The Legal Job Market

January 05, 2012

Earlier today Daniel Schwartz tweeted a link to an article with a quote from the President of the American Bar Association where he fired back at the ABA’s critics:

"It's inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate-level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago," [Robinson] said.

via ABA head has little sympathy for jobless lawyers.

After reading the article I could not help but think that the legal profession needs a figure like Jim Cramer to raise the alarm. In his famous rant Cramer criticized Ben Bernake for not having any idea how bad things are in the stock market. I wonder if the ABA President understands how bad things are for graduating law students. Many are having trouble finding jobs, even those from top schools. This post from the Freakonomics blog describes how attending law school is like the NFL draft and notes that big law has shed 15,000 jobs since 2008. Meanwhile the cost of law school continues to rise and graduates that do not get scholarships or attend public school like me become crushed under mountains of debt.

Law students and other critics of the American Bar Association want the ABA to take action to address this problem. Robinson may be placing the blame with the students but much like the housing crises both parties bear some responsibility. Students need to be aware of the state of the market and the choices they make. That is why I chose to attend public school. However the ABA should take steps to mitigate the rising cost of school and work to implement policies and programs that increase high-paying entry-level employment for recent law school graduates.

What policies and programs should the American Bar Association consider implementing? Some ideas that come to mind include a tuition cap as a condition of accreditation. Another is to build some kind of program that encourages legal entrepreneurship and creates mentoring opportunities for students who want to become solo practitioners after law school. Finally the ABA might consider paring down the number of accredited institutions so that the number of entrants into the depressed market is reduced and therefore give those that go to law school better odds of finding a job.

Update: I just saw this article from the ABA Journal and think it’s important reading as well.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.