In the past, law school was viewed as a key ticket to land you a comfortable lifestyle and lucrative job. Now, fast forward to years later where the economy is still in recovery mode from the Great Recession and you’ll find many law school graduates either underemployed or unemployed.
Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor at Ohio State Moritz College of Law, released a paper that examined the landscape of today’s job market for law school graduates, comparing data from Ohio’s 2010 graduating class with its 2000 graduating class. In the report, she found that only 75.1 percent of students admitted to the bar in Ohio were practicing law. Nine months after graduation, only 39.5 percent of law school students were employed at a private firm, which is a decline from the 48.70 percent of students in the 2000 class.
“These outcomes contrast markedly with those from the 2000 graduating class, which was also shadowed by an economic recession but were later able to better their positions,” Merritt told The New York Times. “But that type of progress has not occurred for the Class of 2010.”
With nearly 85 percent of law graduates haven taken out student loans, a bleak job market is the last thing these professionals need. According to Law School Transparency, the average student debt for law school students in the 2010 graduating class was $100,401. That number has since grown to an average of $116,084 for the 2013 class.
After the economic downfall in 2008, corporations began to cut their legal spending, and law firms, in turn, began to to reduce their hiring and increase employee layoffs. Blake Morant, who serves as the president of The American Association of American Law Schools and dean of George Washington Law, says that despite the numbers people should not fear about the value of a law degree.
“People have the tendency to define the value of the degree based upon this very narrow set of jobs that are really typified in big law firms,” Morant told BlackEnterprise.com. “When the recession hit, it hit that segment of the legal profession the hardest and when those jobs got scarcer it made people look more at legal education in terms of whether it was a good investment or not. I think if you look at a number of studies, a law degree gives you great opportunity and maximizes your potential to maximize your earnings over the course of the years. If we look at it that way, it is well worth the investment.”
While Merritt’s report shows numbers that are not promising to law school graduates, reports show that opportunities are slowly improving for the rising class of lawyers. In 2013, 32, 775 graduates found full-time jobs lasting at least a year, which is an improvement from the 2012 class.