“I am considering swapping the classroom for the courtroom as our pay rate tops out at $80,000 here in Hanford. However, I’ve read articles recently about law graduates having enormous student loan debt and not finding decent paying jobs, if they find jobs in law at all,” Debbie wrote.
“Mr. Beaver, you have a reputation for, finding answers and telling it like it is. Today and in the foreseeable future, is law a good career choice??”
This question should be asked by everyone who believes that law will be their career path to a better future. Shant Karnikian thought so his first day at law school and this is his story.
‘It was the beginning of a dream come true’
For Shant Karnikian, an Armenian-American from North Hollywood, 2009 was the beginning of a dream come true; he was in his first year at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. In three years, if he did well and passed the California bar exam, he would make his parents proud, join a profession which promised an excellent income — more than enough to repay his $200,000 in student loans — and have the prestige of being a lawyer.
Early in that first year, Karnikian would demonstrate real initiative by applying for a summer scholarship to study international law in Paris at a summer program conducted by Cornell University.
While these scholarships had before only been given to second-year students, the selection committee was impressed, both by the fact that this first-year student would apply, and by one of the most compelling personal statements they had ever received. It read:
“It is my profound political and personal sense of injustice as an Armenian that drew me to the study of law, our culture’s best hope for achievement of social justice when all other avenues — political, economic and [majority of opinion] — seem to be failing. It is the law that can transform issues of intense divisiveness, like the civil rights movement, into opportunities for us to heal our cultural wounds and reunite as a national community. Law strengthens the promise of social justice for future generations.
“These believes drove me to want to become a lawyer,” his statement concluded.
Stated one member of the panel, “Here is someone who understands injustice firsthand, from what happened to his family in the Armenian genocide. We can be confident that he will use his legal education in the cause of justice.”
After studying that summer in Paris, Karnikian went on to complete his law studies and passed the bar exam in the summer of 2012 — the first time, itself quite an accomplishment. The day he was sworn in as a lawyer, his parents — both teachers — cried with the joy of every parent whose son has indeed made them proud.
And then reality hit, for Karnikian and thousands of other law grads across America.
‘No longer a guaranteed path to success, prestige and financial stability’
Pittsburgh attorney Sally Kane used to practice law, but after having her second child, could no longer afford the 60-70 hours a week this profession demanded. Now she writes about legal careers for About.com, PaperStreet and other publications. The highly regarded journalist has this advice for anyone considering law as a career in today’s America:
“A career as a lawyer is no longer a guaranteed path to success, prestige and financial stability. The legal climate has changed tremendously in the last five years. A large surplus of new lawyers, combined with average law school debt of $100,, has made law school a less appealing choice for many would-be lawyers. Generally, only top graduates from the best schools earn the highest salaries. Most earn less than $100,000 a year if they can find a job in law. Students considering a career should understand the realities of the present job market.”
Supply and demand = unemployment train wreck
The laws of supply and demand are real. When you’ve got a little of a needed item — a product or service— and everyone wants it, then it commands a higher price. But with too much and more produced, the price falls. It might remain on shelves for a long time before being sold, if it is ever sold.
For Karnikian and thousands of other law grads across America, it is an unemployment train wreck.
“Today, at least half of my friends from law school who have passed the bar are unsold products, sitting on the shelves, because no one will ‘buy’ them,” Karnikian observes.
Next time, we’ll look at what caused this glut of lawyers and have specific recommendations for anyone considering law.