Students vow to chase the American Dream despite new reality

Students seek ways to separate themselves from the pack

Published: Monday, Feb. 4 2013 2:50 p.m. MST

On the qualitative side, Carlton encourages students to “be heavily engaged,” by getting to know professors, volunteering, completing internships, and networking within the classroom.

The calculation becomes: Work hard, do well, find something that separates you from others and realistically weigh the cost (benefit) of education versus the market (opportunity) available following graduation.

“Law school is so very much worthwhile,” said Vince Rampton, a shareholder at Utah-based Jones Waldo law firm.  “It’s still a very good bet.”

Rampton said that despite the state of the economy, there’s always a need for good attorneys and that the field was quick to bounce back after the recession.

“Jones Waldo had to cut back during the recession but we’re moving past that now. We are actively recruiting, have people coming in on clerkships, and have the brightest new attorneys that can be found anywhere in the state,” Rampton said.

Warr said he is careful in calculating the value of a law degree, with the average student debt from private schools reaching $125,000 and about $75,000 for public schools.

“If I feel like I’m going to get a fantastic education at a top law school, I’m willing to incur significant debt,” Warr said. “If I don’t get into those schools, I’ll be happy getting a solid education at an affordable in-state school, without the debt”

The Washington Post reported that of the 44,000 law graduates in the class of 2011, only half had full-time jobs as attorneys within nine months of graduation.

Work and preparation

Diane Ward, program manager and career counselor at the University of Utah, says she encourages students to follow their dreams, despite the risk of significant debt.

“If a student comes into my office and says it’s always been their dream to get an MBA, am I going to pop that balloon? Of course not,” Ward says.  

She listed five things she advises all students to do if they are serious about getting into graduate school or getting their dream job: Find internships, put in the time for work experience, network, create a great resume, and be educated about what schools and employers are looking for.

“If a student is able to graduate with two-three internships, they are going to be a better practitioner of the field,” Ward said. “Having been out there and doing the business makes you so much more sophisticated.”

“GPA is important, but it’s not the end-all be-all,” Ward said. “One of the greatest fears of employers is hiring someone with a great GPA and no experience at all.”

E-mail: mmellor@deseretnews.com