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September 22, 2014


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Former Editor

"Having this data highlights the need for more. It would be very helpful, for example, to have a study that compares this cohort from the group of lawyers who graduated into the heart of the recession in 2010 and 2011."

I could not agree with this statement more. When looking at this study we need to keep in mind that it does not cover the most recently graduated cohorts (or any of those from the past decade) and, consequently, provides less guidance about the future of legal education than it might seem to at first blush.


Longitudinal data for people 14 years out is nice, but the data on solos is concerning and accurate. If you can hang in there -- and it's a big IF -- you can make a middle class living. If you're a solo, it's increasingly difficult to scrape out a living.

The nearly one-half million lawyers who graduated since 2000 are living a life different, and more penurious, from those in AJD III.


Here's a question, and maybe I'm missing something obvious, but if this is truly a longitudinal study why did certain demographic groups GAIN in number between AJD1 and AJD2? There are more Native American and Hispanic subjects in AJD2 in absolute numbers than there were in AJD1.

Also, Ben, I really am not sure how you can justify your argument that the tendency of lawyers to switch jobs tends to prove the utility of the standard law school curriculum. If anything, I would think it shows the opposite.


These are imporant questions that deserve answers. However, I am quite confident that this study, and none other like it, will have any impact on the decline of law school applications, which I expect to continue for at least another 5 years. Here are some reasons why:

- Younger people are more knowledgeable and more sensitive about student debt because of their UG debt;

- Individuals in the 1-5 year post-graduation phase will be mostly unemployed or underemployed, heavily indebted, disillusion and will thus continue to be very vocal on social media about their negative experience with law school;

- Even if a JD pays off when someone is 50, they will spend their 20's, 30's and perhaps 40's in debt, without the ability to buy a house or really form a family. This will scare off many;

- Law Profs have been discredited on this topic, so all "academic studies" will be viewed as propoganda regardless of their legitimacy.


The big take away here, for me, is the dissatisfaction with "JD Advantaged" jobs.

This proves what many have been saying for a long time now: most attend law school to be lawyers, not to be "JD Advantaged."

The inability to find work as LAWYERS leads to dissatisfaction, and this, in a cohort, as pointed out above, far better off than more recent cohorts.

Law schools, to skew the abysmal placements stats they are now forced to disclose more honestly, have devised a quite obvious ruse designed to once again mislead prospective students.

To be sure, a version of "JD Advantaged" existed before this particular bit of flim flam was concocted. But, never before has such an obviously misleading stat been touted so brazenly.

Former Editor

One additional take-away for legal education is the confirmation that we should view the "solo" category in the ABA employment report with ever-increasing skepticism. When the 25th percentile income for experienced solos is $0, that should be a huge red flag on counting recent grads in the same market position as "employed."


Perhaps the "employed" category should be qualified by "gainfully employed"!



I saw the 25% figure of $0 and wondered what was going on, and if it was an error. If you earn $0 dollars for too long, you're no longer in the game. It really reflects something that is completely not appreciated by the ABA and by anyone in legal academia. If you do plaintiff's contingency work, even an experienced lawyer's income stream could very easily look like the following:

Year 1: $15,000
Year 2: $15,000
Year 3: (-$25,000)
Year 4: $450,000
Year 5: $0
Year 6: $12,000


Former Editor


While I appreciate what you are saying, I don't think it really undermines my point. If the $0 figure was really attributable to the feast or famine nature of plaintiff's side contingency work, then you would expect that $0 to be there at the lowest quartile mark in the earlier periods too. It's not though. The nature of contingency work only really explains the $0 if you want to assume that the study year was an outlier year where fewer solos managed to garner judgments/settlements for their clients than usual.

I think a more probable explanation is that the $0 represents a growing number of unemployed or severely underemployed attorneys who aren't willing to tell the survey (or admit to themselves) that they left the profession. Those folks are adding to the number of feast or famine contingency solos in an off year who would normally make up a portion of the bottom quartile, with the result being that the $0 income mark has now moved from someplace in the bottom quartile to someplace between the median and bottom quartile.

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