At a time when law-school graduates are facing greater debt and fewer job opportunities, the University of Miami School of Law has offered to pay accepted students to stay away—at least for a year. The school's unusual offer, which followed an unexpectedly high number of acceptances for this fall's entering class, comes during a period of soul searching in legal education about just how many lawyers the nation needs and whether educators have an obligation to paint a realistic picture of students' prospects for landing jobs that would justify taking out loans of $70,000 or more.
At least 10 new law schools are on the drawing board around the country, in addition to the 200 already accredited by the ABA. At the same time, the demand for legal services has dropped during the economic recession, prompting hundreds of firms to lay off lawyers, cut salaries, and delay the start dates of new associates. As law schools continue to churn out graduates, the resulting bottleneck could make the competition for jobs even more fierce. And some legal experts predict that even when they do resume hiring, many big firms won't be able to continue paying new associates the salaries of $120,000 or more that students had counted on to whittle down their debt.
But that sobering news hasn't stopped students from flocking to law schools, which saw the number of applicants rise 4.3 percent for this fall, according to the ABA. ...
I want to advance the thesis (based in large part on some thoughts I garnered from my colleague Rock Sander) that law may be a mature industry.
- Consolidation among suppliers: Witness the mergers and growth of large law firms, squeexing out the middle market
- Buyers demand cost reductions and emphasis on service: We see this happening all the time as consumers of legal services, especially at the high end of the market, have become very sophisticated and demanding
- Stiffer competition
- Reduction in innovation: When was the last time there was real innovation in the way lawyers provide services?