Can’t tell if this is Charlotte Law School, or just a regular dumpster fire.
Last week, the Department of Education flagged five law schools for failing to meet its gainful employment standard, a measure of graduates’ debt-to-income ratios. If the law schools in the hot seat fail the standard again next year, their students will no longer be eligible for federal student aid.
The news is a sobering reminder that some law schools, in some circumstances, are simply not worth the investment. Here are some red flags to keep an eye on when deciding whether and where to go to law school.
Your welcome packet includes a primer on “paying back your crushing student debt by 70.”
Law school debt is no joke. Law students borrow an average of about $140,000 to finance their degrees, which is a significant burden on even the lucky few who get those plush, soul-sucking Biglaw jobs after graduating – and getting one of those jobs is far from guaranteed. There are far, far too many stories about unfortunate grads who are unable to find work in the legal field and are struggling to even make the minimum payments on their loans.
To avoid becoming one of these people, do your due diligence, including digging into law schools’ employment statistics. For instance, when reporting the percentage of recent graduates who are employed, many law schools inflate their numbers by including “JD advantage” jobs (for which passing the bar was not strictly required, but was supposedly a boon) or by hiring their own recent graduates for short, temporary stints after graduation. Do your homework to ensure that you have a clear and accurate picture of the true stats of any law school you’re considering.
Your law school touts its super-great, “LSAT-optional” application process.
The LSAT strikes fear in the heart of many a prelaw student, and we’d be the first to agree that it is an extremely difficult and time-consuming test. That said, the fact remains that the vast, vast majority of reputable law schools require LSAT scores as part of the admissions process.
As we discussed in a blog post many moons ago, there are LSAT-free alternatives – in California, you can take the bar without even having attended law school, and there are certain law schools (some accredited by the ABA, and some not) that don’t require the LSAT. Those law schools will be quick to point out graduates who have gone on to do great things, but the fact is that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against you. As torturous as the LSAT can be – although we’d be quick to add that it doesn’t have to be! – you’re generally doing yourself a disservice by trying to go to law school without taking it.