Paul L. Caron

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tamanaha: Law School Graduates Who Do Not Become Lawyers

Brian Z. Tamanaha (Washington U.), Sobering Numbers: Law Graduates Who Do Not Become Lawyers:

[F]or the class of 2009 (nine months after graduation), at 30 law schools, only 50% or fewer of the graduates obtained jobs as lawyers. At nearly 90 law schools, one-third or more of graduates did not land jobs as lawyers nine months after graduation. ... The chart below plots the percentage of the 2009 class that obtained lawyer jobs against law school by rank (fourth tier schools have no rank, so are indicated after the line in alphabetical order). As one would expect, the top schools tend to have the highest rates of graduates who obtain jobs as lawyers (in the 90 percentile range).


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my father did not go to law school. He read law in the law offices of my mother, who did go to law school and had her own law firm. He passed the bar with flying colors and practiced law successfully for 16 years, until they got divorced and he went into another line of work. He was successful, but she was better--a born lawyer.

Posted by: miriam | Sep 19, 2011 7:38:27 PM

I would expect that most jobs that require a J.D. also require a law license. Thus, the relationship displayed by this graph is another way of stating the obvious: if you don't pass the bar, you don't get to be a lawyer.

Prospective students should be able to look at the bar passage rate for the schools they are considering and determine if they have a reasonable shot at a career as as lawyer.

Posted by: Anonymous | Sep 19, 2011 5:25:29 PM

"Only about half, or a little more, of BS engineering graduates . . ."

A more apt comparison would be to see the % of students with masters or doctorates in engineering, who work as engineers. Or to see the % of medical school graduates working as doctors.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2011 4:49:34 PM

Ironic. The lucky ones did not land a pyramid scheme law firm job. Personally, I would much prefer a business career with a law degree and never practice law.

Posted by: moron | Sep 19, 2011 4:08:55 PM

I don't know if it still holds true but in the past, 5 years after graduation 90% of BA/BS degree holders were not working in there major field. My guess is that these stats for Law School grads aren't really that bad. The troubling trend is the cost to get these degrees and the payback period.

Posted by: chemman | Sep 19, 2011 3:49:34 PM

It's like watching old inmates sodomize the new inmates. You want to feel sorry for the criminal, but you know he is only in prison because he made the choices.

Sorry young lawyers, you chose to join a dishonorable profession full of people like Dickie Scruggs, John Edwards and Alcee Hastings. You deserve what you get.

Posted by: ID | Sep 19, 2011 3:31:14 PM

Oh, and if you support law schools releasing more accurate and clear information to prospective students, sign the Law School Transparency Petition supporting implementation of the proposals in the Law School Transparency Project's white paper:

Posted by: FOARP | Sep 19, 2011 3:05:03 PM

"I would like to see data for law school grads maybe five years after graduation."

It would be even lower then.

Posted by: anon | Sep 19, 2011 2:45:26 PM

By contrast, my grandfather became a lawyer without graduating from Law School. Just "read law for one year" and took/passed the bar exam.

After that, he needed to get a job. None of the law firms wanted to hire him as he didn't have a law degree. Fortunately, he realized that civil service requirements for lawyers were that they had to have passed the bar exam. He worked there for 30 years, mostly in pursuit of back child support to compensate the State for excess welfare payments.

Posted by: DonM | Sep 19, 2011 2:04:44 PM

But this is the fault of people who are criticizing law schools and the student loan industry...

Posted by: Joe Blow | Sep 19, 2011 12:43:50 PM

I would like to see data for law school grads maybe five years after graduation.

But this is not a law school problem. Only about half, or a little more, of BS engineering graduates ever practice engineering. Many graduates go into technical sales, and others go to business, law or med schools. It would be interesting to see where the law grads are going.

Posted by: bob sykes | Sep 19, 2011 12:00:35 PM