A Surplus of New Lawyers

It comes of no surprise to lawyers that there are lots of lawyers looking for work.  Our office receives resumes from lawyers almost on a daily basis,  and many have impressive backgrounds.

This article from the June 29, 2011 New York Times describes the state of the employment market for new in the country.   The writer explains that in Tennessee it is estimated that there will be 389 jobs for lawyers each year from 2010 through 2015.  However, 735 people passed the Tennessee bar exam in 2009.  Thus, if the bar exam completion rate stays the same, Tennessee will have 346 more new lawyers than jobs in each of the coming years.

The Tennessee numbers are pretty close to the national average, which reveals that there will only be legal jobs for one-half of the lawyers passing the bar exam.

The median Tennessee legal wage is $37.34 per hour – less than $80,000 per year assuming a 2000-hour year.  The national median wage is $44.22.

New York will have the greatest surplus of lawyers.

If these numbers are correct, does this mean that new lawyers won’t get jobs?   No.    I believe that the new graduates will get jobs, but they just won’t get jobs as lawyers.   A legal education is a great asset and can work to the benefit of employers in other fields.

The surplus of new lawyers will hold wage rates down, both at the entry level and for other lawyers.

Another consequence?  There probably will be an increase in the number of legal malpractice claims among new lawyers.   Why?  Because if a new lawyer cannot get a job, he or she is likely to hang out a shingle and practice without the guidance of a more experienced lawyer.  Such a lawyer is much more likely to make a mistake because, quite simply, they don’t know what they don’t know.

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