Cost-Benefit Analysis of American Law Schools

<p><a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>1 (27) U. of Georgia
2 (32) BYU
3 (46) U. of Houston
4 (18) U. of Texas
5 (48) Ohio State
6 (25) Notre Dame
7 (47) U. of Tenn. - Knoxville
8 (40) U. of Florida
9 (34) UNC - Chapel Hill
10 (9) U. of Virginia
11 (23) U. of Washington
12 (36) U. of Utah
13 (20) Washington and Lee
14 (30) William & Mary
15 (33) U. of Iowa
16 (50) U. of Arizona
17 (21) U. of Minnesota
18 (19) U. of IL - Urbana
19 (37) Ind. U. at Bloom.
20 (43) U. of Wisconsin - Mad.
21 (12) UC Berkeley
22 (17) UCLA
23 (7) U. of MI - Ann Arbor
24 (14) Northwestern
25 (23) Emory
26 (3) Stanford
27 (45) UC Hastings
28 (12) Georgetown
29 (42) Rutgers - Newark
30 (4) U of Chicago
31 (44) Case Western
32 (8) U. of Pennsylvania
33 (50) Villanova
34 (49) Tulane
34 (15) USC
36 (16) Vanderbilt
37 (29) Boston U
38 (10) Duke
39 (41) UC Davis
40 (22) George Washington
41 (35) Wake Forest
42 (1) Yale
43 (26) Boston College
44 (39) U CO at Boulder
45 (5) Columbia
46 (6) NYU
47 (31) Washington Univ.
48 (11) Cornell
49 (2) Harvard
50 (28) Fordham
51 (38) U CT</p>

<p>the following table re-ranks "the top 50 law schools"--as designated by U. S. News & World Report--in terms of cost-of-living adjusted median salary, ranked from lowest to highest. </p>

<p>For the cost-of-living data, the average of the COL indices available was used for all cities in the state where the law school is located, with seven exceptions. For Yale, University of Connecticut, Harvard, and Rutgers-Newark, the New York cost-of-living average was used. For Duke, University of Virginia, and Vanderbilt, the Washington, D. C. cost-of-living average was used.</p>

<p>looks like UVA wins</p>

<p>This is flawed in so many ways that I don't even know where to begin.</p>

<p>I'll begin here:</p>

<li>The "data," such as it is, is ten years old.</li>
<li>Its key component is starting salaries reported by students; the percentage of graduates who reported data was as little as 34% at some schools.</li>

<p>I'll continue.</p>

<li> It does not account for success of graduates many years down the road - whether it be partner in a firm or on the bench.<br></li>
<li> It does not account for tuition differences (right?)</li>
<li> The data use median salary, which does not make any distinctions for judicial clerks (who end up being quite successful but make peanuts when they get out), public interest, or government employeees.<br></li>

<p>I'm always very skeptical of using salary to justify how good a law school is. The only time it's relevant is if you are going to law school for the sole purpose of making a pile of cash.</p>

<p>"The only time it's relevant is if you are going to law school for the sole purpose of making a pile of cash."</p>

<p>I agree, but even then, it's a highly flawed measure for the reasons you and and Greybeard note. </p>

<p>(Salaries are also often simply reported for those actually working in firms -- even if this is only a small percentage of graduates, with most unable to find such jobs. And schools fudge numbers in other ways as well.)</p>

<p>I agree with everything that was written here.</p>

<p>In addition, I would make a general comment about the concept of 'cost-of-living'. People talk about how certain places have a high cost of living and so forth. While I don't want to sound elitist and triumphalist, the fact is, the costs of living of various places largely tracks how desirable those places are to live. It's really an expression of the free market, which is essentially a bidding process as to high desirable certain things are. Beachfront property tends to be more expensive than non-beachfront property simply because lots of people want to live on the beach. The main reason why the cost of living in Manhattan is so high is simply because a lot of people want to live in Manhattan. It is a very desirable place to live, with lots of things to do and lots of high-end jobs available, which means that lots of people want to live there, which bids up the cost of living. </p>

<p>Now obviously there are other factors that go into the cost of living, like tax rates, land-regulation, the general availability of land and so on, but all of these are supplementary factors. A place can have massive tax rates, have extremely heavily regulated zoning, and have no available land, but if nobody wants to live there anyway, then the cost of living at that place will be minimal. </p>

<p>So people can talk about certain places in the country having a lower cost of living, but, again, not to sound elitist, the fact is, there is a reason why certain places have a lower cost of living than others, and it often times has to do with the fact that, frankly, it is a less desirable place to live. If the place was more desirable, then more people would want to live there, and that would drive the cost of living upwards. </p>

<p>I would also point out that if you are able to actually buy property in a high-cost of living area, this shields you from some of that high cost of living. Yes, I understand that buying property in Manhattan or San Francisco may not be reasonable for a lawyer just starting out, but is very doable as you move further along in your career (especially if we're just talking about a small condo). And when you buy property, part of your monthly mortgage costs go into establishing equity into that property, and so that effectively means that you're paying yourself. Hence, while that mortgage might be a lot of money, you're not really losing that money, just transferring it into real-estate equity.</p>

<p>To build on what Sakky said, salary often correlates with cost-of-living. For example, you'll make more working at the Gap in New York than you will in the Gap in Oklahoma. For some professions, you'll make roughly the same amount of money (like engineering) no matter where you are located. </p>

<p>Anyway - has a "cost of living" calculator, where it will tell you how much you need to make in another locale to have the same standard of living as the one you are in now. I'm pretty sure that Boston salaries are about 10% less than NYC salaries, but it costs about 30% more to live in NYC. In some respects, despite the higher salaries, you end up paying a premium to live in a certain location.</p>

<p>This is abou My S.</p>

<p>U of Arizona Student. (GPA 3.72 LSAT 179)</p>

<p>Accepted by </p>

<p>Arizona Law (ranked 44th Full Ride), U of Miami (with $)
Harvard Law, and Chicago Law. </p>

<p>(U Penn (pending), Cornell(Pending), UCLA (pending 1/25 applied)).</p>

<p>He plans to live in Arizona after L-S.</p>

<p>Arizona (no Debt) vs Harvard (150K debt ?)</p>

<p>If he's paying the full way and really wants to live in Arizona, I would go for Arizona Law. Simply put, if it's the best law school around, and he can go there for free, he'll have solid job opportunities after graduation... and no debt. </p>

<p>HLS will run him more than $150k - I think that, between tuition increases and such, it'll be closer to $160k. Anyway, if he paid that back over 10 years at about 5% interest, he'll have to pay almost $2,000 per MONTH in student loans. Can he even afford that on an Arizona lawyer's salary? </p>

<p>Also, if he wants to work in AZ, I would suggest that he either go to a top law school (HLS, Penn, Cornell, or Chicago), or a local law school (Arizona or UCLA if a lot of grads end up in your state). Miami, IMO, would be a bad choice - none of the geographic advantages of Arizona or UCLA (which are substantial advantages), nor the name advantages of the others.</p>

<p>Thank you for your comment. He doesn't rule out to live in Ca or Wa state, either.
But right now Arizona is his first choice. Arizona is the second fast growing state
in the US behind Nevada.</p>

<p>Harvard has a great loan forgiveness program. I just mention that because if he doesn't earn enough to pay back $2,000 a month, he won't have to do so. My own kid, who also attends a law school with a good loan forgiveness program, is borrowing some of the cost of attending law school, but I anticipate that much of the loan will never be repaid because kid's interests lie in public service. (Simplifying somewhat--I urge him to read the policy in its entirety--you pay back a percentage of your income above certain levels. The percentage rises with income. If your income doesn't hit the threshold in a given year, you don't have to pay that year.)</p>

<p>I don't know your family's financial circumstances, but he should fill out the needaccess forms. If your family isn't affluent, he may get some need-based aid in the form of grants. It certainly won't be a free ride though. </p>

<p>Also keep in mind that he won't be borrowing the entire cost of school. He should easily be able to earn at least $30,000 during the 3 years he's enrolled. That doesn't put that much of a dent in the debt, but it certainly won't be for the entire $150,000. </p>

<p>Part of his decision depends upon what he wants to do. There are doors that Harvard opens that UArizona won't---but he may have no interest in going through those doors.</p>

<p>Jonri has a good point about loan forgiveness - but check with each school. Some are limited (only a handful of students will be able to get them, and they might cap out the loans, ex. $7,000 per year forgiven).</p>

<p>Once the final numbers are in, sit down and calculate exactly what he'll have to repay over 10 years at a fixed interest rate. Also, anything over either $8,500/year or $10k/year (forget which) will accrue interest while he's in school - essentially, all non-subsidized federal loans. Total federal loans are capped at $18,500 annually for law school. I maintain that the decision becomes a lot clearer when you are sitting there with the numbers in front of you. </p>

<p>Harvard can give you information about loan forgiveness - just remember that there are 550 students who graduate in each class, so if they cap the number of people in the programme at 20, he shouldn't count on it. Just my take.</p>

<p>The Harvard Low Income Protection Plan doesn't cap the number of students who participate, doesn't require an upfront commitment to public service, and can be taken advantage of any time during the loan repayment period.
For example, if a student with loans goes to work for a large law firm, earning a good salary, and after 2-3 years, decides to take a job as an assistant US attorney (federal prosecutor) at a lower salary,he can opt to be included in LIPP at that point. It's automatic. The amount of the loan that has to be repaid will be reduced for each year in which the borrower is employed in a low income job. There are some limitations and it pays to read the small print, but if all 550 people in a Harvard law class want to participate, they can.</p>

<p>I think that a stint on the East coast would really be beneficial for your very special son. There are some things just worth the money and for a kids who has been in Arizona for undergrad and wants to go back to AZ, a few years at arguably the best law school in the country would be an experience he should not pass up. </p>

<p>Dr P, a moderator on this forum has a D who was trying to decide between UVA and Harvard. In that case the student was a Harvard undergrad who had already experience Cambridge. For her, I suggested UVA. For your son, I would recommend that he take a bit of a chance on the money and give Harvard a whirl.</p>

<p>I'm going to back up Jamimom on this one. Going to HLS is simply an incredible opportunity that I don't personally think your son should pass up. He'll have a chance to learn from some of the world's best law professors, and to study with some of the world's best law students. He'll also be in one of the most vibrant and stimulating overall academic environments on the planet, in a great city. And upon graduation, he'll have a pretty much guaranteed chance to make $125K a year. If he does that for a few years, when combined with summer earnings, most of his debt could be paid off fairly quickly. </p>

<p>It is true that, if he were absolutely committed to living in Arizona, then a full ride at the local law school would be economically attractive. However, the fact that he has some interest in other markets tells me he would probably be better off at HLS. (After living and working in Boston, I think he'll have even more national interests.) And he can always return to Arizona from HLS, either right after graduation, or maybe a few years down the road, after being trained at a top national firm. (This should make him even more marketable in Arizona.) </p>

<p>HLS will also, of course, give your son clerkship and academic opportunities he would not have at Arizona, and he may not even realize his interest in these areas until he starts law school. </p>

<p>So again, personally, all things considered, I wouldn't pass up the opportunities offered by HLS unless there were strong personal reasons for doing so. (If he visited HLS and/or Chicago and just really hated it, that might be another matter.)</p>

<p>I don't have any comments about the list on this thread, as I have no idea how to even begin to assess it, but I wish there were some good cost-benefit analyses of law schools. Every doctor I know has managed to do fine despite huge debts incurred from medical school. Not the case with many attornies. Borrowing to go to law school can be a dicey thing, and it would be nice to to know how dicey. It's nice to know that Harvard might forgive some loans, but what about other schools, and really what does happen to attornies. I saw a some stats on what attornies earn some time ago, and it was truly a very low figure, not even taking into account the cost of going to law school, much less taking out huge loans. My brother and sister in law do not regret getting a Harvard MBA, but I will tell you that they did have a very rough time those first years with the debt repayment. And that is with a degree that is known to be a money maker. There are some graduates from that class that did get into serious trouble because they went right into the money spending mode before enough money was made, and had the attitude that the loans were going to be no big deal. They are a big deal if you are the one responsible for paying them back--not mom, dad or fairy godmother.</p>

<p>In the case of those people who go right into money-spending mode before they really make enough money, thereby causing debt problems, I would argue that this doesn't really have to do with graduate-school per se. Not to be harsh, but that sounds like more of an issue with personal self-discipline and self-control. If certain people lack self-control and are going to go out and 'blow their wad' after grad-school, then it is rather likely that they would have done the same even if they hadn't gone to graduate school. For example, if they had never gone to grad-school, they might have simply racked up 5 or 6 figures worth of credit-card debt, auto-loans, and other such obligations. So I don't think it's fair to pin something on graduate-school something that might have happened anyway.</p>

<p>I think Sakky is partly correct that certain people will have debt problems regardless of their educational path. </p>

<p>However, law school loans alone can represent significant borrowing, without a guarantee of corresponding income. </p>

<p>And I imagine that those people with responsibility issues may blow an even bigger "wad" when they anticipate larger future salaries that may or may not materialize.</p>