Which Law Schools Are Shedding Full-Time Faculty? (2014 Edition)

It’s a question I posed earlier this year and can answer before 2015 comes along.

One thing the latest 509 Information Reports do is consolidate “full-time” and “other full-time” faculty into just “full-time faculty.” This decision, which likely relates to the change in the accreditation standards that removed the student/faculty ratio requirement, has led to two results. One, we no longer know in detail what’s going on with legal writing instructors or clinicians, and two, the peak for full-time faculty (total and mean average) is now 2010 instead of 2011 as I reported last year. I’ve merged the categories retroactively to better illustrate the trends.

No. Law School Faculty by Type (Calendar Year Average)

Click to enlarge.

 

Since last year, the number of fall full-time instructors at all law schools fell by 8 percent; the cumulative decline since 2010 has been 11 percent, so much of what’s going on happened just before this academic year.

Once again, here are your law schools ranked by net change in full-time faculty and smallest faculty size in 2010.

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FULL-TIME FACULTY (FALL)
RANK SCHOOL ’10 ’13 ’14 ANNUAL CHANGE NET CHANGE
1. WMU Cooley 101 115 49 -66 -52
2. George Washington 106 93 72 -21 -34
3. Florida Coastal 69 51 36 -15 -33
4. Chapman 51 41 20 -21 -31
5. Vermont 55 33 26 -7 -29
6. Pacific, McGeorge 63 43 36 -7 -27
7. Texas 103 80 80 0 -23
8. Seton Hall 59 47 38 -9 -21
9. Hamline 34 24 14 -10 -20
9. Albany 46 36 26 -10 -20
9. Villanova 49 38 29 -9 -20
12. Detroit Mercy 42 29 23 -6 -19
12. St. Louis 65 50 46 -4 -19
12. Seattle 66 55 47 -8 -19
12. Boston University 67 48 48 0 -19
12. John Marshall (Chicago) 75 64 56 -8 -19
17. Capital 35 25 17 -8 -18
17. Widener 50 39 32 -7 -18
17. Catholic 56 41 38 -3 -18
17. Hofstra 60 47 42 -5 -18
17. California-Berkeley 90 72 72 0 -18
22. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] 32 34 15 -19 -17
22. Golden Gate 42 30 25 -5 -17
22. DePaul 56 50 39 -11 -17
25. Florida A&M 35 23 19 -4 -16
25. Cleveland State 39 31 23 -8 -16
25. Fordham 81 72 65 -7 -16
28. Southern University 35 36 20 -16 -15
28. Southern Methodist 46 42 31 -11 -15
28. Stetson 59 51 44 -7 -15
31. Western New England 36 24 22 -2 -14
31. New England 40 35 26 -9 -14
31. Case Western Reserve 47 47 33 -14 -14
31. New York Law School 71 65 57 -8 -14
31. American 104 113 90 -23 -14
36. Quinnipiac 32 28 19 -9 -13
36. Touro 42 36 29 -7 -13
36. Pace 47 41 34 -7 -13
39. Wake Forest 48 41 36 -5 -12
39. St. John’s 50 42 38 -4 -12
39. Rutgers-Camden 54 56 42 -14 -12
39. Maryland 63 63 51 -12 -12
39. San Diego 66 60 54 -6 -12
44. La Verne 19 11 8 -3 -11
44. Regent 25 17 14 -3 -11
44. Nova Southeastern 60 55 49 -6 -11
44. Santa Clara 65 60 54 -6 -11
48. Roger Williams 27 20 17 -3 -10
48. Whittier 31 25 21 -4 -10
48. Oklahoma City 34 28 24 -4 -10
48. Hawaii 35 28 25 -3 -10
48. Pittsburgh 47 39 37 -2 -10
48. Penn State (Dickinson) 57 49 47 -2 -10
48. Michigan 92 88 82 -6 -10
55. Ohio Northern 22 21 13 -8 -9
55. Dayton 27 19 18 -1 -9
55. Thomas Jefferson 42 34 33 -1 -9
55. Syracuse 60 56 51 -5 -9
55. Brooklyn 68 62 59 -3 -9
60. Appalachian 16 17 8 -9 -8
60. Faulkner 23 15 15 0 -8
60. Gonzaga 29 26 21 -5 -8
60. Charleston 31 30 23 -7 -8
60. William Mitchell 34 32 26 -6 -8
60. Oregon 35 31 27 -4 -8
60. Arizona 44 36 36 0 -8
60. California Western 45 37 37 0 -8
60. Loyola (CA) 66 63 58 -5 -8
69. Montana 19 15 12 -3 -7
69. Widener (Harrisburg) 25 22 18 -4 -7
69. Howard 26 24 19 -5 -7
69. Arkansas (Little Rock) 30 20 23 3 -7
69. George Mason 38 34 31 -3 -7
69. Alabama 47 45 40 -5 -7
69. Florida State 47 42 40 -2 -7
69. California-Hastings 71 65 64 -1 -7
77. Ave Maria 26 20 20 0 -6
77. St. Thomas (MN) 29 27 23 -4 -6
77. New Hampshire 33 25 27 2 -6
77. San Francisco 37 32 31 -1 -6
77. Louisiana State 41 37 35 -2 -6
77. Iowa 46 46 40 -6 -6
77. Connecticut 52 46 46 0 -6
77. Lewis and Clark 53 50 47 -3 -6
77. SUNY Buffalo 54 51 48 -3 -6
77. Washington University 68 65 62 -3 -6
77. Houston 76 68 70 2 -6
88. Northern Kentucky 28 26 23 -3 -5
88. Wayne State 38 31 33 2 -5
88. Marquette 39 37 34 -3 -5
88. North Carolina Central 42 33 37 4 -5
88. Illinois 49 52 44 -8 -5
88. Temple 63 58 58 0 -5
88. Miami 82 83 77 -6 -5
88. Georgetown 129 132 124 -8 -5
96. Samford 23 21 19 -2 -4
96. Baylor 27 23 23 0 -4
96. Tulsa 28 25 24 -1 -4
96. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 30 26 26 0 -4
96. Missouri (Kansas City) 34 36 30 -6 -4
96. Valparaiso 35 31 31 0 -4
96. St. Mary’s 36 41 32 -9 -4
96. Loyola (LA) 50 49 46 -3 -4
96. Cornell 51 50 47 -3 -4
96. Indiana (Bloomington) 59 52 55 3 -4
96. Loyola (IL) 60 65 56 -9 -4
96. Chicago 71 59 67 8 -4
96. Pennsylvania 75 69 71 2 -4
109. Maine 16 22 13 -9 -3
109. Mississippi College 26 25 23 -2 -3
109. Southern Illinois 27 24 24 0 -3
109. Drake 28 29 25 -4 -3
109. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 29 28 26 -2 -3
109. Tennessee 30 31 27 -4 -3
109. Texas Southern 30 33 27 -6 -3
109. Washburn 31 30 28 -2 -3
109. Akron 33 27 30 3 -3
109. Rutgers-Newark 40 40 37 -3 -3
109. Georgia 51 49 48 -1 -3
109. Tulane 53 51 50 -1 -3
109. Minnesota 58 57 55 -2 -3
109. Wisconsin 65 65 62 -3 -3
123. Louisville 26 26 24 -2 -2
123. Kansas 35 35 33 -2 -2
123. Vanderbilt 36 39 34 -5 -2
123. Indiana (Indianapolis) 41 43 39 -4 -2
123. Notre Dame 46 46 44 -2 -2
123. Arizona State 53 54 51 -3 -2
123. Georgia State 57 59 55 -4 -2
123. Chicago-Kent, IIT 66 66 64 -2 -2
123. Virginia 79 78 77 -1 -2
123. Suffolk 80 74 78 4 -2
123. Harvard 141 140 139 -1 -2
134. South Dakota 14 14 13 -1 -1
134. District of Columbia 21 18 20 2 -1
134. Campbell 23 22 22 0 -1
134. Kentucky 25 22 24 2 -1
134. Toledo 26 23 25 2 -1
134. Duquesne 26 28 25 -3 -1
134. Willamette 28 28 27 -1 -1
134. Mississippi 31 31 30 -1 -1
134. Utah 34 36 33 -3 -1
134. Richmond 36 39 35 -4 -1
134. Southern California 43 45 42 -3 -1
134. Yale 76 81 75 -6 -1
146. Northern Illinois 19 23 19 -4 0
146. Elon 20 26 20 -6 0
146. Wyoming 21 17 21 4 0
146. Mercer 27 29 27 -2 0
146. Drexel 27 27 27 0 0
146. Cincinnati 29 30 29 -1 0
146. Atlanta’s John Marshall 35 41 35 -6 0
146. Southwestern 57 59 57 -2 0
146. Cardozo, Yeshiva 61 67 61 -6 0
155. Creighton 23 25 24 -1 1
155. Washington and Lee 35 34 36 2 1
155. City University 36 38 37 -1 1
155. Baltimore 58 59 59 0 1
159. North Dakota 12 13 14 1 2
159. Nevada 26 32 28 -4 2
159. Barry 33 33 35 2 2
159. Texas Tech 35 38 37 -1 2
159. South Carolina 36 38 38 0 2
164. Liberty 19 21 22 1 3
164. Nebraska 26 31 29 -2 3
164. Missouri (Columbia) 28 33 31 -2 3
164. Florida International 32 37 35 -2 3
164. California-Davis 43 48 46 -2 3
164. South Texas 44 49 47 -2 3
164. Boston College 51 54 54 0 3
164. Florida 56 63 59 -4 3
164. Emory 58 65 61 -4 3
164. New York University 151 154 154 0 3
174. Western State 16 22 20 -2 4
174. Memphis 18 20 22 2 4
174. Idaho 21 25 25 0 4
174. St. Thomas (FL) 28 34 32 -2 4
174. Pepperdine 35 40 39 -1 4
174. Northeastern 36 42 40 -2 4
174. Duke 70 75 74 -1 4
174. Northwestern 99 102 103 1 4
182. New Mexico 28 34 33 -1 5
182. West Virginia 33 40 38 -2 5
182. Oklahoma 34 39 39 0 5
182. Washington 54 60 59 -1 5
186. Michigan State 52 56 58 2 6
187. Brigham Young 19 26 26 0 7
187. Colorado 43 46 50 4 7
189. William and Mary 39 53 49 -4 10
189. North Carolina 42 51 52 1 10
189. Ohio State 42 53 52 -1 10
192. Denver 62 84 73 -11 11
193. California-Los Angeles 86 99 98 -1 12
194. Belmont 17 14 -3 14
195. Massachusetts — Dartmouth 15 17 2 17
196. Stanford 68 81 90 9 22
197. Charlotte 35 66 64 -2 29
198. California-Irvine 27 32 5 32
199. Columbia 107 154 167 13 60
10TH PERCENTILE 23 22 19 -9 -18
25TH PERCENTILE 30 28 25 -6 -10
MEDIAN 42 39 35 -3 -4
75TH PERCENTILE 58 55 51 -1 0
90TH PERCENTILE 75 72 70 2 4
MEAN 46.4 44.4 40.7 -3.6 -5.0
GROSS GAIN 88 343
GROSS LOSS -807 -1,329
CUMULATIVE 9,093 8,826 8,107 -719 -986

Editorial observations:

  • The data look a lot more consistent than last year, e.g. the University of Chicago losing a dozen law professors last year.
  • But I still have no idea how Columbia has added so many more teachers.
  • Kudos to Campos for discovering the first ranked winner
  • It occurs to me is that law schools might be buying out some full-time instructors but rehiring them as part-timers. There wouldn’t be a way to tell though.
  • Two law schools, La Verne and Appalachian, now have fewer than 10 full-time instructors. Both are down more than 50 percent from 2010.
  • I didn’t include them, but the number one decline by percentage is Chapman at 61 percent. Hamline and La Verne follow.

That’s all for now.

Law School Cuts Its Tuition to Zero (and Other 509 Report Errata)

Students at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School were surprised to find their tuition was free for the 2014-15 academic year.

Free Tuition!

Such generosity!

That’s the most amusing error in the law school 509 Information Reports I’ve found thus far. The ABA doesn’t audit the data law schools provide it, so people using them might want to know when it’s obviously incorrect. I’m tallying up the ones I find, but I won’t do so exhaustively. I figure the ABA just runs a program that spits all the data into the reports automatically, so I’ll confine my teasing to the schools for the mistakes.

Atlanta’s John Marshall is one of two law schools that have tuition problems. For those curious, looking on John Marshall’s Web site I get $38,100 in tuition costs, $198 technology fees, $1,340 for health insurance, and $194 in student bar association costs ($39,832 total). This is largely consistent with its charges last year ($39,578).

Another law school with a tuition typo is St. Mary’s, whose 509 report says it charges $33,100 for resident and $33,110 for non-residents, a patent ambiguity that doesn’t make sense for a private law school. Worse, when I look at its Web site, I get $33,010 ($32,340 for tuition, $670 for fees). That’s the number I’m going to go with.

Readers might also be curious about law schools’ enrollment breakdowns. I don’t track the ethnicities of full-time and part-time students, but I did do get their totals as well as the genders and ethnicities of 1Ls, total enrollments, and graduates. These numbers usually add up across the table, but there are a few cases that I’ve found that don’t.

The biggest offender is SUNY-Buffalo, which accidentally totaled its male and female students in its “Other” column (a new addition to the reports this year) instead of the “Total” column. This causes significant arithmetical errors that end up doubling the school’s enrollment over the year before. I have SUNY-Buffalo with 547 full-time students, 10 part-time students, and zero “other” students.

The tables for San Francisco and Minnesota also do not total properly due to problems in the “Other” column. As I have it, San Francisco has 425 full-time students, 102 part-time students, and no “other” students (by enrollment, not gender). Minnesota has 681 full-time students, 17 part-time students, and zero “other” students (ditto).

It’s unclear, but I think most law schools that used the “other” category meant it for gender and enrollment status while these schools had one category but not the other.

Hopefully these errors will be corrected either by the law schools or the ABA.

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While I have your attention, I thought I’d spill the beans on where undiscounted tuition costs went this year: pretty much nowhere. The median private law school charged about $200 more than last year in real dollars, but costs are moving up slightly on the very high end while nominal tuition cuts are manifesting at the low end of the scale. I can’t make a clear determination at this point, but anyone thinking that legal education is moving toward a two-tier market—one for cheaper law schools, the other for very expensive prestigious ones—might see this as year 1 for their hypothesis.

Full-Time Law School Tuition Dispersion (Excl. P.R., Constant $)

I suppose now’s the appropriate time to congratulate Columbia for being the first law school to breach the $60,000 mark. 23 others charge more than $50,000 annually, many of them are in U.S. News‘ top 20. In 2010, only three charged so much.

The next chart shows the overall slowdown of tuition cost growth over the last few years and the nominal declines within the lowest quintile.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Increases by Tuition Quintile Mean (Current $)

I haven’t done a full analysis yet, but I think only Iowa has seen any direct correlation between nominal cost cuts and an increase in applications (and that’s a public law school). The rest still saw declines.

Peace out.

The End Is Near for Many Law Schools

…The end, that is, of the matriculant crunch that blights them.

(What, you thought I was going to predict widespread school closings? Haha, no.)

The accelerated (sure surprised me) release of law schools’ Standard 509 Information Reports, aka/fka the Official Guide, allows us to peer into the world of law schools as they are this very semester. Like, you can see them delaying their finals on account of grand jury verdicts … in real time.

No. The first finding is that there were 33,426 full-time law school matriculants this fall, down a paltry 1,247 from 2013. Last year, the drop was 2,621, hence this post’s title. (These figures exclude the three Puerto Rico law schools, which applies throughout this post.) I’d like to take this time to apologize for teasing you on Wednesday with one law school’s 90 percent full-time matriculant decline since 2004.

Part of the matriculant stabilization might be attributable to a slight uptick in acceptance rates.

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Applicant Acceptance Rates

Click to enlarge

Emphasis on the “might,” for it’s a very slight change in the trend, unlike 2013, but it does correspond to a similar budge in matriculant yields (omitted).

In general, though, the distribution of the matriculant collapse since the last trough years (1999 and 2007) is about the same as last year. I shan’t display that analysis now, but it’s still true that about 10 percent of the law schools account for half the total decline since 2007, which is probably the best comparison and not 2010, which was a peak year.

As for the number of full-time applications, you can see the accelerators are being hit at all levels:

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Application Growth Rates

This year, about 20 percent of law schools saw a growth in applications. First place goes to Case Western, which rallied from 1,200 applications last year to 1,913 this year, leading to a 46 percent increase in matriculants. Iowa saw a similar growth in its incoming class size after its application count nearly doubled. Penn State also saw some growth. I’ll have to look into the role that nominal tuition cuts play, but maybe they’re more successful than I thought. I just don’t think anyone should expect them to cause a Black Friday rampage by new applicants.

Nevertheless, probably the most interesting story this year is the surge in applications at most of the members of U.S. News and World Report‘s 14 highest-ranked law schools—as well as four of the remaining six of the top twenty. It’s really remarkable. Fourteen of these twenty schools contributed 1.39 percent against the -7.56 percent application growth rate. (Those stats are additive.)

The phenomenon is fascinating because it demonstrates that applicants interpreted a message (from somewhere) as saying that reputable law schools are worth applying to while most of the rest are not. More than even the law school tipping point between late 2009 and early 2010, I can’t recall ever seeing evidence of such discrete thinking on the part of applicants.

An admitted weakness with the LSTB is that it’s not as good at measuring inputs as outcomes, so I can’t tell you whether this behavior is due to a particular article on a news Web site, advice from guidance counselors or others, or some kind of forum. It might be multiple concurrent causes. Regardless, the now-is-the-best-time-to-apply-to-law-school-ever crowd might be able to take credit for directly influencing potential law school applicants’ actions, though I read their advice as telling people that it was also okay to be the number one pick at a respected non-elite institution. Thus, it might not be those writers. Possibly, the applicants, whom I’ll call “surplus applicants,” interpreted those messages more conservatively than their authors intended.

But was “apply to only elite law schools” a successful strategy? My first cut says that it was a waste of time for many surplus applicants because highly ranked law schools are not desperate for applicants with good credentials.

Here’s a table of surplus full-time applications, offers, and matriculations between 2013 and 2014 at the 14 out of 20 U.S. News‘ top law schools that saw application increases.

2014 T20 Surplus Applications Table

Click to enlarge

The odds of getting into one of these schools as a surplus applicant are not as good as the typical applicant was last year, assuming these schools used the same acceptance strategy this year. Only 12 percent of the total were accepted, but the ratio of surplus applications to surplus matriculants is 28, which is much higher than the ratio for all top 20 law schools in 2013 (16-17). Consequently, we can infer that many surplus applicants were rejected.

Of course without the now-is-the-best-time-to-apply-to-law-school-ever message, presumably the number of applications at these schools would have continued to fall or not fall by as much, so it depends on where you think the baseline for the first surplus applicant should be set. Anyway, more research might illuminate the issue, but the pushback in favor of law school appears to have gotten all the benefits it can. Prestigious law schools just aren’t changing their behaviors.

I should also note that some of these schools, such as Georgetown and Columbia, scorned their applicants as they came out of the woodwork. One strategy that might be developing, or, rather, receiving more scrutiny, is prestigious law schools rejecting many applications while accepting transfers instead. If you take a look at Georgetown’s 509 report, you can see that the 113 tranfers it took in (about 6 percent of its 2014 enrollment) came from dozens of schools. The list of origin schools goes on for a page and a half! As growth (decline) in applicants becomes less relevant, focusing on distribution will. My cursory look into the matter has found that some schools have a taste for for-profit law school refugees, e.g. Arizona State from Arizona Summit.

Other oddities I noticed: One, not all highly ranked law schools did so well. UVRollingStonebotchedrApereporting lost 815 full-time applications, and Minnesota lost 751. I could be convinced that these are typos in their thousand digits, but if not it’s peculiar that these two highly regarded schools would contribute -0.4 percent to the -7.6 percent full-time applications decline while their peers did so much better. Two, the University of Chicago found the 20 or so full-time law professors it misplaced last year. Congrats, and let that be a lesson to other law schools that misreport their numbers to the ABA.

So far the 2014-15 academic year has shaped up to be more interesting than I thought it would be. More research on other issues will appear here in time.

2016 Grads Shouldn’t Take Comfort in New Jobs Projection Approach

…Is up on The American Lawyer.

That should sate your law school bug until I compile the data from the ABA’s 509 reports and see what’s there. Gotta give the ABA credit for putting this info up so much sooner than before.

[Update: One thing that’s popped out: WMU Cooley Law School had only 38 full-time matriculants this fall, down from 387 a decade ago.]

Fewer Than 50,000 Applicants Predicted for 2015

And it came to pass, in the 48th week of 2014, that the LSAC saw its shadow and decreed that the fall 2015 law school application cycle had begun, a week earlier than the previous year.

11,415 people have submitted 70,009 applications to an ABA law school thus far, down 8.5 percent and 9.5 percent from last year, respectively. By contrast, in week 49 of 2014, 14,171 people had sent 90,032 applications. Arithmetic suggests that fewer than 50,000 applicants will emerge from the depths next fall.

No. Applicants Over App Cycle No. Applications Over App Cycle

…But arithmetic can be so imprecise. In week 49 of 2013, the projected number of applicants was varied by several percentage points, implies 2015 will be little different from 2014.

We’ll see how the horse race develops.

Household Spending on Legal Services Declines Too

But first, I should inform you that for the second year the ABA Journal has chosen to admit The Law School Tuition Bubble into its Blawg 100. It states:

Matt Leichter makes data-driven arguments in favor of changes to the legal education system. Anyone concerned about the levels of student debt and the state of employment in the legal industry would do well to visit his blog and examine his data firsthand.

I endorse this characterization, and you can endorse my Web site here.

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Speaking of data about the legal industry…

A brief follow-up to Monday’s article on the legal services industry’s continuing contraction: It turns out a few months back the BEA updated its personal income and outlays tables. Although they can only tell us about household consumption of legal services, the data go back much further than the GDP by industry tables do, and arguably household spending on legal services does a better job of capturing the health of the legal services industry for lawyers who enter small practices. I discussed them before here.

There are a few relevant findings.

One, inflation-adjusted household consumption of legal services fell by 3.27 percent in 2013. It’s about 15 percent less than in the peak year, 2003.

Percent Change Real Personal Consumption Expenditures by Function

(Source: National Income and Product Accounts, Table 2.5.3., author’s calculations)

Two,  the peak year for legal services as a share of total household expenditures was 1990 (1.09 percent); in 2013 it had fallen to 0.85 percent. It’s comparable to 1983 or 1973.

Legal Services Share of Household Consumption Expenditures

(Source: NIPA Table 2.5.5., author’s calculations)

The point isn’t just that households are spending less lawyers, it’s also that legal services historically have been a trivial expense. Americans spend about twice as much on higher education than legal services (but they certainly didn’t use to!). By contrast health care surged from 6 percent in 1959 to 21 percent in 2013. Compare that to the public perception of lawyers.

Three, household spending on legal services as a share of the industry total has been declining since the early 2000s.

Personal Consumption Expenditures of Legal Services Share of Legal Services Industry

(Source: NIPA Table 2.5.5., GDP by Industry Value Added, author’s calculations)

All of these trends point to the withering of small-law. I am pessimistic of the outlook over the next several years.

Commerce Dept.: Legal Services Sector Contracts (Again) in 2013

Earlier this month the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) updated its GDP by industry data. The chief finding for law-watchers is that in 2013 the legal services industry shrank by 2.9 percent. Ouch. The legal services industry includes all private law firms, and it employs about half of all lawyers. Meanwhile GDP grew by 2.2 percent, meaning that once again, the shriveling legal sector is being outdone by the rest of the economy.

Percent Change Real Value Added by Industry

(Source: GDP by Industry (xls), author’s calculations)

[Correction: Half of wage and salaried lawyers work in the legal services industry; most self-employed lawyers probably work there too.]

I’m providing moving averages to illustrate the break between the legal sector and GDP that began in 2005. That’s not to say things were hunky-dory before, just that those data still haven’t been revised yet. Go ahead, look at the old data and show me the situation was better before 1997. I dare you.

To editorialize, yes, the annual updates are horse-race reporting and recent years get revised a little bit each time, but I’m not enjoying reporting on the contracting legal sector nonetheless. I’m genuinely surprised that it’s still doing so badly, and I thought the Great Law Depression would’ve leveled out by now. Maybe future years and revisions will bear that out, but it’d take a sustained period of significant growth for the outlook to improve. Even a single year of 2.9 percent growth wouldn’t persuade me things are getting better, but even a piddly 0.4 percent would be nice to see.

To make things worse, when drilling into the real value added components, “compensation of employees” has been consistently contributing to the decline.

Contributions to Legal Services Real Value Added

(Source: GDP by Industry (xls), author’s calculations)

Only “taxes on production and imports (less subsidies)” has been growing consistently in the last three years.

The legal sector’s productivity measures are similarly unrelentingly bleak. Real value added per person engaged in production has fallen by about $20,000 since 1997 while the same measure has grown steadily throughout the economy and for the legal industry’s sibling in the “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services” category, “Computer Systems Design and Related Services.”

Real Value Added Per Person Engaged in Production

(Source: Real Value Added by Industry, NIPA Table 6.8, author’s calculations)

If things keep going at this rate, the average legal services worker will be indistinguishable from the average worker overall. I guess it’s a good thing that the mean average worker isn’t anything like the median? It’s clear, though, that computer design is a much better candidate for “golden-ticket industry” than legal services.

Finally, we have the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ output per hour measure of labor productivity, which is a bit sharper than the real value added per person engaged in production estimated above.

Percent Change Output Per Hour

(Source: BLS Nonmanufacturing Multifactor Productivity Tables)

Here too, the long dashed moving average line (legal services) is comfortably below the thick line (nonfarm business), showing that the legal sector is not becoming more productive with the rest of the economy. More alarmingly, it’s lost about 8 percent of its productivity since 2007, and now the amount of private legal services the country is getting per hour worked is about what it was in 1988.

In conclusion, the data again depict a sputtering industry. For all the reporting on the declining supply of future law graduates, little is said about the long-term trends in the sector that’s most likely to drive demand for their services. Increasingly it appears to be dwindling while at the same time better opportunities for workers are forming in other sectors.

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