Law Graduates’ Standard of Living

July 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm ($, Choosing a law school, Financing Law School)

I’ve blogged about non-traditional ranking systems before and one of the best entities to do so is the National Jurist.  They rank best law libraries, best law schools for public interest programs, and now they’ve ranked the best law schools for standard of living.  Smart move. Of course, a rankings list of this type (taking into account tuition, debt, salary, and law graduates’ living costs (in the geographic areas the law schools tend to place in) can be difficult at best, faulty at worst.  The National Jurist weeded-out some of the problems that occur inherently when taking law school data and analyzing it to rank schools.  For example, it has been well-documented that law schools fudge numbers and report data that comprise less than 50% of the graduating class.  The National Jurist tackles this problem by excluding several schools that do not have enough data available and/or not enough of the graduating class reported their salaries.  Bottom line, take it for what it is and be a smart consumer.  Check it out here: Best law schools for standard of living | the National Jurist.

Standard of living post law school graduation had weighed heavy on my mind when deciding whether law school was the right path for me. For many non-traditional students who are already established professionals, a benefit v. cost analysis is a wise idea.  Regardless if corporate law or poverty law is your goal, it just doesn’t make sense to undertake a huge debt burden if you will end up worse-off than you were pre-law school.  I had already been working as a paralegal for several years and earning a decent salary.  At the time, I did not know much about law school scholarships and couldn’t have predicted that I would be headed to law school on a full-tuition fellowship. Additionally, my enthusiasm for public interest law caused me to caution against undertaking law school debt  – which could potentially keep me from doing what I’m hoping to fulfill in the first place. I couldn’t imagine leaving a great job as a paralegal to undertake $100,000 in loans only to turn around and earn the same salary (or less).  Moreover, there are many opportunities for paralegals to get involved in public interest and volunteer service, but I felt I wanted more. If I had thought for a second going to law school would prohibit me from doing what I wanted to do with my life, I would have stopped dead in my tracks.  Luckily, things worked out in my favor, and I strongly believe this is my directive.

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