June 29, 2011
Cut the Glut: State-by-State Empirical Labor Market Model for Law School Grads
In The Oversupply of Lawyers in America, ATL's Elie Mystal asks "if we’re producing twice as many lawyers than we need, is it time to close half of the law schools?" I'm inclined to believe Elie's answer is "yes." I'm inclined to agree with him as long as academic law librarians don't join the breadlines with their recent law school grads because they are not responsible for this situation.
Elie is not just tossing out vague, generalized numerical references. His statement is based on an empirical model provided in a recent study conducted by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. On the NYT Economix blog, Catherine Rampell reports on a EMSI estimate of the surplus of law school grads on a state-by-state basis. This is the first empirical model that I have seen which does a state by state analysis. It is pretty scary. While what is happening may be part a temporary downturn, I believe it also is probably the beginning of a structural transformation in the US lawyer labor market. It's happened in manufacturing and service industry sectors. There is no reason to believe the legal profession is exempt.
48 States Producing More Attorneys Than Needed. According to EMSI, every state but Wisconsin and Nebraska (plus Washington, D.C.) is producing many more lawyers than it needs. See the state-by-state stats and the cumulative stats Elie references in the table published at Rampell's The Lawyer Surplus, State by State.
[A]cross the country, there were twice as many people who passed the bar in 2009 (53,508) as there were openings (26,239). A separate estimate for the number of lawyers produced in 2009 — the number of new law-school graduates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics — also showed a surplus, although it was not quite as large (44,159 new law grads compared with 26,239 openings).
Take a hard look at your state's surplus.
Perhaps It is Time for a Noble Experience. Shut down enough law schools until the surplus is replaced with a deficit. It might be an attractive budget cutting proposition at some universities. I'm thinking the irresponsibility of the legal academy deserves it. Let law profs join the breadlines ... but I don't wish that on academic law librarians. They don't vote on maintaining and, in some instances, increasing law school enrollments to offset budget cuts in faculty meetings.[JH]