The Value of a Law Degree

Student Lawyer
American Bar Association
December 2010

By G.M. Filisko

As you research whether to stay in law school, you will hear advice to stay in school because a law degree helps in ways you had not anticipated. This is true, but you have to decide whether that is enough reason for you to finish law school.

“Whether there is value in continuing law school even if you know you will not practice law depends on your potential career path,” says Steven Roy Goodman, a lawyer, educational consultant, career planner, and founder of Top Colleges in Washington, D.C. “Legal skills are extremely valuable in terms of writing, analyzing, and synthesizing information. I have had law school graduates become sports agents, work on Capitol Hill, work in government agencies, and become authors. Law school training is very, very valuable. The issue is how much does it cost to get that training?”

Jasmin French says her legal degree has been worth the cost. After being laid off from a legal job during the height of the economic crisis, French opened a personal branding consulting firm in Chicago. “I am awed and amazed at how large a role my legal credentials play in serving as a ‘credibility tag’ to potential clients,” she says. “I struggled with the cost of the law degree but am glad I stayed in law school. I encourage people to remember the esteem the general public has for a law degree and how much credibility the public confers to you because you graduated from law school and passed a bar exam.”

French also advises you to consider your personal brand. “Think about your own personal brand in terms of your value proposition to a future employer and whether you can deliver the same skills and expertise without a law degree,” she explains. “The person on the other end of the table is saying, ‘What problems can you help me solve if I hire you? What need can you help me fill?’ Could you offer that same value proposition without a law degree, or would it take you a lot more time to get that life and work experience? The law degree may allow you to leapfrog ahead a bit.”

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