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April 12, 2013 04:16 PM

The Law School Jobs Problem Is Worse than We Thought

by Daniel Luzer

I’ve written before about the structural problems with the legal profession. Due to the contraction of the economy in the Great Recession, they’re simply not enough lucrative jobs available for all the lawyers, and all the law students, who assumed gigantic debt (the average student loan burden of new law school graduates is $125,000) in the hopes of becoming attorneys. If you went to a mediocre law school good luck paying off all that debt.

But the problem is more severe. Even people who went to really good law schools aren’t doing so well. As Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic writes.

The American Bar Association recently released its annual collection of jobs placement data from all 202 accredited law schools, and the big picture was… dreadful. Nine months after graduation, just 56 percent of the class of 2012 had found stable jobs in law — meaning full-time, long-term employment in a position requiring bar passage, or a judicial clerkship, i.e. the sorts of jobs people go to law school for in the first place. The figure had improved just 1 percent compared to the class of 2011.

No surprise there. But it’s more complicated.

Meanwhile, a full 27.7 percent were underemployed, meaning they were either in short-term or part-time jobs, jobless and hunting for work, or enrolled (read: burning cash) in another degree program.

These only-kinda-employed law school graduates aren’t just people who went to places like Appalachian School of Law. In fact there are only about 10 law schools in the United States of America with underemployment rates in the single digits. Even some very prestigious law schools appear to have pretty troublesome job statistics.

The underemployment rate for Duke Law School is 11.6 percent. For Cornell it’s 13.3. At UT Austin it’s 15.5 percent. Vanderbilt Law graduates have a 22 percent underemployment rate. At the University of Southern California the unemployment rate is almost 23 percent.

Stop the train. It’s time to get off. This country is just producing too many new lawyers.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer

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  • Rick B on Fri 12 Apr 2013 08:50 PM

    It's a damned shame that those students weren't going to Engineering school instead of law school, but why should they? Most engineers I have known topped out at about age 40 and had to get an MBA to be promoted into management. And management is a waste of engineering skills for the most part.

    Why is that true? Because the employers are hiring H1b engineering graduates at starvation wages, using them until their skills from recent college are obsolete, and then sending them home to compete with American companies.

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