Putting years of legal education to use.

You know things are bad when U.S. News, the Holy Grail for students trying to figure out where to go to law school, is writing articles about all of the non-law related jobs recent graduates are taking just to get by.

This isn’t one of those “oooh, look at all the super-awesome things you can do with a sweet law degree” articles. U.S. News wrote a straight-out “J.D. stands for Just a Dog walker” article.

Everybody who is in law school knows how difficult the job market is. But U.S. News is giving this sobering message about “non-traditional” legal careers to people who have not yet signed up for their own financial doom.

And it turns out that even going to a highly ranked school doesn’t save you from having awful job choices…

The U.S. News article (gavel bang: ABA Journal) looks behind the employment numbers at the University of Texas School of Law. You’ll remember that UT recently climbed into a tie for #14 in the latest U.S. News law school rankings. It doesn’t look like that bump is helping the school in terms of job placement:

Among the alumni ranks of the University of Texas—Austin’s School of Law are cartoonists, service dog trainers, and wind farm employees, which might explain why it has a Non-Practicing Advisory Council within its alumni association.

“We have a significant percentage (some think maybe up to one third) of alumni in nontraditional careers,” says Tim Kubatzky, the school’s executive director of development. “There is no single path that takes them there, and many have spent at least some part of their careers in law firms or practicing solo or serving as corporate counsel.”

According to Kubatzky, the movement amongst J.D.s toward nontraditional jobs is not a new development. “The current economic situation has prompted more law school graduates to be creative in using their legal educations,” he says.

Look, we can use euphemisms like “nontraditional” and “creative” all we want, but nobody, nobody graduates from UT Law into an exciting career as a service dog trainer by free autonomous choice. That career alternative is the result of something going horribly wrong. How do I know that? Because you can be a service dog trainer or wind farm employee without spending three years of your life and a hundred thousand dollars of your money learning to be a lawyer.

And Texas is a good law school. One can only imagine what’s happening at schools further down on the U.S. News list:

Many law school career services departments address alternative or nontraditional careers on their websites, and a Google search for “career” and “outside of the legal profession” restricted to .edu websites yields nearly 65,000 hits. Some of those departments, like that of the Virginia Beach-based School of Law at Regent University, connect alternative careers for attorneys to the economy.

“As the legal profession has become increasingly more demanding and entry-level hiring more competitive, many law students are considering other alternatives,” according to the Regent website.

You know who needs to be considering other alternatives? Prospective law students. It’s their pressure on the system that keeps the cost of legal education high despite a job market that can no longer support the price of tuition.

In Tough Job Market, Law Grads Use J.D.s for Nonlegal Work [U.S. News & World Report]
Nontraditional Careers for Law Grads Include Cartoonists and Service Dog Trainers [ABA Journal]


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