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For Big Bucks, Avoid Law School, Says Law Professor
Lawyers Average Less Than Doctor's Assistants or Even Scrum Masters
Moreover, the outlook for new law grads is even worse, with far more students graduating from law school each year than there are any jobs requiring a J.D. degree, many graduates unable to even pass the bar to become eligible to practice, and loads of previously available positions increasingly being eliminated by new technology, he says.
According to a new study by Glassdoor of the 25 highest-paying jobs in Americans, lawyers are at the very bottom with a medium basesalary of only $94,695, only 50% of a physician's medium salary; a figure which includes not just recent graduates, but all practicing attorneys. Moreover, lawyers are not even included in Glassdoor's list of the best jobs, a rating which included not just salary, but also job satisfaction and the availability of positions.
This puts attorneys below more than 20 much better paying jobs including not just physicians who make about twice as much [$187,876], but even pharmacists [$125,847, 67%], nurse practitioners [$104,144, 55%], and physician assistants [$112,529, 59%], two professions very much in demand.
In other words, you can earn much more helping doctors, and providing drugs to their patients, than spending north of $100,000 on the average for a law degree, and then facing the very real risk - between failing the bar and an over supply of newly minted J.D.s - of not even being able to become a lawyer, argues Banzhaf.
The one major exception in terms of income is as a patent attorney [$139,272, 74%]; a base salary not too far behind that of a doctor.
Ironically, lawyers even make less than scrum masters [$95,167]; people who help build agile development teams, not scrums, noted Banzhaf.
You should go to law school if you want to help improve the world by bringing public interest legal actions, says Banzhaf, one of the nation's leading legal activists, but not to make big bucks or for the prestige.
This study reminds us that, while a few top lawyers make millions each year, and a very few graduates can make about $200,000 just out of law school, about half make less than $95,000, even after a lifetime of building their careers.
With regard to prestige, Banzhaf suggests that an interesting gauge may be the jokes people tell about different professions.
Doctor jokes poke fun at their high salaries, their love of golf, and their sometimes uncaring attitude ("take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning"), while jokes about TV news reporters may portrays them as bubble heads more interested in their hair than in accurate reporting.
But only jokes about lawyers tend to be truly vicious, comparing them to manure, vampires, sharks, lab rats, vultures, or even toxic waste dumps, and inventing even more ways to kill them.
The following is a small sample from the many lawyer jokes Banzhaf has collected, and used to show the very low prestige in which most lawyers are held.
Q: Why do sharks help rescue lawyers who fall overboard?
A: Professional courtesy!
NOTE: There are actually candies similar to gummy bears called "GUMMY LAWYERS" -- they are molded into the shape of a shark and, like attorneys, leave a bad taste in your mouth. There is also a T-shirt showing a hungry shark with a tie and briefcase -- it says "DON'T FEED THE LAWYERS"].
Q: What should you do if you find a lawyer buried up to his neck in sand?
A: Get more sand!
Q: Why should we use lawyers instead of lab rats for medical experiments?
A: They replicate themselves faster, do things rats won't do, and are less likely to be missed!
Q: What do you call 2000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A: A good beginning!
Q: Why does California have the most lawyers, and New Jersey the most toxic waste dumps?
A: New Jersey had first choice!
Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a vampire?
A: A vampire only sucks blood at night!
Q: What's brown and black and looks good on any lawyer?
A: A vicious Doberman!
Q: What happens when a lawyer steps into a pile of cow manure?
A: It looks like he's melting!
Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a bucket of manure?
A: The bucket!
Q: What's the difference between vultures and lawyers?
A: Vultures don't get frequent-flyer discounts!
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),
2000 H Street, NW, Wash, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418