Monday, December 10, 2012
Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Recession:
The percentage of graduates obtaining jobs as practicing lawyers, in other words, has been falling since 1988. The percentage drops sharply during recessions, and recovers modestly in the post-recession years, but those recoveries never match pre-recession highs. Each peak is lower than the last, and the trend since 2007 is straight down.
These facts suggest four things to me: (1) Overall, the U.S. employment market is still in serious trouble. (2) The market for entry-level lawyers is suffering even more--it has been declining since 1988. Even if the market returns to the "highs" of 2005-2007, one quarter of graduates will not find work that requires bar admission. (3) Demand for entry-level attorneys will not, in any event, return to 2005-2007 levels. The above trend-line suggests this is unlikely, and there are plenty of real market forces (technology, outsourcing, unbundling) powering that trend-line. (4) Law schools, large law firms, and NALP (which represents schools and large firms) have been obscuring these trends by highlighting "total employment," BigLaw hiring, and BigLaw salaries.