Law School Transparency has produced a clearinghouse of collated employment and salary data for the class of 2010 at all ABA law schools. LST took the numbers reported by schools themselves, USNWR, and the ABA and created a series of metrics that attempt to measure, within the limitations of the available data, how many graduates of particular schools got jobs, what those jobs pay, and whether these outcomes are minimally acceptable, given the cost of acquiring a law degree from the schools in question.
Let's select a random law school to see how it works. RLS has an "employment score" of 59%, which means that 59% of the class had, nine months after graduation, a job requiring a law degree, if we don't count solo practitioners or people known to be employed temporarily by a law firm. (Why LST excluded only temp jobs with law firms from the employment score, as opposed to all temporary jobs, is unclear, but I imagine it has to do with the difficulty of coming up with a consistent metric in the context of inconsistently available information across law schools).
RLS has an "underemployment score" of 24.6%, which consists of unemployed graduates, all graduates working part-time, and all graduates working full-time in "non-professional" (not merely non-legal) positions. This number attempts to capture the percentage of the class that had an unambiguously bad outcome, given why people go to law school.
50.3% of RLS's class was employed and reported a salary. At least 10.7% of the class had a salary of $80,000 or more. This latter number represents the number private sector salaries at or above the median reported salary for that sector.
The non-discounted cost of attendance with debt at RLS for the entering class of 2012 is estimated to be $193,290. This number is derived by extrapolating the likely total cost of (non-resident) tuition and living expenses for a 2012 matriculant, assuming a 3% annual tuition increase and a 2% annual COL increase, then assuming this sum will be 100% debt-financed at current rates, then calculating what the graduate's total debt will be in the summer of 2015.
These numbers represent just a piece of the picture that LST has put together. There's much more information here -- for example what percentage of graduates are getting federal clerkships, and big firm jobs, and public interest jobs, and jobs funded by their own schools. A particularly nice feature is LST's attempt to reconstruct as much of the 2010 NALP forms as possible of the three quarters or so of ABA schools which have refused to release this data, which as LST points out could be scanned and uploaded to a school's web site in about five minutes. (Here's the list of the schools which have released their NALP data).
I encourage readers to browse through LST's numbers in regard to a few of their favorite legal academic institutions, to begin to get a sense of the extent to which the advertised price of legal education no longer bears any rational relationship to the economic outcomes the typical law school graduate can expect from that education.
What's happened in legal academia is roughly analogous to walking into a car dealership for the first time in 20 years, and seeing that the MSRP of a seven-year old Ford Focus is $75,000, while that of a top of the line new Lexus is $85,000. If cars were priced like that the sales of seven-year-old compact cars would instantly fall to zero. But legal education doesn't work like that, apparently because it's literally priceless.
Speaking of priceless, throw these people, who have performed this extremely valuable public service for free, some money. In the alternative, if you're affiliated with Vanderbilt's or NYU's law school, you might try to help your alums out a little more, so that your extremely intelligent, hard-working, and public-spirited graduates don't end up with quite so much time on their hands.