In Shakespeare's Henry VI, a character famously proclaimed, "the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." Like most members of the Florida Bar, I like to ignore those nine little words written by the Bard 400 years ago and look away when I see them plastered on a bumper sticker or t-shirt.
Why are lawyers so vilified? What is the basis for all the hostility? Is it because there are just too many of us? It is really not the lawyers who are the problem but the over 200 accredited law schools dotting our country. South Florida alone has four law schools: University of Miami School of Law, Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University, St. Thomas University School of Law and Florida International University College of Law. Today's record number of law school grads are facing an unprecedented and frightening prospective job market. The problem is the sheer number of students graduating and being admitted to practice.
Law school class sizes fluctuate depending on the number and quality of applicants. More often people applying to law school because they perceive a lack of other viable opportunities. I wonder if some law schools are discounting the quality of the applicant and their potential to be an effective lawyer, in favor of their ability to pay for tuition or simply qualify for student aid.
According to the Law School Admission Council Inc., the company that administers the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), the number of law school applicants is down nearly 14 percent from a year ago. Yet ironically the number of law school graduates has increased. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, "The number of law graduates per year spiked to 44,495 this year from 42,673 in 2006." In addition, the ABA recently accredited ten more law schools.
The bottom line is that law school graduates cannot find jobs. The Association for Legal Career Professionals (NALP) recently reported that the class of 2011's employment rates are at an 18-year low.
Law school graduates are understandably worried and disappointed that they are not finding work. And, some are starting to apply their newly minted law licenses by suing their own law schools. A dozen lawsuits have already been filed by disgruntled grads who are accusing their schools of fraudulently misrepresenting post-graduate employment and placement rates.
The only real immediate solution is for the roughly 200 accredited law schools in our country to immediately lower the number of next year's admitted students per class and offer deferred enrollment. Perhaps if the potential law student spends a year working at the Public Defender's Office or Legal Aid they might reconsider the profession?
The law school admissions process needs to be overhauled. Traditionally law schools do little to screen students beyond GPA and LSAT scores. Most law schools do not use their own alumni to help screen applicants, but they should.
In my book, Make It Your Own Law Firm, the Ultimate Law Student's Guide to Owning, Managing and Marketing Your Own Successful Law Firm, I suggest a novel process for evaluating whether or not one should even apply to law school. As well as a template on how to cultivate professional relationships with lawyers that will guide students from law school to starting their own law firm upon graduation.
Why are there so many unemployed lawyers when there is such a high demand for legal representation? Perhaps the problem is not in the quantity of lawyers but in the number and quality of law schools?