Article Preview: “The Near-Term Employment Prospects of American Law School Graduates”

As the spring semester quickly approaches there is one issue near and dear to every law student’s heart — employment. It is no secret that the job market for American law school graduates suffered greatly during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 recession. As the economy slowly recovered, the legal job market quickly improved. However, as is so often the case, reporters sensationalized the negative and failed to account for the improved employment forecasts. Armed only with continued coverage depicting the job market as “grim,” current law students and recent graduates might understandably lose hope in their career prospects.

Professor Teich’s upcoming article “The Near-Term Employment Prospects of American Law School Graduates” fills in the gaps that reporters have missed. Professor Teich delves into the pre and post-recession employment data and presents a series of fact-supported statements that will likely quell the fears of prospective students and recent graduates. Professor Teich argues that within two years there will likely be a shortage of newly licensed lawyers. How is this possible?

For starters, since before the recession began, the annual number of law graduates employed nine months after graduation has remained roughly the same: at about 37,000. Meanwhile, during the same period, the number of students entering law schools has decreased by 11,013 students. Additionally, approximately 11% of each year’s national law school entering class does not graduate for a variety of reasons. Following the same trend, Professor Teich projects that the 2017 graduating class will be approximately 34,000 students. This means there will be approximately 37,000 jobs awaiting 34,000 graduates. Thus, there will be a shortage of law school graduates.

Professor Teich then highlights the flawed data reporters rely on to paint the picture of a weak legal job market. He argues that the marginal rise in law school graduates unemployed after nine months of graduation, the decline in the number of full time “bar passage required” jobs, and variance between salaries paid to law graduates are irrelevant and obsolete. He concludes by reassuring prospective law students that law schools will continue to enroll smaller classes in at least the near-term future, and that unemployed graduates from prior years will not likely fill the surplus of jobs projected for the class of 2017. In short, students considering law school and those who are about to graduate can rest assured that their employment prospects are much brighter than they might seem at first glance.

Be sure to read Professor Teich’s full article in Volume 50 of New England Law Review On Remand.

Contributing Editor: Sara J. Conway

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