Are Law Schools Churning Out Too Many Lawyers?

Are law schools churning out too many lawyers? That's the question asked in today's Chronicle of Higher Education. The article is subscription-only, so for those of you who have an account, here's the link. For those of you who don't, here are some excerpts for you to mull over:

  • At least 10 new law schools are on the drawing board around the country, in addition to the 200 already accredited by the American Bar Association. At the same time, the demand for legal services has dropped during the economic recession, prompting hundreds of firms to lay off lawyers, cut salaries, and delay the start dates of new associates. As law schools continue to churn out graduates, the resulting bottleneck could make the competition for jobs even more fierce. And some legal experts predict that even when they do resume hiring, many big firms won't be able to continue paying new associates the salaries of $120,000 or more that students had counted on to whittle down their debt.
  • But that sobering news hasn't stopped students from flocking to law schools, which saw the number of applicants rise 4.3 percent for this fall, according to the ABA. 
  • "The reality hasn't filtered down to students that this isn't like Boston Legal where you get a law degree and walk into a great, high-paying job," [Indianan Law School professor William] Henderson says. "We're taking their money and putting people $100,000 in debt," he says, while their job prospects are at best uncertain. 
  • Such talk hasn't scared off James E. Woodham III, a sophomore at the University of Alabama who plans to attend law school on his way to becoming a politician. Mr. Woodham would most likely have to take out loans but says he and his fellow officers in the university's pre-law association "know that we might not graduate from law school and immediately go to work for a prestigious firm and make a big salary. But we can also use our law degrees to make a difference through nonprofits or government."

You've heard me say a lot on this subject, but I think it's worth continuing the conversation. Bill Henderson in particular is doing a great job publicizing these issues (here, here, and here).

See more of our postings on the subject:

Thoughts? Please share.


Former Dean of Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and a recovering lawyer, Anna Ivey founded Ivey Consulting to help college, law school, and MBA applicants navigate the admissions process. Read more admissions tips in The Ivey Guide to Law School Admissions, recently updated and available as an e-book. Follow Anna on Twitter (@annaivey).