If You Get a Law Degree, Will You Be Able to Pay for it Later?

By Staff

The Job Outlook for Law Students

By most all accounts the job market for lawyers is not at its most robust. The word “dismal” has been tossed about in the media and across the law school/student blogosphere. “Bleak” is another of the popular adjectives used to describe the outlook for traditional attorney jobs in the current market. On the other hand, if you are willing to challenge your notions of what someone with a law degree does, you may find that your job prospects are not so much like the plot in a Bergman film.

The problems with the employment outlook for attorneys can be traced back to the Wall Street bloodbath of 2008. As businesses went belly-up and corporations began to tighten their belts, one of the first expenses to be cut was the legal budget. By 2009, law firms were downsizing across the country, creating a huge surplus in the job market for lawyers. Add to the glut of experienced attorneys pounding the pavement a herd of people sitting out the recession in law school, and you’ve got a lot more lawyers than you have jobs. Compounding the situation is the fact that the law business has been slow to rebound, as law firms remain cautious about growing to pre-2008 levels and taking on the overhead that full-time attorneys bring with them.

One thing that can certainly help is getting into a good law school and doing well there. Adequate preparation for the LSAT, good undergrad grades and hard work at law school will all help boost you to the front of the new-attorney pack. Once you’ve set yourself apart from an academic standpoint, down stand outside the law firms and pound your head against the doors. Consider non-firm alternatives, as well as more niche practices.

There are a few trends in the legal industry that are positive for the law students who are willing to look outside big firms for work. One of the results of businesses dumping expensive outside counsel is the growth of the job market for lawyers working as in-house counsel. The potential for big, partner dollars may not be there, but a little stability is worth a lot.

Globalization has opened up opportunities for multilingual attorneys or those with backgrounds in cultural or international studies. Intellectual property, especially for new lawyers with science or engineering degrees, continues to be an area of relative strength, as well.

If you are still longing for work in a firm, consider the areas of law that tend to withstand — or even thrive — during tough economic times. Family law, bankruptcy and personal injury work all require tough-as-nails attorneys who are willing to work hard for their business but can ultimately help you pay off your loans without standing on a corner with a cardboard sign.