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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Are lawyers' job prospects dimming?

Although the Wall Street Journal law blog undoubtedly has a vast readership, only a small fraction of visitors to any blog actually take the time to comment. Don't get me wrong, the WSJ Law Blog still gets a goodly number of comments by blog standards. I haven't done a scientific research study, but a typical post on the site may garner 20 to 40 comments.

That was not the case yesterday when the blog put up a post entitled, "The Dark Side of the Legal Job Market." By this morning, 379 comments had been made to the post. Why so much interest in this one post? Here is a taste of it:

For elite law-school grads, prospects have never been better. But the majority
of JDs are suffering from long-term economic trends are suppressing pay and job
growth. The result: Graduates who don’t score at the top of their class are
struggling to find well-paying jobs to make payments on law-school debts that
can top $100,000. Some are taking temporary contract work, reviewing documents
for as little as $20 an hour, without benefits. And many are blaming their law
schools for failing to warn them about the dark side of the job market.

The post was based on on a page 1 story on the legal job market in the WSJ. "Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers: Growth of Legal Sector Lags Broader Economy; Law Schools Proliferate."

Here in Minnesota, we have four law schools pumping out a growing number of job-seeking lawyers. We are approaching the point of minting 1,000 new lawyers a year, many of them knee-deep in student debt. This summer, a record number of test takers sat for the state bar exam. Future lawyers may face uncertain prospects -- particularly if they do not finish in the top 10 percent of their class and do not go to what is considered a "top tier" law school. It's certainly grounds for concern, and something that should be discussed.

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