Tag Archives: Legal employment

More Proof the J.D. Degree is a Great One to Earn

Here’s more proof of something we’ve known and been saying for years:  the J.D. degree leads to a fulfilling and lucrative career.  So says none other than Fortune magazine.

Fortune

Fortune Magazine recently collaborated with PayScale to publish a study ranking the value of graduate degrees, finding that the J.D degree is the best non-STEM graduate degree anyone can obtain.

The rankings looked at three factors:

  • long-term outlook for job growth,
  • median salaries at mid-career, and
  • job satisfaction scores.

Here is what the researchers found:

  • Law school graduates placed second in the study for median salary at $138,200, based on salaries at mid-career or 10 years in.

  • The only graduates that earn more at that point are Ph.D. students in Computer Science.

Fortune’s analysis finds the best graduate degrees are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Statistics tops the list, followed by Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction and Physics. The J.D. degree is the only non-STEM degree in the Fortune top 10.

The study used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to determine job growth.  From that data, Fortune is projecting substantial growth in the legal profession — 20.1 % — which is higher than all degrees except for a Master’s and Ph.D. in statistics.

Moreover, the study found that 71% of lawyers rate themselves as “highly satisfied” in their careers.

This study echoes our previous postings about the huge economic value of a law degree, how job prospects have been improving, how lawyer employment has jumped substantially, how the aging of the legal profession portends good job growth, and how, indeed, a shortage of lawyers is predicted.

If you combine these factors with Fortune’s findings, you will indeed see that now is a great time to start law school.

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Cooley Ranks 1st Nationally in Minority Law Graduates

 

By John Nussbaumer

Associate Dean, Auburn Hills Campus

John Nussbaumer has worked to help diversify the profession since 2005, when then National Bar Association President Reginald M. Turner recruited him to join the NBA Law Professors Division. Since then, he has spoken frequently on this topic, including presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2007 Annual Legislative Conference, the American Association of Law Schools 2009 Annual Meeting, and the American Bar Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting.  He has also written extensively on diversity issues, most recently a 2011 article co-authored with Professor E. Christopher Johnson titled The Door to Law School, published in the University of Massachusetts Roundtable Law Journal.  He is the recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2007 Presidential Award and the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity’s 2008 Legacy Justice Academic Achievement Award, and he just finished a three-year term on the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.  He has been instrumental to the success of three metropolitan Detroit diversity pipeline programs — the Just the Beginning Foundation High School Summer Legal Institute, the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity College Pre-Law Summer Institute, and the Wolverine Bar Association Judicial Externship Program.

Cooley’s mission includes “providing broad access to those who seek the opportunity to study law, while requiring those to whom that opportunity is offered to meet Cooley’s rigorous academic standards.”  One major benefit of this part of Cooley’s mission is the extent to which we are helping to diversify the legal profession.

Based on the most recent five years of data published in the 2009-2013 editions of the ABA Official Guide to Law Schools, Cooley has graduated more minority students during this period than any law school in the country, with a total of 958 minority graduates. Rounding out the top five schools were Harvard (865), Loyola Marymount (784), Georgetown (775), and American University (747).

The two largest racial and ethnic groups that face the greatest discrimination in American legal education today are African-Americans and Hispanics.  During the first decade of this century, nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly half of all Hispanic applicants were denied admission to every ABA-approved law school to which they applied, compared to less than one-third of all Caucasian applicants.

Cooley ranks third in African-American graduates with 439, behind only Howard (558) and Texas Southern (460).  Rounding out the top five schools were Southern University (389) and North Carolina Central (376).

Cooley ranks 8th in Hispanic graduates with 222.  The top five schools were Texas (343), St. Thomas-Florida (321), American University (287), St. Mary’s (269), and Florida International (256).

Cooley also ranks 15th in Asian/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander graduates with 238.  The top five schools were California-Hastings (480), Loyola Marymount (468), Santa Clara (374), Brooklyn (352), and Harvard (327).

And Cooley ranks 18th in American Indian/Alaskan Native graduates with 17.  The top five schools were Oklahoma (80), New Mexico (59), Denver (48), Arizona State (47), Oklahoma City (43), and Tulsa (43).

Only four schools in the country made the top 20 list in all five of these categories – American University, George Washington, Harvard, and Cooley.

Of course, graduation does not guarantee entry into the legal profession.  To achieve that, graduates must first pass a state bar examination.  Two well-documented studies, one by the Law School Admissions Council and one by the National Conference of Bar Examiners, have established that African-Americans face the greatest challenge in passing the bar examination, which is as much a comment on the validity of bar examinations as a barrier to entering the profession as anything else. But in the five most recent years for which our graduates have had at least two full calendar years to attempt to pass the exam, our African-American graduates have exceeded the ultimate pass rates for African-Americans documented in these studies in every one of those five years.

Inquiries about these studies or the top 20 lists compiled for this article should be directed to Professor and Associate Dean John Nussbaumer at nussbauj@cooley.edu.

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Major Legal Employment Study Shows Law Graduate Employment Better Than Expected

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Cooley Law School has released a series of reports on legal employment in the United States.  The purpose of this study is to insert the nation’s most authoritative data into the public dialogue about the national legal employment picture.  Cooley invites you to comment to this blog.

Much of the current discussion in the media and on the blogs about employment in the legal profession is unsubstantiated, anecdotal, misleading, and incorrect.  Cooley Law School thus decided to study the subject based upon the most authoritative data that can be found — data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).  The study is presented in two reports.

Report One covers the national employment data compiled by the BLS.  It establishes that employment for lawyers grew during the past decade, even during the recession, and that the environment in the legal profession that awaits law school graduates reflects relatively full employment, particularly in comparison to other professional and management occupations.

Among the BLS top ten management and professional occupational subcategories, employment in legal occupations was bettered only by those employed as healthcare practitioners and technicians.  Lawyers are among the occupations least affected by the recent recession.

Report Two puts into perspective public discussion about the employment outlook for recent graduates from ABA-accredited law schools by placing NALP data for those graduates a 10-year context.  It explains why the employment data used by NALP to establish employment and unemployment rates among recent graduates is both accurate and reliable.  (The 2011 NALP report data has not been released publicly. We will update the report for 2011 once the data is public.)  Report Two concludes that, contrary to the perception advanced by certain media and blogs, the employment rate is very good for law school graduates.

The unemployment rate for 2010 law school graduates who sought to enter the job market was 6.2 percent, and these graduates overwhelmingly obtained full-time professional employment.  While the job market is more challenging now than three years ago, within nine months of graduation around 90.5 percent of the newly-minted lawyers either found employment or entered graduate school.  Of this employed group, 96.7 percent of them reported having found professional employment, and 90.2 percent of those professional positions were full time.

Reports One and Two contradict the assertions that are widespread on blogs and in a segment of the media regarding the employment situation for lawyers, refuting the notion that unemployment among current lawyers and law school graduates is high.  Looking at the data in this context highlights the invalid assumptions and faulty logic in the arguments used by the critics and shows that their conclusions are inaccurate and misleading.  Rather, the facts overwhelmingly discredit these assertions.  Legal education is actually one of the best choices for a career.

Read these reports and tell us what you think by commenting to this blog site.  Also see our media release on the topic.  For more information about Cooley, see generally our website.

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Current Employment Debate Damages Diversity Efforts

 

Damaging Our Diversity Efforts: One of the Unintended Consequences of the Current Employment Debate

By John Nussbaumer
Associate Dean, Auburn Hills Campus
John Nussbaumer has worked to help diversify the profession since 2005, when then National Bar Association President Reginald M. Turner recruited him to join the NBA Law Professors Division. Since then, he has spoken frequently on this topic, including presentations at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 2007 Annual Legislative Conference, the American Association of Law Schools 2009 Annual Meeting, and the American Bar Association’s 2010 Annual Meeting.  He has also written extensively on diversity issues, most recently a 2011 article co-authored with Professor E. Christopher Johnson titled The Door to Law School, published in the University of Massachusetts Roundtable Law Journal.  He is the recipient of the National Bar Association’s 2007 Presidential Award and the ABA Council of Legal Education Opportunity’s 2008 Legacy Justice Academic Achievement Award, and he just finished a three-year term on the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline.
The current, mostly one-sided debate about law school graduate employment prospects poses one of the greatest threats in recent memory to our efforts to diversify the profession, particularly at a time when our increasingly diverse society needs more, not fewer, lawyers of color.
We already face serious challenges in this area, with nearly two-thirds of all African-American applicants and nearly one-half of all Hispanic applicants to ABA-approved schools having been totally shut out from every school they applied to during the first decade of this century.  If the best and the brightest of the future potential applicants of color who would be admitted now forgo applying to law school altogether because they perceive that law is not a promising career, the combination of these two factors will stop our diversity efforts in their tracks and reverse the direction of the profession.
The reason why this is so important is that by 2042 or sooner, demographers predict that a majority of America’s citizens will be citizens of color.  If the legal profession remains almost 90% Caucasian, as it is today, we face the very real prospect of a crisis of confidence in the fairness of our justice system and our democracy, an inability to effectively compete in a global business environment that is also becoming increasingly diverse, and the risk that we will become the “apartheid” profession.
Responsible legal educators must, of course, also consider whether there will be employment opportunities for law school graduates of color in the coming years. For reasons explained elsewhere (see for example Cooley President Don LeDuc’s recent posting called The Graying of Michigan’s Lawyers and Cooley Law School’s national employment data compilation), the general employment prospects for all graduates are not as bleak as portrayed by those who have dominated the current debate.  And there are several reasons why employment prospects for graduates of color may be better than the general pool of graduates.
One is that as corporations and other businesses continue to become more global enterprises, they will demand that the lawyers who work for them and the law firms that service them look more like the increasingly diverse consumers who purchase their products. This provides reason to believe that top graduates of color will find that they are increasingly in demand.
Another reason is that as our population becomes increasingly diverse, and the political power of our citizens of color grows, they will elect more and more judges who reflect the diversity of our society, and they will increasingly make up a larger proportion of the juries that decide who wins and who loses legal cases.  Law firms and government agencies that depend on these judges and juries will increasingly realize that it is in their interest and the interest of their clients to have lawyers of color working on these cases.
A third reason is that good lawyers of color will find increasing populations of clients who need basic legal services and who would prefer to be represented by someone from their own community.  And this is true whether that community is African American, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Asian, etc.  This provides reason to believe that even average graduates of color will be able to find work to support themselves and pay off their student loan obligations.
All of this is why it is so important to bring some balance to the current debate over law school graduate employment prospects, so that we do not unintentionally damage our efforts to diversify the profession. There are too few, not too many, lawyers of color, and we need to recognize that point.

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Needed: Lawyers Who Are Economic Drivers

 

By Nelson P. Miller
Associate Dean, Grand Rapids Campus
 
Nelson P. Miller, along with co-editors James D. Robb and John D. Crane, has just published a book called Lawyers as Economic Drivers: The Business Case for Legal Services (Vandeplas Publishing, 2012).  The book presents essays by practitioners from across the nation containing insightful descriptions of  how lawyers promote prosperity in the United States and beyond its borders through their legal services.  Those essays provide a spirited and detailed defense against the recent, uninformed and short-sighted attacks against legal education from politicians, gadflies, media “talking heads,” journalists, anonymous scam bloggers, some members of our own profession and even, perhaps inexplicably, members of the academy.  The post below is an edited excerpt from Dean Miller’s chapter, called “Data and Scholarship on Lawyer Economic Activity.” 
 
 
 
 
So, esteemed law scholar Brian Tamanaha of Washington University Law School publishes a book arguing that there are too many new lawyers.  We should respect Professor Tamanaha’s sensitive view that law schools need to teach more practically while keeping tuition low.  Those commitments are Cooley’s mission.  Where we disagree is with Professor Tamanaha’s view that there are too many new lawyers.  While the too-many view is fine to teach at some law schools, especially those schools that market themselves as producing and preserving an elite profession, Cooley has a far more robust vision for lawyers.  Every well-trained, responsible, and committed lawyer has a greater productive capacity than a non-lawyer.  Lawyers are wealth creators.  There is not a finite need for law services.  Law practice is not a zero-sum game.  Law services make it possible to grow larger economies.
 
A few decades ago, some were predicting over capacity for automotive production because nearly every American household had a vehicle.  Now, every American has one, and the Chinese buy more vehicles than Americans in an enormous new market.  We are also far more productive because of that added transportation.  A while ago, some were saying that we had enough computers.  Then Apple invented the iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  Everyone has them, and we are far more productive.
 
Just when the law profession should be seeing its best business case as a value creator and adder, Professor Tamanaha’s view sounds more like traditional zero-sum thinking.  Under that thinking, accountants would form limited liability companies and corporations, real estate agents would prepare leases and sales contracts, and non-lawyer title services would draft deeds–all without adequately advising their clients of important rights and obligations.  Are medical schools advertising that there are too many healers?  Are engineering schools advertising that there are too many builders?
 
Cooley is doing a better job of teaching new lawyers that they have something sound, fundamental, and creative to offer, as value creators and value adders.  Not all new lawyers will be prosecutors and trial lawyers.  Some will start new businesses or grow old businesses using their practical knowledge of how to organize, capitalize, comply, and manage.  Others will create new public charities using their skills and living their passion.  Still others will fill the huge gaps in legal services to the urban and rural under-served by creating visionary new law products and delivery systems.
 
Professor Tamanaha’s view is fine for some schools and lawyers.  It is not the vision that my clients wanted to hear from me.  They wanted to know a more profound truth, that the rule and productive capacity of law with which I could help them was a wealth creator.  What we need is a supply of lawyers who hold that productive vision.  I agree with Professor Tamanaha that we need fewer lawyers who fail to see their role in wealth creation.  I disagree that we need fewer lawyers.

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