Thursday, September 6, 2012
Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), More Bad News From the BLS:
I posted earlier this week about the Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for attorney job openings. To recap briefly, the BLS projects only 218,800 openings between 2010 and 2020--or 21,880 openings per year. Accredited law schools are currently producing about 45,000 JDs per year, more than twice the number of available jobs. Even if schools cut enrollment by 20%, a relatively dramatic move, we will finish the decade with more than 200,000 JDs who can't find jobs as lawyers.
But that's just the beginning of the bad news. Those 218,800 projected jobs are not all full-time, secure jobs with good salaries and benefits. The BLS counts all positions -- part-time, full-time, temporary, or permanent -- as "jobs." (I confirmed that fact directly with a helpful BLS staff member.) Notably for the legal profession, the projected openings include individuals who will open solo practices. ...
But even if we ... assume that the BLS has correctly targeted the number of lawyer jobs, law schools are producing far too many lawyers. It is sheer arrogance to suggest that we can force the economy to create more lawyer jobs simply because our graduates are bright and eager. And it is dangerously deceptive to keep encouraging large numbers of students to go to law school because "the economy will turn around" or "there will be more jobs when you graduate." The BLS has already assumed that the economy will turn around: A fully turned, full-employment economy will produce 218,800 openings for lawyers this decade--leaving more than 200,000 new lawyers holding JD-sized debts and BA-sized jobs.