Over the past two decades, the situation has deteriorated as student enrollments have grown to outpace the number of available new legal jobs by almost two to one. Deans who are determined to fill their classrooms have exploited prospective students who depend on federal student loan money to pay tuition. The result has been an unsustainable bubble.
Approximately half of the 45,000 people who will graduate this year from ABA-accredited law schools will never find jobs as lawyers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that over the next decade 21,000 new jobs for lawyers will become available each year, via growth and outflow from the profession.Most of those who do find jobs will be making between $30,000 and $60,000 per year.
“The critics of legal education are right,” said Wu, the chancellor and dean of the University of California Hastings College of the Law. “There are too many law schools and there are too many law students and we need to do something about that.”
So he is. Starting this fall, Hastings will admit 20 percent fewer students than in years past, a decision that required the college to eliminate several staff positions.
The organization behind the Law School Admission Test reported that the number of tests it administered this year dropped by more than 16 percent, the largest decline in more than a decade.
It’s often assumed that even in tough times, lawyers can find good jobs. But that proposition is being overturned by a tight legal market, and by a glut of graduates.
The nation’s law schools are facing growing pressure to be more upfront about their graduates’ job prospects. Many students say they were lured in by juicy job numbers, but when they got out, all they ended up with is massive debt.
Today’s law graduates face a challenging job market and roiling global economy, but findings from a survey of more than 33,000 J.D. students suggest that they’re not doing all they could to burnish their skills.
“Many law students still seem to think of law school as an educational hurdle to surmount rather than as preparation for professional life,”
A report on the high cost of law school, which many students borrow to cover, suggests schools should provide information on how their graduates fare in the work world.
Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”
So, for decades, clients have essentially underwritten the training of new lawyers, paying as much as $300 an hour for the time of associates learning on the job. But the downturn in the economy, and long-running efforts to rethink legal fees, have prompted more and more of those clients to send a simple message to law firms: Teach new hires on your own dime.