WSJ on Law Schools and the Legal Industry

By Eric Goldman

The WSJ recently published a recap of some troubling trends in the legal/law school industries. Among its points:

* the legal industry is experiencing a growth slowdown, and many categories of lawyers are experiencing deflation in their inflation-adjusted wages

* law schools are proliferating, and the number of law school graduates is growing

* perhaps exacerbated by law school marketing efforts and skewed data collection/reporting, students may not be doing a good job fully contemplating how relatively few non-top tier graduates are getting the jobs paying the biggest bucks

* the cost of a legal education is going up, and students are graduating with bigger loans

These points are all well-known phenomena in the industry, but seeing them in a single article reinforces the significant and disturbing problems we face in legal academia. At best, there are plenty of warning signs that there is currently a supply/demand imbalance that could lead to a major market correction in the legal education industry. On the other hand, so long as students believe that law school is a lottery for a high paying job, students may be willing to continue entering the lottery even if the chance of winning is low.