Commissioned Research

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



value of a law degree, student loans, employment, personal well-being


By 2019, over 3 million Americans will be enrolled in a graduate program. This is an important and difficult choice for most students, given the time, money and uncertain job prospects associated with advanced degrees. The decision to attend law school is particularly challenging, as student loan burden and job market competitiveness have increased significantly since the end of the Great Recession. Furthermore, as noted by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, the legal profession is “at a crossroads” caused by a dwindling market share, waning public confidence and mental health issues among lawyers. These challenges call for a closer examination of the value of a law degree and its unique offerings compared with other advanced degrees.

The Gallup-AccessLex Institute study of Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree holders provides important insights for educators, employers, law school alumni and prospective students about the factors that contribute to great jobs, lives and experiences for law school graduates. A law degree is one of the most valuable advanced degrees as evaluated by law graduates and other degree holders. As described in the key findings, most law graduates strongly agree that they would still get a J.D. if given the opportunity to go back and do it all over again. Furthermore, nearly half strongly agree that their degree was worth the cost. While many recent law graduates have negative views of the J.D., graduates who are more advanced in their careers tend to have higher levels of well-being and more positive assessments of the value of a J.D.