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Rosy times ahead for law grads? Another law prof weighs in

Posted Mar 18, 2014 6:20 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A law professor who forecast a rosy job market for law grads is getting some pushback from Indiana University law professor William Henderson.

Writing at the Legal Whiteboard, Henderson says the optimistic prediction by Western New England law professor René Reich-Graefe “is naive and potentially dangerous to those who follow it.”

An article by Reich-Graefe in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics projects an increased rate of lawyer retirements and growing demand for legal services. Those forces, he said, are moving the legal profession “statistically into the direction of almost guaranteed legal employment for all law school graduates.”

Henderson says he doesn’t dispute the positive trend lines, but he says Reich-Graefe fails to consider the breakdown in the “artisan model” of lawyering. That model offers one-on-one legal counseling tailored to the needs of individual clients. Poor and middle-class people can’t afford to hire lawyers, Henderson observes, even as a record number of law school graduates are unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, corporations are balking at the price of legal services and getting legal work done with the help of foreign labor, technology and new processes.

“The legal industry is at the point where it is no longer cost-effective to deal with this growing complexity with ever larger armies of artisan-trained lawyers,” Henderson writes. “The key phrase here is cost-effective. Law firms are ready and willing to do the work. But increasingly, clients are looking for credible substitutes on both the cost and quality fronts. Think car versus carriage, furnace versus chimney sweep, municipal water system versus a well. A similar paradigm shift is now gaining momentum in law.”

To meet the demands of these corporate clients, Henderson says, law firms will have to collaborate with information technologists, systems engineers, project managers, data analysts, and experts in marketing and finance.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "‘Hysterias-R-Us legal lemming movement’ attacked; law prof predicts robust legal market"

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