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Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, November 22, 2013

Young: Number of Full-Time Jobs Will Exceed Number of Law School Grads by 2016

From Brian Leiter:  The Red Velvet Lawyer, Prediction: Full-Time Jobs will Exceed New Law Graduates for Graduating Class of 2016, by Paula Marie Young (Appalachian)

At the conference of the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors held at the end of October 2013, Professor Jerry Organ predicted that jobs would exceed the number of law school graduates in 2016 (as I recall). He suggested that the market would turn because applicants to law school would continue to decline while the trend in new law jobs would hold at least steady.

So, here is my attempt at supporting this prediction. I am using data provided by LSAC at the MAPLA conference, which I have discussed in earlier postings. I am also relying on data provided by NALP. I make the following assumptions:

  • Enrollment of first-year law students will decline by 8.0% from the previous year through the 2015 entering class.
  • Each entering class experiences an attrition rate of 12 percent. So, only 88 percent of each first-year class graduates three years later.
  • New full-time jobs in three categories -- bar required, JD advantage, and other professional jobs -- will hold steady at the 2012 level of 31,776 jobs.
  • All categories of full-time jobs will hold steady at the 2012 level of 33,759 jobs.

If all these assumptions hold up, full-time jobs (in three categories) will exceed the number of graduates from law school in 2017. If I include all full-time jobs in the count, then those jobs will exceed law school graduates in 2016.

Legal Education | Permalink


Interesting that this post comes from a professor employed by a law school that has to be one of the top-5 most likely to close (Appalachian). According to LST, only "38.5% of graduates were known to be employed in long-term, full-time legal jobs." Over 30% were categorized as "non-employed" (not even flipping burgers or at Starbucks). The cost for this bright economic outlook -- a non-discounted rate of $193,000+. Perhaps the market is correcting, but this is one school that needs to close, even if the market does correct.

Posted by: JayP | Nov 22, 2013 5:26:30 AM

Breaking News: Non-parallel Lines Intersect

Posted by: James Milles | Nov 22, 2013 8:16:18 AM

And the very first response is a fallacious ad hominem! Cyberspace never disappoints!

Posted by: Brian | Nov 22, 2013 8:17:27 AM

And out of those 31,776 jobs perhaps 5,000 can support the debt load. So, there will still be a crisis.

The cost of tuition is a far worse problem than the unemployment.

Posted by: JM | Nov 22, 2013 8:17:52 AM

This is just getting desperate. People do not go to law school to become non-attorneys. The inclusion of JD-Advantage and "Other Professional" Jobs is an embarrassingly overt red herring in this analysis. Paralegals and sandwich professionals at Subway are not acceptable outcomes for law school graduates. Take those away, and we are at what, 21,000 jobs? 22,000? We are still a long ways off from seeing equilibrium between law school graduates and LAWYERING jobs, to say nothing of the six or seven year backlog of the un/underemployed such as myself.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 22, 2013 8:54:55 AM

What about the last line of the blog post? is nobody reading it?

"He also says: "The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects about 25,000 openings for lawyers each year through 2018 (new positions and replacements for departures) . . . ." Thus, if the discussion is confined to full-time jobs requiring bar passage, the decline in applicants to law school would need to be sharper and more sustained to ensure that every graduate got a job in that category."

Posted by: out of context | Nov 22, 2013 12:17:22 PM

What is the evidence that JD-Advantage and "other professional jobs" consist of paralegal work and working at Subway? Citations?

Posted by: Anon | Nov 22, 2013 12:36:12 PM

They also ignored all the unemployed lawyers who would compete with new law school grads for jobs.

Posted by: matt | Nov 22, 2013 2:13:28 PM

The calculations, unfortunately, are based on a misreading of some ABA data. I've posted a corrected version here: I also discuss some of the nuances that should be taken into account in matching graduates to jobs. There's still much more to be said about this topic. For example, even if the market achieves an equilibrium for law graduates, what will the necessary class reductions mean to law schools?

Posted by: Deborah Merritt | Nov 22, 2013 5:54:07 PM

Her article is based on an assumption of enrollment going down 8% this year, then she wrote this year that it might be more. So she contradicts herself. It may be 5% down this year or it might be 15% - who knows, or even something else. So her article lacks credibility, since it is based on a faulty assumption.

Posted by: dominique wilkins | Nov 22, 2013 6:13:04 PM

Some assumptions aren’t clear to me in this analysis. The first is the matter of “new” full-time law, law advantage and “other professional jobs”.

• Are “new” jobs in these three categories entirely new in the sense of positions added on top of existing jobs in the categories or are there other factors in play such as assumed retirements by current holders of the positions? I ask this because the investment rates of return and economic uncertainties indicate that many people are waiting considerably longer to retire than hoped or intended. I saw something last week that said for retirement purposes “80 is the new 65”.
• In two of the three categories (JD Advantage and “Other Professional Jobs”) by definition the US law school graduate will be in competition with graduates of other disciplines and ones from a range of countries. It should be expected that in some instances those “other” graduates will possess experience, specialized education and cultural connections that give them a competitive edge over a US law school graduate.
• To what extent have the reality of rapidly increasing technology-based labor saving developments been factored into what appears to be an entirely linear projection of law jobs?
• To what extent has the significant competitive advantage held by younger lawyers who are being cut loose from firms and companies now and over the next several years been taken into account in terms of the preference for the “new” jobs to be taken by more or less lateral hires with experience who do not require several years of on the job training?
• To what extent are the projected “new” jobs data tailored to the regions and clusters in which those jobs will develop in the context of where law schools are located? It is nice to indicate that in three years 30,000 + “new” jobs will be created for which law school graduates can compete but there clearly are declining regions, static regions and expanding clusters of greater job creation that favor some law schools and disfavor others. Reputation, alumni contacts, educational adaptations, placement strategies and resources, quality of students and the quality of non-law school educational institutions that are graduating students who will compete for the “JD Advantage” and “Other Professions” jobs will make a significant difference.

Posted by: David | Nov 25, 2013 7:08:38 AM