More on the Legal Divide

In anticipation of my Thursday evening participation in a panel discussion on and the (6:30 PM in the BU School of Management auditorium), I recommend a post from Carolyn Elefant of the Legal Blog Watch Alert that reiterates themes I’ve addressed many times on this blog. Titled “Still Two Sides of the Bar in the Legal Profession” the post argues that:

  • “the upper fourth of earners in the legal profession have continued to prosper, while the bottom three-fourths have lost ground”
  • “it’s harder for those who don’t find large-firm jobs to make a living because the rising cost of legal education means that smaller paychecks don’t stretch as far”
  • “at all ends of the spectrum, there’s dissatisfaction. Lower-earning lawyers stress about finances, while those earning big paychecks stress about long hours or lack of meaningful work”

Read her post if you are considering law school. It’s a decision one should make with eyes wide open.

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  • Geetika

    I feel that this again boils down to the same issue of people’s preference for the big brand names/firms. Those who can afford to pay more will hire big firm lawyers. However, based on the article,one can see the impact of technology and outsourcing. This certainly has the potential to break down the salary divide between lawyers of big firms and small firms. These small frims may not have as many big shot clients, but they will still be able to earn profits beacuse they will always find people who prefer to have their needs met at lower costs.

  • Howe Lin

    If its any good news, in light of the current economic concerns, a Forbes article believes bankruptcy and foreclosure lawyers will be in high demand as property foreclosures in the US reach record levels.

  • Zach Horowitz

    I think this is actually a problem that is seen in a lot of fields in our current economy– the richer are getting richer and the poorer are getting poorer. It’s hard to get into the top circle, but once you’re there your pay keeps going up, while others are stuck with expenses rising faster then income.

  • Lauren Dunlop

    It was an interesting article. Obviously being a lawyer is not the same as seen on TV. It’s survival of the fittest and this seems to happen in every proffesion I would assume. The comfort of a fat salary is not always garunteed no matter how hard you work for it…

  • Felix Thea

    This kind of parallels the same dilemma that is occurring in the medical field. Often doctors force themselves to go into higher paying specialized fields in order to pay back the student loans. Therefore there is a diminishing amount of general practitioners and it is the general practitioners and family doctors that often help the greatest number of people.

  • Paul

    Carolyn Elefant’s blog post makes a number of interesting points. Law school is a heavy financial burden that one must think carefully about. Today, there are more applicants that apply than there are seats available. Its a competitive process based on LSAT scores and GPA. Its good that there are articles out there that give you advice about the earning potential for lawyers after school.

  • http://www.trudalane.net David Randall

    If you are truly interested in law, law school is essential. A paralegal career will not provide the same satisfaction.

  • Tina S.

    All of the attorneys I worked for last year also tried to discourage me and the other students working with me not to apply to law school. But besides being a paralegal or secretary, how can one have a career in law by not going to law school? What if you’re truly interested in law? Isn’t law school the only answer? Maybe the panel discussion that I am sitting in now will answer my question.

  • MJKenyon

    It seems to me that there are two main problems here – the first is the high disparity in wages between lawyers in the private sector and lawyers in the public sector, and the second is the overbearing debt that the latter party must bear because of their low wages.

    What you really really don’t want to do here, and what Harvard lawyer in the article is predicting will happen, is decrease the cost of going to law school or make it easier to be involved in law without being a lawyer. You have to think that the demand for lawyers is somewhat inelastic, and therefore demand relatively stable. If you make it cheaper for people to go to law school and ease up the rules, you suddenly have a drastic increase in the supply of lawyers and people who provide similar functions with little change in the demand for them, and therefore you wages go down across the board, in both sectors. Clearly, decreasing the costs won’t help if the benefits go down proportionally; the debt will be the same.

    Going back to the two main issues, I think you could solve the debt problem by solving the disparity problem. I know some of the top-tier school, particularly Harvard and NYU, are doing this by paying off a certain amount of the debt (often a pretty large amount) for graduates who go into the public sector, essentially subsidizing their wages. This also could cause wages to converge slightly between the two sectors as more people are willing to work in public service, so the demand between the two shifts. This is particularly helpful if you’re taking people from the top-tier schools, who usually have the easiest time of getting high paying private firm jobs, placing them in the public sector, and therefore opening the private sector jobs to a wider range of students.

  • Justin

    A very enlightening article about the realities of the challenges faced after law school. It’s scary to think that all of that schooling could end up becoming a burden rather than an asset. Hopefully some changes are made to remedy the situation somewhat.

  • Dave

    Thanks for another great article about the challenges lawyers face after school. This gives me a realistic perspective of what to expect as I start law school in the fall.