Over lawyer-ed? 

The job market for lawyers is tight. Some say it'll get worse.

Some people will always believe there are too many lawyers. At the moment, the market seems to agree.

Recent law school graduates are having trouble finding work, and even some established practitioners have felt a pinch as the demand for legal services declined during the recession. There are those who say the problem is short-term, that the outlook for lawyers will improve when the general economy improves. Others believe fundamental change has occurred, that the demand for lawyers will continue to fall, that too many loans are being made to too many students attending too many law schools, that the legal profession is over-populated already. Those who believe this tend to believe it strongly, with exclamation points and capital letters, like the anonymous ranter on Yahoo Answers, apparently a lawyer him- or herself, probably in a large city:

"We simply already have too many Legal Professionals. AND the legal profession is dramatically changing. It is in absolute CRISIS!!! Job searching in this vocational field has changed >>DRAMATICALLY<< in the last five years. And, every year, more and more people graduate from law school, but there are fewer and fewer jobs. Even the largest and most reputable law firms are experiencing unprecedented cutbacks."

Slate, an on-line magazine, reported last month on a law-school grad who named his school in his bankruptcy filing, claiming that the school should have known he wouldn't be able to repay the student loans he'd received. Slate also remarked on a Boston College law student who wrote an open letter to his dean, begging for his tuition back in exchange for dropping out without a degree. "This will benefit both of us," he wrote. "On the one hand, I will be free to return to the teaching career I left to come here. I'll be able to provide for my family without the crushing weight of my law school loans. On the other hand, this will help BC Law to go up in the rankings, since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News."

Law school graduates in Arkansas aren't going to such extremes — yet — but they are being roughed up by a rocky job market.

Keith Pike, a 2010 graduate of the UALR Law School, eventually found work, but it wasn't easy. "I'd been clerking for one of the big firms and kind of led to believe I'd have a job there after graduation. Then the economy crashed and all those jobs at the big law firms dried up." Business clients became less active; they didn't need or couldn't afford legal services as much as previously.

"I sent a ton of resumes to different law firms. They all said, 'We're not hiring now.' I applied to work for judges, but there are 10 times as many people applying for those jobs as normal, including a lot from out of state. I graduated in the top 20 of my law school class and I have a master's degree in business from UCA. I was one of those people who should have no trouble finding a job in a normal economy. I can't imagine what the people in the bottom half of the class are doing."

He resolved to open his own law firm, and was looking for office space when he exchanged e-mails with a general-practice firm in downtown Little Rock. "They hadn't been hiring, but after talking with them, they said 'You're too good to pass up.' "

Pike's loan payments are troublesome. "My wife is also an attorney. We have good salaries for Arkansas. You'd think we'd have a house in the Heights, but we're living in a condo." He's still miffed at the Bush administration.


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