Study reveals lawyers leaving the practice of law

February 18, 2014
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A unique longitudinal study following the career paths of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 has found that 24 percent – nearly a quarter of them – were no longer practicing law in 2012.

Researchers from After the JD, which is a project of the American Bar Foundation, have been following a national sample of lawyers who passed the bar in 2000, interviewing participants in 2003, 2007 and 2012. The panel presented some preliminary results from its 2012 survey at the American Bar Association’s midyear meeting in Chicago earlier this month.

The statistic that jumps out the most is the number of non-practicing attorneys. In 2003, 14.7 percent of respondents were not practicing law. But the data also shows some trends concerning where attorneys are ending up. In 2003, 38.4 percent of survey respondents worked in the business sector; by 2012, 27.7 percent reported working in that area. In 2003, 53.3 percent of Top 10 law school graduates reported working for a firm with at least 251 attorneys; by 2012 that number had fallen to 16.8 percent.

Another interesting stat: When the 2012 respondents were asked if they would go to law school if they had to do it all over again, the average response was 4.91, rated on a scale of 1 to 7.

You can read other stats on the ABA’s website. Visit the American Bar Foundation’s website for more on the After the JD project.

Anyone who passed the bar in 2000 care to chime in with how your legal career in 2012 compared to what you were doing in 2003?
 

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  • Error Reporting the Stats
    A 10 percent increase is not the same as an increase of 10 percentage points. Since the number not practicing law went from 14.7 to 24.1, it should be described as an increase of nearly 10 percentage points.
  • 39% Increase
    Ben, the reporter did get the increase wrong but not as you say. It went from 14.7% in 2003 to 24.1%. That's a difference of 9.4%. Thus, between 2003 and 2013, the increase in attorneys out of the profession ix 9.4% x 100 divided by 24.1% which is a 39% increase in 2000 attorneys leaving the profession from 2003 to 2014.
    • Depends on the base number
      Paul - I stand by my statement that the proper way of describing this is that it's an increase of nearly 10 percentage points (actually, 9.4 as you point out), as opposed to a 10% increase. I was not making any comment on what the actual percent increase was. Rather, I was trying to clarify the use of the terms "percent increase" and "percentage point increase." It turns out that the actual percent increase is more like 64%. For instance, say there were 40,000 attorneys in the class of 2000. If 14.7% of them were not practicing in 2003, that would be 5,880 people. If 24.1% of them were not practicing in 2012, that would be 9,640 of them. 9,640 is about a 64% increase over 5,880 ((9,640-5,880)/5,880 = .6395).

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    1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

    2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

    3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

    4. I am sorry to hear this.

    5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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