When I was contemplating becoming an English major in 1993, the counselor told me not to worry about job prospects. "After all," she said, "you can always go to law school."
These days, that's not such a good prospect. The job market for law school graduates has contracted dramatically, thanks to a variety of developments -- big class-action suits are harder to bring, corporations are taking an eagle eye to their legal bills, some securities work is rarer than it used to be, and technology has started to automate certain tasks, such as routine discovery searches, that used to be performed by armies of young lawyers.
That doesn't mean that going to law school is a bad bet for everyone. Graduates of elite schools are OK -- if worst comes to worst, they'll work their way down the employment ladder into less prestigious or remunerative jobs, displacing those who used to be below them. But for people at the bottom, it's likely to land them with six-figure loans and no job.
But wait! The Wall Street Journal reports that there are a few bright spots: The percentage of law school graduates reporting that they'd found jobs that actually require bar passage is up slightly from last year. Law firm jobs were also up, especially at big firms -- the kind that pay you well enough to pay off those six-figure loans.
On the other hand, so is overall unemployment. Unless they can get into an elite school, prospective students would be well advised to think twice before applying, much less going, to law school. Or, for that matter, before becoming an English major.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
(Megan McArdle writes about economics, business and public policy for Bloomberg View. Follow her on Twitter at @asymmetricinfo.)
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