by Brett Twitty
This summer, I attended a presentation by National Association of Legal Career Professionals (NALP) Executive Director, Jim Leipold, on the state of the legal economy. As you might imagine, the picture was rather bleak. The past two years have been a tumultuous time for legal employers, and all signs point to an economy in the midst of significant, structural shifts.
For those of you considering law school, this is probably anything but surprising, but as an admissions officer, sitting there, listening to Jim’s presentation, I began to wonder just what to do with all of this information? How do I tell prospective students just how tough things are right now? How do I get them to think about these issues before they get to law school, before they ever embark upon a job search? Needless to say, these are not the easiest questions.
Nevertheless, they are important questions, and if you are currently contemplating law school, you absolutely have to think about these things (as, undoubtedly, a great many of you are). At W&L Law, we feel you deserve to know this information. And not just in a macro-economic sense. Of course it’s important to understand what’s happening with the legal economy generally, but you also need to know how these larger economic trends have affected our students, and what the average employment search looks like for a W&L student right now. After all, in less than a year’s time, you will be searching for a job, and it will be you who is personally experiencing the impact of many of these hiring and economic trends.
Consequently, we have created a new webpage detailing the state of the legal economy generally, how our students have been affected by these economic trends, what their job searches currently look like, and what we, as a school, are doing to help them.
However, lastly, as an admissions officer, let me leave those of you currently thinking about law school with this general piece of advice: Understand and be realistic about what you are getting yourself into. There are still law jobs out there, but certainly not as many as there were two or three years ago. And the kinds of jobs that are available and where they are has most certainly changed during this period. A legal education is a tremendous experience and it certainly opens doors, but these are challenging times for lawyers. All the numbers and information point to a legal economy in the midst of significant systemic changes, and it will likely be a few years before the market truly stabilizes. Consequently, you will need to come to law school prepared to work, hustle, network and take initiative. Give yourself the time to consider whether law is really the right path for you. And if you decide that it is, take the time to understand what is really going on with legal employers, law schools, post-graduate debt and any number of other factors that will likely bear upon your law school experience. A little research on the front-end can save you a lot of heartache on the back-end.