Veritas, a law school admissions consulting firm, polled 112 prospective law school applicants in June and July, and 81% said they would still apply even if "a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields." Only 4% said they would not apply to law school under that circumstance.
At the same time, more than half the survey respondents — 63% — were concerned about finding a job after law school, and 70% said they were worried about finding a position in the field of their particular interest.
Now before someone starts sounding off about 112 fo0Ls not being a large enough sample, let's not kid ourselves. This rash denial of how bad things really are is one of the most common characteristics of all 0Ls. How else would they still be flooding into law school--in record numbers, no less--during a horrendous recession that has gutted the legal industry and left us with anemic recovery prospects? It takes a certain degree of self-delusion, right off the bat, to be a 0L in 2010. In fact, I'm a bit surprised that the 81% number wasn't higher, given the hubris and head-in-the-sand attitude displayed by many 0Ls. As we all know, unemployment and crippling debt may happen to their classmates, and is even likely to happen, but it still won't happen to THEM.
Even better, 63% of respondents are worried they'll find a job...so about half of even the 81% who said they still would have gone, are they themselves worried about unemployment. What is wrong with these people? The only conclusion I can draw is that they must be so disenchanted and burned out with the even-worse job prospects that an undergraduate degree allows these days, that they're willing to double-down and spin the wheel again for an extremely slim chance at a worthwhile payout. More insanity from the higher education casino.
But there are still more facepalms to be had from the survey data:
The grim employment news for recent law graduates does seem to be making an impression on would-be lawyers, however. In addition to worrying about landing a job, prospective students seem to understand that landing a $160,000 starting job at a major law firm is harder than ever. Only 11% of the survey respondents expected to earn more than $145,000 out of law school. Another 29% expected to earn between $100,000 and $145,000, while the remaining 44% expected to earn between $75,000 to $100,000.
Still, those expectations don't jive with reality: The latest new lawyer salary data from NALP show that 34% of reported salaries fell between $40,000 and $65,000 for the class of 2009.
Twenty-four percent of the survey respondents wanted to work as a public interest attorney, while another 21% wanted to work in for a major firm.
So a full 84% of these kids expect to make AT LEAST $75,000 right out of law school. Are these people high? Especially with only 21% of them wanting to work for a major firm (of which nowhere near 21% could possibly land the number of open positions at such firms). So 79% of these 0Ls, don't want to work at a major firm, but 84% of them think they will make AT LEAST $75,000 as their starting lawyer salary. Just shoot me.
I can't say what can account for the continued, mind-boggling resistance of 0Ls to the avalanche of stories coming out of the legal industry about how bad it is. First there were scambloggers, then mainstream websites, then legal media, and finally mainstream media outlets, have all reported, many times, on the diminishing prospects. Yet the lemmings continue on their insane death migration. There was a scamblog-esque story on the front page of USA Today a couple months ago...did you 0Ls not see that while you were eating your morning's corn flakes? It is next to impossible for any reasonably-well-informed young person not to have heard the bad news about law school.
These 0Ls, and the 45,000 of them who will show up in the Class of 2014, truly have no excuses. They know things are bad, they've heard about the systemic problems in the legal industry that makes recovery to pre-recession heights unlikely. They've seen the writing on the wall, they've seen the emperor standing naked and unclothed in the street. This boils down to pure, irrational self-confidence, helped along by a steady stream of lies from each particular school. Even in my day, before the horrible unemployment jokulhaups had truly struck, schools were quick to corral their new students in the auditorium and tell them that yes, things were bad, but that was everyone ELSE'S problem. You students at this particular Toilet of Law will be absolutely fine. Just look at our employment data! We will weather the storm.
I am running out of sympathy for these poor prospective students. Every day brings a new heap of information that should be setting off screaming red fire alarms in their minds. Yet they continue to march aimlessly forward. As this survey bears out, many if not all are aware that unemployment is three short years and -$100,000 away, but they refuse to believe it will happen to them. To their classmates, sure, but not to them. It's maddening, however, it is no reason to stop fighting the good fight. Some enlightened 0L out there has got to be listening...and if not, well, I welcome him as a reader in three years.