December 12, 2011
Cooley Dean Says Job Prospects For Law Graduates Are Strong
Nelson Miller, dean of Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Grand Rapids campus penned an editorial published in The Careerist last week. He paints a rosy picture of the legal jobs market using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. He cites 1,040,000 employed lawyers as well a other stats showing strength in the market for legal services. The BLS page on lawyer occupation is here, and was cited in the comments to the editorial. That page shows a 531,350 total for employed lawyers with a 0.7% relative standard error. There is a footnote to the numbers, however, that states estimates do not include self-employed workers. By Nelson’s numbers, that must mean there are approximately 500,000 solo practitioners out there, or something.
The problem is less with his numbers than his editorial doesn’t link to the BLS tables he uses for his estimates, making it difficult to replicate his conclusions. I think it’s clear in legal writing, as an analogy, that the purpose of citation is to give the reader a clear path to the cited authority. Maybe the citations will show up in the legal memoranda filed in the false employment data cases against Cooley. This may be an opinion piece, but the lack of identified, specific sources from the BLS undermines Miller’s argument that the legal employment picture isn’t as bad as critics make it out to be.
As other comments note, the real problem is not necessarily employment generally, but quality employment that can pay off the crushing debt students incur getting a law degree. I’ve seen other analyses that suggest leaving a $50,000 job to attend law school just to get a similar or slightly higher salary in the legal industry (or just industry generally, I guess) doesn’t make much sense in the long haul. Hope springs eternal, but reality is what counts when it comes to law school debt. [MG]
Update: Dean Miller responds to my question of citation and specificity in the comments. I thank him for this.
We draw figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey for the years 2001-2010 available at http://www.bls.gov/cps/tables.htm#annual, in particular Table 11 - Employment Status by Detailed Occupation available at http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf. Find each of the other years 2003 through 2009 by clicking on the desired year under "On this Page" at this link: http://www.bls.gov/cps/tables.htm#empstat. You can only download data from 2003 and later from the website but can obtain 2002 and 2001 data from the Bureau via email using the "contact CPS" link here: http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/forms/cps?/cps/home.htm. The information about the 53 other management and professional occupations is from the occupational category in Table 11 titled "Management, professional, and related occupations."
We also draw figures from the National Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP) for the 2001 through 2010 classes, much of which is available at http://www.nalp.org/recentgraduates, except that discrepancies exist between NALP's web version and its official published version, so we used the official NALP data, which is published each year by NALP in a book titled Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates - Class of 20XX.
The librarian blog includes a link to a different BLS survey than the source of our data. The librarian blog used the 561,350 number from the May 2010 Occupational Employment Survey (OES), not the Current Population Survey (CPS). The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the CPS data for its official news releases about unemployment rates, which is why we chose the CPS over the OES. Nearly every media outlet reports data that came from the CPS. The methodology and frequency for the OES and CPS are completely different. The OES is a mailed survey to employers (not workers) done only twice per year and does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers. By contrast, the CPS samples 60,000 households via personal and telephone interviews each month, and data is gathered about all individuals 16 years of age and older. Find the methodology for each survey at these links on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at OES: http://www.bls.gov/oes/oes_emp.htm#scope and CPS: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_over.htm#available.
Posted by: Nelson Miller | Dec 14, 2011 4:34:24 AM