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Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, October 20, 2008

3Ls Have $73k Average Debt, Bleak Job Prospects; 1Ls & 2Ls Face 33% Cut in Summer Associate Programs

In this week's National Law Journal:

A Grim Verdict Awaits Law Grads:  Lots of Debt, Very Few Law Firm Jobs, by Leigh Jones:

Nearly 44,000 law students nationwide will graduate next year with an average of about $73,000 in loan debt, according to numbers from the ABA.

And while most would-be lawyers already have accepted that only a small fraction will start their careers with a big-firm salary of $160,000, the past few weeks of economic chaos have caused many to wonder if any kind of attorney work is in their near future. ...

It is too early to tell to what extent law firms scaled back hiring this fall for summer associates in 2009. But James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), said that, anecdotally, law firms were more cautious in the offers they made. "For the class of 2009, it will be tough," he said. ...

The number of legal jobs nationwide is steadily declining, according to employment figures released this month by the U.S. Department of Labor. Jobs in the law sector shrank by 2,000 in September — the fifth consecutive month of losses. The legal work force of 1,165,100 was down by 1.15% from a year ago, when the industry employed 1,178,600 people.

Summer Associates Feel the Heat; As Economy Wilts, Firms Are Cutting Their Summer Programs, by Karen Sloan:

[T]here will be 30% to 35% fewer summer associate positions nationwide in 2009. ... Not surprisingly, the shrinking pool of summer associate spots is mostly due to the turbulent economy. Law firms are looking for ways to trim budgets, and cutting summer associates is one of the easiest ways to do that ... A handful of firms have canceled their summer associate programs in 2009, while a larger number of firms have quietly reduced the number of summer associates they plan to bring on.

With fewer summer associate spots available overall, some recruiters have noticed that law students seem to be casting a wider net as they search for positions. Students who in other years may have been firmly committed to securing a spot in a New York office are now willing to look in other cities or at smaller firms.

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When I can pick up box of knives without a brilliant corporate warning - "Do not stick knives in eyes or other body parts" - then I will consider this a bad thing. Now, no, the legal and public sector should shrink by at least half.

Posted by: Vercingetorix | Oct 20, 2008 10:10:14 AM

I'm trying to work up sympathy for potential lawyers, but can't do it.

I hope this is your way of pointing out that there are entirely too many lawyers now and people should prepare themselves for another line of work.

Let's work to end the No Ambulance Unchased Program.

Posted by: Person of Choler | Oct 20, 2008 10:26:38 AM

This is excellent news. Since practicing law costs society (it is not productive- it only redistributes other's earnings with a tax for doing so), and since there appears to be no appetite in the US to close law schools (the best way to limit the societal cost of an unproductive profession), and since prospective lawyers (like MBA's) are very sensitive to eventual pay-out, a marketplace signal that this is a disfavored occupation is the best form of feedback!

As Instapundit would say, more, please. Faster.

Posted by: anon | Oct 20, 2008 10:43:18 AM

I wonder if those state law schools that overcharge law students will ratchet tuition back somewhat. ;-)

Posted by: Joe G. | Oct 20, 2008 12:27:33 PM

Oh if only society were actually telling the world that it needed fewer lawyers. But that's not what's happening here. While there's no doubt that the number of lawyers costs society, there can also be no doubt that the number of lawyers and legal jobs has a positive correlation to the amount of growth in the economy (and hence business formations, investments, mergers, acquisitions, etc.).

No doubt that most of the legal jobs lost over the past year have NOT been those involving ambulance-chasing. If anything, those types of jobs will only increase. As long as the reams of legislation flow from Washington, we will have too many lawyers.

Posted by: Harold L. | Oct 20, 2008 3:26:08 PM

I'm sure the ABA, in it's typical fashion, surveyed only the "top" schools - which are the most expensive to attend. The students can whine about their debt, but ultimately it was their decisions that caused it to accumulate. As an example, one of our recently departed associates left law school with over $100k in debt, primarily because she had been told she had to attend the "top" school she could get into. After working for two years as a contract atty a one of the "top" firms where she couldn't get an associate's job, but which required her to reside in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the country, she arrived at my firm with a combined $250k in debt. She left after a year to return to the grind she had tried to escape because, and I quote, she could "make more money that way." Speaking as someone who attended a second rate public law school and worked his way through without loans or a fancy-schmancy summer internship and now makes a great living, tough shit.

Posted by: Hucklebuck | Oct 20, 2008 5:00:13 PM

No, the state schools, at least the one I'm attending, just made some of the largest increases in tuition in history over the last 2 years. This coming after a 25 million dollar grant to the school.
As a 3L at an allegedly top tier school, I'm finding it very diffcult to find a job, as are many of my classmates. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but it is what it is.

Posted by: R Simmons | Oct 20, 2008 6:16:22 PM

Yes, all the other poster on this thread are correct. The rising costs of law school is a good thing, it keeps the profession small and puts the practice of law out of reach for average people hoping to make a difference in society, and keeps it where it belongs, with rich kids from well to do families who dont need the money. Also, high debts will work to assure no lawyers, even with the bests of intentions, could work for poor people who need legal help most of all. Those poor people will get the treatment they deserve for being poor in the first place, hopefully from wealthy nepotic lawyers in big firms. Besides, the nation already has too many educated people. It needs more office clerks, contractors, insurance salespeople and car sales men...real 'down to earth, nonparasitic respectable jobs!

Posted by: abra | Dec 26, 2008 12:17:39 PM

Oh please. Clearly anyone who has posted above has not gone to law school. I did not go to an ivy law school - I went to Loyola New Orleans on a nearly full scholarship because I knew that I could not afford anything more. Even so, law schools have rules that you cannot work during at least your first year, and you have to live. Between undergrad and law school I ended up with $100,000 in debt. I graduated top of my class with many honors and after a YEAR of unemployment I finally found a great job where I'm paid well & highly valued.

Oh, and as to all of those people who think it's great there are less lawyers - do you realize that it's because there was less LEGAL oversight that the economy is collapsing? Do you know why in Henry VI he said "first kill all the lawyers"? Not because lawyers are bad and they deserve to die. Because lawyers protect our rights, and the easiest way to take over a country it to remove any legal protections.

I will continue at my job (that apparently you think shouldn't exist) where I "redistribute wealth" by going after the sub-prime mortgage goons and give it back to the poor mom & pop investors who have lost everything. I just wish it was jerks who believe that lawyers shouldn't exist that would be the only ones to get screwed over rather than all of the rest of us.

Posted by: K. Ernst | Dec 26, 2008 12:17:39 PM