Letter to the Editor: Skyrocketing cost of law school robbing communities of next generation of attorneys

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I want to chime in on the recent conversation on the Daily Muddy show between Brittany (Boll), Bob (Gough) and Bret Austin about the shortage of attorneys in Adams County.

The issue with attorney shortages in small cities and rural areas goes beyond public defenders and state’s attorneys. In my experience as a young attorney, positions in small cities and rural areas frankly just don’t pay enough when compared to the skyrocketing cost of attending law school. 

My alma mater, the Washington University School of Law, publishes its own cost of attendance statistics. By their estimation, the per year cost of attendance in 2023 (tuition plus fees, books, room and board, etc.) is $90,714. For three years of law school, that’s $272,142. The University of Illinois College of Law, a public law school, estimates its three-year cost of attendance as $182,871 for Illinois residents. These numbers do not reflect the additional cost of obtaining an undergraduate degree, which you need to get before attending law school. 

Most young attorneys who work in small cities and rural areas do not make five times what public defenders and state’s attorneys make. Though they may bill their clients around $150 per hour for their services, young associate attorneys in these places are fortunate to get paid more than $40 per hour by their employers (based on a 40-hour week — though most lawyers I know work more than 40 hours a week). 

I had classmates in law school look at positions in small cities and rural areas. Most of them determined that they could not make that sort of salary work with their student debt burden. This is not a knock on law firms in small cities and rural areas. It’s an indictment of how expensive law school has become. The skyrocketing cost of attending law school is robbing communities of the next generation of attorneys.

Nicholas A. Scholz
St. Louis, Missouri

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