New lawyers face tough job market

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In June, the National Association for Law Placement released key findings stating 2010 was the worst job market for law school graduates since the mid-1990s. For graduates whose employment was known, only 68.4 percent obtained jobs that required bar passage – the lowest number in that category since NALP began collecting data on law graduates in the early 1980s.

Some disgruntled graduates have accused law schools of luring students into their classrooms with the promise of lucrative careers that don’t exist. Others say there are too many lawyers and law schools. The American Bar Association has stepped into the fray, attempting to demystify the problem of new lawyer unemployjobsment.

Crunching numbers

Valparaiso School of Law Dean Jay Conison, who serves on the ABA accreditation committee, said that to allege there are too many lawyers is a simplistic interpretation of a complex topic.

“People go to law school for a variety of reasons,” he said, adding that some students may never intend to practice law. So even though NALP statistics show that only half of 2010 employed law school graduates are working in private practice, the numbers do not account for people who had no intention of going into private practice and might be perfectly happy in other careers.

connison-jay-mug Conison

Conison said that schools report post-graduation employment statistics to NALP, and NALP collates the information, sending a comprehensive report back to the schools. He said the ABA is aware of concerns about how this data is used and how it is conveyed to prospective students.

“I think the issue is that the information that is published could be more detailed than it is now,” he said.

On May 26, Anna Alaburda, a graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, filed a class action complaint against the school, claiming it deliberately deceived students about job prospects to boost enrollment.

“There is no reason for TJSL to present a figure concerning the percentage of graduates who are employed in any position (including part-time and non law-related positions) other than to mislead prospective students,” the complaint states.

But Conison said that schools may not have enough information to provide detailed statistics about the type of post-graduation employment its alumni find.

In February 2011, the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division introduced a Truth in Law School Education (TILSE) resolution calling for increased transparenjobscy from schools reporting post-graduation employment data.

“It has also been discovered that some law schools are reporting wages in an ineffective, misleading manner by citing unrealistic salary averages and full-time employment statistics of their own law school graduates. This salary data is being manipulated to provide a much rosier employment picture to prospective law students, which in turn may contribute to the increase in law school enrollment,” the resolution states.

It goes on to say that the median salary information may be inaccurate based on which graduates communicate with the school. The resolution states that of the class of 2009 graduates who obtained jobs where a juris doctor was preferred, only 28 percent reported income to their schools. That’s a fact that law schools should be reporting, according to the TILSE resolution. The resolution is scheduled to be brought before the ABA House of Delegates for approval at the ABA’s annual meeting in August.

Supply and demand

Jeffrey Stake, Robert A. Lucas Chair of Law for Indiana University Maurer School of Law, said that the economy is likely to blame for graduates having difficulty finding work. He said that all markets – including the job market for lawyers – operate according to the fluctuations of supply and demand. Law schools, he said, haven’t varied much from year to year in the number of graduates they produce.

stake Stake

“So on the supply side, you’ve got a pretty steady stream. On the demand side, though, things vary wildly,” he said.

During a recession, people have less money to spend on services like hiring a lawyer, Stake said, so demand for services has decreased. Firms whose clients work in industries hard hit by the recession may be struggling to stay afloat.

If the cost of law services had been decreasing markedly, Stake said, that might indicate a flooded market – or too many lawyers, per capita. He said that in the 1950s, doctors and lawyers earned about the same salary, and a boom in the 1960s in the number of students attending law school may explain why attorney salaries did not continue to keep pace with doctors’ salaries. Stake said the American Medical Association took steps to limit the number of doctors to ensure their services were always in demand.

murphy Murphy

NALP statistics show that the number of law school graduates has increased slightly in recent years. In 2008, there were 40,582 graduates; 2009 produced about 250 more graduates than the year prior; and in 2010, 41,156 students graduated from law school.

Different approaches

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, reports that competition has increased for law jobs, and many lawyers have had to accept positions outside of their field of interest or work for temporary agencies. James Leipold, NALP executive director, wrote comments about preliminary findings of the Jobs & JDs – Class of 2010 Report saying “ … we can expect that the overall employment rate for new law school graduates will continue to be stagnant or decline further for the class of 2011, with the curve probably not trending upward before the employment statistics become available for 2012.” The full 2010 report is scheduled to be released in August.

Notre Dame School of Law professor Vincent Rougeau said that the current job market means new lawyers will have to try harder than graduates in years past to find work.

rougeau Rougeau

“I think students have to be a lot more creative and thoughtful about the different avenues that they could use to find a job,” he said. “So many of the traditional firm jobs are either gone or are really difficult to get.”

Karen Murphy, firm administrator for Drewry Simmons Vornehm, in Carmel, said the firm hasn’t brought in anyone for a clerkship or conducted any on-campus interviews in two years.

“I’ve been through a recession before, but it didn’t have the impact that this one has had,” she said.

Murphy said she thinks law firms have begun to place more value on business practices like the timely creation of invoices, tracking hours, and client management.

“Make no assumptions about what’s out there waiting for you,” Rougeau said. “Be as open minded and creative as you can possibly be in terms of how you might use your degree – it’s just very unlikely that you’ll walk right into something.”•


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.