Law Schools

Law School by the Numbers: 300K Additional Law Grads by 2020; 73K New Jobs Forecast for Decade

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The numbers illustrate the problems for law grads.

The Washington Post does the math in a story that contrasts a “dirt cheap” law school with another that is the second priciest in the country.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 73,600 new lawyer jobs from 2010 to 2020. But in the first three years of the decade, 132,757 new lawyers have already been produced. “So, in theory, all of the BLS-forecasted job openings through 2020 have already been filled, and 59,157 new lawyers are still looking for ‘real’ law jobs,” the story says. “By 2020, about 300,000 additional grads will join those 59,157 in a hunt for jobs that, statistically, are not to be found.”

The Post spoke with Mark Medice, national program director for a Thomson Reuters unit that tracks jobs and pay at large law firms. He believes a new legal education model may be needed that emphasizes specific skills such as discovery, regulatory matters and litigation support. The cost would be relatively cheap and the focus would be on jobs that are available.

Currently, Medice says, the return on investment for a legal education may be inadequate except for grads of the top law schools.

The law school at the University of California at Irvine is aiming to be one of the best. It opened in 2009, with a cost for out-of-state students at $77,000, including living expenses, making it the second-most expensive law school in the country, the story says. Nearly 80 percent of UC-Irvine’s first 56 law graduates have already found full-time jobs as lawyers.

“Everybody wishes it would be less expensive,” law dean Erwin Chemerisky tells the Post. “But there is not a way to do it without compromising quality.”

The story contrasts UC Irvine with a “dirt cheap” law school, the University of the District of Columbia. With living expenses, the cost is $41,630 for D.C. residents and $52,750 for nonresidents. The focus is on hands-on training; its clinical program is ranked 10th in the country by U.S. News. The school is unranked overall, however, and “an embarrassingly low percentage” of its 2011 grads—only 20.5 percent—had full-time legal jobs requiring a JD nine months after graduation.

“A hyper-practical law degree from UDC is hardly a sure thing,” the story says. “But it doesn’t pretend to be, and perhaps that is what is rather refreshing about it. UDC Law’s dean, Shelley Broderick, is a wry, unpretentious former criminal defense attorney who paid her way through Georgetown Law with loans and the proceeds of her job as a Teamster working on the Trans-Alaska pipeline.”

Also see:

@LawScribbler: “A Debate on the Future of Legal Ed Breaks Down to the Real Versus the Ideal”

@LawScribbler: “Law Prof’s Ideal, Affordable Law School Not Possible in Reality, Chemerinsky Says”

ABA Journal: “The Pedigree Problem: Are Law School Ties Choking the Profession?”

ABA Journal: “The Law School Bubble: How Long Will It Last if Law Grads Can’t Pay Bills?”

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