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Jobs for J.D.s?
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Jobs for J.D.s?

I teach a journalism class at the University of Maryland, College Park. At the end of the semester, I always tell my students that even if they do not want to become journalists, learning how to write clearly and concisely will help them in any career field they choose.

Jim Saksa heard something similar about getting a law degree; that obtaining a J.D. means you can do anything you want. But Saksa, a lawyer, wrote in Slate last week that “the more general sentiment, that a law degree will afford you a wide range of opportunities, is total BS.”

Saksa cites a statistic that 11.2 percent of last year’s law school graduates were still unemployed nine months after graduation. “If you really could do anything with a law degree,” he writes, “then those unemployed graduates would probably be doing something.”

Saksa also talks to people who say having a J.D. while trying to find a non-legal job can be a disadvantage. Here’s the view of an HR manager in Washington, D.C.:

“Generally, I imagine they’re going to be too expensive with not enough relevant experience to justify the salary. It’s lost time. Whatever you learned in law school is not useful to what we need. So every other candidate has three years on you.”

So I’ll put the question to everyone out there, especially our young lawyers reading: Can you do anything you want with a law degree?

3 comments

  1. No. You cannot. Not even close.

  2. You must be joking. They look at you like, “Why are you here?” Are you some kind of failure? Is your degree totally fake? Are you a felon? Why aren’t you practicing law? Oh and by the way, like most of the population I really hate lawyers and thought I would call you in today to waste your time and vicariously punish my ex-husband’s divorce attorney. Take that! And they know you are not staying.

  3. dailyrecord@list.law.umaryland.edu

    Saksa would have benefitted from a legal education (and if he has one, he would have benefitted from paying more attention in class). It would have taught him to distinguish between the point that a JD qualifies you for many kinds of jobs, and the point that a JD guarantees you a job upon graduation. The fact that people are unemployed nine months after graduation is relevant only to the second point, and says nothing at all about the first. On that, he would need to investigate the number of lawyers employed in business, academia, government, and the like, to determine whether it has turned out to be a viable career path for those with a JD (it has). (As for the corroboration from the HR manager, the next time an HR manager makes a contribution to a substantive discussion of any kind will be the first time.)

    The 11% unemployment figure is not even damning evidence on the second point. No form of graduate education guarantees (or has ever provided) 100% employment, and compared to employment numbers in other types of post-undergraduate education, 11% is a relatively low figure. The Simkovic/McIntyre paper that was all the rage on the blogs last summer makes the final point, that for just about everyone, even those in the bottom of their classes at the worst law schools, a JD is much better (i.e., returns the investment and then some) than a B.A. And Simkovic and McIntyre used complete employment data, not just a single, cherry-picked point. I had thought every silly thing there was to say about legal education had been said by now, but I suppose there always are going to be stragglers, those who don’t keep up in the reading, and who don’t think carefully about what they do read.

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