Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Statistics may suggest that less than 30% of new JDs were able to find work in the legal profession over the past 10 years.

It's time for more fun with numbers and statistics. Previously I used ABA and BLS stats and some seemingly reasonable assumptions to estimate that only 53.8% of all law school graduates in a 40 year span from 1969 to 2008 worked in the legal profession. I later speculated that the percentage of more recent grads who were able to find work in the field was probably significantly less than 53.8%. In this post I want to demonstrate that mathematically. This is just a back-of-the-envelop calculation that is not suitable for formal publication and it depends very heavily on certain assumptions.

If we assume that 75% of the graduates in the 10 year period from 1969-1978 found jobs as lawyers, that 65% of the graduates from 1979-1988 found jobs as lawyers, and that 55% of of the graduates from 1989-1998 found jobs as lawyers, what percentage of graduates from 1999-2008 were able to find jobs as lawyers?

Years JDs Awarded Estimated Percentage Who Found Legal Work Estimated Number Who Found Legal Work
1969-1978 259,558 75% 194,668
1979-1988 357,311 65% 232,252
1989-1998 389,263 55% 214,094
1969-2008 1,006,132 63.7% 641,015
1999-2008 406,306 29.1% 118,185

According to the BLS stats, 759,200 people work as lawyers.  759,200 - 651,015 = 118,185 jobs left for graduates from 1999-2008. 118,185 divided by 406,306 = 29.10%  So, using my model for the percentage of new lawyers who were able to find work in the legal profession, only 29.1% of all new graduates between the years 1999-2008 were able to find work in the legal profession.  Of course, this number all depends on the accuracy of my assumptions.

Now let's calculate the number using a model based on similar assumptions and 5 year periods.

Years JDs Awarded Estimated Percentage Who Found Legal Work Estimated Number Who Found Legal Work
1969-1973 101,314 75% 75,985
1974-1978 158,224 70% 110,771
1979-1983 176,490 65% 114,718
1984-1988 180,821 60% 108,493
1989-1993 189,705 55% 104,338
1994-1998 199,558 50% 99,779
1989-2003 192,621 45% 86,679
1969-2003 1,198,753 58.5% 700,783
2003-2008 406,306 27.35% 111,125

Using this model, only 27.35% of all new graduates between the years 2003-2008 were able to find work in the legal profession.

Of that 30%, the percentage of new lawyers who were able to find jobs that provided compensation commensurate with the costs of their legal education--jobs at large firms, medium-sized firms, high quality small firms, and quality government positions--career-building jobs, is probably much less than 30%. (A new graduate might find a job at "shit law" earning $30,000/year and would count as part of that 30%, but that is not a successful outcome.)

This is not a scientific study by any means; it's merely back-of-the-envelop calculations based on assumptions that may or may not be accurate.  However, I think it validates my claim that if only 53.8% of all lawyers produced between 1969 and 2008 are working in the legal profession, then the percentage of more recent law school graduates who found work as lawyers must be significantly lower than 53.8%.

In the current recession (which may prove to be a permanent "New Normal"), the percentage of new law school graduates who are able to find legal jobs may be much lower than 30%, and the percentage who are able to find good jobs may be even lower.


Angel said...

That's sounds accurate to me. I know many lawyers who aren't practicing, because there simply wasn't a job for them in our field.

Nando said...

Even the NALP reports that there were only 28,901 jobs requiring bar passage for the Class of 2009. There were 44,000 JDs in this class. This would mean that roughly 65.7% of grads landed such employment.

However, as we know, MANY of those jobs requiring bar passage are not full-time attorney positions. Many are desperate solos, part-time legal staffers, and doc review basement dwellers.

That being said, many attorneys leave the "profession" early. Often, because they hate the job or cannot make a decent living at it. So there is a great amount of attrition.

Although, I notice that TONS of tier 1 law students do not have a damn thing lined up by the time they graduate. I live in an area with two "first tier" schools; both are ranked as the 42nd greatest, most fantastic law school by US News & World Report. More often than not, the students I run into do not have any decent employment prospects.

And that is the reality of the U.S. legal job market.

Anonymous said...

good post. What the law school industry has done is set up a scheme of temp jobs for new grads, and then survey them during the period in which the temp jobs are being held. Once the temp jobs end, many of these grads cannot find permanent work and out they go....
it is a facade that inflates the survey figures.

still many grads from my TTTT school have good jobs. But many do not. The ones who do perhaps did work harder or had better connections, a better position in life, better luck, better social skills, etc. But even so, the fact is that the figures are bogus, period.

JD Underdog said...

These temp jobs are turning into long term temp jobs. I've done it for three years. In the first year, people were able to find something else (shitlaw or clerkship) within 6 months. In the second year, it took 6-12 months for people to find something. After I've left the third year, I still see people who have started there years ago. They've resigned themselves to this lot in life and exhausted nearly all their options.

We're told to stay out of doc review because it's a career killer and the longer we're there, the worse it looks to employers, especially legal ones since they know it has no value.

Definitely there's a disconnected between what lemmings believe they'll have upon entering law school and what's actually out there.

Anonymous said...

I am a paralegal at a public service law firm. In the past two years, not one of our 12 interns has had a job at the time of graduation, nor have I heard of any of them getting a job thereafter. We also have an increasing number of volunteer attorneys, with JDs and bar memberships, who pay their horrendous law school debts with jaw-droppingly menial jobs, because they could not get any job in the law.

Even so, the cheerleading for law school in that office and in the world at large is nonstop. Fueled by the wishful political correctness of progressive thinking, it is particularly loud for those candidates who have the least probability of finding work: people who are older, overweight, unattractive or just plain odd. The cheerleader gets to feel virtuous; the patsy gets to pay back the loans and suffer.

It is obvious that the law schools and the ABA bear much blame for the mess that results when there are far too many graduates for the available jobs. They supply the lies, and they're the biggest of the cheerleaders. But their reach is limited. Were they not backed up by the daily chorus of parents, teachers, casual acquaintances and media, all singing the same lying song, the law schools' self-service would have little effect. When parents tell children from their earliest years that they can be and do anything they want, why should those children believe anyone who tells them that they aren't as special, unique and entitled as they enjoy believing they are? Not go to law school? But it's all I've ever wanted since I was five!

Your absolute right to do and be whatever you want may be the biggest sacred cow of American culture right now. It's an obvious lie, but we like our lies. It makes us feel better about the reality that good jobs are going away.

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