In a word, jobs. According to a scathing article in the New York Times, the vast majority of law school students graduate with virtually no job prospects befitting a lawyer. Only the top graduates from the highly elite law schools will be hired for the advertised average salary of a first year lawyer of $160,000. Most everybody else will take temp jobs proofreading legal documents that pay $20 per hour with no benefits. Or they take menial jobs not in the legal field. Or move back in with mom and dad. All this after accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loan debt with little immediate prospect for repayment.
How did this happen to this once proud profession? The article lays the blame on the American Bar Association and U.S. News and World Report. College students scrutinize U.S. News for its ranking of law schools every year and notice that most of them say over 90% of their graduates are employed nine months after graduation. In these times of economic turmoil this sounds like going into law is a sure ticket to employment. What the readers don't recognize is that being employed is not the same as being a lawyer. If somebody is working at a McDonald's drive through window nine months after law school, they are considered gainfully employed. There is also a certain bias in this statistic. The information is strictly voluntary from the former students. Therefore those not employed at that time are less likely to report back to the school for the survey. Who allowed this charade to happen? None other than the ABA. U.S. News is simply following the statistical methodology as established by the ABA and they don't feel the need to change it unless the ABA makes the first move.
This is not a sudden revelation. There are multiple blogs established by unemployed lawyers complaining about this deceit. So why not close down a few dozen law schools to tighten up the supply of lawyers and boost employment? After all, doesn't the ABA grant accreditation to open up law schools? As it turns out, it is much easier to open a school than to close one down. The ABA says there are antitrust issues to closing schools. After all, whose to say which school deserves to remain open and which ones should close. While everybody recognizes that Harvard Law School should stay, what about a small school like McGeorge School of Law at the University of the Pacific, also ABA accredited? Therefore the ABA is throwing its hands up at the whole issue.
By comparison, there truly is a shortage of doctors in the country, now and into the foreseeable future. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, there will likely be a deficit of 150,000 physicians in the next fifteen years. The shortage extends to anesthesiologists too, with an estimated deficit of 12,500 by the year 2020 according to the RAND Corp. If there is such an obvious need for more doctors, why doesn't the laws of supply and demand step in to fix this? Simple. Medicine in this country doesn't follow market principles. The federal government controls how many doctors are trained by decreeing how much money they will give to support medical schools and residencies. Right now there is talk of opening more medical schools to train a new army of primary care doctors in preparation for the onslaught of Baby Boomers hitting the retirement age. But Medicare has not allocated more money to open residency positions for all these doctors to continue their training after graduation.
Isn't it ironic that the government knows full well we need more doctors but won't supply the money for them? Yet this institution of lawyers, along with the ABA, can do nothing to stop the oversupply of law school graduates flooding the economy, wreaking havoc in its wake and causing untold suffering to thousands of bright young legal minds. Is it any wonder we have legions of lawyers trying to chase down every possible class action lawsuit, car accident victim, and frivolous malpractice case?