They're dropping like flies. Count 'em. Despite the swelling ranks of the new recruits, the steady growth in large corporate firms, and the length, breadth and expense of lawsuits, the legal profession is actually losing lawyers every day, a silent drain of talent to banking, business and premature retirement. Every year, I face a new class of eager law students, ready to take on the world, but after a couple of years of practice, many have lost their youthful glow. Perhaps it's time to rethink the whole "law school as default" mentality that infects so many otherwise sane young minds....
The legal profession is really two professions: the elite lawyers and everyone else. Most of the former start out at big law firms. Many of the latter never find gainful legal employment. Instead, they work at jobs that might be characterized as "quasi-legal": paralegals, clerks, administrators, doing work for which they probably never needed a J.D.
It's time those of us inside the profession did a better job of telling others outside the profession that most of us don't earn $160,000 a year, that we can't afford expensive suits, flashy cars, sexy apartments. We don't lunch with rock stars or produce movies. Every year I'm surprised by the number of my students who think a J.D. degree is a ticket to fame, fortune and the envy of one's peers--a sure ticket to the upper middle class. Even for the select few for whom it is, not many last long enough at their law firms to really enjoy it.
There's something wrong with a system that makes a whole lot of people pay a whole lot of money for jobs that are not worth it, or that have no future. If we wanted to be honest, we would inform students that law school doesn't keep their options open. Instead, we should say that if they work hard and do well, they can become lawyers.