Shed No Tears for Them

A survey has found that the demand for legal services has not returned to its pre-recession levels and many law firms are reporting that they don’t have enough work for the lawyers they employ.

Are we supposed to shed a tear for them?

In response, some firms are demoting partners to employees and laying off some of their junior lawyers.  Some are pulling back on their hiring of new law school graduates.

Boo-hoo.

In 2011, American law schools churned out 43,979 new lawyers.

In 2012, 46,364.

In 2013, 46,776.

In 2014, 43,832.

In 2015, 39,984.

And in 2016, 37,124.

Those last three years suggest what should probably be the start of a new trend:  in the face of a need for fewer lawyers, train fewer lawyers.

The Curmudgeon has long maintained that law school is the most lucrative form of vocational training in the world.  He also knows that on the whole, lawyers are definitely smarter than the average person and definitely smarter than most of us.  (Mrs. Curmudgeon, for example, is a lawyer and is waaaay, waaaaaaaay smarter than her husband.)

But being a bright college student and aspiring to attend law school today is a lot like being a very good high school basketball player and setting your sights on a career in the National Basketball Association:  dreams are great, but you’d better pursue your dreams with your eyes open because what you want may not necessarily be what you can reasonably expect to get.

And if those aspiring lawyers are as smart as they think they are and as smart as The Curmudgeon thinks they generally are, they’ll figure that out and think long and hard before they go hundreds of thousands of dollars into debt to learn a trade that’s just not in as great demand anymore.

And in the meantime, the rest of us shouldn’t cry for all those law firms that don’t have enough work for their lawyers.  Lots of businesses overestimate the demand for their services, assume that their business will always thrive, and spend and hire without regard for the bottom line because they’re so certain that bottom line will always be healthy.

Welcome to the world the rest of us inhabit, legal profession.

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