The Execu|Search Group’s Melissa Haber, Director of our Legal Services division, was recently featured on National Public Radio’s Marketplace in a segment regarding dropping law school enrollment rates. According to the segment, enrollment rates are down nearly 7% from last year, with only 120,000 students enrolled into law schools in 2014—the lowest since 1987. Melissa, who is a lawyer herself, provided some insight on why this may be, citing shifts in employment rates as the main culprit.
Being a lawyer was a great option for those looking for a secure future as little as a decade ago, but since then, fewer students are opting for that career path. “In recent years, there has been an influx of new grads coming out of law school and not enough available jobs to keep up. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and supply has been high and demand low,” Melissa says. “Many law school grads are faced with extremely high debt as law school tuition keeps climbing, but the demand and pay for a lot of new lawyers is much lower in comparison. “
When schools were reporting 90% employment rates amongst their recent grads in 2000, they were not required to specify what kinds of jobs, but now they do—and the numbers are lower for permanent placements than expected. “There is still a small percentage of grads out of top tier law schools that get the high paying jobs with top firms, but the majority of law school grads coming out of school are leaving with over $100,000 in debt and find that the jobs pay around $60,000-$70,000 per year,” says Melissa. “The numbers just don’t seem very attractive to incoming students and many pass up the option of law school as a result.”
Of course, plenty of new grads do get jobs, but many are now seeking employment through temporary assignments. Thankfully, these positions are great options for those looking to pursue a career in law. “One of the many options for new lawyers having a hard time finding employment is working on temporary legal assignments such as document review projects and/or working for a firm or company legal department on a temporary basis,” says Melissa. “These assignments allow the attorney to work on many different types of projects, which promotes exposure to different types of legal areas such as litigation, corporate, labor and employment, etc. This is a great way for an attorney who is out of work to have gainful employment and gain experience in differed areas of the law, and in many cases, our candidates who have taken these positions have gone on to obtain fulfilling long-term positions.”
To listen to the segment, click here.