Law School Bullshit Sales Pitch: A Law Degree is “Versatile”

Programming note: Paul Campos has been bitchslapping lawprof Brian Leiter and calling out some Nazi Gestapo-esque behavior at the Faculty Lounge. I had a feeling Leiter and his secret law school apologists would pull some shit like this when I started this blog. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. And fuck Brian Leiter.

I was looking through some of my classmates’ and colleagues’ Linkedin profiles and noticed that a number of them no longer practice law. Some have become part time real estate agents or consultants. Some work for the government in a non-legal position. Others are business owners. A few stopped practicing after being disciplined by the bar. And some have just vanished – most likely becoming stay-at-home spouses or pursuing another degree. 

I didn’t attempt to contact them because it wasn’t my place to find out why they left the legal profession (or whether they entered the profession at all.) But the number of my classmates that left was large enough to suggest that most of them were unable to find steady jobs or found happiness elsewhere.

I then went to the US News rankings website to see how many of the graduating class in my law school were able to secure JD-required or advantaged positions. The number was somewhere between abysmal and pathetic. In previous years, the school reported that 95% of its graduates secured JD-required employment.

Most law schools would respond to the shitty post-graduate employment rate by saying that their degree is versatile and not all of their students are interested in practicing law. They point out that their law degrees opened doors for them in other fields. Supposedly, the extra education makes you more knowledgeable and competitive over someone with just a bachelor’s degree.

But what the fuck does it mean for a degree to be “versatile”? In a sense, any degree is versatile. I don’t need a degree to start a business. I don’t need a degree to be a fucking housewife, a fast food worker or an insurance salesman. So why the fuck would I want to spend $100K-$300K and three years of my life for a degree that I may not need?

You have to understand that a degree is versatile when it gives you the option to pursue other fields. Students and graduates of top law schools are recruited by consulting firms, business, academia and government agencies to name a few. The top law school JD can be a replacement for an MBA, MA, PhD, or the BS or Ass. degree. Also, these alternative jobs are usually desirable and pay fairly well.

On the other hand, when shitty law schools claim the JD is versatile, they really mean that the degree is fucking useless. At these schools, little to no non-legal firms show up to the school’s OCI. At best, only local lawyers and government agencies and maybe one or two midlaw firms show up to hire the top of the class. So students and graduates of no-name schools have NO FUCKING CHOICE but to pursue non-legal careers because no law firm will hire them. And in most cases, the non-legal jobs suck major ass and in order to get them, one has to remove the JD from his or her resume before submitting it to the shady section of Craigslist.

Now I know there are a large number of people from non-top schools who are happy and successful in their non-legal careers. Some of them are genuinely content with their life despite their student loan debt induced poverty and if that’s the case, then I am happy for them. But many  rationalize, fake or exaggerate their success. And others lie about how successful they are. And for those who have achieved an objective level of success outside of law, chances are they did not achieve it because of their law degree. Instead, they achieved their success in spite of the degree’s uselessness. Maybe they knew the right people. Maybe they had good fortune. Maybe they were more driven.

So when a law school salesman says that their degree is versatile and opens many doors, be sure to ask specifically what nonlegal jobs these people get. A consultant at McKinsey or a cashier at McDonalds? 


2 thoughts on “Law School Bullshit Sales Pitch: A Law Degree is “Versatile”

  1. Nando

    On November 3, 2010, former Biglaw associate Will Meyerhofer,buried this canard for good, with his post “Extremely Versatile Crockery.” Check out this portion:

    “For the record, a law degree is not “versatile.” Being a lawyer amounts to a strike against you if you ever decide to pursue another career.

    So why do people keep insisting it’s an “extremely versatile degree”?

    A bunch of reasons.

    Law schools are in it for the money. Teaching law doesn’t cost much, but they charge a fortune – made possible by not-discharg[e]able-in-bankruptcy loans. That makes each law school a massive cash cow for the rest of the university. Money flowing from the law school pays the heating bill for the not-so-profitable Department of Neo-Structuralist Linguistics.

    Law students play along with the “extremely versatile degree” farce to justify the three years of their life and the ungodly pile of cash they’re blowing on a degree they’re not interested in and know nothing about. This myth is also intended to calm down parents. You need a story to explain why you don’t have a job, but that it’s somehow okay.

    No one else cares. And that’s chiefly why this old canard still has some life left in it.”

  2. Robert

    This is dead on. Practicing law doesn’t interest me or a lot of people for that matter. I know that there are some that compare for example engineering to law, saying things like comparing designing infrastructures to reviewing contracts, but the fact is that there are those not a good fit for engineering saying things like you can spot an engineer by the way they look, talk, trying to solve everything with an equation, etc. Nevermind the fact that the practice of law is nothing more than arguing over minutia that most people would not do, and think you are weird anyway. The fact is that you really must find your own way, however long it takes. I know I find mine, and not owing any student loans does it for me. It is so empowering to look yourself in the mirror and know you are not death trapped but non dischargeable debt. You can actually see clearly, not through a kaleidoscope as I know all student debtors do. I am not a student debtor or any type of debtor, are you?


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