Saturday, February 27, 2010

Growth of the Law School Industry v. Growth of U.S. Population

The issue before this Court today is whether the growth of the total U.S. population has kept up with the growth of the U.S. law school industry. If so, is there a valid justification for such growth in the industry?

U.S. Population in 1965: 194,302,963
Total Number of ABA-Approved Law Schools in 1965: 136
Total Law School Enrollment in 1965: 56,510

U.S. Population in 1991: 252,127,402
Total Number of ABA-Approved Law Schools in 1991: 176
Total Law School Enrollment in 1991: 129,580

U.S. Population in 2008: 304,059,724
Total Number of ABA-Approved Law Schools in 2008: 200
Total Law School Enrollment in 2008: 142,922


Anthony J. Sestric, In Defense of Law Schools, 53 J. Mo. B. 232, 233 (1997).

As you can see, yearly law school student enrollment more than doubled in the 26 years between 1965 and 1991; actually, the number of law students in 1991 was 2.29 times greater than that of 1965, i.e. 129,580/56,510. During this same time period, U.S. population grew by 29 percent. In other words, U.S. population was 1.29 times greater in 1991 than it was in 1965, i.e. 252,127,402/194,302,963.

Annual U.S. law student enrollment - in the span of 45 years - increased by nearly 153%, i.e. 142,922/56,510, whereas the total U.S. population had only increased by 56.5 percent in the same timeframe, i.e. 304,059,724/194,302,963.

Maybe, just maybe, the law schools are producing WAY TOO MANY GRADUATES!! Why else would you see Craig’s List ads seeking experienced lawyers and litigators, but only willing to pay $15 an hour?! How many unemployed JDs would be living in the streets or in shelters - if not for the kindness of their families?!

Conclusion: This Court of Common Sense finds that the growth of the law school industry has FAR exceeded that of the total population. Furthermore, the Court finds such growth unconscionable and unjustifiable, in light of the outsourcing of American legal work to foreign lawyers and non-lawyers. See ABA “Ethics” Opinion 08-451.

The industry has changed so much, in the last 5-10 years, let alone the last 45 years. Today, non-lawyers have greater access to legal forms, statutes, case law and court information that used to require the services of a lawyer. Also, many more people are now hiring lawyers on a piecemeal basis, from bankruptcy and divorces to real estate transactions. The ABA and its member schools have produced far too many annual graduates – for decades! Recent JDs are also graduating with MUCH larger student loan debt and higher interest rates – all while competing for a shrinking pool of available positions. On top of all this, many people have come to expect lawyers to donate their services for free.

The only “justification” for continuing to approve and accredit more law schools seems to be the fact that law schools are so profitable. This Court finds that this is not a sufficient justification for sending tens of thousands of young people – each year – into crippling, non-dischargeable debt.

In sum, current law students and recent graduates find themselves in a bind. Many are paying immense sums of money for a degree they will NEVER get to use – in terms of practicing law. The fact that the ABA continues to approve any fifth-rate diploma mill that applies for accreditation, shows conclusively that the ABA does not give a damn about current law students and recent graduates.


  1. Living in the 'streets or 'shelters'?? Please, that is an exaggeration. Can a law school grad not making six figures in big law do anything else or maybe move to a less expensive city?

  2. I would be in the streets were it not for my relatives.

  3. Good post! We have been saying the same thing for 5 years on The key is is that ABA doesn't want to go correlating Law School accreditation/ class size need to actual Lawyer demand, because it would lead to Monopoly ligation. (The ABA is the only bunch of Lawyers that fear going to court.) If the ABA would just say flat out class size 80 students (like med schools do), then they maybe able to have 200 Law schools. Frankly, to have a program for just 80 students most schools may say it is just not worth it.

  4. You need to find a time where the supply of lawyers met the needed demand. Then use that as your baseline for your analysis.

    You also need to determine and compensate for the number of law graduates who do not intend to practice law.

  5. To Nickl30: sorry, but that is no exaggeration. A huge number of law grads with crippling debt can't find A SINGLE JOB after graduating law school. This includes legal employment and nonlegal employment. I've been trying to get out of document review (which I was lucky to get b/c projects are far and few between now) for over a year and a JD is literally a bad thing to have on your resume. You're simultaneously over-qualified and under-qualified for everything and employers are reluctant to hire attorneys, period. If you can't get on a doc review project, the inability to find gainful employment in either the legal field and the nonlegal field = BAD situation and no way to pay loans, bills, rent, food etc. So yes, many, many law grads rely on their family to survive. Someone who says otherwise is not familiar with the reality of the situation. This has NOTHING to do with not securing a "six figure job." Please, that's ludicrous. Law grads can't find a living wage because of their loan payments. I've lived it, along with many others and I can say, yes, it really is that scary.

  6. The SETON HALL LAW TOILET lied. Careers died.

  7. To nickl30, I know several recent law grads who are or have been living with family, in order to make ends meet. Maybe you don't want to accept the reality that law schools are pumping OUT FAR TOO MANY grads, but that is a basic fact. Pretending like that is not the case will not change the situation.

    Because of the glut of JDs and attorneys out there, recent grads are competing for a relative few legal jobs. Do you think, perhaps, that those with family, business, and political connections have a better chance at the finite number of attorney positions?!

    Try getting a paid position in a DA's office or legal aid, in today's grossly oversaturated market. (You might be able to work for free for a year, but then you need to put your student loans into deferment status, which means that interest accrues on your loans - with NO guarantee that you will have a job at the end of your unpaid stint.)

    This also means that thousands of JDs are scrambling for non-legal work. Well, those employers are wary of hiring someone with a JD or law license, because they think you will jump ship the moment a lawyer position opens up. Many non-legal employers are also reluctant to hire someone who is smarter (or more educated) than them. Also, who wants to hire someone who is a "critical thinker"? Employers want people who will perform tasks, as assigned.

    You, as a JD, are overqualified - in terms of educational level for most non-legal positions. However, most law grads are also under-qualified with regards to practical skills in a field other than law. You went to law school to be an attorney, not to work in car sales or to be a computer programmer.

    Maybe you think going solo is a great alternative. Well, how many fresh law grads have the startup funds, clientele, and skills to compete with established law firms (and their significant advertising budgets)?

    Anonymous at 12:14 is correct: the ABA is afraid of going to court. They have proven this through their mealy-mouthed rationales for approving more schools, i.e. "We want to keep the doors open for more minorities to get a legal education." Well, many of those minorities - those without serious connections - will never practice law due to the glutted market, anyway.

    This further proves the point that the ABA and the law school industry do not care what happens to their students upon graduation. They get paid up front. YOU get stuck with the bill - and the interest - for the next 30 years.

  8. As for living with family as an adult, while it is not ideal, it has been the norm through much of human history. In fact, it remains the norm in many foreign nations, including "advanced" ones in Europe. Obsessions with owning your own home at a young age or renting your own home at a young age has helped push your average American into over-indebtedness. (maybe even a bigger factor than student loans)

    If it helps lift anyone's spirits at all, rumor has it that the Philly D.A.'s office actually hired a few of their unpaid interns in recent months. I'm not sure that reverses their reputation hit for pulling job offers back in the fall. But I guess it helps.

  9. ^what the hell are you talking about? You are aware that Americans love their independence, aren't you? There is no basis for saying that renting an apartment at a young age may be a biiger cause of debt than student loans. (Can I have some of what you're smoking?) Have rents gone up as fast as tuition? People can also walk away from a house payment; not so with student loans.

    My high school-educated parents owned a home in their early 20s. And who cares that 35 year old men in Italy prefer to live with their mothers? How does that have any bearing on how we live in the U.S.?

  10. ^ Your attitude is EXACTLY what I'm talking about. "No basis" for saying that renting drains more funds from you than your education? It doesn't matter that rents haven't gone up as fast as tuition, it starts much higher than tuition to begin with!! An average American comes out of undergrad with how much student loan debt? 50k? I'll be generous and say 100k. That's pushing it. I'm not talking about your Harvards or top tier liberal arts colleges. That majority of students go to state schools, and their tuitions hug the 15k a year number. (often much less)

    Now, let's say that same person was willing to live in his or her parent's basement apartment or whatever until age 30. What's the savings there? If you're living in a somewhat large sized city, you're saving at least 12k a year. At least!

    Yea, fine, love your independence. Right into the food stamp line. Housing independence is a luxury. You shouldn't treat is as a default lifestyle when you are young and just starting out. It's something you earn once you accomplish something, such as actual financial independence.

  11. I think anon at 9:14 has a great point, although it seems as though everyone attacking him doesn't see it. All he is saying is that there are several things that have led to today's generation being over-extended when it comes to debt. Of course, it seems like he may be downplaying how much school debt figures into the calculus.

    All that said, I DO agree that home ownership in your twenties is simply not realistic, nor smart for perhaps a majority of that age group. Simply put, homes just about EVERYWHERE are WAY overvalued. It makes no sense to buy a house right now. Rent or live at home if you can (I would, but I can't since I live out of state), and as the poster above mentioned, you could save somewhere around 10K/yr. That is a huge chunk of change.

    Do that for a few years and you have allowed housing to come back down to more realistic levels (it is STILL way out of whack compared to median home income - don't let the real estate industry fool!) AND you have enough money to make a down payment on a house instead of putting down 0-3% on an over-priced 400K home.

    Don't think I am downplaying the role that student debt has in all of this, but there is more to it, and housing is a big part of it!

  12. Great post. My younger brother just graduated from William & Mary and has been unable to find a job since last year; he's now living back home. The worst part is that he's done just about everything, from going to countless networking events, hiring a professional resume writer and volunteer work, with no results. Sure, I think a lot of people he meets genuinely want to hire him, but the reality is that the credit is dried up for the average family, and with no credit, no spending and thus conservative/no hiring on the part of companies/firms. Older family friends and family just don't seem to get it and immediately assume that something is wrong with him. This really pisses me off, because they are fixed at a point where a person could probably get a job relatively easily with higher education - this simply isn't the case anymore. Now, my poor parents are stuck paying his student loans, which he hates for them to do. The ship is sinking!

  13. Drake Mallard does make a good point about housing costs putting young Americans in debt. What I would like to know is whether HE will let his kids live with him until they reach 30 years of age. I actually think it would be a good thing for more college-age people to stay at home and attend an affordable state school. It would allow many to save up to $30-$45K in living expenses over 4 years – enough to invest or use as SERIOUS down money on a house. That being said, I don’t know how healthy it is for 30 year-olds to live at home.

    We already see lots of 30 year old men and women who act like kids, i.e. play video games all day long, throw their clothes on the floor, shirk responsibilities, etc. Encouraging more to stay at home will surely augment this problem. (Part of the problem is the fact that many parents have babied their kids, told them they can accomplish ANYTHING they set their minds to, and made their kids “soft” in the process.)

    There is a strong public perception that 30 year-olds who live in their mother’s basement are losers. While the majority view is often wrong, I think in this case it is spot on. What woman wants to date some 30 year-old loser who lives in his mother’s house?

    What about those people who get into a good school that is out-of-state? Obviously, someone from Sheridan, Wyoming who gets into Stanford will not be staying with family. Should such a person turn down Stanford so they can get a full-ride to attend a local school?

    I am not sure independence is strictly an American thing. My father’s father owned a farm and a home by the time he was in his early 20s – while he was in Mexico. My mother’s father went into the Army and owned a home at a young age; he also took advantage of the G.I. Bill to do so. My parents owned a home when my father was in his late 20s.

    People should also purchase affordable homes, not $350K McMansions in the suburbs. Advertising and the corporate culture tell us – from the earliest stages of life – that we need two new cars, a house with 6 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and a three-car garage, etc. We certainly don’t need those things. But we sure as hell do not need more 30 year old man-babies living with their parents.

    Now, can we get back to talking about the post, i.e. the huge increase in law student enrollment over the course of 45 years? This illustrates CLEARLY that law schools are producing far too many graduates for the lawyer market – and have been doing so for decades!

    The post above me further proves this point: William & Mary is ranked 28th by USN&WR. I have friends who graduated from top 15 programs who never got a chance to practice law. To the poster above, I am sorry to hear about your younger brother and his situation. Let's keep the focus on the over-supply of lawyers in this country.

  14. Hi.

    Thanks for the back and forth. I didn't mean to sound to harsh earlier, just something I had on my mind I guess.

    As for whether I would allow a child to stay in my home until 30, I think I would be open to it. I mean, it's hard to tell because it's just so far into the future. But... as much as I would love to be father of the year, i figure even when my child is young, i won't really be "babying" him or her that much. I grew up in suburbia where practically every house had a basement that one could convert into a guest suite. If my kid needed it, then it's theirs. Less hassle than renting it out to someone and then getting busted by the zoning authorities, ya know? Now, if I had multiple children that needed it, then that might get tricky.

    As for being a "loser," I can see that. But at the same time, one would still be a loser if they spent all their money on rent and had a five bucks left to take a girl out to a pizza place.

    For sure there is no need for more "man-babies" or I guess even "women-princesses." I don't think living with family necessary causes that. I guess it all depends.

    Back to the point: yes, there are far too many law grads out there and there continue to be too many being pumped out. Sorry for the distraction.

  15. The SETON HALL LAW TOILET lied. Careers died.

  16. Equire Never Exposed!March 2, 2010 at 12:57 PM

    Esquire Never exposed!

    This kid graduated from Villanova University Law School in 2009. He currently lives with his parents, and is looking for work outside of the legal profession.

    He guest posted on JD Underdog's blog a few weeks back, where he featured a graduate survey from Villanova's career services office. That entry was then removed from that blog. Esquire Never then activated the Comment Approval function. Said survey was put out by Villanova's Elaine Petrossian. Here is her profile:

    That is what we in the law call 'overwhelming' circumstantial evidence!

    Esquire Never goes after TTTs and the law schools, but yet he hides behind an anonymous blog. You may be a loser Nando, but at least you are not a coward.


    As four-star admiral William J. Fallon would say, “Hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, hip hip horray, Esq. Never!” And did I see Coach Jay Wright at the commencement? Which ‘wildcat’ are you?

    “Spread the Villanova Spirit! Spread it across the world. Once a wildcat, always a wildcat! We love you.”

    Spread the ‘Nova spirit, kid. Let it shine! Let it shine like a beacon unto the world! Loser.

  18. To some degree, you are playing with numbers. It is not accurate to compare 1965 to 2008. Start with 1972 and look what your numbers show. When you compare the ratio of law students to general population, you will see that the numbers have been very constant since 1972, and in fact there were more students to population from 1975 until after 1995 than there are today.

    The real problem is not the number of law schools or the number of law students. But the cost of legal education. The March issue of National Jurist will take a close look at this and answer some of the questions as to why tuition is so high.
    -Jack Crittenden, Editor In Chief, National Jurist

  19. Hey Jack. Give me a call this week, and I'll be more than happy to explain to you why tuition is so high. Let’s get a panel discussion going. While the lawyer market is shrinking, the demand for "legal education" is not decreasing at nearly the same rate.

    It is nice to see you admit that there were more law students per capita in 1991 than there are today. Law school industry apologists typically like to point to the increase in demand, as a way of justifying the huge increase in cost, i.e. tuition.

    Easy access to large student loans - combined with desperation, a low-wage economy, and misleading employment and salary figures put out by the law schools - has lured tons of young people to take the plunge. Unfortunately, many of them land in the toilet.

    I figure you will give me the industry line, and tell me that more law schools are now implementing hands-on clinical programs. This is a significant cost to law schools, which the schools must pass on to their customers/students. You will also parrot the industry and GAO line and tell me that schools are in intense competition among themselves for higher rankings in US News. (Who knew that distorting self-reported figures cost the schools so much money?)

    The reality is that law schools still largely rely on the outdated, ineffective Socratic/Case Method. This allows schools to “teach” 75 students in the cheapest way possible. What are the costs to law schools – paper, printers, computers, Westlaw accounts, LEXIS access, etc.? The biggest cost is overpaid, underworked “law professors”.

    Satisfy my curiosity: will the March issue of National Jurist also feature the standard plethora of advertisements from various third and fourth tier commodes? I look forward to your call.

  20. Nando's 100% right. I got very lucky to do what I'm doing but if I hadn't had a prior background, plans to stay out of the law firm world to start with, or the ability to convey my interest in the industry I work in, I KNOW people wouldn't have bothered talking to me.

    It's a fact that non-lawyers are intimidated by lawyers; I've been told as much by countless people in my industry. Also works to use that if you want to intimidate someone. People have told me they hate lawyers if I mention I am one but I mention the fact that I'm more comfortable around creative types than lawyers b/c of personality factors & my dislike of the lawyer BS.

    It's an uphill battle & I'm sure many people are living w/parents or struggling on bills. I'm sure there will be more. It was never an option for me & having my spouse has been a godsend, not just financially but spiritually since he won't let me give up. But I know of lots of 30+ people living w/parents; those are mostly "fanboys" who play RPGs, collect comics or sci-fi stuff that costs more than a month's rent. Come to think of it, most Americans I know who live w/their parents past the age of 30 are mentally off in some way. Maybe that image will change but right now, it's a hard one to counter.

  21. As I've implied before, i don't think living with one's parents inherently makes you a loser.

    If it is true that Esq Nev is a recent Villanova grad, I think it is a massively unfortunate coincidence that this blog just recently attacked that particular school. Or perhaps it was purposely singled out, which I guess is consistent since Nando mentions his own alma mater frequently. I just don't know if it was fair to "avenge" a friendly blogger in that fashion. I realize Villanova isn't top tier, but in the end, I'm not sure it deserved to be singled out as a second tier "no better than a third tier" if it was partly motivated by a friend's dissatisfaction. I'll chalk it up to unfortunate coincidence.

    film co lawyer's comment actually made me think of the sitcom "Big Bang Theory." All of the "geeks" I know actually live independent of their parents and have pretty high paying jobs. Though, I do think their obsessions with collectibles and the particular fiction worlds goes a bit too far. I predict the female version of the scifi fanboy is the vampire-world fangirl. It's already a pretty strong niche and will probably be even more all-encompassing in the coming years.

  22. I want to point out an odd statistic:

    in 1975, there were 216MM people and 111K law school students, making a .0513 percentage of law school students per capita.

    In 2001, there were 280MM people and 125K law school students, making a .0446 percentage of law school students per capita.

    I don't quite know what this means; but between 1975 and 2001 there was a big drop-off in law school students, like 15% or more, yet the market is always seen as saturated. But everyone would agree that there are more laws to negotiate in our society and more legal complexity in our daily lives.

    I don't have the explanation for this trend!!


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