Declining Interest in Political Future for Lawyers

I found this article quite interesting. It discusses the declined interest of future lawyers into entering political careers.

The advantages of a law degree in politics seem clear: the prior intensive study and understanding of the laws. Those in politics are, after all, the ones responsible for drafting those laws which frame our society. Despite this, there has been a decline in the overall number of lawyers serving in Congress. The House of Representatives is down to 24% from a 43% high in the 1960s, and the Senate is down to 37% from a 51% high in the 1970s.

Among the potential reason for the pre-law students' lack of interest in a political life are the following:

  • Character assassination and mudslinging -- Whereas campaigns of times past may have been bitter behind the scenes, there wasn't as much nastiness in the popular media, or at least it appears that way.
  • Inability to make progress, more partisan gridlock-- perhaps this can also be considered as a less-idealist class, students feel that they wouldn't be able to affect the change they would want to due to political partisanship.
  • Salaries in public service not enough to pay back monstrous debt-- law school comes with a hefty price tag, and entering public service is not one of the fastest ways to pay it back.

According to data submitted by 191 ranked law schools to U.S. News the average law student graduated with  $100,433 worth of debt in 2011.

Additionally, a recent Kaplan Test Prep report, which surveyed over 700 pre-law students regarding their interest in running for political office, only 38% indicated an interest in politics after graduation. This is compared with a 54% interest reported in 2009.

Thus, the political arena is losing its luster for lawyers. But one has to wonder whether times like these, with the perceived mudslinging, and failure to make progress, isn't one where lawyers are needed most. Many schools require courses in negotiations, and legal writing courses often require students to argue opposite sides of a case. Perhaps legalistic altruism would go a long way in modern day politics.