It’s a Great Time to Go to the Right Law School
By Wendy Hensel
Prominent voices question the value of a law degree and suggest the best and brightest should look elsewhere for satisfying careers.
Students appear to be listening because law admissions have declined nationally. However, as is often the case, the truth differs from conventional wisdom. There has never been a better time to go to law school, and in many respects, no group better suited to it than Millennials. The key is to identify the right school.
Studies reported in the Harvard Business Review tell us Millennials want careers that give their lives meaning and professions that allow flexibility and intellectual stimulation. By these standards, a law degree is a powerful pathway to achieving life satisfaction.
The knowledge, skills and values law students acquire create the power to help others: the power to shape policy, the power to secure justice and the power to affect communities. Every day, lawyers solve intractable problems and move critical agendas forward. These attributes are highly valued in almost every profession and create flexible, meaningful career paths for law graduates.
Why then the bad press? One key is the crushing debt with which many law students graduate. In general, there is only one way to service such debt – life at a large law firm. While many will thrive in that environment, others will find the long hours and corporate work to be unsatisfying. Complicating the matter, fewer big law jobs exist in the wake of the Great Recession.
Is law school then still worth the investment?
The answer is a resounding “yes” when students act as savvy consumers and exercise their market power. Students who choose schools like the Georgia State University College of Law, which offers lower tuition and top-notch programming, retain their power to choose personally satisfying careers uninfluenced by heavy debt. These same students will graduate into an increasingly robust job market as Baby Boomers retire and fewer students matriculate.
The increasing complexity and interconnectedness of today’s world demand individuals with the abilities and knowledge law school provides. Law graduates will play a critical role in shaping public policy, business and every other aspect of society, nationally and internationally. This reality plays out daily on the evening news with scenes of attorneys defending immigrants at airports, standing in courts arguing for and against government policies and representing leading corporations.
Rather than challenging the value of legal education, skeptics should focus on empowering students to make smart choices when selecting the right law school for their future.
Wendy Hensel is the interim dean for the Georgia State University College of Law.