With the tuition at law schools continuing to rise and the starting salary for attorneys not rising, the value of a legal education has come under fire.
Deans at local law schools are saying that even with the recent tightening of the job market, a law degree’s worth is as high as it’s always been.
“Personally, I think it opens up so many opportunities,” said Stephen Ferruolo, dean if the University of San Diego School of Law.”The great thing about legal education is that if you’re not in the sciences or medicine, it’s the most rigorous graduate education. It’s the best way to prepare for a whole variety of things.”
The California State Bar announced that 45.3 percent of the people who took the February 2014 bar exam passed, empowering them to become members of the state bar. Niels Schaumann, California Western School of Law‘s dean said, “I think one of the biggest defects in the current critique of legal education is that they measure its value nine months after graduation, and that’s wrong, there’s nothing magical about that date. The reality is there have responsible economic studies that have been done that show a net positive result from a J.D. over many years.”
Figures released in 2011 show, the average debt obtained by a law graduate is $100,584, the starting salaries for medium sized law firms is $110,000-$120,000 and that salary shrinks to about $75,000-$85,000 for smaller law firms or in the public sector.
Schaumann agreed that part of the challenge lies in reducing the cost of tuition. “As far as loan repayments, until we can drive the price of legal education down, we’re counting on the federal government to provide student aid forgiveness policies, he said.
In February’s bar exam, preliminary statistical analysis showed, of the 4,578 applicants who took the exam, 32.6 percent took it for the first time. The passing rate for 1,492 first time applicants was 55.0 percent overall, for the 3,086 repeat applicants the passing rate was 41.0 percent overall. The California bar exam committee said that 275 of the 510 lawyers who took the attorney’s examination passed.
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