Tag Archives: lawyer shortage

Lawyer Employment Jumps By 40,000 in 2014!

Cooley President and Dean, Don LeDuc

Cooley President and Dean, Don LeDuc

Now Is the Time to Fulfill Your Dream of Becoming a Lawyer!

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, publishes commentaries on our website about the Law School, legal education, legal employment, and related topics.  This post summarizes President LeDuc’s commentary highlighting the recent surge in lawyer employment in the U.S.

Football Coach George Allen famously said, “The future is now.”  Those considering law school should listen to Coach Allen.  Here’s why.

In 2014, the number of employed lawyers increased by 40,000, or 3.66 percent, compared to 2013, according to a just-released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.  Conversely, the number of unemployed lawyers fell by 8,000.

This means that improving economy in 2014 clearly supported not only the increased number of law school graduates, but also reduced the number of lawyers previously unemployed by one-third.  The unemployment rate among lawyers is now 1.2%, far below the national unemployment rate of 5.5% and likewise the lowest lawyer unemployment rate since before 2008.  And the unemployment rate for lawyers in the fourth quarter of 2014 was 0.6%.

Summer 2015 will see about 3,000 fewer law school graduates entering the job market than did so in 2014.  At the same time, increasing numbers of lawyers will retire due to aging and the recovery of retirement portfolios.

The combined trend of fewer graduates and more retirements will continue for at least another three years, creating an increasingly favorable employment outlook.

Now is the time for those whose dream is to become a lawyer to disregard the blog-fog and look at the clear employment picture that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has painted.  That dream’s future is now.

Read this commentary in full.       

Click here to see all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll down to leave a comment.

See us on the web at wmich.edu/law.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Cooley Law School, History, Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education

Answering a Question about a Michigan Lawyer Shortage

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, and related topics.  This post summarizes President LeDuc’s commentary about a pending lawyer shortage in Michigan.

Consider Attending a Law School in States Like Michigan Where a Lawyer Deficit Is Occurring

Earlier this year, I posed a question that asked whether Michigan will soon have an annual shortfall in the number of lawyers admitted to practice compared to those leaving practice.  The question was addressed in a report using data produced by the State Bar of Michigan and the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which suggested that beginning in 2015 Michigan would begin a sustained period during which more lawyers would retire, leave practice, or die than would be admitted to practice.  That analysis assumed a 40-year career cycle for Michigan lawyers.

 A second report, based on State Bar of Michigan demographic data, noted that Michigan law practice faced what might be characterized as an “age bubble.”  According to that data, about 56% of Michigan’s lawyers were age 50 or older in 2011 and about 30% were age 60 or older, while only 22% of Michigan’s lawyers were under 40, and just 5% were under 30.  This graying lawyer population lends credence to the notion that we will soon face a decline in the number of lawyers admitted to practice in Michigan.

 Since those reports were published, additional analysis of that data plus another year’s worth of bar admissions data suggest that the predicted onset of the negative growth in Michigan bar membership in 2015 was accurate.  A new factor, however, has now come into play—the decline in first year enrollment that hit the nation’s law schools in the fall of 2011, a phenomenon that Michigan fully experienced.  Even greater new student enrollment declines will be evident when the fall 2012 enrollment levels are announced. These substantially smaller entering classes will most assuredly produce a substantially smaller number of graduates, with a coordinate smaller number of bar passers and admissions to practice.

 While this discussion involves estimates and attempts to predict human behavior—who will apply, graduate, and pass the bar; who will retire, leave practice, and die—it is based on previous experience and data published by reliable third parties–the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan. 

 Those considering law school now should think about these demographics.  There is no question that Michigan’s lawyer population is aging and that Michigan’s retiring lawyer population will parallel retirements reflected in national Social Security figures.  By the time students entering law school in the fall of 2013 graduate in 2016, we will be in the third year of deficits in replacement lawyers, a cumulative 900-lawyer shortfall, and there will be continued deficits for a long period thereafter.

 While this analysis is based on Michigan data, I have no reason to doubt that most, if not all, other states face a similar situation.  (See, e.g. the dilemma faced by the State of Washington as reported in the ABA Journal.)  The significant growth of lawyers in Michigan reflected a national trend, including the overwhelming contribution to law school enrollment and law practice growth by females.  A number of states have already noted the challenges created by their aging lawyer populations.  These states are likely to face similar deficits, although the timing in each state will vary based on the law school enrollment and graduation demographics.  Those considering law school now should think about attending in states where these deficits are already identified.

Read President LeDuc’s commentary in full.

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley’s detailed national legal employment and recent law school graduate employment reports.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News and Updates, The Value of a Legal Education