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Law School Debt Tough to Payback
Columbia Law School said that it funded 38 out of the 445 jobs that compile its close to near-perfect post-graduation employment rate. In 2009 the number was at 9 and in 2010 the number was at 10. That is a very lofty jump.
“It is a fairly recent phenomenon: law schools funding a large number of positions for their graduates,” said a representative of the American Bar Association. The ABA now requires law schools to share the number with it as well as information about short-term jobs and jobs that are not legal related. It was previously released that Fordham Law School funded 73 jobs in 2010 and NYU Law School funded 38 jobs for its graduates in 2010.
Columbia claims that its fellowships offer graduates who are interested in public-interest and government jobs a place to practice. The fellowships at Columbia are coming into question because they are 8.5 percent of the school’s employed numbers, which is an increase in the amount of students who could not acquire jobs at law firms. The placement numbers for Columbia’s graduates at law firms have dropped since 2009. On the other hand, the school’s public-sector placement numbers have almost tripled in the same time.
“The schools that provide those kinds of internships — to me that’s a very positive thing. It’s a second question how they report them,” said David Van Zandt, the former dean of Northwestern Law School and current president of The New School.
Van Zandt estimates that students wishing to attend law school have to earn a minimum salary in their first job of $66,076 in order to justify attending, which can cost $150,000. The US News & World Report said that the median starting salary for graduates of law schools working in the public sector is $49,831.
In 2010, Columbia had 71.8 percent of its graduates working at law firms with more than 100 lawyers. In 2011, that number dropped to 62.9 percent. It won’t be long until prospective legal students will be able to download law school data from the website of the ABA, which currently posts reports for each law school. Those reports do not include employment percentages because the ABA says that since the numbers are reported by the school they can be misleading.
“You can calculate percentages in any number of ways, depending on how you want to slice the data,” a spokesperson for the ABA said. “Do you include [only jobs] that require JD degrees, do you take out law-school-funded jobs? What does that number mean, actually? We provide the numbers, and the person looking at it can draw their own conclusion.”