Many US students pursue law for public-spirited reasons

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Many undergraduates in the US want to go to law school because of public-spirited reasons, a new study has found.

A Gallup survey said that 44% of respondents are considering a juris doctor degree (JD) because they see it as a pathway for a career in politics, government, or public service. Only 6% of respondents considering other advanced degrees said the same.

There were 35% of respondents who said that a JD would help them with opportunities to be helpful to others and would be useful to society or to giving back. That is compared to 24% who thought the same of other advanced degrees.

The survey also found that 32% said they are interested in a JD to advocate for social change, compared to 7% that said they want to pursue other advanced degrees to do the same.

Gallup found that 52% of those interested in other advanced degrees are looking at studying because they are passionate or have a high interest in the type of work. A lower 42% who are looking at pursuing a JD said the same.

The most considered advanced degree is an MA or an MS (63%), followed by a PhD (34%), an MBA (23%), a JD (15%), an MD (14%) and other master’s-level degrees (10%).

From 2010 to 2015, there was a sharp decline in applications and enrolments in law schools across the US. The study was conducted because there was a dearth of information about why students wanted to pursue a JD.

The study was conducted by Gallup for the Association of American Law Schools. It gathered responses from 22,189 undergraduate students and 2,727 first year law students. It was sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the AccessLex Institute, the American Bar Foundation, the Law School Admission Council, and the National Association for Law Placement.