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A Cold Slap for Law Students

Today's Wall Street Journal report on the sad shape of the legal job market, Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers, while by no means encouraging is at least refreshing -- refreshing for the dose of reality it offers. Amid constant blog and media coverage of Biglaw megasalaries, WSJ reporter Amir Efrati highlights what most rank-and-file lawyers already know: A law degree is by no means a license to print money. In fact, for the majority of law school graduates, these are tough times:

"Graduates who don't score at the top of their class are struggling to find well-paying jobs to make payments on law-school debts that can exceed $100,000. Some are taking temporary contract work, reviewing documents for as little as $20 an hour, without benefits."

Supply and demand help explain the slump, Efrati writes. More lawyers are entering the workforce while overall demand for legal services has slowed and, in some practice areas, declined. Solo and smaller-firm lawyers are hit especially hard:

"Evidence of a squeezed market among the majority of private lawyers in the U.S., who work as sole practitioners or at small firms, is growing. A survey of about 650 Chicago lawyers published in the 2005 book 'Urban Lawyers' found that between 1975 and 1995 the inflation-adjusted average income of the top 25% of earners, generally big-firm lawyers, grew by 22% -- while income for the other 75% actually dropped."

Efrati's article and related Law Blog post note that some law students are  unhappy with their law schools for failing to warn them about the sad state of the employment market. That strikes me as a  maneuver to shift blame from the students' own lack of due diligence before starting down the path of a legal career. Frankly, there is no news in reporting that the majority of lawyers earn modest salaries and that for many getting by is a struggle. As the article notes, the inflation-adjusted average income for sole practitioners has been flat since the mid-1980s. The bulletin in this piece is in the reality it offers. For many law students, apparently, reality is a cold slap.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 24, 2007 at 04:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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