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September 30, 2011 3:34 PM “Alternative Careers” for Law School Graduates

By Daniel Luzer

Apparently many law school graduates can’t find jobs as lawyers anymore. This is particularly true of recent graduates.

According to an article by Menachem Wecker in U.S. News & World Report:

Among the alumni ranks of the University of Texas—Austin’s School of Law are cartoonists, service dog trainers, and wind farm employees, which might explain why it has a Non-Practicing Advisory Council within its alumni association.
According to [the school’s executive director of development, Tim] Kubatzky, the movement amongst J.D.s toward nontraditional jobs is not a new development. “The current economic situation has prompted more law school graduates to be creative in using their legal educations,” he says.

They’re sure trying hard to make this sound not awful. The title of the article is “In Tough Job Market, Law Grads Use J.D.s for Nonlegal Work” and Wecker explains that,

Typically, 10 percent of Yale Law School alumni work in a business setting five years after graduating, according to a 64-page Lawyers in Business guide the school publishes. And, jobs in management consulting, investment banking, and venture capital can earn young associates annuals salaries of $100,000 to $300,000, the guide states.

The title is a little deceptive, however. There’s a big difference between using a legal degree to make more money in “management consulting, investment banking, and venture capital” and what actually appears to be happening, which is that students are going to law school and then just getting no better job as a result of it. In reality, someone isn’t “using his J.D.s for nonlegal work” if he’s employed as a service dog trainer; he merely has a law degree and no legal career.

One Capitol Hill staffer said that he’s got a J.D. and now, while annual starting salaries for his job are in the $60,000 range, he can “literally writing the laws that others will then apply.” He “encourages aspiring public servants to earn a J.D., because he says it can help people rise more quickly through the ranks of seniority,” according to the article.

But that’s just spin. Average law school debt is between $70,000 and $80,000. If someone doesn’t get to practice law afterward, that law degree probably wasn’t worth it.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer