How Will Law Schools Adjust to Diminished Job Prospects for Graduates?

How Will Law Schools Adjust to Diminished Job Prospects for Graduates?

Over the past year, the nation’s top 250 Law Firms decreased in size by 5,259 attorneys. This 4-percent drop is the largest since the National Law Journal began keeping such statistics 32 years ago. These figures reveal the dramatic toll that the economic recession has taken on law firms over the past year.
Associates were among the hardest hit. The percentage of new attorneys at the top firms shrank by nearly 9-percent last year. The cuts impacted not only those laid off, but also the 2,784 first-year associates whose start dates were deferred. 
While the number of jobs backslides, numerous new Law Schools have opened over the last decade, increasing the number of lawyers looking for jobs each year. With the economy forcing these widespread layoffs, something’s got to give. What will happen to this year’s graduates when they try to find jobs in a market that has already let go of so many?
University of New Mexico Law School professor Erik Gerding speculated recently in the Conglomerate that the domino effect from this downturn will likely mean an end to the recent law school boom. “The business model…of many law schools is heavily dependent on students getting high paying law firm jobs to pay off high law school tuition.” Gerding adds, “Law firms are also prime benefactors of law school endowments. Without corporate law consuming law school graduates by the dozens, law school will face massive economic pressure.”
The one good thing that could come out of forced change is that law schools will be pressured to improve training so law students will be prepared to hit the ground running the moment they begin their first associate positions.  This teaching method would support the ABA best practices reforms and is already being tested at the new University of California, Irvine, School of Law.  

See "Quiet Revolution in Legal Education Begins with 61 Students."  Another change Gerding anticipates is that the size of classes will increase along with the use of cheaper adjunct faculty. 

Then there is the issue of how these schools will fall out in the tier rankings. Gerding predicts that we should “Expect a greater disparity among the tiers of law schools with even more intense pressure on deans to prevent their law school from falling off a given tier. It is hard to see how many law schools will be able to sustain their current tuition rates given the job prospects of their graduates.”
The trap, according to Gerding, is the struggle to avoid converting legal education into a business when redesigning the business model for legal education. Gerding adds that for the sake of consumer protection, better metrics and disclosure of real job statistics will help keep future law students informed of the realities of the professional prospects ahead.