Don’t shoot me, I’m just the messenger. I bring tidings of woe not because I’m trying to rob you of your right to pursue a legal education; I’m trying to help you. Call me Elie Stormcrow.
Actually, today The Atlantic is the messenger reminding you of the serious financial peril involved in starting a legal career. The recession might be over but the recovery hasn’t happened for all. And we’re not just talking about the Occupy Wall Street people. No, no, things remain pretty bad for lawyers and bankers. Here’s the money quote from the Atlantic: “In 2011, finance, insurance, and law were the three primarily white-collar professions that managed to shed workers, even as the rest of the economy trudged forward through a slow recovery.”
Yeah folks, even in 2011, the legal economy was still shedding jobs. But it’s not like law schools were spitting out fewer graduates, so… you do the math.
Here, the Atlantic has put things in a fancy chart. Pictures people, it’ll be like an LSAT game: how many people made a terrible investment in higher education?
And just in case would-be lawyers don’t understand the import of this graph, the Atlantic drives the point home:
The fact that the world might not need as many investment bankers and insurance brokers isn’t a problem per se. But the fact that it could need fewer lawyers is. Outside of a few elite MBA programs, not many people get a degree specifically to become the next Will Emerson. But roughly 45,000 students do graduate from law school each spring. Most of them have taken on significant debt. And despite the old saw about being able to “do anything” with a law degree, they don’t have the specific technical or quantitative skills to go into faster growing fields. While the overall unemployment rate for lawyers is a microscopic 2.1%, that doesn’t take into account the trouble recent graduates are facing to find work that will soon pay off their debt. The industry is entering a period where it will be well oversupplied with talent. Unless a whole lot of old lawyers start retiring ASAP, that situation probably won’t change.
You know how everybody has been talking about the jobless recovery? Well, not for lawyers. The legal job market was still contracting in 2011!
If you are going to go to law school, you better love the law so much that you’d practice it for free. If you expect to get paid for your services, take a number; it might be a long time before the legal economy gets around to serving law graduate 45,001.