As an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies, I am often asked, “Why aren’t you practicing law?” There are a variety of reasons, which include the fact that becoming a professor is a professional goal that I pursued for over 20 years. However, when I explain that one of the reasons that I’m not practicing is because I couldn’t find an opportunity that would compensate me better than the human resources and academic positions that I’ve held since I graduated from the University of Houston Law Center’s J.D. program back in 2006, it is often evident by their facial expressions that many do not believe this explanation. In fact, on one occasion, I later heard the person that asked me the question telling her friend that the real reason is that I probably hadn’t passed the bar exam! Of course the comment was rude, however, I just laughed because I not only passed the Texas Bar Exam on my first try, but I also practiced as a Staff Attorney for a wonderful nonprofit organization, Texas C-BAR, for approximately 1.5 years following law school. Nevertheless, due to the frequency of these inquires, I’ve decided to utilize this platform to discuss “the business of law” and express my opinions about the illogical and/or counterintuitive nature of the profession. Most people, who aren’t lawyers, assume is legal practice is glamorous, pays extremely well, and affords law grads a life of their dreams. However, often, the reality for many law grads couldn’t be farther from the truth. Consequently, in this first post, I’d like to bring attention to the following articles, which were published by the ABA Journal and in a NALP press release and which highlight a few key issues:

I recommend reading the articles, press release, and the reports referenced in them to understand the issues fully. However, I personally wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in the following statements/excerpts:

  • “While a law degree is still held in high esteem, it is now seen as a riskier investment than in the past.”[1]
  • “Higher costs and difficulty finding good jobs have raised the question about the true value of a law degree.” [2]
  • “Among the JD respondents who borrowed more than $100,00 for law school, 42 percent ‘strongly agreed’ that if they had it to do over, they would again go to law school.” [3] Translation: 58 percent did not ‘strongly agree’ that if they had it to do over, they would again go to law school.
    • “Only 23 percent of the law grads in the study strongly agreed that their advanced education was worth the cost.” [4]

Furthermore, following is a quote by James Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, in the organization’s press release on February 21, 2018:

“After a period of considerable volatility marked first by a prolonged slowdown in law student recruiting volumes following the recession and then a rapid escalation in recruiting volumes for two years running, we have seen the recruiting market stabilize over the last two years. Recruiting numbers were mostly flat compared to last year, and in some cases we saw some pulling back, particularly at the largest firms, suggesting that the most recent period of growth has ended.”

Am I the only one that finds the information I’ve presented a little depressing?

That question is a rhetorical one because I regularly hear the frustrations of many of my law school classmates. Even though we graduated over a decade ago, many of these difficulties persist. Furthermore, these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more issues that plague both legal education and legal practice. They include widespread job dissatisfaction, high attrition rates, minimal diversity, and other counterintuitive practices – all which I will detail in future posts. So, please stay tuned as I share my business and human resources management oriented opinions about “the business of law.”

[1] Gallup AccessLex Institute, Examining Value, Measuring Engagement A National Study of the Long-Term Outcomes of a Law Degree, available at: http://www.abajournal.com/files/AccessLex_report_1.17-2018.pdf

[2]Stephanie Francis Ward, Less than half of recent law grads had ‘good jobs’ waiting after graduation, report says (January 16, 2018), available at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/less_than_half_of_recent_law_grads_had_good_jobs_waiting_for_them

[3] Id.

[4] Debra Cassens Weiss, Only 23 percent of recent law grads strongly agree their education was worth the cost, study says (February 22, 2018), available at: http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/only_23_percent_of_recent_law_grads_strongly_agree_their_education_was_wort.

[5] NALP, Entry-level Law Firm Recruiting Activity Remains Fairly Robust, Steady, Even as Firms in Some Markets Pull Back Slightly (February 21, 2018), available at: https://www.nalp.org/uploads/Perspectiveson2017LawStudentRecruitingPressRelease.pdf.