Overproduction of Lawyers

Steven Harper explains why the number of new graduates from American law schools greatly exceeds the number of available jobs. His account is based on the percentage of graduates who find full-time long-term jobs that require passing the bar exam. This metric is imperfect. For instance, it includes graduates who employed in positions funded by their law schools, and omits graduates employed in excellent positions that don't require bar exam passage. However, it is good enough to make the case that large numbers of law school graduates fail to find suitable employment. Ten months after graduation, Harper reports, "only 60 percent of the law school class of 2014 had found full-time long-term jobs that required them to pass the bar exam."

The glut appears to result from the profitability of operating law schools. The trick, as with many for-profit American educational institutions, is to lure in students who pay tuition with federal student loans.

"Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones."
- Steven Harper, Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs, New York Times, Aug. 25, 2015

Lack of post-graduation employment is a problem for the student who cannot repay the loan, and for the lender, but not for the school.

The American Bar Association created a task force to study the problem, chaired by Dennis Archer, who also heads the national policy board of Infilaw, a consortium of three for-profit law schools, Arizona Summit, Charlotte, and Florida Coastal, most of whose 2014 graduates were unable to find jobs requiring their degrees.

"Excluding positions funded by the law school, only 39.9 percent of Arizona Summit graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least a year and requiring bar passage. Florida Coastal’s rate was 34.5 percent. At Charlotte, it was 34.1 percent."
- Ibid.

Despite putting the task force in the hands of someone so well acquainted with the problem, the resulting recommendations are not expected to help significantly:

"The task force, having dodged the issues that should have been the focus of its work, offered four suggestions: law schools should offer students better debt counseling; the Department of Education should develop “plain English” disclosure information about student loans; the A.B.A. should collect and disseminate information about how law schools spend their money; and the A.B.A. should encourage law schools to experiment on curriculums and programs."
"None of those will make a difference."
- Ibid.

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