For a while now, major media outlets — and a legion of bloggers — have reminded us that the job market for lawyers is lousy. Some law schools, in light of the dimming employment prospects for graduates, have resorted to grade inflation and other methods to, as The New York Times noted, “rescue their students from the tough economic climate — and perhaps more to the point, to protect their own reputations and rankings.”Just how bad is the job outlook for lawyers? According to our quick analysis, every state but Wisconsin, Washington, D.C., and Nebraska produced more — in some cases, far more — bar exam passers in 2009 than the estimated yearly openings for lawyers in those states. The same glut holds true when comparing law school grads, via IPEDS from the National Center for Education Statistics, to the same opening estimates. 1 And when you take into account nuances with the D.C. bar and how Wisconsin operates (see more below), there might not be any states with a shortage.New York has far and away the largest oversupply; 9,787 law grads passed the bar exam there in 2009, more than 10% of the active attorney workforce in the state. 2 EMSI estimates New York will need 2,100 new lawyers annually through 2015, creating a glut of 7,687 per year if the 2009 supply figures hold firm. (The imbalance is less striking with IPEDS completers.)As is the case in every state, not all of these new grads will practice in New York. But the data still points to a surplus.On the national level, there were nearly twice as many bar exam passers (53,508) in ’09 than openings (26,239). It should be noted that not all those who pass the bar exam in each state are new graduates. Some law school grads wait several years to take the test. Others take it multiple times before passing (the national pass rate in ’09 was 68%), and some have to take it again if they want to practice in another state. Still, the bar exam data appears to be the best measure of lawyer supply from year to year, with the exception of D.C. and Wisconsin. (We also compiled IPEDS completers by state to see how both datasets match up.)Here’s the data (including median wages) and supply/demand comparisons for every state that we compiled using EMSI’s Analyst. Note: Use the table’s search function to quickly find any state; national figures are at the bottom.
|2010-15 Est. Annual Openings||2009 Bar Exam Passers||2009 Completers (IPEDS)||Surplus/Shortage||Median Wages|