Law School and the Recession: What Does it Mean for You?

by Vault Law Editors | May 06, 2009

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We know what you're thinking. If you actuallyunderstood economics, you'd be considering an MBA, not a law degree. Weget it. Which is why, when it comes to figuring out how the biggesteconomic crisis since the Great Depression is going to affect yourdecision to go to law school, we wrote an article about it.

Let's start with the good news. The fact thatyou're reading this article means that you're considering a pretty goodoption when it comes to riding out the recession. First, going back toschool is a great way to wait out troubled economic times, becausewhile you're studying criminal law and contracts, the economy mayrally. Businesses have a good shot at growing again, law firms will behiring, and credit cards companies will raise limits so consumers canonce again buy stuff they don't need (such as the ShamWow™ or the firstseason DVD of MacGyver).

Second, once you've graduated, you'll be bettereducated and stand a better chance in any economy. A JD is a marketabledegree across many professions and the processes you learn in lawschool (writing, critical thinking, etc.) will put you in good stead ina variety of desirable professions. After all, one doesn't want pickingcotton to be a primary job skill in a recession. The Joads tried thatin The Grapes of Wrath and it didn't work out so well. So there are lots of reasons to continue with those plans to head to law school.

Of course, as with everything good in life, there is a catch.

The biggest thing working against you is the tonof other people thinking about law school, too. Historically, economicrecessions have been accompanied by surges in applications to graduateschool. The last time around, during the dot-com "fizzle," law schoolapplications increased dramatically. After all, when an uncertaineconomy makes people nervous, they gravitate toward a career that's alittle more certain. As a result, it is very likely that soon therewill be more people than ever applying to law school.

There's an additional but related complication.Remember all those friends of yours who became investment bankersstraight out of college? Remember how great they thought they werebecause they owned a 3-series BMW? Well folks, those people don't havejobs anymore, they sold their BMWs (those that weren't leased), and nowthey're applying to law school. For your very spot.

I know it's rough, but just be thankful you didn'tspend the last few years training to be a machinist at the Ford plant.Be relieved that the internship you just finished wasn't at BearStearns, and that your heart wasn't set on being the floor manager atCircuit City. Because there is a future in the legal arena; you're justgoing to have to face some very tough competition to get there.

Winning the spot

Luckily, there are ways to become a morecompetitive applicant. Without a doubt, the best possible way tocompete for a spot at a good law school is to have a great GPA and anamazing LSAT score. Of the two, your LSAT score is typically weightedmore--as much as 60 percent. This is because the LSAT provides a way tocompare applicants against each other. While different GPAs acrossdifferent schools and majors can mean many different things (how doesone compare a 3.9 from Eastern Tennessee State against a 3.5 fromMizzou?), the LSAT measures how candidates competed against each otheron the same or very similar tests. The LSAT is also predictive of astudent's performance as a law student (even small increases in an LSATscore can correlate to better law school performance).*

So put your best foot forward during theapplication process by treating your law school application with theimportance it deserves. And keep in mind: the quality of your lawschool, particularly in a recession, matters. As the economy recoversand law firms begin hiring again, the first students to reap thebenefits will be those who are enrolled in top-tier schools. Even asthe job market improves, as a graduate with a JD, you'll still beentering an extremely competitive job market. Where you go to lawschool will play a substantial role in determining the job you'll endup with when you finish your degree. So take the LSAT seriously, puttogether a great application and go spend the next few years living offthe best unemployment that you can possibly find--student loan moneyfrom bailed-out banks.

Article by Jodi Triplett and Trent Teti, co-founders of Blueprint LSAT Preparation.
In addition to live courses in major cities, Blueprint offers an online LSAT video course featuring 19 video lessons, course books with 5,000+ real LSAT questions, and online homework resources.

* Click here to read the Blueprint article that discusses the importance of the LSAT in law school admissions in more detail.

Filed Under: Law

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