Co-sponsored by the Law and Society Association and the S.J. Quinney College of Law
Professor of Criminology, Law & Society and Interim Dean, University of California, Irvine
12:15 – 1:15 p.m., S.J. Quinney College of Law, Flynn Faculty Scholarship Room (6500)
There is a long line of sociological research about a common story of students at the best law schools: students may begin their legal education with the goal of becoming a public interest lawyer, but many will opt for a job in a corporate firm, hoping to keep their future career options “flexible.” One explanation for this shift in career trajectory is the burden of law school debt; the story goes that financial debt trumps students’ commitments to social justice. In the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession, the question of law student indebtedness has posed a “crisis” not only in legal education—where almost overnight the students graduating from elite schools found that they were no longer assured of those top paying, law firm jobs—but also across the larger field of higher education. Within the field of legal education, this crisis contributed to increasing demands for law schools to provide practical, hands-on experience for their students. There have been recent calls in forums such as the New York Times to add nuance to the debate around indebtedness, particularly as it relates to students’ educational achievements and earning potential. Law students in particular may carry heavy debt loads when they complete their degrees, but the question of how that debt shapes their career choices lacks clear answers. And the issue of law student indebtedness continues to pose a fundamental policy question about the future of legal education in the United States.
We will present the preliminary results from on ongoing, quasi-experimental, longitudinal study of law students at UCI Law, beginning with the inaugural class of 2012 and covering the graduating class of 2014. Through surveys administered to students as they enter UCI Law and then again after graduation, a rare data collection opportunity, we are able to discuss changes over time in the goals of these law students, the degree to which they believe their legal education prepared them for their careers, and whether indebtedness shaped their own career choices.
Lunch provided. 1 hour of CLE (pending).