How—and Why—the Lawyer Bubble Keeps Growing

, The Am Law Daily

   |9 Comments

Recent headlines proclaim that the recent plunge in law school applications means that the crisis in legal education is ending. Don’t believe it.

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What's being said

  • Ira

    Dear 2010 grad: Do you really believe that law school does not teach "general skills applicable across a wide array of industries"? Knowing that we live in a highly regulated society, and are often in contentious or competitive situations, I think law school education presents tremendous value. It is what you make of it. If you believe the only way to succeed is to work for someone else that has made the contacts, and gained the clients, etc,... then perhaps this article is on point.

    Suggestions to future lawyers: Don't be so quick to accept status quo that promotes incurring debt for an "elite" career. Recognize the shifting value in the education, and that the JD may simply help with analytical skills and broadening horizons. I recall hearing that the "JD is the new MBA?"

    Don't be so reliant on someone else to find your way for you. Save your dollars, borrow less and be creative. This really seems to be missed entirely. Why are people so invested in this discipline, borrowing FAR MORE than they can afford, and then blaming others when the strategy goes South, or not as far as they expected?

    A few other thoughts: High school is damned expensive, and probably exceeds 200K in many localities. It is really about who is paying. We all pay. Not to sound glib, and with all due respect, this is not all about you. That is, everything has consequence. Don't be so quick to overlook things.

    A college degree is not "required for a white collar job." Ask Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and countless others. It is a question of creativity.

    My bottom line on this article, and these comments, is that the status quo and our standard of living continues to decline. Is this news, or simply symptomatic of the real news? The world is increasingly competitive,.... and people are lamenting it. Oh, ok.

  • Ira

    Dear 2010 grad: Do you really believe that law school does not teach "general skills applicable across a wide array of industries"? Knowing that we live in a highly regulated society, and are often in contentious or competitive situations, I think law school education presents tremendous value. It is what you make of it. If you believe the only way to succeed is to work for someone else that has made the contacts, and gained the clients, etc,... then perhaps this article is on point.

    Suggestions to future lawyers: Don't be so quick to accept status quo that promotes incurring debt for an "elite" career. Recognize the shifting value in the education, and that the JD may simply help with analytical skills and broadening horizons. I recall hearing that the "JD is the new MBA?"

    Don't be so reliant on someone else to find your way for you. Save your dollars, borrow less and be creative. This really seems to be missed entirely. Why are people so invested in this discipline, borrowing FAR MORE than they can afford, and then blaming others when the strategy goes South, or not as far as they expected?

    A few other thoughts: High school is damned expensive, and probably exceeds 200K in many localities. It is really about who is paying. We all pay. Not to sound glib, and with all due respect, this is not all about you. That is, everything has consequence. Don't be so quick to overlook things.

    A college degree is not "required for a white collar job." Ask Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and countless others. It is a question of creativity.

    My bottom line on this article, and these comments, is that the status quo and our standard of living continues to decline. Is this news, or simply symptomatic of the real news? The world is increasingly competitive,.... and people are lamenting it. Oh, ok.

  • 2010 grad

    I also might add that law school's cost could very easily be reduced by 1/3 by simply making it a 2 year program... the required third year of law school is an absurdity that I cannot understand (and have yet to encounter a single lawyer or law student who thinks that it adds any value).

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'm still happy I went, but I got really lucky and landed a high paying job. I still swallow hard every month when I write a check for a mortgage payment, especially since I learned almost nothing from my 2nd and 3rd years of law school and incurred debt close to $100K for these years, not factoring in future interest payments (which will add at least another $20K over the life of the loan).

  • 2010 grad

    Reader - high school and college teach general skills applicable across a wide array of industries. Law school does not. High school also does not cost close $200K (not including interest)... and high school certainly does not pay teachers an average of six figures. The costs of college are similar to law school but at least interest rates are lower and there is a greater likelihood of assistance (from the school or parents). Further, college is required for any white collar job. Law school is not. Plenty of law grads go on to work in a wide range of industries, but it is often not due to their law degree. Correlation does not equal causation.

  • Reader

    What about college degrees? Only admit as many students as can find full-time jobs? And, high schools, too? Eliminate college loan programs and public funding of schools? They have a name for this. Is called sophistry.

  • 2010 grad

    Professor Freedman, you are neglecting to account for the fact that approximately 10% of the 20% reduction would have not graduated (due to the 10% attrition rate). Random Atty is correct.

  • I did double count in one spot, I said there were two errors when there were only one. But I did not double count in discussing the number of students who will be graduating from law school. The writer stated "if law schools as a group reduced enrollments by 20 percent from last year’s graduating class [46,000], they would still produce almost 37,000 new lawyers annually. No, this means they would have 37,000 1Ls, not 37,000 graduating students. If law schools reduce enrollment to be 20% less than the size of last year's graduating class, they will produce 33,120 JD degrees every year (46,000 * .8 *.9). He is clearly not accounting for the 10% attrition rate. Math is by far my weakest subject, but I think I got this one.

    Note that I'm not predicting what the actual number will be, I'm just saying that using the writer's reasoning, the correct number should be 33,120. Perhaps the writer can clarify this with an update. Did he or didn't he account for a 10% attrition rate in his calculations?

  • Random Atty

    I beg to differ with Prof. Freedman, I would think that, because the 46,000 figure is of graduates (by definition) that the 10% haircut you discuss has already occurred, Thus, 80% of 46,000 is 36,800, rounded 37,000. Otherwise, your way you're double counting.

  • A couple of errors in your article and a missing data point that calls into question your conclusions.

    1) You state that even if law schools reduced enrollment 20% from last year's graduating class of 46,000 students, they would still produce nearly 37,000 students annually. That is incorrect as you are not accounting for attrition while students are in law school. According to ABA statistics, historically about 10% of students start but do not finish law school. Thus the number should be about 33,000 graduates.

    2) The BLS data appears to be wrong. Last year 28,873 law students found JD required jobs. An additional 5,979 found JD advantage jobs for a combined total of 34,852. If you limit the number to full-time, long-term positions the numbers are 26,066 for JD required and 4,387 for JD advantage, or a total of 30,453.

    Why is this important? By your estimate and accounting for attrition, there will be 33,000 law graduates in 2016. Even if legal employment stays flat, there will be 30,453 long-term, full-time positions for those graduates.

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