Is Law School Worth It?

By: Lawrence Gridin · May 19, 2010 · Filed Under Law Career, Law School · 6 Comments 

Following up on a New York Times article about the rapidly depreciating value of a law degree, Concurring Opinions has some advice on whether going to law school is a good career choice.

The gist of Sarah Waldek’s opinion is:

I’ve been thinking hard about what advice I would give prospective students and this is where I’ve landed:  Only go to law school next year if (1) you have always dreamed of being a lawyer; or (2) you are accepted by a very prestigious institution; or (3) you are offered a full scholarship.

Of course, this year law school applications will be partly driven by the lack of opportunity costs. Graduating college students face generally dismal employment prospects regardless of what field they want to enter.   But I suspect that optimism bias plays just as large a role in student decision-making.   No matter what the economy, some lawyers will be wildly successful.  Many prospective students are inclined to think that they will be part of this group, no matter how daunting the odds against it.  On the more rational side of the analysis, it’s also true that law school historically has proven itself a relatively good place to weather out bad economic times.

What is different this time around, however, is that no one is yet sure whether the changes in legal markets and in law firms are permanent, or whether things will eventually return to what we had come to think of as normal.  If you haven’t always wanted to practice law, or if you’re considering a law school that is not one of the best in the nation, or if the law school isn’t offering to pay for you to attend, my advice is to wait to see how this plays out.

Some of the comments on the article are also deeply troubling. Here’s a sampling:

Native JD: Don’t bother. There are no jobs for you. It’s a racist profession dominated by white men (I’m Native and Biglaw wouldn’t even interview me (Top 50 school, 3.0+, 5 years of Capitol Hill experience and heavily involved in ABA diversity efforts).

This profession is doomed.

Unemployed OVER A YEAR NOW: MEMO TO PROSPECTIVE LAW STUDENTS: THERE ARE NO JOBS! I have been out of law school three years now. I spent 2 years at Big Law (Cravath) and the past 14 months looking for work and doing lousy temp jobs. I had a 4.0 in college and law school (that is how I landed the Big Law job) and all the volunteer, pro bono, language skills, etc you could dream of. None of that matters. THERE ARE NO JOBS FOR LAWYERS. Go to Med School if your brain works.

LAC: I have been giving people who wanted to go to law school this advice since my 1L year. Except I say that you shouldn’t go to law school unless you are already rich (meaning you have about $200k just lying around), you can go to a Top 10 school, AND you can go for free or for less than $30k.

I was one of those poor kids who decided to be a lawyer when I was young so that I could grow up and support myself and my family. I went to law school with no debt—my college education was paid for with federal grants. I am now-$100k, and that only accounts for 70% of my tuition, which means NONE of my living expenses. The last $40k is one year of tuition in my LL.M program. One year. Frankly, I was in a better financial position when I was on Welfare. And at this rate, I will be again soon enough.

There are no entry-level jobs anymore for anyone. Not for finished fed clerks, not for LL.Ms (like me), and not even for Harvard grads. I have a degree in tax from one of the best programs in the country and about 10 people in my graduating class of more than 100 are employed 6 months later—more than half of those people are foreign nationals who have jobs in their native lands. Now, my friends who were lucky enough to get government jobs to take advantage of the public service loan repayment program are being told they make too much money to qualify (less than $70k/yr) and are left with $100k+ of student debt and a low-paying job. Frankly, many of us are taking paralegal jobs (and some firms now only hire JDs for such positions), thus effectively nullifying our credentials and Bar status just to put food on the table. At this point, my education is a curse. It automatically disqualifies me for lesser work elsewhere, and the loan load is oppressive to say the least.

There is no upside any longer. There needs to be a moratorium on law school admissions for at least 5 years to stop the excess flood of lawyers into an economy that cannot remotely support the supply it currently has.

I’m not sure how applicable Waldek’s concerns (or those of the commentators) are to the Canadian context.

First, Canadians pay far less for a quality legal education than Americans do. Tuition at the most expensive law school in Canada (U of T) is roughly $22,000. It’s considerably less at other law schools. You can get a top notch education at McGill, for example, for under $7000/yr (it’s even cheaper for Quebeckers). Out west, you can hit up UBC for under $10,000. Or try Dalhousie out east for under $13,000. American tuitions are 3-5x higher!

Second, the job market here appears to be better. To be sure, Bay Street recruitment has definitely dropped, salaries have dropped, and hire-back is no longer guaranteed for summer and articling students. But even so, the impression I get from my colleagues on the Street is that we are far from the nightmare scenario being described above.

Most importantly, it appears that although this past year was one of the worst in recent history, the storm is passing. The economy is now improving. Legal recruitment and salaries should begin to rise. Of course, it will be a long while before firms are throwing around money and perks like candy, as they were before.

I’d say the Canadian situation calls for cautious optimism.

Does Government Health Spending Hurt the Economy?

By: Devin Johnston · October 15, 2009 · Filed Under Politics · Add Comment 
Government Health Spending vs. GDP (both per capita, PPP)

The short answer is no (this is even more apparent if you look at the logarithmic scale on Gap Minder). In fact, high government spending on health care per capita (purchasing power parity adjusted) is strongly correlated with high gross domestic product per capita (purchasing power parity adjusted). The nature of this relationship is open to debate (is the country rich because it has government health care or does it have government health care because it is rich?), but the argument that high government healthcare spending lowers gross domestic product is betrayed by the data. The main outliers, incidentally, are mostly oil-producing nations (Qatar, Brunei, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia), as well as Singapore.

A Guide To Investing In Recession

By: David Shulman · March 22, 2009 · Filed Under Humour, Pop Culture, Uncategorized · Add Comment 

imagehandlerashxIn January 2008, I began investing in the stock market.

I was asked to by my good friend – and fellow LawIsCool contributor – Lawrence Gridin, and I just couldn’t say no.

Except for ECON101 and a couple of books by Sachs and Krugman, I have no education in economics or finance. I understand the principles of supply and demand, elasticity, inflation, and comparative advantage. With enough effort, I can summon and apply these principles to elementary models involving apples and small integers.

But when it comes to the stock market, I tend to gravitate to those anecdotes of dart-throwing monkeys outperforming experienced stockbrokers.

In addition to my lack of training, I am not a gambling man.

I went to a casino for the first time a few months ago. In one night I lost $10 on a 5¢ slot machine. I still rue my loss to that noisy one-armed bandit.

At the time Lawrence asked me to begin investing, I had been following the sub-prime mortgage crisis closely. I am still fascinated by it.

The modern economy can express the folly of myopic greed so beautifully and measurably. A law student might even claim that it does more than reify our sins, but that it also dispenses justice, if it were not for the fact that not only the greedy now suffer.

Since January 2008, the stock market has plunged.

The S&P 500 is an index of the prices of five hundred large, publicly-traded companies in the United States. It is considered a bellwether for the American economy. It has fallen from 1468 points to a recent low of 682, or -54%.

So it was that at one of the worst times in history to invest in the stock market, I invested in the stock market.

Believe it or not, I have lost nothing.

More incredibly, ranked against 66,000 avid stock traders — the type who research, trade daily, and actually try to make money off it – I am in the 97th percentile. I beat virtually all of them. What have I gained? Since all that Lawrence asked me to invest was a bit of my time on a popular stock prediction website, I have gained nothing but a better view of the American consumer.

How did I, an uninformed novice, beat the vast majority of enthusiast traders in one of the worst markets ever? I focused on what I did know about the American economy and consumer.

I knew enough about the sub-prime mortgage crisis that it would probably infect the broader credit market. I knew that this would deepen the already existing recession by decreasing consumer spending which, in turn, would generally lower demand in the economy. I thought to myself, what do American consumers nonetheless demand when times are tough, when they’re stressed and unemployed, when property crime is increasing, when their house is foreclosed, and when uncertain political change is fast approaching ?

Answer: guns, drugs, beer, and cigarettes.

So that’s exactly what I invested in. My picks included Sturm, Ruger & Company, Smith & Wesson Holding CorpJohnson & Johnson, Molson Coors Brewing CompanyAnheuser-BuschReynolds American, and Altria Group.

beer-gunIt turns out my sardonic hunch was dead on; these companies and their ilk have defied the recession and done incredibly well over the past year, as demand for their products surges.

Will I start investing real money in my hunches? Since my conscience prohibits me from lending money to gun and cigarette makers, I’ll have to wait for now…

You can sign up at The Motley Fool – Caps to view my performance and make your own predictions. My username is ilovetogamble.

“If you don’t follow the stock market, you are missing some amazing drama.”

- Mark Cuban, American billionaire

Jobs for Law Grads

By: Pulat Yunusov · October 20, 2008 · Filed Under Blogroll, Law Career, Law School · 1 Comment 

US law students are worried about jobs after the best job market in 20 years starts heading down. Should we be too?

Dion Speaks in London

By: Omar Ha-Redeye · September 27, 2008 · Filed Under Politics · 1 Comment 

Here’s a few clips Stéphane Dion’s talk in London, Ontario last night.

In the first clip he reaches out to minorities communities, expressing a vision of inclusion, and mentioning that Stephen Harper had accused him of being pro-Taliban when he criticized the war effort.

In the second clip he talks about the problems in the Canadian economy,

All of us, we have a sense of history.  We will remember that during the Great Depression, it was Roosevelt that took us out of trouble, not Hoover…

I’ve seen Flaherty, after destroying your economy, say to the investors of the world, ‘Don’t invest in Ontario.

Canadians are rightly concerned about the position of the economy.  Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney said earlier this week,

Any slowdown in the U.S. economy would have consequences for Canada, but the current situation poses particular problems.