Something that would be even more interesting to know is the extent to which arguments that a JD is or at least was "versatile" have any basis in reality, since as even Smith acknowledges there's simply no longitudinal data on this issue.
I've just discovered NALP has done a careful and comprehensive study of this issue, and is in the process of publishing its findings:
It turns out that the JD degree prepares you for a variety of exciting jobs and careers. While many law school graduates go on to practice law, many others go on to play leadership roles in a variety of settings. Many law school graduates obtain positions for which Bar Passage, or even a JD, is not required, but their legal training is deemed to be an advantage or even necessary in the workplace. As the saying goes "you can do almost anything with a law degree!"It's hard to overstate the significance of this finding, since the federal government currently estimates that the economy is generating 21,700 new jobs for attorneys per year, which is slightly less than half the number of people graduating from ABA law schools. In other words, NALP's research has discovered that the combined total of new annual jobs that require bar admission, and those new professional positions for which a JD provides a significant competitive advantage is or should be close to providing full employment in appropriate positions for new law graduates.
You will see that JD Advantage positions are jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law in the traditional sense. However, in these positions, a JD provides an advantage in obtaining or performing the job. In fact, many graduates view entry-level opportunities with the federal government or in business/industry as a primary goal. For every law firm, public sector, or in-house legal position, there is an equally important law-related position for which a JD is a significant competitive advantage. (emphasis added)
NALP's announcement is especially encouraging, in that the individual profiles it uses to put faces on this longitudinal study, which are no doubt representative of the underlying data, indicate that these "JD Advantage" jobs are especially advantageous to minorities, women, graduates of low-ranked law schools, and minority women graduates of low-ranked law schools. This finding makes me especially embarrassed that I asserted in yesterday's post that law school promotional efforts are intentionally targeting members of traditionally under-represented groups, who are especially vulnerable to suffering long-term damage from what I (mistakenly it turns out) characterized as the poor state of the employment market for new law graduates.
I will post much more about this as soon as I have a chance to analyze the study itself, which does not appear to be linked on NALP's web page announcing these extraordinarily important conclusions. In any case, it appears this entire blog has been based on a serious misapprehension, and apologies are in order to a great many people within legal academia who have been arguing that a law degree remains an excellent long term investment for almost everyone who acquires one.
See also (h/t commenter)