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April 10, 2014


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Former Editor

The present prediction on other threads here is for around 38k enrolling next year. Averaging the BLS line for "Lawyers, judges, and related workers" over the ten year period, it looks like there are 21k expected openings or so for 2017-2018 graduates per year. That seems difficult to reconcile with a rosy outlook. I look forward to your analysis.


"Although we’ve seen noticeable improvement since the depths of the recession, that supply/demand gap persists. But it won’t persist. It will change significantly for the better. How do I know this? Because we know that the gap will almost entirely disappear by 2017-2018."

How do you know this, Steve? You provide no factual support for your conclusion, so I would grade your first post an F. You cannot know this because you have no idea what will happen between now and 2017-18 that can/will impact the market for attorneys, so any "evidence" you give to support the statements made in this post are speculative, to say the least. We all know how to spin numbers.

As you admitted above, prospective 1Ls have been told the same thing every year since 2008 and how has that worked out for those who bought this pitch??

I was recently at a sales pitch for a vacation time share and we heard the same language -- you have to enroll today or miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Law school admission "deans" are beneath used car salesmen, if this is the pitch they give to prospects. But at least buying a lemon of a car does not ruin your life.....

Terri S

Steven, you do know April Fools was about a week ago, right?

Former Editor

I'm skeptical too, but he says he'll get into detail in some later posts. Give him a chance at least.


The problem is not merely that there are 38k applicants for 21k openings.

The real problem is how many of those 21k jobs will pay well enough to justify the $140,616 total educational debt that the average indebted law student incurs, of the 87% of law students who incur debt. (Figures from the New America Foundation.)

The fundamental problem is not the fact that many law school graduates are unemployed - the fundamental problem is that only a fraction of employed law graduates will earn enough money to justify going into that much debt.

For the market for JD's to equilibrate, there has to be a major reduction in the cost of going to law school.

Brian Tamanaha


Please address the apparent contradiction in advice like this. Assuming no substantial change in the legal market (for better or worse), the job outlook for graduates stands to improve precisely because fewer students are enrolling in law school these days. But of course, if significant numbers of people take your advice and "enroll today" (thinking three years hence the oversupply of law grads will be eliminated by falling enrollment), then the job outlook will worsen as a consequence because the oversupply will not go down as much. So your prediction will bear out only if most people thinking about law school do not take your advice.


Former Editor


It's a paired problem. Even if the borrowing costs go down, if the number of graduates remains well over the number of jobs there will still be a crisis, although a slightly less catastrophic one for graduates without jobs. To really alleviate it, the number of entering students would have to decline at the same time that the total cost of attendance also goes down. That poses real problems for the industry as a whole (and for independent schools in particular) because tuition revenue is, for many schools, the main source of income. Shrinking class size and cutting tuition is a double whammy on their budgets.



I assume that you provided full refunds to the students who took your advice in 2008 and 2009? Or that you'd agree that students who relied on such advice were materially misled and should have a cause of action against the law schools? Oh, you don't? Why not?

I liked this article last year when Ted Seto wrote it and when Steve made the same points he makes here in the comments to Ted's sales pitch.

That the substance of this article is "This time is different" one day after some of the worst employment data ever published shows that law faculty are incorrigible. Have some decency and shame!

not right

There was really no reason for this 'teaser' post that provided nothing of substance to the conversation but merely lays the groundwork that the actual arguments may seem outlandish given the last few years. If you have a case to be made, cut to the chase and make it.

terry malloy

On wall street, we call this 'talking your book.'

Similar to "houses have never been more affordable" coming out of a Realtor in 2009.

Law School Going Out of Business Sale!

This is like the habitually cheating husband saying "this time no cheat and I mean it!"

Pretty sad what the legal education industry has devolved into. Everything must go! JDs are going fast. This is a limited time offer! Buy buy buy!


Brian Tamanaha's comment in this thread is absolutely hilarious and completely true. Just crushes the original argument.

San Francisco lawyer

Hi Steve,

Actually, whether or not I hire more lawyers in 2017 and 2018 depends entirely on whether or not the demand from my clients will exceed my ability to serve them with my current staff. I cannot project that far in the future with any degree of confidence, and neither can anyone I know.

How can you know better than me and other attorneys who are able to hire people what our needs will be in 2017 and 2018? How can you encourage these people to pay you vast sums of money in tuition to gamble on the proposition that guys like me will hire them in a few years? I don't remember anyone asking me for input. If you were to ask, I would advise you that my outlook is at best uncertain.


Former Editor:

"I'm skeptical too, but he says he'll get into detail in some later posts. Give him a chance at least."

First, he could have done that now. When somebody throws out a grandiose teaser, he/she deserves to get - well, teased.

Second, any law school dean pushing the line that things will get better doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by:


If possible, please open comments for "#2." I would like a chance to respond to Lisa's post.

Bathsheba Boldwood

"I think we've heard a sufficient variety of views on the first few posts, so comments are closed."

Do you have any idea how patronizing and schoolmarmish this sounds? Reminds me of Nurse Ratched.


Can you imagine refusing to answer a professor's question, citing the fact that "we've already heard a variety of views, professor. Let's move on."

Ronald Johns

Probably in 2015, we will see one of the top law schools shut down, because the host institution will not want to lower standards to fill that law school with warm bodies.

A parallel would be when Georgetown and Emory shut down their dental schools in the late 80s/early 90s.

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