The Legal Job Market IS as Bad as It Seems

Following up on my prior post on the dearth of employment for lawyers, please fix your attention on the following article. The Washington Post recently published a very good article on this same problem, focusing on the numbers associated with law school growth until 2020, and questioning the decision of people to attend law school if it’s not one of the elite institutions. Here are a few numbers from the article:

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 73,600 new lawyer jobs from 2010 to 2020, but after just three years, 132,757 new lawyers have been minted.

    Georgetown’s law school is the largest in the country, with current enrollment at 2,216.

    In 2010, law school graduates took on approximately $3.6 billion in loans.

    Nine months after graduation, only 20.5 percent of 2011 graduates of the University of the District of Columbia’s law school were employed in full-time jobs requiring a J.D.

There’s no doubt this continues to be a big problem. Although some people familiar with the problem are quoted in the article talking about the need to revamp how law schools are run, there are no easy solutions to either the number of lawyers without jobs or the grossly out-of-proportion enrollment at law schools.

(photo: Shutterstock: 99873665)


  1. Avatar John Foster says:

    One reason for the large size of Georgetown (where I went, many years ago) and the other DC schools: There are a lot of government employees going part-time as “night” students. As the federal government has gotten bigger, I assume that the “Night Division” has correspondingly increased.

  2. Avatar Nick Kosmas says:

    Does the report indicate the number of retiring lawyers? I would think that closes the gap somewhat.

    • Avatar Alex says:

      No. Retirement became obsolete when law firms like mine did away with pension plans in favor of 401(k) self-funded plans. Has anyone ever calculated how many years you have to work and save $15,500 in your 401(k) to have a six-figure retirement income? No, I didn’t think so.

  3. Avatar Drew says:

    You mention University of the District of Columbia‚Äôs law school. I have not checked, but I heard a talk show interview with the author of the Washington Post article. That law school is (i) the opposite of an “elite” law school; and (ii) (I think) was a focus of the article because the cost of attendance there is dramatically lower than elite law schools. So:
    –the 2o% of its graduate who have full-time law jobs have far lower law school debt to pay; but
    –80% of the grads don’t have full-time law jobs.

    I wonder what the “sweet spot” (or, perhaps, least painful spot) is along the cost/elite spectrum? My guess is that shopping a law school on cost alone is often not the best move (unless, perhaps, you already have a line on a legal job, e.g., at your parent’s firm or as in-house counsel for an agency or corporation you already work for).

    • Avatar Marc says:

      Balancing cost and employment together, I think the sweet spot is probably something like University of South Dakota. Cost around 10k a year, so it’s low enough to write off as a mistake if things don’t workout without ruining your life, and conceivably possible to find good paying jobs in the Dakotas, especially if one considers that truck drivers there are making 100k.

      Though, the oil boom makes one wonder whether law really should be a desirable profession for anyone when truckers and machinists can make 100k easy. I suppose there is some elitist prestige to professions like law, but why? Perhaps that is the heart of the problem.

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