An ABA task force recently found that only 56% of recent law school graduates achieve full-time employment as an attorney within twelve months of graduation, over the last five years, applicants to law schools have declined by roughly 50% from approximately 100,000 to approximately 50,000 per year.
This will have a dramatic impact on the availability of lawyers for the American public. And couple this statistic with the more than 400,000 lawyers who will retire in the next 10 years, and you will see a dramatic change in the legal landscape.
For those who complain that there are too many lawyers, this should satisfy their desire to thin the ranks of lawyers. For those who want to better serve those currently under-served Americans, this will add yet another challenge to the system. And for lawyers, the likelihood increases that the Bar will add yet another requirement of pro bono service and added cost to doing business as a lawyer.
The following note is prompted by the comments of Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University® and her post about Kimberly, a young mother who just gave birth to her third child and was a 3L law student at Stetson. She became ill but failed to go to a doctor to address her own health. She was busy with her family and "stuff."
This is for all of you out there whether lawyer or law student, mother or father, who puts
themselves last. You put off going to the doctor for that chronic cough while you rush your child to the pediatrician for a hang nail. You eat your cold dinner out of a jar standing up and talking on the phone while you make sure your child’s meal is hot and she’s seated lest she choke on her food. You do so because ‘you can handle it’. Well, here’s the truth. You can’t.
You can’t care for your kids or your spouse if you break down physically. You can’t care for your clients if you don’t take time to reinvigorate and refresh. Remember the airline admonition: Put your air mask on first and then help your child and others around you. None of us are superhuman or immortal. There is nothing more important than your health, no final, no brief, no exam, no trial, no event. Remember this the next time you get no sleep or ignore that persistent cough or inexplicable pain in your side because ‘you don’t have time’ to slow down. Remember you can break down, too. No machine and certainly no human can work without stop and without repair from time to time.
I recently wrote in my LawBiz Tips Ezine about how law schools continue to churn out new graduates even as demand for them drops, and cited a New York Times article on this issue that concluded: “Today, American law schools are like factories that no force has the power to slow down – not even the timeless dictates of supply and demand.”
Now it appears that the law of supply and demand has not been repealed after all. The Wall Street Journal reports numbers from the Law School Admissions Council showing that the number of law-school applicants this year is down 11.5% from a year ago to 66,876. The figure, which is a tally of applications for the fall 2011 class, is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process, which is almost 90% completed.
The reasons aren’t hard to understand. Firms increasingly prefer to hire lateral attorneys who have already had on-the-job training and books of business, rather than new graduates who don’t understand “The Business of Law®” and will take years to begin returning a profit on the investment made in them. And from the student side, the realization that going six figures into debt to get a J.D. degree that offers no assurance of gainful employment is not exactly a smart idea – especially for those whose main motivation to attend law school was to make the supposed “big bucks” available rather than to pursue a legal career.
So who is hurt most if the law school bubble does burst? We can only hope it will be the law schools themselves, who continue to pour huge resources into “gaming” the law school rankings so that they can move up from number 19 to number 17 and thereby (they presume) entice more students to enroll. When the housing bubble burst, it was – and continues to be – the financial geniuses at the banks who were left holding the bag. Are law school administrators any smarter?
Doctors, like lawyers, have little or no business education in medical/law school. Today’s Wall Street Journal (Education for Executives) discusses doctors journey back to school (business) in order to learn skills that were omitted from their medical education. They need these skills in order to run their medical practices, medical groups and hospitals.
Doctors outreach for management training demonstrates a recent shift in thinking: "…we are much more similar to other businesses that we are different." Taking the business side of medicine more seriously can benefit not only doctors, but also patients, a fact slowly being understood in the medical profession.
Why is it that doctors are ahead of lawyers in this understanding? Why is it that medical schools are incorporating management principles into their teaching and few, if any, law schools do? Why is it that lawyers continue to be reactive, rather than be proactive? Worse still, why is it that lawyers fail to react to their clients wishes? Bar disciplinary proceedings continue to show that more than 50% of clients’ complaints relate to poor management practices. Why?
What are you doing about recruiting? Most of the larger firms have either delayed entry of those to whom they extended offers … by a few months, at least. And some have outplaced these folks to public interest activities for a year with only a stipend.
More law schools are experiencing reduced recruiting efforts … And the real hurt will be felt by 1L students because of the blockage in 3L and 2L’s.
What do you see for the future recruiting efforts for your firm and for the industry?
And how does this phenomenon impact the recruiting of lateral associates/partners to smaller law firms?