Most Law Graduates Dissappointed: Few Jobs, Low Salaries, High Stress

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There seems to be a growing problem among law school graduates and new attorneys. They can’t find law jobs, the jobs they find don’t pay enough to repay law school loans, and the jobs require unhealthy amounts of hours doing the type of work that many lawyers find unsatisfying, or worse.

The number of law school graduates continues to increase must faster than the number of law jobs available. The supply of law graduates is high, but the demand has not kept pace.

As a result, law school graduates who did not graduate in the top 10% of a Tier 1 law school are having great difficulty getting a job in law that pays enough to pay off their law school loans.

Further, even those law graduates who find jobs are often unhappy with the practice of law and the high number of hours they must spend at the firm. (See the Dec. 1, 2007 Update below for links to empiracal data and more discussion on lawyer misery.)

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote an article discussing how law school graduates are having great difficulty finding law jobs.

For anecdotal evidence of these problems, see the comments from lawyers and law school graduates here.

Having more educated individuals in the United States is generally good. However, prospective law students should realize the challenges ahead before entering law school.

A law school education is still very valuable to students, even if they don’t practice law. But I wrote this article to offset the “rich, happy, powerful lawyer” image suggested by television, so a person can decide about law school with a better understanding of how their future might actually look after law school.

This is an update to these previous posts:

  • Why Most Law School Graduates Earn Less Money Than They Expect
  • How Much are New Lawyers’ Salaries?
  • Is Law School a Good Investment?

December 1, 2007 Update: The preceding did not give enough attention to one of the greatest problems for law school graduates—dissatisfaction with their lawyer careers. Fortunately, I came across an article that explains the problem far better than I could, and this author has better credentials than me. Read Why you shouldn’t go to law school; See also Law School by Default: Want to keep your options open? Don’t train to be a lawyer.

Finally, consider reading a report on empirical evidence suggesting that success within the elite law firm environment often entails a difficult array of personal and professional trade-offs. The evidence is humanized in the story of two young associates who work long hours in large, elite law firms and find that their lives are substantively unhappy and morally unfulfilling. The report is available here: Young Associates in Trouble.

Related posts:

  1. How Much are New Lawyers’ Salaries?
  2. 48 Ways To Get a Law Job
  3. Why Most Law School Graduates Earn Less Money Than They Expect
  4. The Amount of Money Law School Graduates Actually Earn
  5. Summer Jobs for the Jobless Law Student
  6. Reasons Why Law Students Choose Government and Public Service

11 Responses to “Most Law Graduates Dissappointed: Few Jobs, Low Salaries, High Stress”

  1. How Much are New Lawyer Salaries? Says:

    [...] Update: This article has been updated. Please read Many Law Graduates Dissappointed: Few Jobs, Low Salaries, High Stress. Posted September 17, 2007 Related Law School Student [...]

  2. Is Law School a Good Investment? Says:

    [...] Update: This article has been updated. Please read Many Law Graduates Dissappointed: Few Jobs, Low Salaries, High Stress. Posted July 22, 2007 Related Law School Student [...]

  3. Larry Says:

    This is a great article. Many people have the misconception that “Lawyer = Rich”. While that may be true in some circumstances, it can be true of almost any job given the proper circumstances.

    I am a non-traditional law student hoping to go into private solo practice in a small town. Making enough money to pay back my loans and live comfortably does concern me. I would advise anyone contemplating law school to do some serious personal evaluation and really determine why they want to make such an investment.

    For me it is a wonderful and nobel profession. But to become a lawyer simply to “get rich” can be a big mistake coupled with great dissapointment. Make sure you really want to be a lawyer and not just “get rich” before committing yourself to tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of class, study, reading, and research.

  4. Law Student Says:


    Thanks for your great comments. This is a great reminder for those considering law school.

  5. John Says:

    Is is really that difficult to find law jobs after law school? I see many federal government jobs for lawyers posted at

  6. admin Says:

    John: It’s not difficult to find a non-attorney job, but there is much greater competition for attorney jobs than ever before.

  7. johnf Says:

    This article is great. Going into law school I honestly thought I would be making well over $100k after graduation and I think that is a pretty common thought among most people. With rising tutition costs, unless you want to work for a big firm, you will probably be poor after getting your JD.

  8. JN Says:

    JohnF, you’re not alone. Unless you’re in the top 10% of a decently ranked school, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be making more than 100k/yr. In fact, the glut of available lawyers has driven the price for starting associates down considerably. The bottom 90% (read, almost everyone) shouldn’t expect to make more than 40-60k per year. It’s certainly possible that you may find a job making more, but you shouldn’t go to law school expecting it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s realistic. The decision to go to law school shouldn’t be taken lightly.

  9. ham and eggs Says:

    if you go to a law school ranked in the third or fourth tiers, you have about a 60 percent chance of being poor. Researcher Robert Johnson conducted a long term study showing that the poverty rate for graduates of third tier and lower law schools was higher than for college graduates in general.

    The real problem is that the law schools put out fake statistics in order to make more money from applicants.

    THe law school bubble started popping in 2007.

    Law school is a huge gamble unless you go to a first tier school.

  10. Is Law School Worth the Price of Admission? | Inside Economics Says:

    [...] law graduates are not. See this Wall Street Journal article,  this investment calculator, and this blog post. There might be a good senior project topic in here. The intuition is that top schools are [...]

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