Prediction: Full-Time Jobs Will Exceed New Law Graduates For Class of 2016
Yes, you read it right! That was the bold assertion made on Red Velvet Lawyer by Professor Paula Marie Young of Appalachian State University. Question is, is she right?
Let’s start by noting, as Professor Young did, that this prediction was originally made by Jerry Organ at the 2013 Conference for the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors. According to Professor Young, Organ stated that “applicants to law school would continue to decline while the trend in new law jobs would hold at least steady.” In other words, the surplus of law school graduates would slowly be absorbed due to the deficit in incoming law students.
To prove this theory, Professor Young used conference data from LSAC (Law School Admissions Council) and supplemented it with data from NALP (The National Association of Law Placement). In making her calculations, Professor Young worked off three assumptions: 1) Law school enrollment would continue to decline by 8 percent annually; 2) Attrition would hold steady at 12 percent annually; 3) New full-time legal jobs (bar required, JD advantage, and other professional jobs) would continue at 31,776 openings annually, along with full-time job creation remaining at 33,759 jobs.
After running her model – which is documented in her post – Professor Young came to this conclusion: “…full-time jobs (in three categories) will exceed the number of graduates from law school in 2017. If I include all full-time jobs in that count, then those jobs will exceed law school graduates in 2016.”
So does this thesis hold up to scrutiny? Surprisingly, yes. However, there are critiques of Professor Young’s methodology. For example, Professor Deborah J. Merritt, John Deaver Drinko / Baker and Hostetler Chair in Law at the Moritz College of Law, challenges the underlying data that Professor Young used for graduation rates, attrition rates, and full-time jobs. In her estimation, the number of graduates and jobs will align in 2021, five years later than Professor Young’s contention.
Either way, both models show that the so-called “law school crisis” will eventually work itself out (though law school enrollment can’t decline indefinitely at 8 percent). Sometimes, investments take time to yield a return. As with stocks, it is students who focus on the long-term, not seeking the quick buck, who ultimately come out ahead.