Paul L. Caron

Thursday, September 3, 2015

NY Times: Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs?

NY TimesFollowing up on last week's post, NY Times Op-Ed: Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs:  New York Times letters to the editor:

Jeremy Paul (Dean, Northeastern):

Steven J. Harper unfairly assesses the number of American law students based on employment statistics rather than on the more salient fact that so many Americans cannot afford legal services. No one would say we had an oversupply of medical students if millions of Americans resorted to self-medication and treatment because they could not pay for a doctor. More of our citizens are representing themselves in court on important matters, like divorce, than at any time in recent memory.

Law schools throughout the country are responding with incubator programs aimed at helping law graduates open small law practices to serve clients of modest means. And studies show that a law degree remains a sound investment even if graduates take more time to find a first job or if that first job does not require passing the bar.

Perhaps instead of painting with a broad accusatory brush, Mr. Harper should offer his own solutions for expanding legal services to all. That’s the valuable mission of the many law schools he castigates so cavalierly.

Milan Markovic (Professor, Texas A&M Law School):

The ABA’s approach of disseminating information about employment outcomes and requiring certain bar passage rates is likely to be a far more effective constraint on law school enrollment than student loan reform.

Jeffrey L. Volpintesta (Law Student):

The future outlook of even a top-50 law school graduate may not be as rosy as it was two decades ago, but it is certainly not as bleak as portrayed in this article. For graduates of institutions of lesser repute, however, this article speaks the truth. That distinction should not be omitted.

| Permalink


Except for the truly poor, most people could actually afford to pay for legal services, it's just that they'd have to give up spending on other things for a little while. They don't want to do this, understandably, so we say they "can't afford it." This isn't really accurate in most cases though.

Posted by: GU | Sep 6, 2015 7:02:41 AM

Professor Paul's response indeed seems a non-sequitor. The fact that many people are "underserved" when it comes to legal services is due to the fact that those people can't afford to pay enough to make it attractive for lawyers to take them on as clients. Flooding the market with yet more lawyers won't solve the problem, as at some point it will become more attractive for a recent JD to work at McDonalds (or some other non-law job) than to earn $20,000 a year providing legal services to the poor. Indeed, the fact that the past few years show (a) a large supply of unemployed/underemployed lawyers and (b) the continued existence of an “underserved” population suggests that the problem is not due to an inadequate supply of lawyers. The real solution to the problem, if it is indeed one, is to figure out a system to subsidize the use of lawyers by the poor.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Sep 3, 2015 8:55:54 AM

I suppose it is just a coincidence that ABA employment reports reveal that over the last four years, Northeastern Law has not managed to place TWO years' worth of graduates into long-term, full-time, license-required jobs at any salary. Only in the last year have they (just barely) cracked 50% placement. And many of us are still waiting for the million-dollar premium to which Jeremy alludes.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Sep 3, 2015 6:25:15 AM

What is the connection between the access to justice gap and the legal employment gap?

At one naive level, there is a connection. How can anyone say there are too many restaurants when there are still so many starving and malnourished people in the world? That's how 12 year olds think, not lawyers, which I've heard is law school's reason for being.

I don't see Dean Paul volunteering free law degrees to anyone who agrees to work for free for 3 years to serve the poor. Perhaps he should. We can call it the Dean Paul program. Northeastern will waive tuition for all students who pledge to work unpaid for their first three years of practice. What say you Dean Paul? Are you in, Dean Paul, or was your letter just meant to encourage others to embrace poverty?

Posted by: Fawlty Logix | Sep 3, 2015 3:52:13 AM