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The Economic Value of a Law Degree

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  • Michael Simkovic
  • Frank McIntyre

Abstract

We investigate the economic value of a law degree and find that for most law school graduates, the present value of a law degree typically exceeds its cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars. The median and 25th-percentile earnings premiums justify enrollment. We track lifetime earnings of a large sample of law degree holders. Previous studies focused on starting salaries, generic professional degree holders, or the subset of law degree holders who practice law. We incorporate unemployment and disability risk and measure earnings premiums separately for men and for women. After controlling for observable ability sorting, we find that a law degree is associated with median increases of 73 percent in earnings and 60 percent in hourly wages. The mean annual earnings premium is approximately $57,200 in 2013 dollars. Values in recent years are within historical norms. The mean pretax lifetime value of a law degree is approximately $1 million.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Simkovic & Frank McIntyre, 2014. "The Economic Value of a Law Degree," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 249-289.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:doi:10.1086/677921
    DOI: 10.1086/677921
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Markovic, Milan & Plickert, Gabriele, 2019. "The paradox of minority attorney satisfaction," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(C).
    2. McIntyre, Frank & Simkovic, Michael, 2018. "Are law degrees as valuable to minorities?," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 23-37.

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