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Is Law School Worth The Cost?

Given the economic crisis that is going on, the difficulty new lawyers are having getting jobs, and the soaring cost of law school, I’m doing a little analysis to see if law school is worth it for many prospective students. A lot of people go into graduate or professional school believing the debt and time spent will pay off in a more rewarding/higher paying career. While this may be happen for some, it’s by no means a guarantee.

Let’s break this down by numbers:

Cost of tuition (three years): $60k up to $140k depending on the school.

Opportunity cost of not working (three years, let’s assume $50k a year, which is by no means a guarantee but I think is a fair average assumption): $150k

So if you’re going to a state school, you’re looking at about $210k cost, and most private schools closer to $300k. Assuming a 30 year career (again a major assumption), it would seem law school would have to make you $9-$10k+ over a regular job to justify the cost. Of courese, this doesn’t assume the interest on the debt (and the interest you could theoretically make from your savings working a normal job), so it’s likely more around $15k+ a year.

The thirty year horizon also neglects that people often shift careers a lot. If you end up just using that law degree for 10 years, you really need to be making $35k+ a year from law school. That’s something that just won’t happen for most people.

Going to law school isn’t just a brunt calculation of future earnings. Most of all, it matters if you want to actually be a lawyer (or at least go to law school). But I think it’s a good question to ask yourself if that law degree really will open significant doors for you to justify that sort of cost.