly wrong and needs to be fixed.”
Clearly, most high school graduates are not going to qualify for 100 grand gifts to follow their dreams. And, for most, a college degree is still the safest and surest guarantor of future success. However, it would behoove the elementary and high school educators of the 21st century to explore avenues of success that do not necessarily pass through the ivy towers. Finding ways to tap into the immense creative energy found in our students is the key to our future.