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April 10, 2014

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Former Editor

As part of your analysis next week, could you differentiate between the number of "JD advantaged" jobs that do not represent underemployment for someone with a JD (e.g., a Congressional Staffer or Corporate Compliance Officer) from those that are underemployment for someone with a JD (e.g., entry level HR Staff person)? If you are going to include the "JD advantaged" numbers as part of your case for going to law school, those groups are very differently situated upon graduation and probably shouldn't be considered equivalent.

Jojo

Malarky!

Look, pal, you can toss around the 1978 figure or (1978!!!) figure all you want, but the fact remains that the run up is of recent vintage.

Clicking on the americanbar.org link reveals something interesting. While the 1978!!! citation is an attention-grabber, in 1998 (1998!) only 2,500 more students enrolled in law schools than did so in 1978! So, supply was pretty steady from the disco age until the late 90s to early 2000s.

Last year there were just shy of 25,000 real jobs in law. Let's assume your 2018 estimate is correct, and 32,100 people graduate from law school. That leaves an oversupply of only 7,100 if the jobs don't increase. In other words, 1 in 4 graduates who attend law school and borrow $200,000 in money still won't have any sort of FT, LT job in law. Those aren't good numbers, they are bad numbers. They are just less bad than the current numbers. You realize that there is a difference between "good" and "less bad"?

not right

And not only that, but of course you still need to consider the hordes of out-of-work law grads who are still competing for jobs. These people haven't magically disappeared, as much as you would like them to.

MacK

To the above I would add the impact that declining standards for law school matriculation will have - does anyone think that the current diving LSAT scores and GPAs of new 1Ls over the next 4 years will improve the job prospects of so many?

Former Editor

I suspect that we are going to see an argument next week that the "JD advantaged" positions expected to be created in the next several years should be added into the total jobs available number. That would allow significant inflation of the total jobs open by adding in expected openings reflected in other BLS lines. If the lines added are narrowly cultivated (e.g., the "Compliance Officers" line is included but the rest of the "Business operations specialists" line is not) AND well qualified new graduates in the "JD advantaged" fields are factored into the pool of openings in a reasonable way (e.g., some percentage of the number of new MBAs is subtracted from the number expected open positions for "Corporate Compliance" added) it's possible that we could see a surprising and positive prediction.

I'm not counting on it, partly because I don't expect that careful an analysis to be forthcoming and partly because I just don't think the numbers will bear it out, but let's wait and see what he has to offer in that regard before jumping down Mr. Freedman's throat.

Spenny

I am wondering how you derived your estimate of about a 5 percent applicant decline next year?

MacK

I was responding to not-right.

One effect of the falling requirements for entry to law school is that graduates in the classes of 2015 and later will be less competitive, This will have a serious impact on their marketability - and on the rate at which people leave the legal profession, or return. Take for example women on the infamous "mommy track." Historically, many of these women found it hard to return to full time legal employment, in part because of competition from new law graduates ... but if the law schools start graduating a bunch of dunces, that equation will shift. So also will the up-or-out predilections of mid-size and large law firms - again they may choose to keep associates longer when faced with poorly qualified new graduates. And finally, under-employed lawyers who often were driven from the profession by the latest crop of bright-eyed and bushy tailed associates will be more likely to stay.

Meanwhile, as Campos and Merritt also pointed out, the BLS data on the number of new law jobs is in fact being steadily revised downwards.


Stan

Steven, please stop this. You are hurting young people in a real and tangible way. If you want to ride out your gig as an admin, I have no ill will towards you. You have to feed your family like everyone else.

I sincerely beg you to stop with these article. Don't make things worse. The data is indisputable: law school costs too much money and provides terrible outcomes that cannot be fixed through either hard work or bankruptcy proceedings.

ZDT

I think you also have to take into account the fact that a lot of former jobs that used to be filled by attorneys can now be filled by cheaper staff with undergraduate degrees. This is partly because of new technology, but also because corporate America discovered during the last big recession that a lot of the biglaw bills were padded by associate make-work, and that they could force those costs down substantially without losing quality.

anon

So far, we have from the author of these posts this:
1. Fewer people are enrolling in law school and
2. Fewer people enrolling means there will be fewer graduates a few years from now.
Yes. This is a logical conclusion. The first statement is a statement of present fact, and the second is a reasonable and logical prediction about a future condition based on present facts. These facts have been discussed on the FL in many posts.
But, as noted above, there is no mention of any causes of declining enrollment, and no mention of any need to address the consequent declining standards, dwindling revenues and the content and focus of legal education. Based on the "tease" we can expect none of that. (I'm not sure the author would choose to opine on those matters in any event.)
Next week, the author promises to "look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018."
With all due respect, here we have a legitimate concern. The author cannot do that. A line should be drawn somewhere.
Most persons trained in the law, it seems, and maybe even some holding "JD Advantaged" positions who are not, would know better than to permit the use of a website site as an vehicle to promote an investment based even in part upon any such "factual information" presented by an interested party.
Consider an investment advisor who claims to be an expert and predicts (in strong enough terms to almost rise to the level of a "statement of fact") a substantial premium in earnings over the next thirty or so years to induce the investment by a student of 200,000 or so dollars (especially an investment advisor who expressly relies on the past performance of a set of selected "comparable" investments in so doing and who might personally benefit or who works for an institution which might receive a benefit, in whole or in part, as a result of the investment).
Any concerns? How would you, as an attorney, advise the speaker, or someone relying on the "expert"?
Moreover, we need to take into consideration the fact that folks who hold a Ph.D. in economics are often wildly mistaken in predictions about the specifics of any market in three years.
The FL should issue some sort of disclaimer before posting a conceded "pitch" accompanied by a "look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018."


Anons

Why are folks continuing to use BLS projections when we have years of NALP data on entry-level employment? The BLS specifically warns that its projections are not meant to be used in the fashion that Campos, Merritt etc., have used them.

anon

Steve:
As you are likely aware of this, please be reminded:
What you casually state here as a "fair guess" may be cherry picked and touted as a "fact" elsewhere.
Please don't guess, Steve. This subject is too important to promise to "look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018" and then back it all up with "fair guesses."
In your position, one hopes you will take the import of your statements seriously and that means seriously considering what you say and how you say it.

Jojo

"Never ask a barber if you need a haircut." - Warren Buffett.

Mr. Freedman, please stop selling. Those individuals you advised in 2008 and 2009 (you know, the ones about whom you just said 'oops') are real people. They were actually hurt by this.

Let me repeat, because it seems clear that law profs and admissions deans aren't getting it. These are real people who have suffered real negative consequences and are facing daunting employment obstacles with six figures of debt. Be careful before selling your service. Even if it is not intentional, you are hurting people.

JM

Steve, this is your employment report for 2013:

http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/kansas/ABA/2013/

I count about 50 decent employment outcomes. That includes law firms over 10 atty plus fed clerkships. I suppose it might be a bit higher if there are some legit govt/pubint jobs too, but i doubt it.


Anyway, for your school to have equilabrium between decent jobs and grads, it would have to enroll about 60 students per year. That means your enrollment has to drop about 40% from where it is now (104) to get to the right number.

So don't worry, we can still decline for a few years beyond 2018 before the critics call off the dogs.

Former Editor

Regarding the update, if there are going to be responses to comments then I, for one, would appreciate it if you would respond to Prof. Tamanaha's comment on thread #1.

CBR

"Heck, I think it’s safe to assume that’s the most number of law school graduates from any nation at any time in human history." That's definitely not safe to assume. India has 900 (!) law schools that on average accept 200 students per year (so an entering class of around 180,000--even with significant attrition, it's still more that the US). With advances in technology, Indian attorneys can (and are beginning to) compete to serve the U.S. market. I think hyperlinks get caught in the spamfilter, but see "Middle class Americans Reach out to Lawyers in India via Internet for Legal Aid" in the Economic Times.

JillyfromPhilly

Steve,

In your future posts focusing on the "demand side by looking at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018," can you also address the number of those jobs which will allow a graduate to service $150,000 of student loan debt while also providing sufficient funds for everything else a financially independent person needs to pay for in the modern world? An obvious but often ignored point; just because a graduate obtains a bar required job within 9 months of graduation does not mean that law school was a wise decision. Many bar required "long term" jobs pay nowhere near the amount of money that a young professional in a mid-size/major city (where most of the law jobs are) will need to support themselves with 6 figure law school debt. The existence of Income Based Repayment and other such programs does not eliminate this issue and it should be addressed whenever someone is arguing in favor of the prospects of future law grads.

I look forward to your future posts and analysis of how the bimodal salary distribution of entry level lawyer jobs should affect prospective law students' interest in law school.

BoredJD

I expect that we will get a post discussing PAYE/IBR/PSLF. I hope the author acknowledges that those programs can change at any moment and that President Obama has recently shown he is willing to reform the program as applied to high debt graduate student borrowers (of which law students are probably the most extraordinary). In the current political climate, no law school employee with any respect for students should be pitching IBR/PAYE to students as business as usual.

Former Editor

Just to add to BoredJD, there is a recent post from Campos, based on the New America Foundation data, showing total JD Debt at more than double that of MBAs and other MAs at both the 50th ($141k) and 75th ($194k) percentiles. If the PSLF cap in the 2015 Obama budget is enacted, capping at forgiveness $57,500, every student identified in the NAF data would be effected (50th percentile and up are covered), as would probably most of the 86% of graduates carrying any debt.

Nathan A

All else being equal, its perfect true that enrolling in law school today is a BETTER value proposition than it is going to be for THOSE WHO ENROLLED IN 2010. I don't think there's anything to get up in arms about in the post. I mean its a nice collection of numbers, nothing else. The real action is going to be on demand side.

The one demand side plot point I'm going to be interested in is whether/how legal employers adapt to the potential supply shock. 2017/2018 will probably graduate least talented group of lawyers this country has seen in a while. Back when I was in industry, we'd automate processes as soon we feared a drop in applicants. The local community college pumping out fewer electronics technicians, for example.

So how do firms deal with decline in quality applicants? Suck it up and hire from lower ranked schools (as law professors hope)? Outsource/deploy technology? Suck up all the poor souls from the c/o of 2013, who are (on average) more talented?

If I were running my firm, I would reduce the number of associates we hire and add more young associates through the lateral ranks.

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