Following the Great Recession of 2008, law-firm hiring collapsed, while law school enrollments rose nationwide. For those thinking of becoming an attorney, the numbers weren’t pretty. Too many lawyers and not enough available jobs – especially in the higher-paying areas of corporate law.
Then came 2013. According to online magazine Slate, law school applications fell to their lowest level in 30 years. Last year, only 39,700 students entered law school, compared to more than 46,700 the year before. Assuming the drop-out rate remains the same, today’s graduating class will have nearly 25 percent fewer lawyers entering the job market today than last year.
And while the number of students entering law school declined dramatically, the legal job market has actually stabilized. Last year, nearly 33,000 graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least one year. These numbers are excellent for the class of 2014 and beyond, since there will be far fewer recent graduates looking for work.
The Baby Boomer factor
Another important factor is that the Baby Boomer generation is now entering retirement – and that means millions of lawyers leaving the job field. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), roughly 8,000 boomers retire every day – a trend that’s expected to continue for years to come. Many legal organizations, including the Washington Bar Association, predict a coming market gap, with too many available positions and not enough lawyers.
Idaho – home of Concordia University School of Law – is one of 14 states that have adopted the Uniform Bar Examination. This includes Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. So sitting for the bar in Idaho would make it possible to be licensed in these states, as well.
A shifting market
During the 1940s and 1950s, the preponderance of attorneys graduating from law school moved immediately into junior positions at the biggest law firms. Times have changed.
Today, many attorneys still find work with large firms. After all, the world we live in is more complex than ever and every bit as fraught with legal risk. But more and more, lawyers are finding work outside of the multi-national corporate law firms – taking jobs as in-house counsel for businesses and non-profits, both big and small. A recent Boston Globe article points to how some of the more promising legal career fields these days are in business-related fields of study, including corporate and entrepreneurship law, regulatory compliance, intellectual property, and finance.
According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, the job outlook for lawyers through 2022 is a growth rate of 10%.
Beyond the courtroom
Additionally, there is a segment of law school graduates who are choosing to forego the big law firm and courthouse route altogether. These lawyers are leveraging their law degree to pursue another type of legal career – such as contract negotiator, entertainment agent, mediator, or crime reporter – or are working for the government as a public policy advisor, speech writer, diplomat, or even elected official. Those with law degrees are also sought after to work for foundations, non-profit boards, and community organizations, as well as law school professors.
The time is now
In the complex world of law, the scenario facing today’s would-be law students is a fairly straight-forward equation. Fewer law school students plus a rapidly retiring Baby Boomer work force equals more career opportunities than there are lawyers to fill them. Translation? This is an excellent time to become a lawyer.
Considering law school? Consider Concordia Law.