The legal job market for new law school graduates has been so
bad for so long that most potential employers now consider it the
norm. Well, guess what? Things will be changing one year from now.
The demand for legal work has not substantially increased. The
number of available positions has not skyrocketed. The demand side
of the equation is not likely to be significantly altered over the
next year. However, due to significant declines in law school
enrollment over the past few years, the supply will finally start
Let's look at the numbers, which are readily available due to
the American Bar Association's requirement of law school reporting.
Let's first go back to 2010. We were in the thick of the national
financial crisis when many Americans decided to pursue law school.
They may have made wise decisions, but they were not alone. In
fact, in 2010 we had the largest first-year law school enrollment
ever at 52,488. From that point forward, the job market worsened
while new lawyers continued to flood the market. The dismal job
market for new lawyers translated to law school being less
desirable and enrollment continued to plummet. In 2013, the ABA
reported that first-year law school enrollment fell 24 percent from
the 2010 figure, to its lowest levels since 1975.
As the story unfolded, we talked about how law schools would
adapt, how new lawyers would be unable to find work and how law
firms would have a never-before-seen selection of potential
candidates. While it would be a bit too speculative of me to opine
on how law schools will adapt, predicting how the latter two
stories will play out is straightforward. There will be less
lawyers competing for the same jobs and the employers will have
fewer candidates from which to choose.
We are a year away from seeing a big drop off in new lawyers.
This will be a much bigger story a year from now. We may be ahead
of the curve on this issue, but we are not early. As practitioners,
we sometimes move ahead by accurately predicting the future and
developing a corresponding competitive advantage. For the
employers, this is the last year you'll have such an expansive
selection of potential candidates. It will shrink quickly year over
year. Colleagues will be remarking on how difficult it is to find a
The laws of supply and demand are simple. When there is greater
demand, you pay more money for the resource. When there is less
selection, you have to make more sacrifices between the vision of
your ideal candidate and the applicants with which you're
presented. If you are debating whether to take on a bright new
lawyer now versus later, consider these facts in making your
decision. If now is not the right time for your practice to take on
someone new, consider taking action to shore up this risk. Develop
a formal internship program now and start developing your future
employees. It is well established that income is not the
determining factor in whether an employee stays with a firm. Set
clear expectations, communicate clearly, listen and mentor, and you
will have an edge on securing that intern as a promising new
associate next year.
For the law student and new members of the bar, these numbers
are good news. Job seeking will logically get easier in the next
few years. That's easier, not easy. You will still need to excel at
all the objective criteria that sets new lawyers apart from the
pack. Do your best to get great grades. Get involved in
associations, like the MBA or student groups. For new lawyers, get
involved and get whatever relevant experience you can. For students
and new lawyers alike, go to events and build your professional
network. When the numbers of new lawyers thin out, you'll have a
great edge if you stay busy and grow your knowledge and
professional network in the meantime.
Damian Turco owns Mass Injury Firm PC, a Boston-based personal
injury law firm, representing the victims of negligence across
Massachusetts. Damian is the vice chair of the MBA's Law Practice
Management Section Council and is a regular presenter at MBA CLE