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February 27, 2013


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Except that Leiter's generalizations and hand waving arguments fail under even the most superficial scrutiny (one can debunk his assertions in less than five minutes).

"Many state law schools are still reasonably priced, and have had, over the long haul, good professional outcomes for their graduates." Taxprof recently posted the top 25 schools ranked by graduates in BigLaw jobs. Of those 25 schools, UC-Berkeley, Virginia, Michigan, UCLA, Texas, UC Irvine, and Illinois are all "state law schools." Tuition at any UC school (UCLA, UC-Berkeley, UC-Irvine) exceeds 40k per year for in state and is higher for out of state, making the debt load over and above 180k for graduates. UVA has in state tuition at 46k per year and out of state at 51k per year, with total cost of attendance at 200k for 3 years. Michigan has tuition at 48k for in state residents. Texas has tuition at 33k a year for in state and 49k for non-resident. Illinois has 37k tuition for in-state and 44k for non-resident.

In other words, state schools are NOT REASONABLY PRICED. And FYI, each of the state schools listed above place less than 50% into BigLaw, so none of these schools have particularly "good professional outcomes for their graduates." This is especially true once you consider that Illinois places only 18.8% into BigLaw.

"Many regional law schools, private and public, have strong market niches and, due to the competition for students, are discounting sticker price substantially." Any proof of this point would be amazing, but given that outside the top 25 schools BigLaw employment drops below 15% (see again Taxprof blog NLJ rankings), regional schools are not worth it. This doesn't even factor in the high cost of regional schools. There just isn't data to support this claim. I really don't know what Leiter was thinking with his post. Maybe, under the best of circumstances if people with top GPA and LSAT scores (i) received substantial scholarships and (ii) finished in the top percentile of their law school class Leiter's claim could be categorized as "dubious" instead of "laughable."


Dear 2L,

Professional prospects are not measured solely by placement in BigLaw. Indeed, regional schools often have market niches in markets where there isn't much if any BigLaw presence.



2L: you mentioned 7 state law schools that you say are expensive, but there are 75-100 state law schools in the country. 2 of the state law schools you mention are basically private law schools. You have not produced any evidence that "many state law schools" aren't, in fact, reasonably priced.

So your huffing and puffing fails under even the most superfical scrutiny. What law school do you attend?

high school student

Ahh yes! Big Law isn't everything, so those regional law schools must do a great job of placing the remaining 95% of untrained and newly minted graduates into practice with solo attorneys, small 2-10 attorney law firms, and in-house jobs. That's why strong regional schools like University of San Diego place 66% of grads into JD required jobs--whatever that means. No, BigLaw isn't everything, but it's one of the few, if not only, reliable data points out there. And again, your comment does nothing to address 2L's point about costs of law school.


Dear Anon -

*sigh*...Please provide the data that support your annecdote. You can't.

But see for real data on the cost of each school in the nation, and corresponding career prospects. See also the following link for a calculator of the income needed to service a particular debt load (since your point is that there are employment prospects that presumably pay enough to service the debt, IBR should not factor in).

It's that simple, attending just doesn't add up (or justify the tremendous risk) for many many potential applicants, even those who migh get into the top (and most expensive) schools.



LST has terrific data, but its employment data is just for one year, and seems to treat more graduates as underemployed than really are. But the LST data shows very clearly that many state schools are reasonably priced, and do not cost 40-50K per year for tuition, but as little as 15-25K for state residents.


can someone offer a definition of "reasonably priced" before we continue this "is; isn't; is; isn't" debate?

for example, it is reasonably priced when the median first salary is 1/3 or less of the average debt undertaken by the students there. something like that.


Way to delete my comment, TFL.

Not cool. I think it was a very valid comment.


I use the 1.5 rule. Total law school debt should be 1.5 times starting salary. Most law schools therefore are simply not good bets without significant discounts to around 10-15K tuition per year, because most law schools will place their "medianish student" into jobs paying around 40-60K.

As to state schools, one issue is that these schools are essentially regional. So if you are from California, have ties to California, and want to work in California, it does not make sense to spend 100K to go to Alabama (assuming a scholarship). But it also doesn't make sense to go to a UC, since that costs over 40K in-state. CUNY is the only public law school I can think of off the top of my head that is less than 20K in-state tuition and located in a major metro area.

To the OP, most likely people who do better on the LSAT have better alternative options because they generally went to better undergrad schools. Or, people who do better on the LSAT are more likely to do research on law school and stumble upon the media articles or sites like top-law-schools where they are exposed to a lot of anti-law school perspectives.

However, one reason applicants may be making what logically and mathematically appears to be an unwise investment decision is that the astronomical sticker price is psychologically turning people off. A person going to a school like Columbia at sticker will end up with $250,000 in debt at the end of three years. Even if they get a biglaw job paying $160,000, and pay 40K on their loans each year, they will leave the firm after 3 or 4 years still over six figures in debt. That, coupled with the hours and the lifestyle, is just not how many people want to spend their late 20s/early 30s.

$250,000 is a LOT of money and the interest rates are extremely high. That's $18,000 in interest per year alone. The downside to a dark horse event, such as being one of the 10% of the class who ends up without biglaw, AIII or PSLF, or losing your job within the first year or two when you are not marketable, is also much higher with 250K in debt than 100K.


"Many state law schools are still reasonably priced, and have had, over the long haul, good professional outcomes for their graduates."


Proof of this?

I have said this before but its worth repeating. If any lawprof or dean keeps saying how law school is still a good bet, then let them put skin in the game. For every failed law student who goes on IBR and/or defaults, those same lawprofs and deans need to have some amount of money in their retirement accounts/pensions or whatever CLAWED BACK. Maybe not 1:1, heck I'll even accept 0.5:1 or even 0.25:1.

If every lawprof and dean who keep sprouting this nonsense about how law schools still make sense had to bet their own money on it, watch how quick they'll shut up. REAL QUICK.

high school student

I believe 2L mentioned those particular 7 state law schools because these schools are ranked in the top 15 for job placement, at least in BigLaw (and probably realistically for any other type of employment). But as the data demonstrates, once you get below the top 20 or 25 schools (both public and private), a graduate's prospects of finding a legal job rapidly approach 0. It's quite simple, and it's interesting that this trend remains beyond the grasp of many professors.

Previously Anon

Yeah, plus tuition is hardly the only cost of attending law school. Most people need some place to live, something to eat, electricity, internet, telephone, heat, books, fees, etc., etc. Plus bar prep. Then there's the opportunity costs--going to law school is at least three years in which the person in law school is probably not bringing in significant income, which they presumably would be if they didn't attend law school. Even someone on a full ride would rack up a certain amount of debt.

Then law school debt frequently gets added to significant amounts of undergraduate debt, since many people go straight from undergrad into law school, or make a pitstop of only a couple years or so at some law firm as a paralegal or something similar.


Tuition at some schools remains quite affordable, in state: (14,363!) (15,098) (11,103)

There are many others in the 17K-19K range

Previously Anon

Ok, first, again, tuition is hardly the only cost (see above), even assuming you happen to live in one of the states with low in-state tuition. But second, that still has to be connected to the idea of good employment outcomes, because I'm fairly sure the University of Montana is not placing many graduates in Big Law.

high school student

Previously Anon,

You are wrong. UNL, UNM, and UMT place 0.9% of their graduates into BigLaw (firms with 100+ attorneys). So out of the 85 that graduated from Montana, 115 that graduated from New Mexico, and 145 that graduated from Nebraska, 4 people nabbed jobs at firms with 100 attorneys or more. Hallejuleah!



Yes. If you are a Montana resident, who wants to practice in Montana, then in-state in Montana might be a good deal. But if you are an Illinois resident who wants to practice in Chicago, probably not (and of course, that IL resident would be paying 27K OOS tuition anyway). And there are plenty more of the latter than the former.


BoredJD, no one cares about your 1.5 rule. You're a guy who posts on blogs. You have no rational basis for your rule, so you are irrelevant to the discussion, even on blogs. As another Anon notes, many law schools remain quite affordable. "Previously Anon" is apparently sufficiently dumb not to realize that even if you don't go to law school, you have to have a place to live and you have to eat: that is not a cost peculiar to going to law school.


LSAC currently is playing games, giving pretextual reasons to extend their application deadline:

The desperation is beyond palpable. The countdown is on for the first law school to fold...

I can imagine Jane Austen reading an op-ed a long time ago concerning the drastic decline in applications to divinity school and how some of the group seeing the largest decline, blah, blah, blah.

Law is in its death throes. Hope everybody has a Plan B (besides suing over attempting to enforce tenure).


U mad, Anon?

Previously Anon

Of course it's not a cost that's peculiar to going to law school, but it is a cost that will be added to student loans. If someone is not attending law school, they can pay for their living costs out of the salary or wages they are presumably earning. Meanwhile, a law student takes out loans to pay for it.

It's almost as though you have a vested interest in this. . .

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