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September 08, 2014


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Interesting also to note the absolute number of positions compared with the other occupations.



You might enjoy this:

Although the target is UG, many of the points, including the "pain points" sound eerily familiar.

confused by your post

The lack of growth in legal industry employment from the bottom in 2010 is frightening.

2010: 1,110,000 legal industry professional employees
2014: 1,150,000 legal industry professional employees

Not a pretty annual rate of growth.

Former Editor

confused by your post,

Good point. Eyeballing the rate of growth for that period against the others selected, it looks to me like the only covered sector having an even rougher time in terms of growth is "State Government." Of course, many of the jobs in that category that aren't coming back quickly may well be JD Advantage type positions once filled by recent law grads.

Ben Barros

I agree that the rate of growth is not something to get excited about, but I have a slightly different take on it. First, the trend over the last four years appears to be little or no growth from 2010-2012, then increasing, but still slow, growth from 2012-2014. That seems consistent with what we've been seeing in the entry-level job data. Second, the overall shape of the curve is very similar to that of Finance and Insurance, which seems to me to be the most similar sector. Third, the slope of the recent curve resembles that of the early 1990s in the expanded chart that I posted in the update. I graduated from college in 1991, and the early 1990s were the last poor overall job market we had before the 2008 financial meltdown. There was job growth, but it was slow. It seems to me that the shape of the curve is what you would expect in a mature economic sector like law in a time of relatively slow economic and job growth. If the economy picks up, I would expect the curve to get steeper in the good direction. If the economy fails to pick up, then I would expect growth to stay at its relatively low level.

confused by your post

Professor Barros,

I agree with your bottom line assessment in your comment above. A bitter economy, all things being equal, should cause the curve to get steeper. In a vacuum, hiring of legal professionals increases with a better economy.

Lets assume a couple of facts (1%-2.5% economic growth in the next 3-4 years plus a slowing but continued decrease in the number of law school graduates over that time period).

Based on the assumed facts lets answer a very important question:
Over the next 3-4 years will there be enough jobs available to new law grads at starting salaries sufficient to service their student loan debts to make attending law school an economically good idea for the average law student?

The answer is clearly no. Even factoring in much higher levels of growth, the answer would still be no. The short run looks very bad for new law grads. Anyone arguing the short terms situation will improve should concede that when the current situation is this bad for the average law grad, a small improvement does not change the basic calculus that getting a law degree will still yield very poor economic outcomes(crushing debt, unemployment and low pay).

Ben Barros

Confused, let's not completely derail this thread with this issue. But I think that you are wrong for two reasons. First, as I've recently explained, the dramatic reduction in law graduates over the next few years will lead to an extraordinarily good job market for recent graduates. Second, people with a skeptical view of the law school job market and debt service tend to focus on entry level salaries. This is a mistake. Lawyer salaries overall have a strong upward trajectory. The new After the JD report has good data on this issue. I will blog about some of the new After the JD data soon.


Ben, what are the BLS *projections* for the legal field?


"First, as I've recently explained, the dramatic reduction in law graduates over the next few years will lead to an extraordinarily good job market for recent graduates"

No, as you recently _argued_ or _theorized_. No, this is not a semantic point.


I find all of this reliance on the BLS and "data" to be misplaced. I wish we would have more conjecture, hearsay, and speculation from law faculty on the point.

confused by your post

Looking forward to hearing more on the After the JD data.


Ben: "Second, people with a skeptical view of the law school job market and debt service tend to focus on entry level salaries. This is a mistake. Lawyer salaries overall have a strong upward trajectory. "

Semi-relevant, considering the proportion of people who don't get in or soon leave the field. Full-time acting salaries in Hollywood are probably decent, but it's very hard to make a living acting.

Ben Barros

Barry, re: your first comment, the BLS projects slow growth in law jobs. Not surprising, because their assumed growth rates tend to mirror current circumstances. Compare, for example, the BLS projections from the early 2000s with those today. Not to say that today's will be wrong. That will depend on a lot of factors, including actual economic growth. Barry, that may be true, but most law graduates end up practicing law. That is another After the JD result. It is also what I saw in my alumni study of my school's classes of 2010 and 2011.

Confused, I'll post that in the next week or so. As a quick preview, lawyers report significant job mobility and significant salary growth across all sectors. Earnings tend to correlate to both law school rank and law school grades. Even on the lower ends of both groups, though, median salaries were in the $85-100k range.


Ben wrote:

"Even on the lower ends of both groups [ie law school rank and law school grades], though, median salaries were in the $85-100k range."

That strikes me as fundamentally incorrect based on everything I've observed. I have no formal survey or study, but anecdotal evidence is still evidence. I know a nontrivial number of seasoned, fine lawyers from fine schools who hustle to make $60,000 per year, and this is after a minimum of 15 years in the biz.

I suspect Pennsylvania has an appointed counsel program. Call up said program and find out their rates, how long the list is, and what an attorney can reasonably expect to make from the program. Also, Ben, I'd encourage you to do a few dummy postings on craigslist. For example, "Litigation associate wanted. Minimum 7 years experience and law review. No partnership possibility. Meat and potatoes discovery work only. Expected hours are 1800 billables. Pay is $_____[e.g., $55,000 with no bonus and no benefits]" Watch your mailbox explode with takers.

Ben Barros

Jojo, this isn't my data. It comes from a national survey done by the National Bar Foundation and the NALP Foundation. The data doesn't surprise me because it is consistent with my anecdotal experience. Let's think about why my anecdotal experience might be different from yours. First, this survey is of people who have been out about ten years. I think your hypothetical Cragislist ad might get a lot of takers for entry level people, but I don't think it would from people with 7-10 years of experience. I know that you refer in your comment to people who have been out 15 years. I know tons of practicing lawyers from that cohort, and your experience is not mine. I'm sure there are some people who struggle, but in my experience, they are a distinct minority. Second, these are medians. A median of, say, $100k, leaves plenty of room for plenty of people making less. You could be right and I could be wrong on anecdotal evidence and we could still have a relatively high median.



your post indicated that the median income numbers you posted were true "even on the lower ends of both groups." I presume that the median income for all working lawyers with 10+ years of experience would be around 85-100k. I suspect that the "lower ends of both groups" wash out long before 10 years. But I'd love to see median income data from that subset of individuals "even on the lower ends of both groups." Can you post a link?

Ben Barros

Jojo - no, it isn't on-line. I'm going to put up a post with more details next week, maybe early the following week.

confused by your post

Professor Barros,

In your response to Barry above, you wrote Barry, "...most law graduates end up practicing law. That is another After the JD result."

While your statement that most law graduates end up practicing law, is certainly true, I am not sure that the After the JD study directly proves that statement. Everything I have read so far, indicates that the study dealt with those who passed a state bar exam in 2000. If so, the study excludes many law school graduates who either failed or did not take bar exam. My understanding is that the study does not track all law school grads from the year 2000.

Also, my admittedly limited understanding is that the After the JD Study has no info or limited info on a substantial % of people first identified in connection with the study. These were non-responders to the surveys or folks who they had sparse incomplete info on, etc. It is likely that large numbers of the folks who did not respond to the surveys or couldn't be tracked down after initial contact did not become lawyers. One data point here is that a little over 50% of Widener grad test takers failed the Pennsylvania bar exam in the year 2000. I would wager a substantial sum that very few of these Widener test failers responded to the study's surveys and are part of the study's data on outcomes.

I look forward to spending some time going over the study when time permits. I believe studies like these are very important. However, I'm concerned that people will use this study to prove points that it does not actually support.

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