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Practicing law becomes a second tier job

The debt incurred and lack of jobs may not be the only reason law schools have seen plummeting enrollment. Being a lawyer now ranks 51st in the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings of the 100 best jobs. And the methodology used for the rankings may give practicing law a boost.

So what’s better than being a lawyer? Computer and health care jobs dominate the top 10, with software developer at the top. Part of this is because job prospects, growth rate and employment rate account for 60 percent of the scoring in the methodology. Among the 40 other jobs ranking higher than lawyer were massage therapist, 27; skin care specialist (which I didn’t know is called an esthetician), 29; maintenance worker, 32; high school teacher, 40; medical equipment repairer, 47; nail technician, 49; and middle school teacher, 50.

Here’s why I think the methodology may help lawyering’s rank. As noted, a majority of the scoring considers job prospects and the like, something that hurts the legal profession. But median salary is the single largest component at 30 percent. At $113,000, the median salary for lawyers is twice that of the highest paying of the seven jobs above (high school teacher) and nearly six times that of the lowest (nail technician).

Moreover, the lowest components in the scoring are stress and work-life balance at five percent each. U.S. News observes that lawyers rank high (the worst score possible) in stress level and below average (the next to worst score) in flexibility. If those qualitative life factors are considered more important in defining one’s “best” job, lawyers certainly move down in the rankings.

But, with no offense intended, at least I’m not a professional painter (not the artistic kind). It took last.


The lawyers—tell me why a hearse horse snickers hauling a lawyer’s bones.

Carl Sandburg, “The Lawyers Know Too Much”

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