Law Schools to Students: Give Up

The WSJ has this depressing article describing how law schools are encouraging their graduates to move to rural communities. Rather than cloak their motives in the language of “helping the underserved,” they have a more market-oriented focus:

But for many students, the largest impediment to a small-town legal career is the debt they carry from law school, according to Allan Vestal, dean of the law school at Drake. “Small firms in small towns just don’t have the same kind of pay structures that larger firms in larger cities do,” he said.

The rural areas’ biggest selling point is jobs, which have been hard for law graduates to land in recent years due to a nationwide glut of lawyers and a slump in the legal industry since the 2008 financial crisis.

I guess it’s easier than telling them to try their best and compete. The article also notes the many advantages that urban areas bring. Besides cultural opportunities, there’s one other expected difference:

Salaries at firms in big cities can start around $160,000. But in Midwest small-towns, salaries tend to start in the low-to-mid-five figures, said Mr. Garland.

Why do companies in cities pay more? In part it’s the cost of living. But as economists are coming to understand, people who work around others are more productive and successful. Those who move to “where the action isn’t” might not just be making a temporary adjustment to a bad market, they might be setting themselves on a permanent course, whether they realize it or not.

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