Law Students

Fewer Law Students has Ripple Effect on Schools and Firms
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The current law market illustrates the principle of compensation quiet well. With schools like McGeorge School of Law down on student body size by 40 percent, necessarily the school will have to contract and release staff, adjusting tuition and changing the number of students they take. The entire network of balances is fairly intuitive: after the great recession, people in general have fewer jobs, and of the jobs they have, they make less money. This means that fewer people are consulting lawyers for legal matters. That makes for a difficult market for firms, many of which failed to expand these last few years, and many of which contracted, shedding competent lawyers. And we’ve all heard the buzz not to go into law school, what with the American Bar Association reporting that 56 percent of JDs having full-time, long-term work after 9 months, and the rest, of course, not having it. That means the chances of actually landing a reasonable job after 9 months if like flipping a coin. All these factors balance each other out, making for only the more austere students willing to go through law schools, and law schools choosing more stringently their students, making for smaller class sizes.

“It’s a ripple effect,” said Kevin O’Brien, managing partner for Downey Brand, a Sacramento law firm, according to


The rippling effect, or the law of compensation, adjusts the law schools to match the firms, as the firms adjust to match the market. With the trajectory of the law firms being one of the least responsive to the improvement we’ve seen this year, it will be some time before lawyers are in as high demand as they once more. For those with their heart set on being a lawyer, it makes sense to weather it out; but for those who are unsure, now’s the time to check the specs on other employment.

“Frankly, it’s a buyer’s market for young lawyers,” said O’Brien. “There’s somewhat less hiring demand, so the pool of candidates we are seeing now versus, say, five to seven years ago is an extremely high-caliber pool.”

What this means is that tuition is of all things actually mounting, leaving JD’s with over $100,000 in debt at the beginning of their career, with few firms knocking down their door.

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“[Firms] get hundreds of applications for a handful of positions,” said Amanda Massimini, a 3L at McGeorge. “They’re looking for people they don’t have to train.”

Whether a prospective student wants to slug it out, and earn his or her place in the legal world, is a matter of personal calling; but knowing at least that this is the situation they will face is something, hopefully, no law student is ignorant of.


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