TaxProf Blog

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

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

More Legal Jobs Than Law Grads in 2016?

National Jurist:  More Jobs Than Grads for Class of 2016:

Is it a good time to apply to law school or not?

With law school enrollment dropping, some say it is only a matter of time before the number of legal jobs exceeds the number of graduates. ...

[D]ifferent law professors can't agree on the date when supply will drop below demand. Paul Young, a law professor at Appalchian ... predicts that full-time legal jobs will exceed the number of law school graduates in 2017. But Deborah Jones Merrit, a law professor at Ohio State ... did her own mathematical analysis and she suggests that date is closer to 2021.

The National Jurist also looked at the numbers and found the date to be 2019, but that the market will reach its historic equilibrium with the class of 2016.


Legal Education | Permalink


Wait a minute. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' most recent projections, only 196,500 lawyer job openings due to growth and replacement between 2012 and 2022. That works out to 19,650 openings per year. Yet the National Jurist is claiming 26,000 and change per year. That is not a small discrepancy.

And it's probably worth pointing out that if anything, these numbers skew high. In 2002, the BLS estimated there would be 813,000 jobs for attorneys in 2012. It turned out to actually be 759,800.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 14, 2014 12:04:56 PM

All those projections could be improved if lawyers just started suing each other. Would free the rest of us, too.

Posted by: Jimbino | Jan 14, 2014 1:11:10 PM

Time will tell. Merritt's basic methodological problem is her reliance on "JD required" and "JD an advantage" data. Any labor economist will tell you that these numbers do not directly reflect projected demand for law grads; they are simply reporting categories. These numbers will likely move in the same direction as actual demand. Nevertheless, comparison of these absolute numbers with absolute numbers of law grads would probably disqualify any doctoral candidate in labor economics from having his or her dissertation accepted.

Merritt's disdain for "JD an advantage" jobs is unwarranted. When I started at Harvard Law in 1973, the orientation speaker told us that only half of us would end up as practicing lawyers; the rest would use put our degrees to other uses. Most of the graduates of any good Tax LLM program end up in "JD an advantage" jobs, and they're good jobs. Our last Presidential election was between two law grads in "JD an advantage" positions.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Jan 15, 2014 8:17:00 AM


How representative are your examples of “JD Advantage Jobs” and the people that take them to your average law school applicant, attempting to identify his/her likely options at graduation. You chose your classmates at Harvard Law in 1973, graduates of “good Tax LLM” programs, and the last two Presidents of the United States as your examples.

One requires you to have been a law student, at Harvard, in 1973. The cost of law school as well as the employability of attorneys and attractiveness of a JD to non-legal employers may or may not have changed since then.

The next requires you to not only have graduated law school, but to have done well enough to grant you the right to invest another small fortune in another degree. Do you have any data on how many graduates of “good Tax LLM” programs obtain “good jobs” that do not require a law degree?

Your last example is obtainable with the right number of electoral votes, but I have my doubts that a large number of current prospective law students will sit for any length of time in the oval office.

Thank you for your valuable contribution to this topic.

Posted by: D++ | Jan 15, 2014 9:46:52 AM

"When I started at Harvard Law in 1973, the orientation speaker told us that only half of us would end up as practicing lawyers; the rest would use put our degrees to other uses"

1. 1973 was a different universe, in terms of tuition/investment, the number of lawyers in the country, the number of college graduates in the country, it was before computers and related tech exploded worker productivity, which of course leads to fewer workers being necessary.

2. The normative career outcomes for Harvard Law School graduates are not the same as the normative career outcomes for the vast majority of the other 201 accredited law schools. If they were, I wouldn't have spent the last x years being declined for interviews for literally every job for which I have applied. Every single one.

3. I know several Tax LLMs who are unemployed.

4. "Our last Presidential election was between two law grads in "JD an advantage" positions." Yes, and I wonder how many non-Harvard (or Yale) grads are on Obama's senior staff or were in Bain Capital. Probably none. Getting back to that whole normative career outcomes. The Cravath System of Hiring has been around for a long time now, well over a century. Despite a certain law prof's myopic labor economics study last summer, it still exists. One wonders how many grads of Suffolk or CUNY that fellow worked with at McKinsey and Davis Polk...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 15, 2014 9:52:05 AM

Any labor economist will also tell you that there is a vast difference in the non-law practice opportunities available to graduates of Harvard Law School versus the graduates of other schools, like Loyola Law School. Likewise, the last Presidential election was between two "Harvard law grads," and not merely "between law grads." That was pretty important, don't you think??

Posted by: Cent Rieker | Jan 15, 2014 12:33:00 PM

Pointing to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as examples of why "JD an advantage" jobs are not generally disappointing is like pointing to Patricia Clarkson and Meryl Streep to prove that an MFA is a money-making degree.

Posted by: Morse Code for J | Jan 15, 2014 3:31:25 PM