Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Ethics and Law School Marketing Practices 1

Academic journal article Southern Journal of Business and Ethics

Ethics and Law School Marketing Practices 1

Article excerpt

"If the economy will provide jobs for only 218,800 new lawyers over the current decade, should we really produce more than twice that number of law school graduates?"4

The sad truth is that for thousands of law school graduates a legal career is just an illusion. After spending three years of their lives and a large pool of borrowed money, their job prospects will not have improved. 5 Tragically, few, if any of the potential law students were warned of this possibility. Evidence suggests that many were likely deceived and manipulated into purchasing a product (legal education) that may be of little value in their career.

This paper explores recent, dramatic problems in law school marketing practices. To that end, we will first discuss the job market for new lawyers today. Next, we will explore some marketing practices of certain well-known law schools which appear to mislead potential students. Following that, we will discuss the economics of law school. We will conclude with implications for the ethical duty of undergraduate legal studies professors and pre-law advisors to inform potential law students and propose a modest solution.


For today's law school graduates, the news is nearly all bad. By most accounts, the job market is terrible for new lawyers,6 and has been referred to by some scholars as the worst for lawyers in the last fifty years.7 For example, fewer than half the current group of law grads will make a career practicing law. Many will not even gamer a single job opportunity based upon his or her law degree. Why are things such a crisis? Several problems coincide to brew the perfect storm of strife for the recent law graduate.

First, law schools are producing lawyers at twice the rate as the economy can hire them.9 This overproduction is not a new phenomenon, but it has recently grown worse. As previously suggested, a large percentage of law grads will not find full-time, long-term employment as a lawyer.10 Today, the reality is, we do not need as many lawyers as America currently produces.

The problem has been not just about quantity, but also quality. Critics of law degree quality find that legal education has been too theoretical and detached from the practice of law. 11 Some have advocated dropping the third year of law school altogether, replacing it with an apprentice program. 12 Increasingly legal education has become alienated from the reality of practicing law.13 Legal education does not always cover the basics of practicing law or managing your own small business - leaving a graduate unprepared.14 As a result, the value of a law degree has declined. 15

Second, lawyers currently with a job should also be worried, because small town lawyers have not been the only ones suffering. Elite law firms have been downsizing lawyers and staff in large numbers, minimizing new hires, and lowering starting salaries.16 The nation's largest law firms (known for being financially successful and hiring the best graduates) have cut nearly 10,000 lawyer positions in recent years. 17

Nine months following graduation, only 57 percent of law graduates from the Class of 2013 have been employed in long-term/full-time employment which required a law degree. 18 In other words, just over half of 2013 law school graduates got the jobs they expected when they started law school - much less than most would anticipate. This number has steadily declined since 2008, while the number of law school graduates has increased only moderately. 19

Third, the Great Recession has harmed the already weakened job market for attorneys. An illustration of this is in the layoffs and/or downsizing of the big law firms. Between 2008 *7 n and 2010, big law firms laid off 14,347 people. Even before the downturn, the job market was dismal for law graduates with an average unemployment rate of 33 percent. 21 Post-recession, the figure hovered around 50 percent. 22

Why was the crisis so extreme? …

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