A report was released last week by the Massachusetts Bar Associations Task Force on the Law, Economy and Underemployment. The report investigated the causes and possible solutions for law school graduate underemployment. The task force is comprised of 12 lawyers, a law student and one university pre-law adviser. The members of the task force devoted six months to the investigation, which is called ‘Beginning the Conversation.’ The report places a focus on how law schools help contribute to the underemployment problem of their graduates.
The report details that during the 2010-2011 academic year, there were 60,400 students admitted to law schools, which accounts for 68.7 percent of applicants. There were close to 49,700 graduates from American Bar Association-accredited law schools to graduate in 2010. The admission rate at medical schools in the United States is at 43.6 percent, with close to 18,665 graduates each year from medical schools. When medical students are in their third and fourth years, they are working their rotations in hospitals and other specialties. Then, for three to six years following graduation they are working on their residencies, with 23,000 positions available. The amount of positions available is more than enough for the amount of annual graduates.
“What can law schools learn from this comparison?” the report asks. The report suggests that the third year of law school should be devoted to training. “The task force recommends that the MBA encourage Bay State law schools to reinvent the third year so as to provide greater opportunities for law students to gain practical legal experience and expand opportunities to hone their legal writing skills, beyond that offered through traditional first-year legal writing programs.”
Eric Parker, the co-chair of the task force and from Parker Scheer, said the following about physicians and dentists being prepared to graduate: “They have marketable skills that people want to pay for. By contrast, we found that law graduates come out with a generic exposure to legal theory and lack the experience and practical training that converts into a marketable skill.”
A legal residency program was also a suggestion as mentioned by the report. “In such a program, recent law school graduates could apply for legal residency positions with Massachusetts law firms participating in residency training.”
The report also suggests that possible law students need to be informed consumers; that the number of licensed attorneys allowed to practice in the state of Massachusetts be controlled by lowering the bar pass rate and to create rewards for students who graduate from Massachusetts law schools who decide to practice elsewhere.