Unemployment after graduating from school has long been a fear of most young adults, but even more so in these tough economic times. The financial crisis around the world has not spared educated youth, many of whom feel their education is useless after searching without securing a stable, well-paying job.
For several years now, the job market has been especially unkind to law students. However, the blame can slightly be laid on law schools who, driven by finance, continued to enroll more students despite the obvious changing market conditions. According to American Bar Association data, a record of more than 52,000 students started law school in 2010 which accredits U.S. law schools. Amid a dwindling pool of applicants, enrollments have fallen nationally since then. Enrollment may continue to shrink, judging by the numbers of people considering getting a Juris Doctor degree unless law schools relax their admissions standards. 33,673 people, as reported by the Law School Admission Council, took the law school entrance exam (LSAT) in October, down nearly 11% from the same test month last year.
According to Ameet Sachdev of the Chicago Tribune, the heads of law schools confront financial pressures that many have never dealt with in the face of declining enrollments. By shrinking their enrollments, schools are forgoing millions of dollars in tuition revenue. Some deans, in a bid to balance their budgets, have reduced faculty and staff through layoffs and attrition. Moreover, to attract more students and find more jobs for their graduates, they are spending limited resources. To hire students for either internships or full-time positions, they are throwing themselves into curriculum reform and cajoling alums.
“We’re in a longer-term correction in terms of jobs,” said Harold Krent, dean of the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. “Technology changes, globalization trends, corporate pressures on law firms and tax issues for state governments all have contributed. We have to ensure we continue to be as relevant as we can.”
More students are graduating from law school each year than there are new legal jobs available, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic. Since the Great Recession, growth in legal occupations has been constrained because demand for discretionary legal services has declined. In addition, to perform some of the tasks that lawyers perform, businesses increasingly use accounting and consulting firms and paralegals and as an alternative, turning to the growing number of temporary staffing firms that place attorneys in short-term jobs — such as recent law school graduates who have been unable to find permanent positions.