JCougar wrote:Legal jobs aren't going to get better until supply of freshly minted JDs starts getting close to the level of demand out there. For that to happen, law school enrollment has to drop about another 25-33% from current levels. Most reasonable estimates put the number of actual attorney jobs out there on a yearly basis somewhere between 20-25K. We're still on pace to matriculate an excess of 10-15K JD's per year. That number will be whittled down some by people who drop out or end up never passing a bar exam (the latter of which may end up getting higher as bottom-feeding schools increasingly admit people who basically have close to zero reasoning skills).
However, as long as there's thousands of JD's each year that are forced to bid between complete unemployment/living in their parents' basement and getting any legal experience they can find (and there will be such numbers even in the current environment), the common outcome for those who strike out at OCI will be either a volunteer position or making somewhere between $20-50K doing slip n' fall work somewhere. Bargaining leverage won't go up until firms basically have to raise the compensation level to get people to work there instead of somewhere else. And in an environment where JD grads are so desperate that they'll gleefully engage in slave labor to salvage some type of legal career as opposed to none at all, there will be no such pressure.
So this probably isn't that great of a time to go to law school, after all. The only improvement is that you'll have a better shot at finding volunteer work as opposed to nothing at all.
Do you think big law is a separate legal market, or is it not possible to separate it from the larger legal economy? I expect elite law firms will continue to hire from t14 and top 5-10% of lower schools, so it seems to me that the drop in LSATs from 165-180 will help a good amount with hiring. Of course there are splitters at T14s with an LSAT below 165, and there are people in the top 5-10% at lower schools with below a 165 LSAT, but I can't imagine this group makes up more than 10-15% of big law hires. So it seems to me that this kind of drop in applicants with a LSAT between 165-180 can only mean a spike in the percentage of T14 students getting big law, and a better outcome for top of the class people at lower schools.
The thing is, class sizes at the T14 aren't really dropping. Nor are medians, for the most part. We'll see if that will hold this next cycle. So Biglaw won't have to dig much deeper to fill its quotas than it previously has.
Biglaw is hard to figure out, because the high salaries are due to an artificial constraint on labor supply--the idea that you're not qualified to do that kind of work unless you have x.xx GPA or went to a school ranked xx or higher. I don't buy that for a second, given the lack of validity of law GPA in predicting legal work performance, and the general lack of transferable legal skills in the law school curriculum. Also, after responding to many a Biglaw motion in court, it appears that the #1 qualification to do their work seems to be coming up with strained, just-barely-non-frivolous legal theories consisting mostly of bullshit, tortured interpretations of civil procedure rules that lead to countless frivolous objections and delay, and overly dramatic and incredible interpretations of facts that would put a number of Broadway musicals and operas to shame. For this, I don't see how typing speed on a 3-hour exam has any relevance. But as long as that idea continues to make money for the big players in the legal market, it's not likely to go away. If it were up to me, though, I'd only be hiring people with proven experience if I were Biglaw. The qualities it takes to succeed in law involve time/schedule management, attention to detail, and strong logical reasoning and reading comprehension skills. The LSAT measures the last of the three just fine, and the first two you can't really get a good gauge on until someone has been working for you for a year or so. I don't see the increased scrutiny over billing rates going away, especially with regard to unproven first-year attorneys, and there's really no good alternative for students other than Biglaw, so I don't see much upward pressure on those salaries in the future, either.