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Monday, October 1, 2007

How much is a J.D. worth? 15 cents, Justice Thomas says

One of the interesting moments of Justice Clarence Thomas' interview on "6o Minutes" last night (see post below for more on the interview) came when the justice talked about the difficulty he had finding a job after receiving his J.D. in 1974. Despite having gone to an ivy-league law school (Yale), Thomas could not find a Big Firm willing to hire him.

In debt and jobless, the future justice came to view his law degree as not being worth 15 cents. In fact, to this day he keeps the degree in storage with a 15-cent price tag on the frame. (It bears mentioning that Thomas came to be of the view that affirmative action programs had diluted the value of his degree in the eyes of Big Firm employers.) Thomas did, of course , eventually land a job, but it wasn't a position at a Big Firm. Instead, Thomas was hired as an assistant attorney general in Missouri at $10,000 a year.

Thomas' experience raises several issues. One we have blogged about here before -- the problems more and more law students are facing in servicing their ever-growing debt loads when, for whatever reason, they don't wind up in a lucrative job at a Big Firm. (See "Are lawyers job prospects dimming?") It's a very important issue facing the profession and one that will be explored more fully in a future edition of Minnesota Lawyer.

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