The NYT (April 4, 2009, Adam Cohen) had an article on the legal profession and the recession:
For years, law school tuition rose along with big-firm salaries. Between 1990 and 2003, the cost of private law schools rose at nearly three times the rate of consumer prices. The average graduate now leaves with more than $80,000 in debt...
More schools may follow the lead of Northwestern, the first top-tier law school to offer a two-year program.
Astute readers can see that the high debt load and the length of most legal study programs are related. The third year of law school is usually unnecessary, unless students participate mainly in clinics or other programs that provide practical experience. My third year, I worked part time in a law firm. By year three, most law students are finished with their core bar classes and are spending most of their time looking for jobs or working. How much are they paying for this privilege of looking for work, interning for free, or working part-time? About $40,000 for some private law schools.
I have always said big law firms were pyramid schemes. At some point, all pyramid schemes collapse under their own weight. You can only get so top-heavy before something gets crushed.