Paul L. Caron

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Burk: The Evolving Market for New Lawyers in the 21st Century

Bernard A. Burk (North Carolina), What's New About the New Normal: The Evolving Market for New Lawyers in the 21st Century, 41 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 541 (2014):

Everyone agrees that job prospects for many new law graduates have been poor for the last several years; there is rather less consensus on whether, when, how or why that may change. This article analyzes historical and current trends in the job market for new lawyers in an effort to predict how that market may evolve.

The article derives quantitative measurements of the proportion of law graduates over the last thirty years who have obtained initial employment for which law school serves as rational substantive preparation (“Law Jobs”). In comparing entry-level hiring patterns since 2008 with those in earlier periods, a significant development emerges: While other sectors of the market for new lawyers have changed only modestly during the Great Recession, one sector — the larger private law firms colloquially known as “BigLaw” — has contracted six times as much as all the others. Though BigLaw hiring has historically accounted for only 10%-20% of each graduating class, it is responsible for over half the entry-level Law Jobs lost since 2008.

While some observers predict a return to business as usual as the economy recovers, this article is skeptical of that account. The article identifies significant structural changes in the way that the services traditionally provided by BigLaw are being produced, staffed and priced that diminish BigLaw’s need for junior lawyers both immediately and in the longer term. These observations suggest that entry-level BigLaw hiring, and thus the market for new lawyers overall, will remain depressed below pre-recession levels well after demand for the services BigLaw has traditionally provided recovers. At the same time, new lawyers’ job prospects may nevertheless improve as the contraction in the legal academy now underway reduces the number of new graduates competing for work.


Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


Looking at the green-shaded area, if that area means what I think it does, I'm wondering if something like this will not happen in medicine in the not too distant future. I think this is what is likely to happen in any profession that is controlled by a monopoly in an age of highly fungible information where costs have been artificially inflated by artificially produced scarcity, supported by a high amount of regulatory enforcement of the sanctity of the monopoly.

Posted by: teapartydoc | Nov 30, 2014 6:33:10 AM


While there is arguably an artificially produced scarcity among doctors,* there most certainly is not among lawyers. We produce roughly twice the number of law school graduates every year as there are lawyering jobs for them. And the ABA's idea of regulatory enforcement of the sanctity of the profession is to allow the offshoring of document review, contract formation, and other legal tasks to unlicensed attorneys working in cubicle farms in India and the Philippines.

*The very high costs of operating a medical school may stymie MD production even if, say, there were no caps on the number of residencies available. Google "Legal Process Outsourcers."

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 30, 2014 11:24:03 AM