Goldman Sachs CEO: 'The most you get out of law school is debt'

Lloyd Blankfein
Joe Raedle | Getty Images

A traditional law degree can cost over $100,000 and three years of your life.

Is it worth it?

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who attended Harvard Law and practiced law for five years before getting into finance, seems to think not.

"Of course, you get a lot out of law school — you learn a lot — but the most you get out of law school is debt," Blankfein recently told a group of Goldman interns.

There are numbers to back his claim. "Law school student debt has ballooned, rising from about $95,000 among borrowers at the average school in 2010 to about $112,000 in 2014," Noam Schieber of the New York Times reported. Part of this trend is due to the increasing cost of tuition, which is now over $40,000 a year on average for private institutions.

Additionally, there are fewer jobs available for lawyers, meaning more grads may not even be able to put their expensive degree to use.

"While demand for other white-collar jobs has grown substantially since the start of the recession, law firms and corporations are finding they can make do with far fewer in-house lawyers than before, squeezing those just starting their careers," Schieber explained.

Part of the reason law firms are facing smaller headcounts is because of "growing efficiencies created by technology and business systems and increased competition from nontraditional legal services providers," James G. Leipold, the executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, told the Times.

That said, top law school graduates at major firms are doing better than ever and making more money than ever.

"The top graduates earn a median salary that will now start at $180,000, but that represented only about 17 percent of the reported salaries in 2014," reported Steven Davidoff Solomon of the Times. "For the lucky few who get jobs at these big firms, law school is a good investment. "

Of course, to be among that 17 percent, you would have to go to a top 10 school — or be the best at a non-top 10 institution. For everyone else, things are much harder. According to Solomon, "about half had a median starting salary of $40,000 to $65,000" in 2014.

Despite the ballooning student debt, shrinking job market, and pay discrepancies between those at the top and everyone else, data does show that most law graduates end up earning more than they would have if they didn't go to law school, even after factoring in debt accrued.

The bottom line: Law school is a major investment. While you may come out with a lot of debt, as Blankfein noted, it can also pay huge dividends if you claw your way to the top at a major firm.

Not to mention, it worked for Blankfein, the billionaire CEO of Goldman.

Lloyd Blankfein
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
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