New Law School Jobs Data Indicate Flat Entry-Level Legal Market

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – LST has made class of 2013 job outcome data available for 200 ABA-approved law schools on LSTScoreReports.com. The LST Score Reports help students make smarter application and enrollment choices using admissions, employment, and cost information.

LST’s analysis of class of 2013 data collected by the American Bar Association sheds considerable light on how difficult the job market remains for law school graduates. These graduates fared 0.8% better than last year’s graduates on the key lawyer jobs statistic: 57.0% of 2013 graduates were employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. Exclude jobs funded by the law schools from this figure and it is 55.3%—just a 0.2% improvement from the class of 2012.

A devastating 26.8% were either underemployed (short-term or part-time or non-professional jobs) or not employed (unemployed or pursuing an additional degree). Unemployment is up to 13.7% from 13.2%, while underemployment is down to 11.4% from 12.5%.

Full-time, Long-Term Legal Jobs:

The national full-time, long-term legal rate is 57.0%.

  • By definition these jobs:
    • require bar passage or are judicial clerkships; and
    • require 35+ hours per week and have an expected duration of at least one year.
  • At 64 law schools (31.8%), 50% of graduates or less had these legal jobs.
    • 33 schools (16.4%) had 40% or less;
    • 13 schools (6.5%) had 33% or less.
  • 103 schools (51.2%) exceeded the national rate of 57.0%.
    • 51 schools (25.4%) had 66% or more;
    • 21 schools (10.4%) had 75% or more;
    • 5 schools (2.5%) had 90% or more.

The national full-time, long-term legal rate, excluding jobs funded by law schools, is 55.3%.

  • The richest schools were able to hire their struggling graduates full time and long term; only 18 schools (9.0%) paid 5.0% or more of their graduates for long-term, full-time jobs that required bar passage.
    • 50% of these schools (9) were in the top 20 on the full-time, long-term rate without the benefit of the school-funded jobs; including school-funded jobs in the rate puts 67% of those schools (12) in the top 20.
    • Excluding school-funded jobs from the full-time, long-term legal rate caused all 5 schools over 90% to drop below that threshold.
  • Although the absolute number of full-time, long-term legal jobs funded by schools was relatively small (775, 2.0% of all employed graduates), there were 50% more of these jobs this year compared to last year.

Underemployed or Not Employed:

  • The national rate is 26.8%.
  • A graduate counts as underemployed when he or she in a non-professional job or employed in a short-term or part-time job.
  • A graduate counts as not employed when he or she is unemployed or pursuing an additional advanced degree.
  • 192 schools (95.5%) reported a rate of 10% or more.
    • 163 schools (81.1%) had 20% or more;
    • 129 schools (64.2%) had 25% or more;
    • 74 schools (36.8%) had 33% or more;
    • 36 schools (17.9%) had 40% or more;
    • 14 schools (7.0%) had 50% or more.
  • 30 schools (14.9%) had more underemployed and non-employed graduates than graduates employed in long-term, full-time legal jobs.
    • Last year, 24 schools qualified.
    • If we compare all long-term, full-time professional jobs (legal or not), 16 schools (8.0%) qualify.

Large Firms (at least 101 attorneys):

  • 12.9% of graduates were employed at large firms in full-time, long-term positions
    • Graduates seek these jobs partly because they tend to pay the highest salaries.
    • Note that not all of these jobs are associate positions. An unknown number are paralegals, administrators, and staff attorneys.
    • This number is up 0.7%, from 12.2% last year. These jobs are particularly unevenly distributed across law schools. Graduates from 25 schools account for over 60% of these jobs; graduates from 10 schools account for 37% of these jobs.
  • At only 63 schools (31.3%) were 10% or more graduates in these jobs.
    • 28 schools (13.9%) had 20% or more;
    • 16 schools (8.0%) had 33% or more;
    • 9 schools (4.5%) had 50% or more;
    • 2 schools (1.0%) had 60% or more.

Although the class of 2013 is the largest ever at 46,776 graduates, it was only 0.8% larger than the class of 2012. The raw number of long-term, full-time legal jobs increased slightly by 574 jobs to 26,653. If we exclude positions funded by law schools, the raw number increased by just 319 jobs to 25,878. Overall, class of 2013 job statistics indicate a flat legal job market.

The future remains grim for prospective law students. Law school enrollment was nearly 40,000 in the most recent year. The current entry-level legal market cannot support such large classes.

In addition to recent job outcome data, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects only 19,650 new law jobs per year between 2012 and 2022, a number that is 10% less than an estimate two years ago that projected 21,880 new jobs per year between 2010 and 2020. That ten-year prediction was 9% less than an estimate a few years prior that projected 24,040 new lawyer jobs per year between 2008 and 2018.

These new jobs include all legal jobs, whether full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary. The BLS labor economists base occupation predictions on econometric models, together with continuous monitoring of the workplace. The macroeconomic model predictions aim to reflect how many new entrants the economy will support in each occupation. These estimates account for economic growth, structural change, retirement, and a host of other variables.

Labor market weaknesses amplify the troubling cost of obtaining a legal education in the United States. Students entering this fall (who graduate in 2017) will likely fare better on the job market. But even if every law school graduate obtained a job, the sky-high cost of legal education means that expected salaries for law school graduates threaten economic hardship. For many, it will be impossible to fulfill their student loan obligations without relying on the generosity of federal hardship programs, which Congress may greatly scale back in the near future.

The message from Law School Transparency to prospective law students remains the same: if you choose to go to law school, carefully assess the costs and the benefits. Focus on where graduates work (geographically) because 2 in 3 employed graduates work in the state in which their law school is located. Use our resources to study law school job outcomes, engage in financial planning, and negotiate the best deal you can with the law schools that can meet your career goals.

For the vast majority of prospective law students who have not received a sizable scholarship, it makes sense to wait for prices to drop further. If you decide to attend, it is essential to negotiate scholarship terms, not just the scholarship amount. You should seek to reduce or eliminate GPA or class rank stipulations, as well as to ensure that your scholarship will grow in proportion to law school tuition increases.

+ School profiles: http://www.LSTScoreReports.com/schools/.
+ Comparison charts: http://www.LSTScoreReports.com/national/.

 

* * *

 

Established in 2009, Law School Transparency is a nonprofit legal education policy and watchdog organization. Our mission is to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable, and fair.

Class of 2011 legal employment and underemployment numbers are in, and far worse than expected

LST’s Press Release:

Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.
– Kingsfield, The Paper Chase

The ABA has released Class of 2011 job outcome data for all domestic ABA-approved law schools. The data are far more granular than ever before. Law School Transparency has analyzed the data and made the school-specific data available on its website for easy comparison.

The ABA data shed considerable light on how poorly the 2011 graduates fared. We can now say with certainty that the employment picture is far worse than previously reported. Only 55.2% of all graduates were known to be employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. A devastating 26.4% of all graduates were underemployed.

According to the ABA data from 195 law schools:

Full-time, Long-Term Legal Jobs:

  • These jobs require bar passage or are judicial clerkships and are for at least 35 hours per week and have an expected duration of at least one year.
  • The national full-time, long-term legal rate is 55.2%.
  • At 73 law schools (37.1%), less than 50% of graduates had these legal jobs.
    • 30 schools (15.2%) had less than 40%
    • 10 schools (5.1%) had less than a 33%
  • 89 schools (45.2%) exceeded the national rate of 55.2%.
    • 31 schools (15.7%) had more than 67%
    • 19 schools (9.6%) had more than 75%
    • 5 schools (2.5%) had more than 90%

Underemployed:

  • We define a graduate as underemployed when he or she is “Unemployed – Seeking”, pursuing an additional advanced degree, in a non-professional job, or employed in a short-term or part-time job.
  • The national underemployment rate is 26.4%.
  • 180 schools (91.4%) reported a rate greater than 10%.
    • 144 schools (73.1%) had more than 20%
    • 109 schools (55.3%) had more than 25%
    • 57 schools (28.9%) had more than 33%
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 40%

Large Firms (at least 101 attorneys):

  • 10.7% of graduates were employed at large firms in full-time, long-term positions
    • Graduates seek these jobs in part because they’re the jobs that tend to pay the highest salaries.
  • At only 45 schools (22.8%) were more than 10% in these jobs.
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 20%
    • 15 schools (5.6%) had more than 33%
    • Only 3 schools were over 50% – Columbia, Northwestern, and Penn.

Law School Transparency’s executive director, Kyle McEntee, urged caution to students planning to enroll this fall. McEntee said, “Law school still costs way too much money compared to post-graduation employment outcomes. If you plan to debt-finance your education or use your hard-earned savings, seriously think twice about attending a law school without a steep discount. For the vast majority of prospective law students who have not received an extensive scholarship, it will make sense to wait for prices to drop.”

There has been some speculation that the class of 2011 may represent the bottom, though this view is grounded more in optimism than evidence. Rather, evidence points to a structural shift in legal employment, especially at the entry-level, that signals a new normal far below pre-recession levels. Technology, globalization, and law firm strategies are substantially changing our profession.

To view every ABA-approved law school’s profile, visit http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/.

To view comparison charts, visit http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?show=compare&sub=jobs

Established in 2009, Law School Transparency is a nonprofit legal education policy organization. Our mission is to improve consumer information and to usher in consumer-oriented reforms to the current law school model. We operate independently of any legal institutions, legal employers, or academic reports related to the legal market.

Updates to the ABA Accreditation Standards

On Saturday (3/17), the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education, will hold an open session to discuss a variety of topics. (Agenda here.) Most importantly, the Council has an action item on Standard 509, also known as the ABA’s consumer information standard. This standard sets the baseline requirements and operating principles for law school disclosure of consumer information.

Relevant Materials:
Standard 509 Clean Copy
Standard 509 Redlined Version
Conditional Scholarship Data Worksheet
Placement Data Worksheet
Placement Data Worksheet (Questionnaire Committee)

We have submitted a memo for the Council’s consideration. In this memo, we urge the Council to adopt the proposed Standard 509 with several small changes. To view the memo, click here for a PDF or view the entire text below the fold. We expect the Council to pass the proposed Standard 509. We hope that it consider integrating some of the changes before the vote, and that the other recommendations receive due consideration when the Council finalizes the two charts and charts’ directions.

Continue reading Updates to the ABA Accreditation Standards

ABA Files Brief in Opposition to Duncan School of Law Complaint

The ABA filed a brief today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Tennessee in response to a complaint filed by Lincoln Memorial University Duncan School of Law.

The lawsuit claims that the ABA violated antitrust laws. “What it says is that in a nutshell, we were denied due process because we met the standards promulgated by the ABA and we didn’t receive accreditation, so what we’re seeking is fair hearing,” said Sydney A. Beckman, vice president and dean of LMU’s law school. “It also alleges antitrust violations because it appears when you deny a school that met accreditation standards, that you’re try to limit the number of law schools.”

The response states that Duncan School of Law was not in “substantial compliance” with all of the section’s Standards for Approval of Law Schools, including Standard 203 (Strategic Planning and Assessment), Standards 303(a) and (c) and Interpretation 303-3 (Academic Standards and Achievements), and Standard 501(b) and Interpretation 501-3 (Admissions and Student Services). The response also suggests that Duncan School of Law has not exhausted its right to appeal the decision by the Council of the Section of Legal Education to deny provisional accreditation.

Why Law Schools Should Report “Gainful Employment”

Two months ago, Aaron Taylor, a law professor at St. Louis University, published an irresponsible editorial in a prelaw magazine. In his article, Professor Taylor lamented the growing number of law school critics and flatly claimed that “Law school is still worth it.” His justifications were all either demonstrably false or incredibly misleading, much like the information many schools publish when recruiting new students. The editorial demonstrated one professor’s profound ability to bury his head in the sand. (In truth, there are signs that law school is not worth the price for many people.)

Professor Taylor said that “the facts belie the hype” when it comes to the national discussion over shady law school recruiting methods. His piece was designed to allay the fears of prospective law students. He actively encouraged them to attend law school, basing his argument on a handful of statistics, platitudes about the universal value of law degrees, and the privileged opportunity to debt-finance a chance at entering the legal profession. He wanted prospectives to know the time is right and the hype is wrong.

Part of Law School Transparency’s mission is to increase the amount and quality of consumer information so that those looking to invest in law school can make an informed decision. We take issue with unqualified–in both senses of the word–assertions that law school is worth it. Simply put, there is not enough information available to make a strong claim that “law school is still worth it.”

But it seems that Professor Taylor has finally begun to see things more clearly.

In his latest piece (excerpted above from The Lawyerist), he does an about-face and considers how we might devise a reporting standard that will indicate whether law school is worth it.

The suggestion is interesting and substantively getting somewhere. While the “gainful employment” term is strategically and politically problematic, the core of his basic proposal stems from prospective students’ need to have some idea of whether their decisions will significantly impair or improve their social and economic mobility. While Professor Taylor’s proposal is short on details, it is worth exploring further.

Breaking: ABA sued by Duncan School of Law

The Knoxville News Sentinel is reporting that Lincoln Memorial University is suing the ABA in federal court. (View the complaint here.) Earlier this week, LMU’s law school, the John R. Duncan Jr. School of Law, was denied provisional accreditation by the ABA Section of Legal Education because it was not in substantial compliance with Standards 202, 303, and 501, including low admissions standards. The school has already received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners.

The lawsuit claims that the ABA violated antitrust laws. “What it says is that in a nutshell, we were denied due process because we met the standards promulgated by the ABA and we didn’t receive accreditation, so what we’re seeking is fair hearing,” said Sydney A. Beckman, vice president and dean of LMU’s law school. “It also alleges antitrust violations because it appears when you deny a school that met accreditation standards, that you’re try to limit the number of law schools.”

In the complaint, LMU observes that “”Defendant ABA’s actions also constitute an intentional misuse of its dominate market power as the gatekeeper for for accreditation of law schools and the benefits that accompany that status.” Blank Rome’s Michael Cioffi contributed to this complaint. He also worked on Cooley’s Sixth Circuit appeal for one of its branch campuses back in 2006.

Dean Beckman told the Knoxville NBC affiliate,”We regret having to take this action. We want to work with the ABA to improve legal education, not work against them or have them work against us.”

Whatever the result of this suit, it is clear that the pressure on the ABA will continue until the entire legal education system substantially changes.

Related: