Paul L. Caron

Friday, May 28, 2010

More on the Glum Employment Prospects for Law Grads

Following up on some recent posts:

Howard B. Miller (President, California Bar), Truth in Lending and in Careers (California Bar Journal):

Those of us in leadership positions in bar organizations need to look closely at the lives of those seeking to begin the practice of law, and where changes in the economy and the profession are leading them.

The economic impact of the great recession has been acute. For graduates in 2008, 2009 and this year, the combination of the number entering practice, the lack of jobs and the levels of debt are devastating personally to those involved and should be to all of us who care about our profession. ...

The average debt of law graduates now approaches or exceeds $100,000, and because of recent increases in tuition, especially at public institutions which historically have been more affordable, debt burdens will be even greater in a couple of years.

At least 10,000 lawyers, probably more, including many, many mid-level associates with no place to go, have been officially laid off during this recession. ...

There is notoriously unreliable self-reporting by law schools and their graduates of employment statistics. They are unreliable in only one direction, since the self-reporting by law schools of “employment” of graduates at graduation and then nine months after graduation are, together, a significant factor in the U.S. News rankings — which are obsessed over, despite denials, by law schools and their constituencies. The anecdotes are as telling as the statistics: prestigious lawyers in the state are hiring their own children to work in their firms because even with their connections they were unable to find employment elsewhere. And if things do pick up, those in the classes of 2008, 2009 and now 2010, whatever they will have been doing, are unlikely to be viewed favorably by firms as first-year entry hires. ...

Finally, we need to be transparent with potential lawyers about the cost and benefits of studying law. All law schools need to gather, verify and report, in consistent and specified ways, the employment record of their graduates, as well report on those who may have started, paid tuition, but never graduated. A good place to start is with our own California-accredited and registered law schools, over which the State Bar and the Committee of Bar Examiners have jurisdiction.

Elie Mystal, Is California Ready to Get Into The Student Debt Fight? (Above the Law): 

Who wouldn’t love to see this? The ABA seems content to let the schools report whatever they want. U.S. News doesn’t seem to do any quality control to make sure that these schools aren’t misleading readers. Why can’t the State bar of California make sure that California schools are accurately reporting employment figures.

I’m sure that the California law schools will claim that reporting accurately will hurt their U.S. News rankings. But at some point, somebody is going to have to put “truth” ahead of “rankings.”

Miller might be onto something here. Let’s hope other state bars start to take a serious look at what is happening to young lawyers these days.

Joe Hodnicki, NALP Takes a Hard Look at Its Class of 2009 Employment Data: Nearly 25% Employed in Temporary Positions, 10% are Part-Timers and Almost 30% are Employed in Positions That Don't Require a JD (Law Librarian Blog):

Temp Jobs for Class of 2009. Nearly 25% of all jobs were reported as temporary. ... NALP also reports that 42% of reporting law schools provided on-campus post-graduate jobs for their students. No word on how many of these appointments were made to game US News employment data for teasing a better ranking.

Job Market Weakness. Some other markers of weakness in the job market for 2009 law school grads reported by NALP include:

  • 10% of all reported jobs are part-time, up from 6% for the class of 2008
  • 70.8% grads reporting that they held a job for which a JD was required, down from 74.7% of the Class of 2008
  • 5% of the law firm job reported are working as solo practitioners, up from 3.3% for the Class of 2008
  • 22% of the Class of 2009 who are employed are actively looking for work, compared to 16% of the previous class

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Posted by: Unemployed top 1/3 NYU LLM tax grad | May 28, 2010 2:16:09 PM

"Those of us who care about our profession..." ROTFLMAO. Should have read "those of us who care about maximizing the profit margins of our profession." It stopped being a profession and became a business many years ago. It's no different than stock brokerage, with the exception that stock brokers can theoretically be sued for bad advice.

I'd go become an engineer if I had it to do all over again.

Posted by: Joe Blow | Jun 1, 2010 6:01:12 PM