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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Deborah Jones Merritt: Number of Full-Time Jobs Will Not Exceed Number of Law School Grads Until 2021

Following up on yesterday's post, Number of Full-Time Jobs Will Exceed Number of Law School Grads by 2016:  Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), When Will Graduates = Jobs?:

Professor Paula Young, of the Appalachian School of Law, predicts that the number of full-time jobs for law graduates will exceed the number of graduates by 2016. Excluding nonprofessional jobs from the tally, she calculates that sufficient full-time jobs will be available for JD grads by 2017. Are the calculations correct?

Unfortunately, no. ...

If current trends in law school applications and admissions continue, the number of JDs will fall–but not quite as quickly as Professor Young predicts. ...

Class of 2010: 49,082 students entered; 44,258 graduated.
Class of 2011: 49,414 students entered; 44,495 graduated.
Class of 2012: 51,646 students entered; 46,478 graduated.
Class of 2013: 52,488 students entered; predict 47,239 graduates.
Class of 2014: 48,697 students entered; predict 43,827 graduates.
Class of 2015: 44,481 students entered; predict 40,033 graduates.
Class of 2016: 40,923 students entered; predict 36,264 graduates.
Class of 2017: predict 37,649 students will enter; predict 33,884 will graduate.
Class of 2018: predict 34,637 students will enter; predict 31,173 will graduate.
Class of 2019: predict 31,866 students will enter; predict 28,679 will graduate.
Class of 2020: predict 29,317 students will enter; predict 26,385 will graduate.
Class of 2021: predict 26,972 students will enter; predict 24,275 will graduate.

How will the number of graduates compare to the number of available jobs? Let’s take a look, using Professor Young’s assumption that future jobs will parallel the ones available to the Class of 2012. ...

The Class of 2012 found only 30,453 full-time, long-term jobs that drew upon their law degrees (either by requiring bar admission or offering a JD advantage). That number of jobs won’t satisfy even a very slimmed-down Class of 2018. Even if law school enrollment continues to drop 8% per year, a daunting prospect for law school budgets, we won’t be able to celebrate a match between graduates and jobs until the spring of 2020, when the Class of 2019 registers its employment results. ...

All of the above calculations assume that future JDs will be satisfied with JD Advantage jobs. That seems like a dubious assumption. We know that recent graduates have not been satisfied with those jobs. Among 2011 graduates, 46.8% of those with JD Advantage jobs reported that they were seeking other work. Graduates have been taking JD Advantage jobs to survive, but they are not satisfied with those positions.

In the future, this is even more likely to be true. As the cost of law school has mounted and the job market has tightened, pre-law advisers, the media, and even legal educators have advised students: “Go to law school only if you know you want to be a lawyer or have another well formulated plan for using a law degree.” That advice makes sense in the current climate–and it means that future graduates are even more likely than current ones to expect full-time, long-term positions that require bar admission.

The Class of 2012 found only 26,066 of those jobs. Assuming that law school enrollment continues to drop 8% a year, while jobs remain steady, when will all law school graduates be able to find full-time, long-term jobs that require bar admission?


Legal Education | Permalink


The truth is that, as law professors, we have no idea. Unless one has a background in statistical theory, economics, forecasting, etc. - we're just guessing.

Posted by: ann | Nov 23, 2013 2:08:50 PM

All of this is guesswork; no one really knows. Law schools should look at medical schools and try to train real professionals instead of guessing the market demand.

Posted by: michael livingston | Nov 24, 2013 3:32:43 AM

Medical schools DO guess at market demand, Michael, at least with regards to the number of residencies available.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 24, 2013 10:01:47 AM

The problem in one sentence: There are too many law students, chasing too few law jobs, taking on too much law debt.

I wish that all law faculty would acknowledge the problem. That they don't and fight the truth is what is infuriating about it. There is great hyperbole, and not all of them are the monsters that some of the cybervenom makes them out to be. But they'd have a lot more credibility if they acknowledged and addressed the problem, rather than ignoring it or fighting with critics.

Posted by: Bobby Dobb | Nov 24, 2013 1:37:34 PM