Too Many Lawyers?

Friday, April 05, 2013

Steven J. Harper, an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and a regular contributor to "The American Lawyer" as well as the author of The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis, offers an indictment of the profession for the current oversupply of lawyers.


Steven J. Harper

Comments [12]

I think that beginning with next year's graduating class, the "excess" of aspiring attorneys will be sopped up, or warned off, by Chief Judge "I'm a friend of Shelley" Lippman's scheme ( ) to "draft" those wanting to be admitted to practice in NYS into the service of legal organizations "serving the poor" (think of it as similar to the TZ plot, it's a cookbook )

No criticism of educational value of "clinical" education intended. (Perhaps trade school graduates should be required to work on construction projects connected with the "needy" victims of Hurricane Sandy or the NYC Housing Authority Budget cuts). But there seems to be some constitutional issues pertaining to the first amendment and some statutory issues concerning the financial compensation due to "interns".

The quality of the new attorneys will be measured against their efforts to resist this tyranny - which one would hope that their training has prepared them for.

Apr. 05 2013 12:13 PM

Mick from Inwood is correct and michele from "planet nebali" is overreacting and, frankly, naive.

If you've attended a university during the past twenty years, you understand that higher academia is no longer about educating the future of our nation. Higher Ed is now one huge money grab. Need any proof? See NYU. The majority of the administration's efforts have been grabbing up land in Greenwich Village. Even my alma mater, Loyola University Chicago, engaged in a similar land grab up in the Rogers Park neighborhood there. The result? Higher tuition and fees for students (which means larger debt accumulation) meanwhile class size explodes, class offerings shrink and admins and execs laugh all the way to the bank.

Apr. 05 2013 11:59 AM
michele from Planet Nebali

Mick from Inwood: You're right! The world is run by a secret conspiracy of public-school teachers, college professors and administrators! The are behind every major event of the last 50 years including the assasination of JFK and the fake moon-landing not to mention the economic collapse and north korean nuclear crisis! You figured it out! Congrats, now go back to listening to Rush because your world-view is just too complex for us... thank you for shedding light on this terrifying reality. Of course WNYC will never discuss this on air because they are part of the liberal-media-academic conspiracy and this will only prove your point!

Apr. 05 2013 11:09 AM
Karen from NYC

I've been an attorney for 22 years. I enrolled in law school after earning a Ph.D. in liberal arts; it was clear that I would not earn a living as a professor unless I relocated out of the NYC metro area, which I could not do.

When my class graduated, from a top-tier law school, virtually all of the graduates found jobs. Most of those jobs in Big Law. I suspect that the top tier schools are still placing their graduates.

What many law students don't understand is that Big Law firms - the choice jobs -- are slave labor camps. All the awful stories that you've heard are true: these are, as one refugee from Sullivan & Cromwell put it, disrespectful, dysfunctional, unsafe work places. ("Unsafe" because nobody knows what he or she is doing at 3 a.m.; I wrenched my back lifting a large box of docs --- I should have known better -- after a long work day.)

People talk about the bad life style, but can't really grasp how bad it is until they are there. E.g. Forbes found law firm associates to be the most unhappy employee in America. Unhappy doesn't begin to describe it. My son's earliest memories include those of me, weeping at 5 a.m. because I had to go back to the Big Firm for another day of hell. I could not get out for almost 5 years, because I had student loans to pay and, in addition, my family needed my income.

I now work for a small firm. I'm lucky to be employed, not because I'm not a good lawyer, but because, after Big Firm Hell, I insisted on working a M-F, 9-5 schedule. There are virtually NO legal jobs in the NYC area that permit that option. I am fortunate to have found one of them although, as a "mommy-tracker" and a (by now) over 50-year old worker, my job is by no means secure/

If you go to law school, please do not plan on a career in law unless (1) you are planning to work in public interest; (2) plan to solo or partner with a few friends in a small firm; or (3) are using your degree to embark on a career outside of law. In any, you should have a plan to pay your student loans, because they will be hefty.

Frankly, if I had to do it all over again -- I'd become a real estate broker. Forbes reports that brokers are happy; at least I'd have had control over my time!

Apr. 05 2013 11:07 AM
mick from Inwood

The option of a job outside law that the caller mentioned or the second bachelor's degree in another field overlooks the fact that law all school tuition is now predicated on the high 5 figure salaries that were available to graduates from elite law schools in the 1990s. This is a result of a trend in higher education in the US where even public schools are run not to meet the needs of society or of potential students, but for the interests and ambitions of the university administrators and to a lesser extent university professors.

Apr. 05 2013 11:01 AM
james from nyc

if you cant make money as a lawyer you are a reall looser and you would make a lot less doing anything else.

So the law degree is still worth every penny

Apr. 05 2013 10:59 AM

"So we have a surplus of bright, hard working and ambitious individuals....
all the money is tied up in the hands of a few and the capable many are economic sharecroppers bound in debt like serfs..."

MC from Manhattan nailed it on the head, but I'll make one addition. Its the beginning of the US becoming a 3rd world country. Only 3rd world countries have the economic characteristics that MC stated in her post.

Apr. 05 2013 10:56 AM
michele from nyc

Are we supposed to feel bad for these people?? Really? As a teacher I can only say the poetic justice of law school ripping off law students and lying to them is perfect. Let's be honest, 99 pct of law students get into it for the money, period, and they will then do whatever they are tasked with to get it. I have many highly paid lawyer friends and NONE of them are in it or got into it for idealism or moral reasons. The like they money. We need lawyers like we need hemmorroids.

Apr. 05 2013 10:56 AM
Retired Attorney from Pelham, NY

One university dealt with this problem by substituting lawyers for lab rats in the experimental science labs. Benefits included:

1. There are a lot more available lawyers than rats.
2. Some of the scientists and lab techs become emotionally attached to the rats; this never happens with lawyers.
3. There are some tasks the rats won't do, no matter how much you reward them. Again, not a problem with lawyers.

Apr. 05 2013 10:55 AM
MC from Manhattan

So we have a surplus of bright, hard working and ambitious individuals....
Welcome to the future of Capitalism......all the money is tied up in the hands of a few and the capable many are economic sharecroppers bound in debt like serfs.. scrambling for crumbs at the table...

Apr. 05 2013 10:52 AM

and there's too many lawyers in congress too

Apr. 05 2013 10:06 AM
john from office

What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the sea?? A good start!

Seriously, I am involved in the legal world. There are good jobs available outside of the NY, Chicago, Westcoast area. They may not pay the high salaries that are expected, but the cost of living is far less outside of those areas.

Head to middle America

Apr. 05 2013 08:57 AM

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