Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kudos to Mickey Mauer? Encouraging More People to Go to Law School Does Not Improve Indiana's Economy

In this morning's newspaper, the Indianapolis Star offers "kudos" to Indianapolis businessman Michael (Mickey) Mauer for his gift of $35 million to the Indiana University at Bloomington law school, which will be renamed the Michael Mauer School of Law. In handing "kudos" to Mauer, the Star opined that "[i]n a state struggling to raise the education level of its work force, such an investment in higher education can help improve the economic future of all Hoosiers."

While it is hard to criticize such a gift, as an attorney who has experienced up front the attorney job market for 21 years, I have to disagree with the Star's take. The Hoosier job market for attorneys is terribly oversaturated now. Law firm associate salaries (as opposed to partner salaries) have barely risen during my entire time in law. The four Indiana law schools could shut down for five years and we would still have an oversupply of attorneys.

But what about the Star's point that this will allow for a more educated workforce that will "improve the economic future of all Hoosiers?" The Star has lumped together two distinct things. Yes, it will improve the education level of Hoosiers, but the assumption that increased education in the form of a law degree will lead to an improved economic future for those who go to law school as well as other Hoosiers is a terribly misguided concept.

More education does not automatically lead to a better economic future. In fact, it can work in just the opposite direction. I have seen many of my friends and colleagues get a law degree only to find out the additional education limited their job opportunities and incomes. Many found themselves pigeonholed as attorneys and unable to break into other fields. Often they are told that they are "overqualified" and would not be considered for non-attorney positions. I know attorneys who worked in scores of other fields before going to law school, only to find they made more money in their previous occupation. For example, I know teachers, semi-truck drivers and postal workers who went to law school to better themselves, to only find themselves returning to their former jobs (saddled with a big law school debt) because the attorney jobs they could get, if at all, did not pay nearly as well. I know a 25 year attorney who does typing for other attorneys to make ends meet. I know others who have had to go through bankruptcy. Of course, you can't discharge that law school debt.

In another column, I noted how law schools artificially and dishonestly inflate expected first year associate salaries to lure people to law school. I encourage people to read a Wall Street Journal article (link at the bottom) which spells out the truth about the attorney job market. I suggest that people considering going to law school talk to real practicing attorneys (especially those who have entered the profession during the past 10 years) about the job market, not blindly follow the lies law schools tell to induce people to go to law school.

It should be noted that Mickey Mauer, who has not practiced law since 1987, made his fortune in the business world not law. The irony is that his gift may encourage people to enter a profession where their opportunities to succeed will be much more limited than the business world where Mickey Mauer made his fortune.

See: Mandatory Reading Before Going to Law School (Ogden on Politics, 12/3/2008)

"Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers" (Wall Street Journal (9/24/2007)

Analysis: Law schools growing, but jobs aren't (USA Today 6/17/2008)


Anonymous said...

Private sector interests, directly bound to our individual and Constitutional rights, have been displaced by morbidly proportioned, public sector bloat; overfed, by an excess of underemployed attorneys & other "professionals," who misspend / abuse the public trust & treasury, to circumvent or game the authenticity of our Constitution, in "elite" service to themselves. The free market is a qualitative relationship between value and production. There is no virtue or value in make work schemes, subsidized with the confiscated production, stolen time or life from private citizens without their EXPRESS CONSENT. We Americans need to recover our freedom by rediscovering OUR CONSTITUTION, a people's, not professionals', document.

Anonymous said...

Why were you ever looking for solid intellect in a newspaper?

Paul K. Ogden said...

Anon2:59, Touche'.