Susan Smith Blakely

Good News on the Lawyer Job Market Front

I am not in the habit of repeating myself.  However, when something is as critically important as this, I take some latitude.

Recently, I reported to you what was good news and still is.  The subject was an improving job market for graduate lawyers.  The Slate article, which I shared with you on Facebook, was based on thorough research and well-reasoned conclusions that by the year 2016 the supply of graduating law students will be reduced to meet the demands of the market.  It got my attention because the author took on some industry doubters in a quite effective way.

That article is very much worth reading if you are a law student, who is questioning your decision to go to law school based on the job market, or if you are a prospective law student looking for advice.  However, it does not give much solace to law graduates, who will be several years out of law school by 2016, and still without jobs.  That is another issue.

Now comes a popular law blog, which concludes basically the same thing.  I watch trends, and this is beginning to look to me like a trend.  This second article comes from Above the Law, one of the industry doubters mentioned above, and cites to the Slate article.  Hmm …. not so Above-the-Law-ish to switch sides, and very significant for that reason alone.

As you will see from these articles, the number of students taking the LSAT is down considerably, and the number of students in law schools today is at a 30-year low.  As a result, supply is about to meet demand, or so the argument goes.

Don’t get me wrong.  This information is only important if you really want to go to law school and incur the student loan debt that most law students must to get the degree.  If you are wishy-washy about being a lawyer, don’t bother.  It is too much work and too expensive.

However, do not fall victim to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” a phrase you are sure to hear repeatedly as a law student.  In other words, don’t overreact and get rid of all possibilities that do not include actually practicing law.  If you know the non-traditional path you want to take with a law degree, go for it.  Your commitment is just as important as the person with a passion to be the next Perry Mason — or David Boies for those of you who do not have a clue who Perry Mason was.

We are not used to good news, so let’s make the most of it.  I hope it pans out — for all of you.


Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.

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