Friday, January 14, 2011

Why It's Better To Be A Doctor Than A Lawyer

In a word, jobs. According to a scathing article in the New York Times, the vast majority of law school students graduate with virtually no job prospects befitting a lawyer. Only the top graduates from the highly elite law schools will be hired for the advertised average salary of a first year lawyer of $160,000. Most everybody else will take temp jobs proofreading legal documents that pay $20 per hour with no benefits. Or they take menial jobs not in the legal field. Or move back in with mom and dad. All this after accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt with little immediate prospect for repayment.

How did this happen to this once proud profession? The article lays the blame on the American Bar Association and U.S. News and World Report. College students scrutinize U.S. News for its ranking of law schools every year and notice that most of them say over 90% of their graduates are employed nine months after graduation. In these times of economic turmoil this sounds like going into law is a sure ticket to employment. What the readers don't recognize is that being employed is not the same as being a lawyer. If somebody is working at a McDonald's drive through window nine months after law school, they are considered gainfully employed. There is also a certain bias in this statistic. The information is strictly voluntary from the former students. Therefore those not employed at that time are less likely to report back to the school for the survey. Who allowed this charade to happen? None other than the ABA. U.S. News is simply following the statistical methodology as established by the ABA and they don't feel the need to change it unless the ABA makes the first move.

This is not a sudden revelation. There are multiple blogs established by unemployed lawyers complaining about this deceit. So why not close down a few dozen law schools to tighten up the supply of lawyers and boost employment? After all, doesn't the ABA grant accreditation to open up law schools? As it turns out, it is much easier to open a school than to close one down. The ABA says there are antitrust issues to closing schools. After all, whose to say which school deserves to remain open and which ones should close. While everybody recognizes that Harvard Law School should stay, what about a small school like McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific, also ABA accredited? Therefore the ABA is throwing its hands up at the whole issue.

By comparison, there truly is a shortage of doctors in the country, now and into the foreseeable future. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there will likely be a deficit of 150,000 physicians in the next fifteen years. The shortage extends to anesthesiologists too, with an estimated deficit of 12,500 by the year 2020 according to the RAND Corp. If there is such an obvious need for more doctors, why doesn't the laws of supply and demand step in to fix this? Simple. Medicine in this country doesn't follow market principles. The federal government controls how many doctors are trained by decreeing how much money they will give to support medical schools and residencies. Right now there is talk of opening more medical schools to train a new army of primary care doctors in preparation for the onslaught of Baby Boomers hitting the retirement age. But Medicare has not allocated more money to open residency positions for all these doctors to continue their training after graduation.

Isn't it ironic that the government knows full well we need more doctors but won't supply the money for them? Yet this institution of lawyers, along with the ABA, can do nothing to stop the oversupply of law school graduates flooding the economy, wreaking havoc in its wake and causing untold suffering to thousands of bright young legal minds. Is it any wonder we have legions of lawyers trying to chase down every possible class action lawsuit, car accident victim, and frivolous malpractice case?


  1. Not to antagonize the lawyers, but let's also consider that it's comparatively much easier to become lawyer. Graduate from college (grades aren't critical), with pretty much any coursework and degree you like, take the LSAT, apply to law school (acceptance isn't that hard), stay ~3 years, pass an exam (which you can retake as often as necessary to pass) and BAM! You're a lawyer and (in theory) can start earning lawyer money. Seven years of post-high-school education.

    Contrast that with becoming a doctor. Graduate from college with an exceptional GPA (and coursework heavy in the sciences, no matter what your actual degree is), take the MCAT and get an high score, apply to multiple medical schools and hope to be accepted into one (possibly repeating this step over 2-10 years), go to med school for four years, graduate and start a residency of 3-8 years (depending on specialty), possibly have a 1-2 year fellowship, and then BAM! you're an attending, and can start earning attending money 11-16 years (more if the med school applications process has to be repeated) after high school.

  2. People need to open their eyes, what type of lawyer are you? Looking for jobs, sure, are you a litigating lawyer or a conveyancing type lawyer?

  3. PJ Geragthy is sadly mistaken if he thinks its that easy to become a lawyer. My route to becoming a lawyer...I did a first degree in criminal justice and sociology. To get into a good law school, I had to have all As in my profile. In addition to with, I had to sit the LSAT exam which is made up of mostly logic questions. After graduating from the LLB program, I had to do a BPTC, which is a bar proficiency course. I then did a trainning course, after which I was called to the bar and then did my LLM to specialise. This in total took 11 years of my life, completing everything on time, without any breaks. So while I get that medicine may be hard, its unfair when people spread wrong information and try to discount the career of another. Also, greater specialties take more time. There are even medical lawyers, financial lawyers, who in addition to having to do everything i have mentioned, also have to do a qualification in finance.