BLS Projects a very optimistic 98,500 new jobs for lawyers. In that time I project a very conservative net increase of at least 189,442 new JDs.
In a comment to Friday's post, the author of the Law School Tuition Bubble blog pointed out that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for lawyers will increase by 98,500 over the ten year period from 2008 to 2018. (See the "Projections" data.) Adjusting for lawyer retirements, what is the net increase in the number of lawyers produced over those ten years?
Let's use my standard assumption that a lawyer would want to practice or would end up practicing for 40 years. (If someone graduated at age 25, he would earn their living working as a lawyer for 40 years before retiring at age 65.) We have ABA data for the number of JDs produced between 1969 and 1978 (corresponding to JD production 40 years in the future from 2009 to 2018). The net change in the number of JDs will be the difference between the number of JDs produced between 2009 and 2018 and the number produced from 1969 through 1978.
Unfortunately, we don't know how many new JDs will be minted between 2011 and 2018. The only data I have in those regards is that 44,000 were produced in 2009. Let's assume that 45,000 new JDs will be produced for each of the 9 years between 2010 and 2018. (In reality, the number will probably be higher since the ABA continues accrediting new law schools.)
|Years||Law School |
Law School Grads
|2009 - 1969||44,000||16,733||27,267|
|2010 - 1970||45,000||17,477||27,523|
|2011 - 1971||45,000||17,006||27,994|
|2012 - 1972||45,000||22,342||22,658|
|2013 - 1973||45,000||27,756||17,244|
|2014 - 1974||45,000||28,729||16,271|
|2015 - 1975||45,000||29,961||15,039|
|2016 - 1976||45,000||32,597||12,403|
|2017 - 1977||45,000||33,640||11,360|
|2018 - 1978||45,000||33,317||11,683|
So, for the BLS's projected 98,500 new lawyer jobs, the law schools and the ABA will produce a net increase of 189,442 new lawyers. Assuming that these optimistic numbers are correct, only 52.0% of all new law school graduates will be able to find lawyer jobs.
I think that projection is very optimistic. First, it assumes that the number of jobs for lawyers will actually increase. Last week the ABA reported that the legal profession lost 2900 attorney jobs last month (when jobs in other sectors supposedly increased). In the meantime legal process outsourcing is shipping lawyer jobs overseas and computers may become capable of basic document review. Also, our nation's economy will probably continue to suffer from malaise, and as a general rule, less economic activity means fewer business transactions and less work for lawyers. Moreover, historically the amount of new lawyer production increases over time. In other words, in reality more than 45,000 new JDs will probably be produced each year while the increase in the number of jobs for lawyers will probably be smaller than 98,500, assuming that it increases at all. Consequently, I suspect that the percentage of new graduates who are able to find entry-level law jobs will be much closer to the 29.1% and 27.35% figures I calculated previously.
Of course, in response, the ABA will probably continue to accredit new law schools and the law schools will probably continue to increase tuition and keep raking in the bucks.