However, the 2015 law school employment data is coming out and I have started to get inquiries from young people thinking about going to law school as to whether I think it is a good idea to do so - and asking whether one law school is a better bet than another. In that regard, one of the most important items to consider when thinking about law school is whether you will be able to get a job as a lawyer - and more specifically a full-time, non-short-term, JD-required job not created by the law school itself.
Overall, I note that legal employment remains bad and is actually getting worse in real number terms - but slightly better in percentage terms because fewer people are attending law school. As mentioned in this article, the actual number of law school graduates in the class of 2015 declined by 8 percent - while the number of jobs only declined by about 7 percent, which means that on a percentage basis a slightly higher percentage of graduates found jobs, but in real numbers there were far fewer jobs overall.
The ABA's 2015 actual data is here - the table is a mess, but you are going to want to divide column B (EmployedBarPassageRequiredFTLT) by column AK (TotalGraduatesNumber) to get the percentage you are looking for. Because I usually get questions from people deciding between Chicago-area-ish law schools, I wanted to focus your attention on the odds of actually getting a job as a lawyer after attending those schools. Here are the stats:
CHICAGO, UNIVERSITY OF 90.82%
MICHIGAN, UNIVERSITY OF 85.03%
NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY 81.25%
NOTRE DAME, UNIVERSITY OF 73.74%
ILLINOIS, UNIVERSITY OF 65.19%
WISCONSIN, UNIVERSITY OF 64.84%
INDIANA UNIVERSITY - BLOOMINGTON 64.65%
MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY 62.45%
WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY 60.00%
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY 59.41%
INDIANA UNIVERSITY - INDIANAPOLIS 58.75%
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS U-CARBONDALE 56.57%
DEPAUL UNIVERSITY 54.86%
CHICAGO-KENT COLLEGE OF LAW-IIT 51.99%
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY-CHICAGO 50.96%
JOHN MARSHALL LAW SCHOOL 50.92%
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY 49.48%
VALPARAISO UNIVERSITY 41.98%
1) My personal metric is that it does not make sense to attend a law school which has less than an 80% chance to land you a job as a lawyer. How big of a risk do you want to take with your future? Even if a law school is going to offer you a complete scholarship, it does no good to waste 3 years of your life obtaining a degree for which you can not find a job. In this regard, I note that only a few law schools in the Chicago area make the grade - U of C, U of M, and Northwestern.
2) One surprise was the performance of John Marshall relative to DePaul, Kent, and Loyola. All of DePaul, Kent, and Loyola have a better reputation, but it is not translating into significantly increased job prospects. Additionally, DePaul has only a very slight placement advantage over the other two schools.
3) It is sad to see how far the U of Illinois has fallen. If now offers pretty much the same placement as U of Indiana-Bloomington, which has a much lesser reputation.
4) Marquette has held pretty steady - and is at a significant advantage over Loyola and DePaul. These schools seem to be admitting candidates at about the same quality, so consequently, if you are looking for a catholic- based law school among these three then look to Marquette. Of course, if your scores are high enough and you can pay the extra $10K/year, then go to Notre Dame.
5) Another surprise - Wayne State and Northern Illinois have significantly better placement results than DePaul, Kent, and Loyola. You would not expect that based on reputation.
6) Valpo - I have talked with at least two people in the past year that were being offered a full scholarship by Valpo, but my feel is that their placement statistics are so low it is not worth the three years of your working life. Just to emphasize this again - on average, you will have to stop working by about age 63. Most young people live in a blissful world where they will always be offered a job regardless of age and they will always be healthy enough to work - the statistics seem to indicate that they are mistaken. If you blow 7.5% (3 years of 40) of your working life getting a degree you can't use, then that's going to be an issue. I will probably talk about this more in a future post because young people don't seem to be easily able to grasp this reality.
What do you think? Were you surprised by any statistics in the list? Any recommendations for potential law students?