Too Many Lawyers? Maybe Not

We’ve all heard the snide-but-popular refrains about there being too many lawyers and lawyers having a monopoly, but the profession’s ranks are headed for a unavoidable decline based on negative market forces. The Great Recession that began with the 2008 financial market collapse also has affected the amount of available legal work and caused law school enrollment to dip to pre-1980 levels.

The Law School Admission Council recently released nationwide law school enrollment statistics that paint a bleak picture for many schools. According to the LSAC, as of mid-January, the number of applicants to ABA-accredited law schools fell 20 percent compared to the same number last year, with only four U.S. law schools recording higher enrollment figures than the previous year. Overall, more than 80 schools posted declines of 30 percent or more.

One law school scholar told The New York Times that the nation’s 2013 law school class will be the smallest since 1977. The massive enrollment shortfall stems from the current floundering legal market, where thousands of jobs have been lost in the past few years for a variety of reasons, including technological advances and more legal work being shipped overseas.

Like the downturns in other industries, the economic pain will not be equally distributed. The lower-ranked law schools, which have the most difficulty attracting the best prospective students, will suffer the most. Some may even close their doors. On the other hand, the Harvards and Yales will still have more highly-qualified applicants than they can accomodate. 

Fewer jobs mean fewer students. Fewer students mean lower demand for legal education. Lower demand means a smaller market to provide that education. But isn’t that exactly how markets are supposed to work? 

 

Posted: 2/22/2013 2:15:17 PM by TCLE Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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