For all of the talk about underemployed law grads drowning in debt , some law students are sitting pretty.
"There's a class divide opening between law schools," one Yale law student tells us. "Anybody who wants a generic, well-paying job from Yale will get one."
See, there's a certain number of high-paying law jobs every year, even in a recession, and a certain number of those jobs will always go to Yale and a few other schools.
"Honestly I think a lot of it is just Cover Your Ass," says the Yale student. "You hire a Yale guy, it's not that he's necessarily better, but if he screws up, then you're covered."
Students from other top law schools like Yale are prestigious too. Firms love to be able to tell clients they've got a Yale grad on the case.
A look at the numbers confirms this trend.
Eighty-eight percent of Yale's 2011 class had full-time jobs requiring a law degree nine months after graduating, according to the American Bar Association. Other members of Yale's 2011 are employed in jobs where a law degree provides an advantage or pursuing another graduate degree, with less than one percent unemployed or unknown.
Pretty darn good.
It would be "laughable" to suggest that YLS students receive an unfair return on their investment, said Executive Director of the National Association for Law Placement James Leipold a couple of years ago to Yale Daily News.
“Probably even those in the bottom quarter of [Yale’s] graduating class will have many opportunities open to them that are foreclosed to students of less select law schools,” he said. “Of course at any school, no matter how good the preparation, there are students who will struggle [to find jobs], but that is not enough to suggest that an institution or a system of education is flawed.”
Other top tier schools are doing fine too, with Chicago, Harvard, NYU, Stanford and Columbia actually achieving higher employment rates for the class of 2011 (though Yale remains the top ranked school according to US News).
So even as LSAT applications plunge, remember that law school is still a fine choice for top students.
At lesser schools, however, the crisis is very much real. Nine months after graduation, the average law school class of 2011 had only 55 percent full-time, long-term jobs requiring a law degree. And perhaps 45 percent who regret spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and three years in law school.
Of course, unemployment isn't the only problem these days. There's also record high student loan debt. That's why some graduates of elite law schools tell us they wish they took a larger scholarship to attend a lesser school.
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