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Even with a sluggish job market, new 1Ls turning out in droves for fall semester. Why?

Large 1L Class at WM

Even with a sluggish job market, new 1Ls turning out in droves for fall semester. Why?

About Nicole Battles

Nicole Battles is the Membership Outreach Manager at the Minnesota State Bar Association. She spends her non-working hours trying to keep up with her 2-year-old son, watching reality TV, and cooking. She would like to help the readers make the most of all their Bar Association has to offer. She also wants to be sure that the Bar Association is staying current on the issues facing this group and can have solutions and resources available.

2 comments

  1. Great advice on getting active in the local bar associations. I would also suggest getting involved in the ABA. Law student membership is only $25 and opens a lot of doors for professional development.

  2. “So why are so many people enrolling in law school when there has been nothing but grim statistics on legal jobs?”

    Good question. Several factors are responsible, but I think most of the law school applicants are completely unaware of the employment situation in the legal profession. (They quickly become aware of it once they have started law school, after it is too late.) I suspect that almost all of them went to law school in the hopes of being able to readily secure an at least solid middle class job and career upon graduation.

    So why are law school applicants unaware of the harsh realities of the legal job market?

    (1.) The law schools have been publishing misleading if not fraudulent employment statistics for years. Either only happily employed graduates return the surveys and/or graduates who are “employed” outside of the legal profession are counted as “employed” for statistical purposes. (So a lawyer-turned-stripper, a lawyer who works at Starbucks, or a lawyer who only earns $10/hour on a part-time basis working as a law clerk is counted as “employed”.) Naive 20 year-olds read that 95% of all graduates are employed and assume that they are all employed as lawyers with career-building jobs earning at least middle class incomes.

    (2.) Very few mainstream publications or sources of information communicate the reality of the legal job market. To the extent that they do they mostly comment about jobs at large firms and suggest the malaise in the legal job market is temporary due to the recession and that the market will recover in the future.

    (3.) Cyberspace is filled with optimistic “good news” websites and discussion forums about the legal profession. Most of the available information is positive. In contrast, the law school scamblogs are much more difficult to find and not mainstream.

    (4.) The notion that you could go to law school and obtain a professional degree and then be unable to find a job in the field and end up impoverished is completely inimical to what the vast majority of the U.S. population believes. It runs counter to everything that students have been indoctrinated with since Kindergarten. We have all been indoctrinated with the notion that higher education is a guarantor of economic success. You cannot open a newspaper or turn on talk radio or watch television without coming across this message somewhere. (Invariably, a politician or pundit will say something to the extent that, “We need more higher education to solve our nation’s unemployment problem.”)

    (5.) Hollywood has glamorized being a lawyer. Also, few laypeople understand the legal profession and see lawyers as scary, powerful beings. This perception combined with the notion that higher education leads to economic success results in the general populace believing that all lawyers are rich.

    (6.) Many people also suffer from the “grass is greener” delusion. If you have a worthless political science degree then the legal field will appear to be better. Millions of college graduates have found themselves unemployed or underemployed, and since we tend to believe that more and better higher education has economic value, it’s natural to think that going to law school and becoming a professional would be a guarantor of a middle class living.

    Ultimately, the best way to end lawyer overproduction will be to make student loans fully dischargeable in bankruptcy, returning market forces to the education market. If tens of thousands of lawyers began defaulting on their $120,000-$185,000 worth of student loans the lenders would become increasingly unwilling to loan money to law students, resulting in a forced decrease in the amount of lawyer overproduction.

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