In today’s newspaper, Don J. DeBenedictis, staff writer for the Journal, discusses law schools’ new approach to help law school graduates find jobs. This idea is one of several being discussed to match the supply and demand of legal services. It is clear that there is a greater demand for legal services than is now being fulfilled. However, many contend there is an oversupply of lawyers. Some writers suggest, I believe correctly, that there is not an oversupply, but rather a mismatch between the two.
One reason for the mismatch is that most lawyers seek to work for the smaller percentage of affluent clients. Working for the less affluent client requires a reduced level of compensation. Sometimes it is difficult to match the reduced remuneration working from low to modest means clients with the debt level resulting from educational expenses.
The staff writer discusses law schools in California that are now providing funds to graduates who are willing to work for government or public interest employers. The amount of money received by the graduates is not grand. We’re talking about, perhaps, $15 per hour. However, the graduates are earning enough money to pay expenses and gain valuable experience preparatory for their next job. This program reminds me of one Southern law school that provided sufficient funds to open a new law practice if the graduate located in a rural or other geographic community that needed legal services. Provided the graduate remained in that location for five years, the “loan” would be forgiven.
It seems that any suggestion brings out adversaries. The positive side of seeking to match supply and demand is countered by those who say that law schools are merely disguising their percentage of graduates employed. While this may be true, it is also true that these graduates are employed, just not at a high level of income written about by the sensationalist media. It is also true that American Bar Association statistics separate between traditional jobs and “funded” jobs, thus disclosing the truth of the employment claims made by law schools.
One could also look at this as a postgraduate fellowship. This is an incredibly positive effort on the part of law schools and their funding sources for this program. My congratulations.