More law schools, fewer jobs

June 18, 2008
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According to a recent news story, there are now 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States, with some states looking to add even more schools. Indiana currently has four, and just a few years ago, two Indiana colleges were looking into opening up their own law schools. Those have fallen to the wayside at least for now, but one businessman with more than a decade of experience in higher education but not an attorney himself is still pursuing his goal of opening up the Abraham Clark School of Law (http://abrahamclarklaw.com/) in Indianapolis with a goal of reaching working adults who are looking to go back to school.

Last year, a record 150,000 students enrolled in law schools nationwide. Law school has historically been seen as an automatic, successful career; a well-respected option if you are unsure of what you want to do after college. It makes sense that the demand for a law degree is at an all time-high because right now, the economy is struggling. When the economy is down, many people choose to go back to school. Yet as the story points out, more people in the job pool means more competition for the same legal jobs. In fact, with a slowing economy, those new grads may find themselves with few or no job prospects as firms, courts, and government offices cut back hiring to curb costs.

Colleges and universities are trying to start new, ABA-accredited law schools to meet this high demand, but are they doing a disservice to their students by admitting them, teaching them, and then sending them out into the world with a mountain of debt and bleaker employment prospects than in years past? Or more importantly, does Indiana or the United States need more attorneys? If you look at the public defender’s offices or legal aid offices in most counties, you’d say yes, we need more lawyers to help keep up with the demand for these services. However, many attorneys want to work at higher paying jobs at law firms in order to pay off their school debts. Perhaps if law school debt wasn’t approaching $100,000 or more for some students, more people would look to lower-paying jobs where there may be more of a need for lawyers as opposed to working for large law firms where there may be fewer job opportunities.
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