Chasing Paper: The Economics of Attending Law School in the 21st Century
Ryan, Christopher James
The factors that enter into the decision to enroll in tertiary education, as well as their outcomes, are well documented. For instance, student preferences in enrollment decisions, the salience of financial aid in the decision to matriculate, and the economic returns to tertiary schooling are established concepts in the undergraduate education literature. Yet, scholars know much less about these concepts in the context of professional graduate education, including legal education. In three separate investigations that coalesce around these central economic questions, this dissertation finds: as results from an original survey indicate, that choice is a multifactorial process where students exhibit different preferences according to the law schools they attend; that increases to financial aid awards in order to incentivize prospective students to enroll in law school may not have the desired effect or be a sustainable practice; and that the wage returns to law school graduates are stratified based on academic performance, institutional ranking, and gender. Together, these chapters answer questions about the economics of legal education from the perspective of prospective law students, law schools, and graduates of law schools, encompassing the lifecycle of the student experience in an important sector of professional graduate education. This dissertation provides crucial insight into legal education in a time of diminished demand for legal training and legal services.