If you are in law school or have been paying attention to the legal industry, then you know that employment for new grads is difficult to come by. It was recently reported by the National Association of Law Placement (NALP) that only 56% of the class of 2012 secured employment in a full-time, long-term job requiring bar passage nine months after graduation. Most new grads are finding employment in non-lawyering roles.
As applications to enroll in law school decrease, law schools have decided to look elsewhere in order to keep business strong…for themselves. Thirty law schools are now creating programs for the “non-lawyer.” For this program, law schools are recruiting mid-career professionals who have no intention to practice law, but feel it would benefit them in their current job or for a promotion.
Students who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a law degree in order to get a job as a lawyer, and are struggling even to do that, will now have stronger competition for those non-legal, back-up positions where the degree gave them an advantage before. Providing legal education to the masses devalues the degree, and further floods a market that has already had its levies broken. Additionally, with more non-lawyers solving their own legal problems, the need to hire attorneys and in-house counsel will lessen, withering the job market even more. Students, new grads, and prospective law students should be petitioning local bar associations, state bar associations and other law organizations to get support on this issue and talk down law schools from damaging the industry.
As to the mid-career professionals that may be lured by the idea of a non-legal law degree, think twice. You are mid-career and likely with a family, a mortgage, and other financial obligations. Are you able to step away from your current job to take on the demands of law school? Will stepping away, switching to part-time or attending work sleep deprived from enrolling in night school prevent you from the promotion you are hoping to acquire with your edification? Can you get the schooling without taking on thousands in student loan debt? The slight leverage to your career may not be worth the costs and time required to get the education.
To read more about how law schools are making up for the loss of applicants, read this article: “Schools market to mid-career professionals as fewer traditional students seek law degrees” by Martha Neil in the ABA Journal.