The Real Law School Problem
by Daniel Luzer
I this blog I’ve written a great deal about law schools and the changing economics they’ll face due to hiring in the legal profession. In particular, because law firms aren’t hiring as aggressively as they were before the 2007 recession, law school is now looking like a pretty risky investment, and so applications are declining.
Here’s how dramatically law firms aren’t hiring:
In 2007, 74 percent of those who graduated from law school found full-time employment as lawyers. In 2011 only 59.8 percent of graduates had full-time legal jobs. In 2007 only 5.8 percent of graduates were unemployed. Now about 12 percent of graduates aren’t working.
This comes from a piece by Jordan Weissmann over at The Atlantic, who emphasized that a large part of the reason for the bad numbers is that too many people were graduating from law school.
There were about 37,123 jobs for new lawyers in 2007 and about 35,653 jobs in 2007, but there were also more law school graduates in 2011 than in 2007.
There is one reason to think the situation might improve, however. Weissmann explains that the number of students applying to law school has dropped, so there will likely be fewer lawyers, about 36,000 of them, graduating from law school in 2016 (there were 44,495 in 2011). But 36,000 isn’t so bad, if there are still about 35,000 jobs for new lawyers in 2016, as there have been over the last decade.
But this is an optimistic projection, Weissmann explains. This will only happen if the legal market basically stabilizes. If firms cut positions due to decreased demand for lawyers, it’s not going to work so nicely in three years.