I’m sure many of you have been reading the series of articles talking about the lack of jobs for law school graduates and also the games that some law schools are playing in exaggerating their employment numbers. This topic, as you can imagine, has also been a source of numerous conversations by law school deans across the country.
So, let me try to put this issue in some perspective. Of the 134 members of the class that graduated in 2010, 91.8 percent reported that they were employed 9 months after graduation. Of those 123, thirty percent went into solo or small firm practice. Twenty three percent went to work in government (including judicial clerkships). One- fourth worked in business and industry. A few are working in academic settings ( 5%). A few more are employed in public interest work (6%) and some got jobs in larger firms (6.5%).
So the bottom line is that our students got jobs. They did not necessarily get the jobs they wanted but they are working and, with a few exceptions, using their legal skills and training. The average salary for those who reported their salaries is $55,980. Only about 40% in fact report their salary, so this number may be higher or lower but it does give us a base for comparison with other schools. And because of our affordable tuition, our class of 2010 students had a relatively low law school loan debt of $60,149, substantially below the national public law school loan debt for that class of $69,687 and way, way below the national private law school loan debt of $106,249.
These numbers are decent, but we want to do even better. We have developed great bar prep programs to maintain our status as a school with a top bar passage rate. We believe our community service mandate will allow more networking for future jobs. I also make a pitch every time I talk to alums and other lawyers that they should be hiring our students. Our new per hour student research program is also providing needed experience and again networking. And as we implement our increasingly skills based curriculum, we believe our students will be even more competitive in the law and law-related marketplace.
We do not play games in reporting our statistics on employment. For example, we do not hire students at specific times to build up our employment numbers. We push as hard as we can for full disclosure by our students of their job status.
But now comes my shocking statement. I do not believe we have too many lawyers. The American people are under-lawyered. I’m not talking about those lawyers who specialize in boutique practices or serve business or work in government. I’m talking about servicing the rest of us. If one is poor or even middle class, one only goes to a lawyer when they have a problem. They seldom seek a lawyer’s assistance to avoid or prevent a problem. We must find better ways to make routine legal services both affordable and available. Have a lawyer check your credit card agreement! Have a lawyer read your closing documents for your house and then attend the closing! Have a lawyer prepare your will! Have a lawyer write that letter to the store owner or government official who is non-responsive or worse!
When I was younger [yes, I was once young], people went to a doctor when they were sick. They didn’t go for a checkup or diet assistance or even for scrapes, minor injuries or a cold. But now most people have medical plans and they do. The concern now is that we do not have enough doctors.
In a recent article in the Economist [September 3, 2011], the editors talked about a recent books that argued that the number of lawyers has been kept artificially low for decades. Barriers should be lifted; prices for services should go down; alternatives to traditional fee paying must be explored.
I agree. And I believe that present students will fill the gap and provide for the delivery of legal services to the majority and not, as now, the tiny majority.