Does Michigan’s economy really need six law schools that inject more than a thousand recent graduates into the service sector each year? Unlike many job applicants, most new attorneys are heavily in debt; some carry more than $ 100,000 in student loans. This can quickly lead to despair.

The economy is still hurting in several key sectors here in Michigan. Both the auto and real estate sectors appear to be recovering, but the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high. Most experts say another half decade of “recovery” awaits us.

In downtime, higher education, as an industry, performs remarkably well. People take a hard look at their job prospects and many decide to improve their skills by obtaining additional credentials.

Law school is something that almost half the population considers at one point or another. Yet in this tough economy, have law schools turned this recurring American dream into a debt nightmare?

A whole generation of newly created lawyers, facing student loans the size of a modest first home, find themselves in the same predicament as those who overbought real estate during the boom years. Just for these new attorneys, there is no foreclosure process to make debt go away.

And the prospects are, well, terrifying. Established small and medium-sized businesses will lease offices, but will not pay salaries. The largest firms are reducing their lists of attorneys. A Northwestern Law study estimates that the large firm sector has lost more than 15,000 attorney and staff positions since 2008.

Corporate legal departments are cutting legal expenses; Anything that can be outsourced is sent to India, where there are a glut of cheap lawyers eager to review documents for about $ 20 an hour.

Despite this bleak outlook, law schools report that up to 93% of their graduates “are known to be employed nine months after graduation.” This statistic is reinforced by the annual rankings of law schools published by US News & World Report.

However, employment as a barista at Starbucks is different from working in the legal profession. To improve their statistics, some law schools have been known to temporarily hire a battalion of their recent graduates for $ 20 an hour to work in the placement office. The US News statistic does not account for these distortions.

This grim subject was the focus of recent “hype” marketing techniques employed by Lansing Cooley Law School. The correlation between a shortage of jobs and an absolute glut of lawyers is well documented in the blogosphere.

However, all is not bad. Students with high motivation and qualification can persist in good jobs in their chosen field, even after removing their pink glasses.

In our free society, with its trade, temptations, and disposable marriages, there will always be a strong demand for legal services.

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