With college tuition fees on the rise, and the rate of unemployment still looking dismal for new grads, law school hasn’t held as much appeal in recent years as it has in years past. Student loans, the American job market, and other factors have deterred many students from applying to law school after receiving their undergraduate degree, but some believe that this trend is changing.
Earlier this year, Slate’s Jordan Weissmann wrote not one but two articles urging aspiring lawyers to take the plunge and start applying to law school. In “Apply to Law School Now! Yes, We’re Serious,” Weissmann explains that becoming a lawyer is “not a total mistake anymore” thanks to shifting trends in employment for new graduates. In “Now Is a Great Time to Apply to Law School,” Weissmann gives a convincing case about the future legal labor market.
Writes Weissmann, “As the economy healed and horror stories about jobless and indebted young law grads proliferated, however, something crucial happened: Applications tumbled to their lowest level in at least 30 years,” of how the economic recession dissuaded thousands of students from applying to law school, thus making the job market less competitive. He continues, “At the same time, it seems the legal job market has begun to stabilize. Last year, 32,775 graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least a year, including positions like judicial clerkships, up slightly from 2012,” noting that if these numbers continue to grow, then in 2016, “91 percent of the class could land long-term, full-time work – on par, if not better, than some of the legal industry’s best years.”
Weissmann’s argument was understandably met with some criticism. Writers from Above the Law declared him “disastrously off base” in regards to his predictions about the strength of the future legal labor market. Kendall Coffey, legal analyst and author of “Spinning the Law,” once noted that “Ironically, while thousands of new law graduates fret about the chronic joblessness that awaits them, tens of millions of Americans need attorneys but cannot afford them,” another point that discredits Weissmann’s argument. Even if new graduates are able to attain jobs in high-paying law firms, without clients, will their careers flounder?
Weissman himself notes that “Of course, all this could change if students start flooding back into law school, and class sizes balloon to their old proportions.” This, he says, is the exact reason why now is the time to apply; it’s better to get ahead of the curve and earn a degree now, rather than competing with even more law students when employment rates truly start to rise.
For further reading about why now might be an ideal time to apply to law school, be sure to check out Weissmann’s appeal to future lawyers.