Monday, October 3, 2011
Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the remarkably high number of graduates of the class of 2009 who failed to obtain jobs as lawyers. When confronted with data like this, law schools respond that the dismal job placement rate is a recent phenomenon, a product of the current recession, suggesting that things were fine before and all will be well once again when the legal market rebounds. It’s wrong to isolate on and condemn law schools, they say, for results that reflect a historically bad time for jobs across the economy.
The problem with this response is that it is not true.
While it is correct that the recession exacerbated matters, things were not fine before, as demonstrated by the following chart, plotting the year before the recession, 2007 (in red), alongside 2009 (in blue). Notice that at many law schools--including schools ranked in the top 100--twenty percent or more of graduates of the class of 2007 failed to obtain jobs as lawyers (nine months after graduation).
Although the overall placement rate in lawyer jobs was indeed higher in 2007, prior to the implosion of the legal market that nailed the class of 2009, the same basic pattern held: ninety percent or more of the students at top law schools landed lawyer jobs while a significant percentage of graduates at many schools outside the elite did not. ... On a fairly consistent basis, almost one third of law graduates in the past decade have not obtained jobs as lawyers, and the above chart suggests that this is disproportionately the case at the lower ranked law schools. ...
Law schools wooing the next crop of incoming students will no doubt use the line that the employment situation is bad now because of the recession, but things will get better when the legal market turns around. And they will tell prospective students that three and a half years between now and their anticipated graduation is plenty of time for the job recovery to take place.
Don't buy it. There is no sign that the legal market will improve. And even if it does, at many law schools one-out-of three or one-out-of four graduates will not get jobs as lawyers.