Law Schools

Law Dean Points to Encouraging Labor Report, But Paralegal Deans Should Be Happier

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The dean of a new law school slated to open in Nashville, Tenn., next year is optimistic about the legal job market, providing a stark contrast to the assessment by the chairman of an ABA committee studying the impact of the recession.

Belmont University will open Nashville’s third law school, welcoming its first class before the new law building is built, the Tennessean reports. Law school Dean Jeff Kinsler told the newspaper that Belmont has already received inquiries from 1,200 would-be students.

He points to a forecast by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that predicts employment of lawyers will grow by 13 percent in the decade ending in 2018. He also says that by the time the school’s 1Ls graduate, the economy may be on the upswing.

The labor report says the legal sector will grow faster than the average for all jobs, but it will add the fewest jobs among professional occupations. Lawyers will account for 98,500 new jobs, while paralegals and assistants will account for 74,100 jobs—a 28 percent growth rate—as they begin taking on more tasks once handled by lawyers.

The outlook from ABA “recession czar” Allan Tanenbaum isn’t as bright, the newspaper says. Tanenbaum is chair of the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs. He told the Tennessean that the country’s economic problems have hit law grads particularly hard.

It’s not unusual to see law graduates working as department store clerks while handling pro bono cases to boost their resumes, he said. The median income for U.S. lawyers is about $75,000, far below the $150,000 starting salaries that so many new law students hope to earn, he added.

“Every year, more and more law schools are starting up. One has to wonder why,” he told the Tennessean. “Well, one doesn’t really have to wonder. Law schools are a profitable proposition for the schools. … You admit 25 more law school students a year and you can cover a $1 million deficit in your budget overnight.”

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