The market for JDs has improved somewhat since the crash of 2009. But the numbers haven't returned to pre-crash levels. Back then, 6,000 lawyers were thrown out on the street.
Some parts of the legal sector such as litigation remain flat. It's probably more difficult than ever to become partner. And, partners are being forced out.
In addition, overall, the industry is being disrupted by changing client expectations. Soon enough, Artificial Intelligence (AI) could wipe up jobs ranging from document review to strategic planning.
Also, one reason the number of those landing jobs 10 months out of law school which require passage of the bar exam has gotten better is that there are fewer graduates. For years after the crash, law school lost popularity. The media promoted the scope of student debt. And specific sites such as Abovethelaw chronicled the grim fate of newbie JDs who weren't hired for positions practicing law.
So, experts on the business of law are wary of what is good news for law schools.
As Karen Sloan reports in Law.com, fall applications to law schools are up 8%. That comes down to 60,401 applying this year versus 55,580 last year. Also the number of those taking the LSAT in June and July had been up 30%. Scores on the LSAT are higher than they have been recently.
What could be in the making is yet another glut situation: More JD graduates than jobs available.
The law school industry has been under the media microscope for not limiting the raw number of applicants in order to prevent glut. Historically, it was well known that the medical school industry did that.
In addition, there is the ongoing problem that it is challenging to hold on to those "good" jobs in law firms. The game remains up or out. Sure, the JD can be hired for one of the associate positions paying a $190k first-year salary. But that "tap on the shoulder" often comes soon enough.
The corridors of other industries are filled with the emotionally wounded who were weeded out after a few years and those who were knocked out of the box after eight years.
Since the crash of 2008, I have been coaching them. Typical is the former associate who had been forced out who claims he or she feels better doing something else. However, they can't stop alluding to that phase of their professional life. Obviously, their soul is stuck in the past.
The analogy is the Academic Lost Generation in the Humanities of the mid 1970s. Those completing their doctoral degrees in disciplines such as literature found the market for tenure-track college professors had collapsed. I was among them.
Once hailed as the best and brightest who had received prestigious fellowships to matriculate in graduate studies, we became unmarketable. Employers either smirked or were puzzled why we had spent our youth chasing degrees in oddball things like 19th century English literature.
It took me five years of bouncing around before I landed in a well-paying job in executive communications at Chevron. At the time the powers that be there respected our academic backgrounds. That was then. Today, in this era of extreme cost efficiency we would probably be labeled "too expensive" and not be allowed in.
The wound hasn't healed. It can't. In a short time I went from having an identity as a budding scholar to being perceived as having made a very big mistake in career direction.
Contact Jane Genova firstname.lastname@example.org.