Job prospects getting worse for law school graduates

The Wall Street Journal reports that newly minted lawyers have only about a 50 percent chance of being employed as lawyers nine months out from graduation.

Jeff Horwich: According to some new analysis by the Wall Street Journal, newly minted lawyers have only about a 50 percent chance of being employed as lawyers nine months out from graduation.

To talk about these tough times for lawyers, I've got Edward Birmingham. He is associate dean at the Creighton University School of Law. Good to have you with us.

Edward Birmingham: Good talking to you, Jeff.

Horwich: We've been hearing for a number of years about lawyers -- among many other professions -- struggling during the recession. With job prospects getting worse, are fewer people going to law school?

Birmingham: Yes, the applications are down; I think down around 15 percent this year. And that's why we cut our class in order to maintain the quality.

Horwich: In the medical field, we've heard a lot in recent years about the problem that too many doctors want to be surgeons and other specialists, and too few want to go into family practice. Is there any sort of parallel problem for lawyers?

Birmingham: Well I think there is, and the problem of course is the high debt that students incur. So there's a need for people in smaller towns, but it's harder and harder for the law grads to take those jobs and it's just hard to pay off the big loan payments and so on.

Horwich: Sure. Are there any solutions to try and supply more of those small town lawyers and public defenders?

Birmingham: Well, we were over in Des Moines last week at the Iowa State Bar Association. And folks there -- the bar association and the deans of the law schools -- are getting together to come up with a plan to have externships in small towns, because there are great opportunities there but it's hard to get the students interested. So, we're doing that, and at Creighton, we're tending to get more folks from out of the state of Nebraska, and smaller towns in Iowa, hoping that there'll be more interest in going back to those places.

Horwich: Well, Edward Birmingham, associate dean at the Creighton University School of Law in Omaha. Very good to talk with you, that's for your time.

Birmingham:  OK, thank you.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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