Today’s New York Times features an article about heavily indebted law graduates unable to find work as practicing attorneys. It’s virtually identical to another article published in the Times in 2011. Here’s the first sentence from the 2011 piece:
If there is ever a class in how to remain calm while trapped beneath $250,000 in loans, Michael Wallerstein ought to teach it.
And the first sentence from today’s article:
Jonathan Wang has not practiced law since he graduated from Columbia Law School in 2010, but he did not plan it that way.
You can pretty much figure out the rest without reading either article. Wallerstein and Wang both entered law school with dreams of landing high-paying BIGLAW jobs after graduation. Instead, they’re struggling to make ends meet while burdened with six-figure student loans.
Today’s article has virtually nothing new or interesting to say about this issue. (The headline alone–“Burdened With Debt, Law School Graduates Struggle in Job Market”–clearly signals that we’re not breaking any new ground here.) The Times did manage to find some rather unusual–and, I would argue, atypical–subjects this time. Mr. Wang, we learn, “makes over $100 an hour,” which the Times declares is “far below what he would make at a law firm.” $100 an hour comes out to an annual salary of $200,000, assuming a forty-hour work week. I suspect most law-firm associates would love to be paid $200,000 and work just forty hours a week. Maybe things aren’t so bad for Mr. Wang.
We’re also introduced to one Hyatt Shirkey, a 2010 graduate of Ohio State’s law school, who the article claims accumulated $328,000 in student debt during undergrad and law school. Given that out-of-state tuition at OSU is currently $43,508, one can’t help but wonder where Mr. Shirkey went to undergrad (and how much it costs to go there).
And finally there is G. Troy Pickett, who attended something called South Texas College of Law “with the intent of becoming a big-firm mergers and acquisitions lawyer.” According to that school’s employment outcomes data (available here) “STCL” graduates around 310 people annually, of whom about a dozen secure jobs at large firms, which I’m very broadly defining as having more than 100 attorneys. What we learn from Mr. Pickett’s plight, then, is that people who make bad financial decisions sometimes end up in bad financial situations.