More Law Students, Fewer Law Jobs

Published: Nov 30, 2009

 Education       Grad School       

From a recent post on Blueprint Test Prep's blog Most Strongly Supported:

The numbers are out, and they are huge. On September 26th, more students took the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) than have ever taken a single administration of the LSAT in the history of the exam. Chalk it up to the recession, the economy, or the sudden increase in all things vampire. Whatever the reason, over 60,000 students lined up to take the first step to becoming a lawyer on September 26th. This turnout continues a sudden increase in LSAT administrations that began roughly in 2007. Prior to that, total LSAT administrations peaked in 1990-91, fell through 1997-98, and jumped to modern numbers (approximately 143,000 test takers) from 2001, onward...

Except previously, there were law firm jobs to absorb the effluence of law students. As the economy foundered, the number of LSAT takers began to increase again, with June 2009 constituting the single largest June administration in the history of the LSAT. June and September 2009 combined represent 13,681 more tests administered over the previous year, or an increase of 17%. If this increase stays constant for the rest of the testing cycle, that would mean there will be 177,136 LSATs administered this year, the largest percentage increase in eight years.

Which could be a real problem.

They're not wrong. Law firms have been hit hard by the recession, cutting salaries, laying off associates and deferring start dates for first-year associates from the JD class of 2009. Not surprisingly, the tumult has affected recruiting at all U.S. law schools--even the top 14 couldn't escape firms scaling back all new hiring. According to an article on ABC News last week, drops in the number of employers recruiting on campus at top schools like Harvard Law School, NYU Law, Northwestern Law and Georgetown Law range from 20 to 50 percent this year. NYU Law career services told ABC News that more than 30 percent of the class of 2010 has been given a deferral of at least a year.

Since jobs aren't available in BigLaw, it's time to look elsewhere. On Thanksgiving, I spoke with a 3L from NYU Law. When I asked if he was worried about the job market he said no, because he has a job waiting for him after graduation at the insurance company with whom he worked over the summer. Moreover, he said he didn't see a lot of other students freaking out either; everyone seems to believe everything will sort itself out in the end. I hope that the NYU Law class is right and graduating law students find, if not the jobs they want, then the jobs they need.

Law schools are stepping up to help students find jobs like my friend's. "In an effort to cope with the job market and prepare students for any job opportunities, law schools are training their students for different working environments and coming up with programs that aid in the job search," says ABC News. Schools like NYU Law and the University of Texas School of Law have created programs to place unemployed students and recent graduates in internships and positions in the public sector.

Even if the JD class of 2010 finds jobs, what about all the new students applying to law school now? How will the law industry handle the surge of newly-minted lawyers in 2013? Some career services officials believe everything will simply blow over. From ABC News, "the verdict is still out as to whether the economic downturn will last long enough to result in quick and radical changes to the large-firm hiring model." Others feel that the law firm hiring structure will be overhauled--for the better. As Northwestern Law's William Chamberlain told ABC News, "In many ways, the current law firm model has proved unequal to the challenges posed by the economy. Perhaps out of the general uncertainty there will grow a better and stronger legal community where its members will be happier."


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