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Sunday, June 17, 2012
Law Schools Respond to Bleak Market
It has been a bad year for law schools and a worse year for many law school graduates. This week the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) released its annual report. Just 85% of new law school grads can expect to find work-the lowest this figure has been since 1994. A full three-quarters of that 85% were working in non-legal and/or part-time positions.
As a talking point, the rupture of the legal profession makes for good discussion. (For some particularly lively vitriol, visit the Facebook page "Don't Go to Law School"). Although the national unemployment rate has been alarming for the past several years, people seem especially affronted at the prospect that a law degree has lost its traditional value. For new grads, the panic and anger is simpler than that-many are saddled with six-figure debt.
Some law schools are finally responding. Roughly ten of the country's 200 ABA accredited schools have plans to marginally decrease enrollment over the next several years. Some schools are cutting their class sizes by as few as 20, but with tuition at law schools averaging between $20K and $40K a year, these cuts are not insignificant reductions to law school revenue.
At a theoretical level, the cuts make sense. A bleak job market, oversaturated with law grads will gradually improve as fewer people emerge with law degrees. Simple supply and demand. Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia remarked recently that the country might be better off sending some of its brightest minds into other fields--like science and engineering--where they are needed most.
This decision does not fix the problem for current law school graduates, but may start to set a new tone in a field that is rapidly losing the gloss of high expectation that has historically made it so appealing.
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