National Statistics

Ratio of lawyers per capita
Ratio of law students per capita
Ratio of lawyers per state GSP
Ratio of law students per GSP

W&S Lawyer Employment Grows Trivially in 2016, Incomes Still Flat

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) usually completes its updates of its many measures of occupational employment for the previous year by April. Data for 2016 are now available, allowing a comprehensive summary of lawyer employment for that year. For detailed discussion of what the BLS datasets are and how they address lawyer employment, I recommend the lawyer overproduction page [updated!].

For context, according to the Current Population Survey (CPS), the number of people who reported working as lawyers in 2016 shrank 2.3 percent to 1,133,000—about where it was in 2014. The CPS also estimated 745,000 people working as lawyers on a wage or salary basis, a 7.2 percent decline from the previous year (-58,000 lawyers). This change is plausible because in 2015, the number rose 9 percent (+66,000) and could just indicate measurement problems with the CPS. By contrast, the more accurate Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program found that the number of wage-and-salary lawyers grew by 1.6 percent last year to 619,530 (+9,600 lawyers). The number of employee lawyers in the legal sector grew only a negligible 0.7 percent to 382,730 (+2,550).

Employee lawyers’ incomes were flat again in 2016. The OES estimated a scant 0.7 percent median hourly wage growth, although the CPS registered a -0.7 percent median weekly wage increase. Going by the OES, the last peak for lawyers’ earnings was 2009 (~$125,000 annually); incomes are about 6.7 percent lower (-$8,400) in real dollars since then. Here is an annualized dispersion.

These lawyer employment and income measures are not strong bellwethers for the value of legal education because they include many established lawyers and don’t measure recent graduate outcomes particularly well, especially those of graduates who do not promptly start careers in law. Readers seeking insight into that topic are instead advised to look at my criteria for predicting improvements in law graduate outcomes and the lawyer production page for a clear discussion of the BLS’s Employment Projections program.

**********

Prior versions of this post:

Which Law Schools Are Shedding Full-Time Faculty? (2016 Edition)

Facing shrinking enrollments, many law schools have responded by cutting their faculties. The phenomenon is worth measuring because faculty reductions aren’t always announced publicly, often appearing in the guises of retirements and quiet buy-outs. Consequently, the ABA’s 509 information reports can shed light on changes in law-school faculties. Here’s the cumulative distribution through 2016.

no-law-school-faculty-by-type

As with previous years, I will estimate the decline in fall full-time law-school faculties among the 201 law schools that aren’t in Puerto Rico. Note, however, that it’s unclear whether the term “full-time faculty” used in the 509 information reports includes full-time employees of a law school (as defined by the ABA’s annual questionnaire) who are on leave but have a right to return. Past editions of the Official Guide explicitly excluded full-time faculty who were on leave or sabbatical from their two-page spreads, which now exist as the online 509 information reports. The “Guide to the Data” pdf file accompanying the 509 information reports doesn’t specify either.

I assume the ABA is continuing to exclude faculty on leave or sabbatical and only counts faculty teaching courses in the fall or spring terms, even though it isn’t clear. Consequently, minor fluctuations might mean even less than I thought before, and although I’m obviously aware more faculty teach in the spring, I choose to track fall full-time faculty because the figures represent more recent developments. Additionally, full-time faculty who have shifted to the category “deans, librarians, and others who teach” are excluded as well. This may explain why there are fewer full-time faculty in the fall than spring as full-timers teach most of their courses then.

The peak for fall full timers occurred in 2010 (9,093), but that estimate includes the “other full-time faculty” category (clinicians and legal-writing instructors, if I recall), which the ABA no longer tracks independently. Fall full-time faculty fell by 3.3 percent this year (-261). Last year the decline was 3.4 percent (-242), so things are smoothing out. Since 2010, the cumulative decline has been 16.1 percent.

Here is a table of law schools ranked by net change in full-time faculty since 2010 and smallest faculty size in 2010. Trivial annual changes may not represent staff reductions and might be attributable to other factors, as discussed above. This year I’m choosing not to rank law schools that have merged, split, or didn’t exist in 2010 to prevent distortions.

FULL-TIME FACULTY (FALL)
RANK SCHOOL ’10 ’15 ’16 ANNUAL CHANGE NET CHANGE
1. WMU Cooley 101 44 41 -3 -60
N/A Rutgers-Camden 54 36 -36 -54
2. American 104 91 52 -39 -52
3. John Marshall (Chicago) 75 45 27 -18 -48
4. Florida Coastal 69 37 24 -13 -45
N/A Rutgers-Newark 40 37 -37 -40
N/A Penn State (Dickinson Law) 57 19 18 -1 -39
5. George Washington 106 70 69 -1 -37
N/A Hamline 34 10 -10 -34
N/A William Mitchell 34 22 -22 -34
6. St. Louis 65 45 34 -11 -31
7. Catholic 56 32 27 -5 -29
8. Seton Hall 59 37 32 -5 -27
8. Vermont 55 27 28 1 -27
8. Seattle 66 47 39 -8 -27
11. Widener (Delaware) 50 31 24 -7 -26
11. New York Law School 71 48 45 -3 -26
13. Pacific, McGeorge 63 34 39 5 -24
14. Pace 47 30 25 -5 -22
14. Cleveland State 39 19 17 -2 -22
16. Santa Clara 65 45 44 -1 -21
16. DePaul 56 32 35 3 -21
16. Hofstra 60 34 39 5 -21
19. Nova Southeastern 60 48 40 -8 -20
19. New England 40 26 20 -6 -20
21. Golden Gate 42 25 23 -2 -19
21. Texas 103 80 84 4 -19
23. California-Berkeley 90 68 72 4 -18
23. Stetson 59 45 41 -4 -18
23. Valparaiso 35 30 17 -13 -18
23. Suffolk 80 61 62 1 -18
23. Western New England 36 18 18 0 -18
23. Capital 35 23 17 -6 -18
23. Wisconsin 65 55 47 -8 -18
30. California Western 45 35 28 -7 -17
30. Boston University 67 50 50 0 -17
30. Detroit Mercy 42 25 25 0 -17
30. Syracuse 60 37 43 6 -17
30. Charleston 31 16 14 -2 -17
35. Chapman 51 40 35 -5 -16
35. Atlanta’s John Marshall 35 22 19 -3 -16
35. Albany 46 28 30 2 -16
35. Lewis and Clark 53 40 37 -3 -16
35. Villanova 49 31 33 2 -16
35. Houston 76 61 60 -1 -16
41. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] 32 7 17 10 -15
41. Hawaii 35 30 20 -10 -15
41. Fordham 81 65 66 1 -15
44. Louisiana State 41 30 27 -3 -14
44. Maryland 63 49 49 0 -14
44. St. John’s 50 37 36 -1 -14
44. Oklahoma City 34 22 20 -2 -14
48. Arizona 44 32 31 -1 -13
48. Arkansas (Little Rock) 30 21 17 -4 -13
48. Loyola (CA) 66 57 53 -4 -13
48. Thomas Jefferson 42 35 29 -6 -13
48. Whittier 31 31 18 -13 -13
48. Dayton 27 16 14 -2 -13
48. Regent 25 10 12 2 -13
55. Miami 82 72 70 -2 -12
55. SUNY Buffalo 54 27 42 15 -12
55. Touro 42 31 30 -1 -12
55. North Carolina Central 42 31 30 -1 -12
55. Akron 33 22 21 -1 -12
55. Widener (Commonwealth) 25 14 13 -1 -12
55. Marquette 39 27 27 0 -12
62. Faulkner 23 12 12 0 -11
62. Georgia 51 40 40 0 -11
62. Illinois 49 43 38 -5 -11
62. Loyola (IL) 60 51 49 -2 -11
62. Southern University 35 25 24 -1 -11
62. Tulsa 28 22 17 -5 -11
62. Roger Williams 27 14 16 2 -11
62. Gonzaga 29 21 18 -3 -11
70. La Verne 19 10 9 -1 -10
70. Connecticut 52 44 42 -2 -10
70. Quinnipiac 32 20 22 2 -10
70. Ave Maria 26 20 16 -4 -10
70. Loyola (LA) 50 42 40 -2 -10
75. San Diego 66 53 57 4 -9
75. Florida State 47 39 38 -1 -9
75. Iowa 46 34 37 3 -9
75. Kansas 35 30 26 -4 -9
75. Tulane 53 40 44 4 -9
75. Mississippi College 26 24 17 -7 -9
75. Campbell 23 17 14 -3 -9
75. Temple 63 60 54 -6 -9
75. Southern Methodist 46 37 37 0 -9
75. Appalachian 16 7 7 0 -9
85. Northern Kentucky 28 24 20 -4 -8
85. New Hampshire 33 28 25 -3 -8
85. Brooklyn 68 60 60 0 -8
85. Ohio Northern 22 12 14 2 -8
85. Oregon 35 29 27 -2 -8
90. Indiana (Bloomington) 59 52 52 0 -7
90. Indiana (Indianapolis) 41 34 34 0 -7
90. Boston College 51 50 44 -6 -7
90. Case Western Reserve 47 41 40 -1 -7
94. Alabama 47 40 41 1 -6
94. California-Hastings 71 59 65 6 -6
94. Southwestern 57 56 51 -5 -6
94. Washburn 31 27 25 -2 -6
94. Baltimore 58 58 52 -6 -6
94. Pittsburgh 47 43 41 -2 -6
94. Washington and Lee 35 26 29 3 -6
101. Southern California 43 39 38 -1 -5
101. Mercer 27 26 22 -4 -5
101. Chicago-Kent, IIT 66 65 61 -4 -5
101. Minnesota 58 57 53 -4 -5
101. St. Thomas (MN) 29 24 24 0 -5
101. Mississippi 31 25 26 1 -5
101. Montana 19 13 14 1 -5
101. Wake Forest 48 38 43 5 -5
101. Tennessee 30 28 25 -3 -5
101. Texas Tech 35 30 30 0 -5
111. District of Columbia 21 18 17 -1 -4
111. Barry 33 34 29 -5 -4
111. Florida International 32 29 28 -1 -4
111. Louisville 26 21 22 1 -4
111. Missouri (Kansas City) 34 33 30 -3 -4
111. Washington University 68 63 64 1 -4
111. Pennsylvania 75 75 71 -4 -4
111. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 30 30 26 -4 -4
119. Arizona State 53 49 50 1 -3
119. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 29 29 26 -3 -3
119. San Francisco 37 33 34 1 -3
119. Southern Illinois 27 22 24 2 -3
119. Drake 28 26 25 -1 -3
119. Wayne State 38 39 35 -4 -3
119. Toledo 26 20 23 3 -3
119. Duquesne 26 26 23 -3 -3
119. South Texas 44 41 41 0 -3
128. Samford 23 21 21 0 -2
128. Pepperdine 35 35 33 -2 -2
128. Florida A&M 35 20 33 13 -2
128. Kentucky 25 23 23 0 -2
128. Cincinnati 29 27 27 0 -2
128. Oklahoma 34 31 32 1 -2
128. South Dakota 14 11 12 1 -2
128. Utah 34 32 32 0 -2
128. George Mason 38 34 36 2 -2
128. Wyoming 21 22 19 -3 -2
138. California-Los Angeles 86 86 85 -1 -1
138. Michigan State 52 50 51 1 -1
138. New Mexico 28 29 27 -2 -1
138. Cardozo, Yeshiva 61 69 60 -9 -1
138. Willamette 28 26 27 1 -1
138. Vanderbilt 36 38 35 -3 -1
138. Washington 54 65 53 -12 -1
145. Creighton 23 25 23 -2 0
145. Nevada 26 27 26 -1 0
145. City University 36 37 36 -1 0
145. South Carolina 36 36 36 0 0
149. California-Davis 43 43 44 1 1
149. Western State 16 17 17 0 1
149. Howard 26 25 27 2 1
149. St. Thomas (FL) 28 30 29 -1 1
149. Notre Dame 46 47 47 0 1
149. Nebraska 26 27 27 0 1
149. Charlotte 35 48 36 -12 1
149. Duke 70 76 71 -5 1
149. North Dakota 12 15 13 -2 1
149. Baylor 27 25 28 3 1
149. Liberty 19 20 20 0 1
149. Virginia 79 80 80 0 1
161. Georgia State 57 59 59 0 2
161. Harvard 141 154 143 -11 2
161. Northeastern 36 41 38 -3 2
161. Elon 20 22 22 0 2
161. William and Mary 39 44 41 -3 2
161. West Virginia 33 34 35 1 2
167. Colorado 43 48 46 -2 3
167. Chicago 71 67 74 7 3
167. Northern Illinois 19 21 22 1 3
167. Maine 16 19 19 0 3
167. New York University 151 153 154 1 3
167. Drexel 27 27 30 3 3
167. St. Mary’s 36 29 39 10 3
174. Yale 76 71 80 9 4
174. Emory 58 68 62 -6 4
174. Missouri (Columbia) 28 30 32 2 4
174. North Carolina 42 49 46 -3 4
174. Memphis 18 22 22 0 4
174. Richmond 36 35 40 5 4
180. Idaho 21 25 26 1 5
N/A Indiana Tech 7 5 -2 5
180. Michigan 92 90 97 7 5
180. Texas Southern 30 29 35 6 5
183. Cornell 51 63 57 -6 6
183. Ohio State 42 46 48 2 6
N/A Concordia 10 8 -2 8
N/A Lincoln Memorial 9 8 -1 8
185. Brigham Young 19 27 27 0 8
186. Denver 62 69 71 2 9
187. Florida 56 68 66 -2 10
188. Georgetown 129 128 140 12 11
188. Northwestern 99 104 110 6 11
N/A Belmont 13 13 0 13
N/A Belmont 13 13 0 13
N/A Massachusetts — Dartmouth 15 14 -1 14
190. Stanford 68 91 88 -3 20
N/A Penn State (Penn State Law) 35 31 -4 31
N/A California-Irvine 35 38 3 38
N/A Mitchell|Hamline 38 38 38
191. Columbia 107 161 153 -8 46
N/A Rutgers 76 76 76
10TH PERCENTILE 23 17 17 -7 -22
25TH PERCENTILE 30 25 23 -4 -14
MEDIAN 42 33 32 -1 -6
75TH PERCENTILE 58 48 45 1 1
90TH PERCENTILE 75 68 66 4 5
MEAN 46.4 38.9 38.0 -1.3 -7.1
GROSS GAIN (^-^) 321 442
GROSS LOSS -582 -1,902
CUMULATIVE 9,093 7,894 7,633 -261 -1,460

Editorial observations:

  • WMU Cooley retains its crown as number one.
  • No. 2, American, appears to have lost 43 percent of its fall full-time faculty this year—half since 2010. This may be a misreporting by the law school.
  • The same goes for number three, John Marshall. It’s lost nearly two-thirds of its faculty since 2010.
  • I’m less surprised to see Florida Coastal next on the list.
  • No. 5, George Washington, raised a stir in 2015 because, as some commenters insisted, the law school reclassified a number of full-time faculty to a designation none could identify. It’s possible that the elimination of the “other full-time faculty” category somehow disserved GWU, but I don’t really see why because similar problems didn’t plague other law schools at the time. As it is, until someone can identify which bucket GWU put those twenty or so persons, it keeps its high place.
  • Whittier lost 13 full-time faculty this year, but it had gained 10 last year. Similarly, SUNY Buffalo lost 24 last year but gained 15 this year. Again, probably erratic reporting.
  • A bunch of law schools lost more than 10 full-time faculty this year that I haven’t already mentioned: Valparaiso (-13), University of Washington (-12), Charlotte (-12), St. Louis (-11), and Harvard (-11). Of these, Charlotte lost 16 last year, and Harvard gained 15 last year.
  • Arizona Summit gained back ten, and it did report part-time faculty this year. Last year it didn’t, which was clearly wrong.
  • Finally, five law schools are running with fewer than ten fall full-time faculty, La Verne (9), Lincoln Memorial (8), Concordia (8), Appalachian (7), and the doomed Indiana Tech (5).

Here are prior posts on this topic:

2016: Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Up 2.7 Percent

Full-time tuition costs at private law schools rose an average 2.7 percent before adjusting for inflation. The rate is about 1 percent higher than the last two years’ increases, but it’s still below the typical 5 percent rate before the Great Recession. I focus on private law-school tuition because public law schools receive varying degrees of state subsidies, so they do not reflect the already distorted legal market’s prices.

Here’s what the dispersion of full-time private and full-time public (residential) tuition looks like going back to 1996:

full-time-law-school-tuition-dispersion-excl-p-r-constant

I don’t have much to say about this that I haven’t before, but it appears that the 25th percentile public law school will soon charge more than the Stafford loan limit, which has been set at $20,500 for several years now. The limit is important because it indicates when students will need to rely on other funds to pay for their legal educations, including Grad PLUS loans, which can also go to students’ living expenses. Since 1996, Stafford loans have lost about a third of their value to inflation.

Notably costs are still widening, so after chopping up the law schools into quintiles, here’s the increases for the mean of each quintile.

full-time-private-law-school-tuition-increases-by-tuition-quintile-mean-current

The chart depicts at least three straight years of top-heavy tuition increases: The more expensive law schools are becoming more expensive—4 percent more among the top 20 percent of law schools. Two years ago, Columbia Law School became the first to charge more than $60,000, and it now costs more than $65,000. This year six other law schools joined the 60k club: NYU, Cornell, Penn, Chicago, Harvard, and USC. These seven schools raised their full-time costs by 3.8 percent on average, but theirs weren’t the largest increases. The following nine law schools raised their full-time tuition by more than 5 percent: Loyola (Calif.) (+5.4%), Michigan State (+5.5%), WMU Cooley (+6.1%), Faulkner (+6.6%), Lincoln Memorial (+6.8%), Tulsa (+7.0%), Charlotte (+7.1%), Willamette (+9.6%), and Howard (+10.9%).

It would be unfair of me not to acknowledge the handful of private law schools that cut their full-time charges: Campbell (-0.4%), Capital (-5.2%), Dayton (-6.4%), and Indiana Tech (-31.1%). Fourteen private law schools held their costs flat: New York Law School, Chicago-Kent, Brooklyn, Suffolk, Loyola (La.), Western State, Ave Maria, Western New England, Detroit, Valparaiso, Barry, Oklahoma City, Mississippi College, and Elon.

Yes, I notice that two failing law schools, Indiana Tech and Charlotte, both dealt with their incipient problems by slashing and hiking costs, respectively. For Indiana Tech, it didn’t translate into more matriculants.

Finally, 19 public law schools cut or held their residential tuition with the two most notable ones being Texas A&M (-15.4%) and UC Hastings (-9.1%). Akron, Cincinnati, and Toledo also didn’t raise their tuition, so along with Capital and Dayton that makes five of nine Ohio law schools that stand out in tuition control.

Full-time tuition costs don’t necessarily indicate what students are actually charged, but they do show how much rent law schools can extract from the government’s loan programs. For many law schools that ability is fading.

Information on this topic from prior years:

2016: Full-Time Matriculants Trickle Up

[2016-12-26: This post has been updated due to minor miscalculations.]

The ABA’s standard 509 information reports are out now. Unlike last year there is no need for preliminaries about the data. The names of the law schools line up for the most part, so users do not need to worry about combing around for Lincoln Memorial or some other new law school. They might, however, want to download reports for Hamline and William Mitchell because some calendar-year 2016 data were separately reported before the Mitchell|Hamline merger officially went into effect. As of now, there are no reports for Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark, so now Rutgers is one.

In calendar year 2016, there were 33,075 full-time matriculants to 201 ABA-accredited law schools, up 468 matriculants from 2015 (+1.4 percent). That year saw an 838-matriculant decline, so the crunch has reversed for the law schools. (These figures exclude the three law school in Puerto Rico, as I usually do.)

Full-time applicant acceptance rates are largely flat, except at the 90th percentile.

dispersion-of-full-time-law-school-applicant-acceptance-rates

Matriculant yields are up to 24.1 percent overall compared to 22.9 percent last year, but ultimately about 21 law schools account for half of the decline in matriculants since the last trough year, 2007, which I believe is a better comparison year for this measure than 2010, a peak year.

Meanwhile, application growth rates are still accelerating. At the median it’s flat.

dispersion-of-full-time-law-school-application-growth-rates

102 law schools saw a growth in applications, which is much higher than last year. First place goes to (and you’ll love this) … Indiana Tech (235.4 percent), which will close at the end of the academic year. It received 332 applications, extended only 128 offers, and admitted but 39 full-time students. Indiana Tech’s 75th percentile full-time applicant received a 152 on the LSAT. It preferred to close than accept 204 applicants (~60 percent). Numbers two and three for application growth were Florida (98.9 percent) and Concordia (71.0 percent).

Before anyone gets excited about rising law-school applications, though, I note that 72.5 percent of the rise can be attributed to U.S. News‘ top 14 law schools. Thus, things probably don’t look any better for most schools since last year. In the last two years, I’ve commented on the possibility that applicants believe that now is the best time to go to an elite law school, and while that sentiment dissipated last year, it’s back now for sure.

More on these topics later.

Here’s information on enrollments from prior years:

Good News: Legal Services Industry Grew 2.0 Percent in 2015

Since I started writing here more than six years ago, it’s always been bad news for the legal services industry. Dwindling output, year in, year out. This time, no longer. We have growth: 2.0 percent in 2015.

gdp-and-legal-services-industry-value-added-1000s-chained-2009

(Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA))

And yes, thanks to an alert reader I can now show the BEA’s complete GDP-by-industry dataset going back to 1963! We can now see that if the legal services industry had maintained its mid-20th century growth rate it would be nearly double its current size. Imagine how much better law practice would be. You might think there’d be a need for more law schools to meet the demand.

Arguably, the government’s definition of the industry or its composition has changed over the decades as it has for other industries, but I doubt it. It’s mostly lawyers’ offices. Undeniably, though, the typical product of the legal services industry has changed. I’d bet that the weighted-average hour of legal work is very different now than in 1975. Even so, it’s still possible to give a dollar figure of how much stuff private practice lawyers are producing.

…And it ain’t much. The legal services industry produced less in 2015 than in 2012, 1995, and 1988. There’s room for a lot of growth. The sector peaked in 2008, and since then it’s shrunk more than 20 percent.

The other caveat is that the legal services industry’s growth this year is mostly attributable to the gross operating surplus (what goes to firm owners, partners, solos) as opposed to employee compensation, which better indicates budding demand for new lawyers. The breakdown is: gross operating surplus, +1.5 percent; taxes on production and imports, +0.5 percent; and compensation of employees, +0.0 percent.

Yeah. You read that right. 0.

However, compensation has shaved off growth since 2007, so maybe a zero year isn’t so bad. Here’s the chart of the industry’s components, which still only goes back to 1987:

components-of-legal-services-industry-real-value-added

Compensation of employees in the legal services industry peaked in 2003 at $121 billion (2009 $). Now it’s $97 billion, a similar 20 percent decline.

Finally, although the legal services sector did well in 2015, the rest of the economy did better: GDP grew 2.6 percent, of which 1.9 percent went to compensation of employees. Things still look better for non-law.

Finally, legal services as a share of household expenditures grew for the first time in thirteen years.

legal-services-share-of-household-consumption-expenditures

At its maximum, households spent $99.5 billion on lawyers in 2003. Now it’s $87.9 billion, down 11.7 percent.

I’ve written elsewhere that the legal services sector can’t shrink forever into nothing. It’s like estimates of the year Japan’s population reaches zero. So we were bound to have some good years. What we need is evidence of sustained growth, especially in employee compensation. Instead, that’s not going anywhere, but at least it’s not falling anymore.

Half of States to See Decline in Lawyer Surpluses

In August, the National Association for Law Placement verified a trend that appeared in ABA data several months earlier: Despite the falling supply of law school graduates, demand for their work stubbornly refuses to materialize. In fact, the number of graduates who found work as lawyers fell far more than the number of unemployed graduates, suggesting that either many graduates failed the bar or that new lawyer jobs are much more transitory than they appear.

But if the short term trend indicates fewer lawyers in the future, what about the long-term outlook?

Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics updated its biennial state-level occupational employment projections. These data include an estimate of the number of lawyer positions (not people who are lawyers) out there in 2014, a prediction of how many there will be in 2024, and the projected number of annual lawyer job openings. This last figure can be compared to the number of new law licenses issued courtesy of the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE) or law school graduates (from the ABA) to give the “lawyer surplus” and the “law graduate surplus,” respectively.

There are a few reasons to calculate two surplus ratios rather than one. For the lawyer surplus, the NCBE’s number of new law licenses includes many duplicates—people who become licensed in more than one jurisdiction—but it helps track people who obtain licenses on motion to places where few people sit for the bar, e.g. Washington D.C. Meanwhile, the law graduate surplus measures discrete individuals, but it excludes people who go to non-ABA-accredited law schools and not everyone who graduates from an ABA law school finds jobs as lawyers.

The two surpluses permit comparisons among states’ legal markets to show which parts of the country might provide better opportunities for new lawyers, but they are not a direct proxy for the typical number of people seeking job openings.

First, here’s a table of the state-level occupational employment information for the 2014-24 period compared to the 2012-22 period. The “STATES” row is the sum of the data from the state-level employment information, including the District of Columbia but excluding Puerto Rico, but the “U.S.A.” row is from the national projections provided by the BLS late last year. The STATES row and the Bureau of Economic Analysis regions below only include jurisdictions that reported in both time periods to ensure relevant comparisons.

STATE/BEA REGION NO. EMPLOYED LAWYERS LAWYER EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS ANNUAL LAWYER GROWTH RATE
2012 2014 2022 2024 2022 2024
Alabama 7,040 7,050 7,710 7,410 180 140
Alaska 1,020 1,070 1,010 1,020 20 20
Arizona 11,740 9,630 14,160 11,870 430 370
Arkansas 4,420 4,720 4,940 5,360 120 130
California 87,400 91,900 97,300 102,700 2,390 2,420
Colorado 15,800 15,800 19,280 19,270 600 600
Connecticut 9,390 12,620 10,080 13,080 220 230
Delaware 3,400 3,540 3,700 3,660 80 60
District of Columbia 33,460 38,920 35,040 41,480 690 830
Florida 51,860 59,400 61,310 68,400 1,930 1,770
Georgia 19,520 18,160 23,220 19,690 680 420
Hawaii 2,460 2,410 2,580 2,500 50 40
Idaho 2,700 N/A 2,820 N/A 60 N/A
Illinois 34,810 35,840 38,400 37,950 920 740
Indiana 7,680 9,450 8,810 10,520 240 250
Iowa 4,450 4,340 5,050 4,880 130 120
Kansas 4,950 5,090 5,610 5,570 150 130
Kentucky 5,600 9,490 6,450 10,640 300 250
Louisiana 9,310 9,180 10,490 9,730 270 190
Maine 2,930 3,170 3,010 3,210 60 50
Maryland 14,800 11,690 16,330 13,370 390 360
Massachusetts 22,640 22,100 24,590 23,080 560 420
Michigan N/A 17,900 N/A 19,230 N/A 400
Minnesota 12,550 12,640 13,080 13,340 260 260
Mississippi 3,220 3,760 3,460 4,030 80 80
Missouri 12,620 12,470 14,410 13,160 380 250
Montana 2,270 2,550 2,530 2,830 60 70
Nebraska 4,060 3,910 4,430 4,400 100 110
Nevada 5,640 6,030 6,260 7,880 150 270
New Hampshire 2,280 2,010 2,380 2,070 50 40
New Jersey 24,150 24,520 26,390 25,140 610 420
New Mexico 3,830 3,810 3,980 3,830 80 60
New York 82,220 90,830 88,680 99,020 1,960 2,150
North Carolina 14,810 16,020 17,500 17,870 510 420
North Dakota 1,540 1,740 1,680 1,790 40 30
Ohio 21,160 20,180 23,480 21,290 570 410
Oklahoma 9,260 9,480 10,270 10,290 250 220
Oregon 5,070 8,250 5,830 9,440 160 240
Pennsylvania 31,260 31,240 34,700 32,960 840 630
Puerto Rico 4,440 4,420 5,040 4,500 130 70
Rhode Island N/A 4,210 N/A 4,460 N/A 90
South Carolina 7,140 7,220 7,950 7,670 200 150
South Dakota 1,400 980 1,540 1,080 40 20
Tennessee 8,010 7,990 10,520 8,690 380 200
Texas 49,350 51,420 60,090 63,140 1,800 1,920
Utah 5,890 5,310 7,470 6,360 250 180
Vermont 2,030 1,940 2,150 1,990 40 30
Virginia 20,430 21,860 23,030 24,150 590 550
Washington 16,290 17,290 20,070 18,940 670 430
West Virginia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Wisconsin 9,330 9,620 10,740 9,940 290 170
Wyoming 1,050 1,160 1,170 1,130 30 20
STATES (EXCL. P.R.) 711,540 749,800 802,860 827,820 20,800 18,870
U.S.A. (EXCL. P.R.) 759,800 778,700 834,700 822,500 19,650 15,770
New England 39,270 41,840 42,210 43,430 930 770
Mideast 189,290 200,740 204,840 215,630 4,570 4,450
Great Lakes 72,980 75,090 81,430 79,700 2,020 1,570
Plains 41,570 41,170 45,800 44,220 1,100 920
Southeast 151,360 164,850 176,580 183,640 5,240 4,300
Southwest 74,180 74,340 88,500 89,130 2,560 2,570
Rocky Mountains 25,010 24,820 30,450 29,590 940 870
Far West 117,880 126,950 133,050 142,480 3,440 3,420

Superficially, some states seem to have created many new lawyer jobs between 2012 and 2014. For example, it’s doubtful that Kentucky’s and Oregon’s legal markets grew by more than 60 percent in just two years, or that South Dakota’s contracted by 30 percent. The only state whose large swing may be plausible is Nevada’s. Its lawyer job count grew by about 7 percent since 2012, but its 10-year outlook rose by 25 percent with a corresponding 80 percent surge in projected annual job openings. On average, annual job openings sank by 12 percent among jurisdictions that reported in both periods while excluding Puerto Rico. Only 10 states and the District of Columbia had higher annual job growth rates than in 2012. The rate of decline in annual job growth for all jurisdictions that reported in both years and excluding Puerto Rico is 9 percent, which is less alarming than the BLS’s 20 percent drop for the whole country.

Offsetting the slowdown in lawyer job growth is somewhat greater losses in bar admits and law school graduates, 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively. The result is that 24 states and the District of Columbia have smaller lawyer and law graduate surpluses in 2014 than 2012. Overwhelmingly, the cause in these jurisdictions is modest annual job growth projections coupled with strong losses in new graduates and new lawyers. Here’s the full table.

# STATE/BEA REGION NO. ABA LAW SCHOOL GRADS NO. BAR ADMITS RATIO ABA GRADS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS RATIO BAR ADMITS TO ANNUAL LAWYER JOBS
2013 2015 2013 2015 2013 2015 2013 2015
1 Wyoming 78 73 161 198 2.60 3.65 5.37 9.90
2 North Dakota 75 79 267 219 1.88 2.63 6.68 7.30
3 Alaska 0 0 130 140 0.00 0.00 6.50 7.00
4 New Hampshire 107 70 250 272 2.14 1.75 5.00 6.80
5 Puerto Rico 662 569 491 458 5.09 8.13 3.78 6.54
6 New Jersey 859 585 3,386 2,586 1.41 1.39 5.55 6.16
7 New Mexico 114 112 287 292 1.43 1.87 3.59 4.87
8 Massachusetts 2,391 2,164 2,411 1,981 4.27 5.15 4.31 4.72
9 Hawaii 108 111 206 188 2.16 2.78 4.12 4.70
10 South Dakota 73 63 121 93 1.83 3.15 3.03 4.65
11 Wisconsin 485 447 843 781 1.67 2.63 2.91 4.59
12 Missouri 883 700 1,034 1,051 2.32 2.80 2.72 4.20
13 New York 5,007 4,105 10,251 8,867 2.55 1.91 5.23 4.12
14 Washington 654 579 1,353 1,759 0.98 1.35 2.02 4.09
15 Maryland 600 537 1,742 1,382 1.54 1.49 4.47 3.84
16 Tennessee 501 533 1,011 741 1.32 2.67 2.66 3.71
17 Minnesota 942 723 1,028 939 3.62 2.78 3.95 3.61
18 Vermont 203 163 151 108 5.08 5.43 3.78 3.60
19 Illinois 2,278 2,036 3,184 2,525 2.48 2.75 3.46 3.41
20 Louisiana 936 822 533 630 3.47 4.33 1.97 3.32
21 South Carolina 442 335 598 494 2.21 2.23 2.99 3.29
22 Alabama 427 351 503 454 2.37 2.51 2.79 3.24
23 Pennsylvania 1,703 1,418 2,241 1,927 2.03 2.25 2.67 3.06
24 Utah 292 258 499 548 1.17 1.43 2.00 3.04
25 Iowa 328 263 416 356 2.52 2.19 3.20 2.97
26 Maine 96 78 183 145 1.60 1.56 3.05 2.90
27 Mississippi 377 274 305 232 4.71 3.43 3.81 2.90
28 District of Columbia 2,181 1,916 3,120 2,389 3.16 2.31 4.52 2.88
29 Georgia 1,085 931 1,377 1,205 1.60 2.22 2.03 2.87
30 Ohio 1,474 1,088 1,444 1,172 2.59 2.65 2.53 2.86
31 Michigan 2,206 1,606 1,248 1,082 N/A 4.02 N/A 2.71
32 Kansas 324 255 393 340 2.16 1.96 2.62 2.62
33 Nebraska 249 245 316 285 2.49 2.23 3.16 2.59
34 North Carolina 1,429 1,422 1,091 1,072 2.80 3.39 2.14 2.55
35 California 5,184 4,392 7,008 6,150 2.17 1.81 2.93 2.54
36 Indiana 834 764 675 625 3.48 3.06 2.81 2.50
37 Oregon 527 427 659 574 3.29 1.78 4.12 2.39
38 Connecticut 541 477 680 530 2.46 2.07 3.09 2.30
39 Virginia 1,440 1,277 1,590 1,252 2.44 2.32 2.69 2.28
40 Montana 81 82 204 158 1.35 1.17 3.40 2.26
41 Arizona 640 705 906 835 1.49 1.91 2.11 2.26
42 Arkansas 275 255 302 268 2.29 1.96 2.52 2.06
43 Rhode Island 174 129 201 175 N/A 1.43 N/A 1.94
44 Colorado 437 439 1,217 1,125 0.73 0.73 2.03 1.88
45 Kentucky 422 395 668 463 1.41 1.58 2.23 1.85
46 Florida 3,190 2,718 3,476 3,177 1.65 1.54 1.80 1.79
47 Texas 2,323 2,075 3,836 3,346 1.29 1.08 2.13 1.74
48 Delaware 279 170 148 99 3.49 2.83 1.85 1.65
49 Oklahoma 468 380 463 350 1.87 1.73 1.85 1.59
50 Nevada 132 131 343 321 0.88 0.49 2.29 1.19
N/A Idaho 117 106 231 212 1.95 N/A 3.85 N/A
N/A West Virginia 130 125 274 242 N/A N/A N/A N/A
STATES (EXCL. P.R.) 43,474 37,423 63,010 54,644 2.09 1.98 3.03 2.90
U.S.A. (EXCL. P.R.) 46,101 39,389 64,964 56,355 2.35 2.50 3.31 3.57
New England 3,338 2,952 3,675 3,036 3.59 3.83 3.95 3.94
Mideast 10,629 8,731 20,888 17,250 2.33 1.96 4.57 3.88
Great Lakes 5,071 4,335 6,146 5,103 2.51 2.76 3.04 3.25
Plains 2,874 2,328 3,575 3,283 2.61 2.53 3.25 3.57
Southeast 10,524 9,313 11,454 9,988 2.01 2.17 2.19 2.32
Southwest 3,545 3,272 5,492 4,823 1.38 1.27 2.15 1.88
Rocky Mountains 888 852 2,081 2,029 0.94 0.98 2.21 2.33
Far West 6,605 5,640 9,699 9,132 1.92 1.65 2.82 2.67

Of the 22 states that produced higher lawyer surpluses than before, all but three showed steep declines in annual lawyer job creation, nearly all of them over 25 percent. Washington State stands out in particular because it admitted 30 percent more lawyers while its lawyer market is expected to produce 36 percent fewer jobs annually. On the other hand, it has 12 percent fewer graduates in 2015 than 2013 and some growth in lawyer employment, so there are reasons to believe its outlook isn’t so bad. Other states tell similar stories.

The BLS’s methodology distinguishes jobs created by economic growth from those created by replacement of people leaving the occupation. The annual number of positions created by growth is measured by simply taking the difference between the predicted number of employed lawyers in 2024 and 2014, and then dividing that by ten. The annual number of jobs created by replacement can be found by subtracting the number of jobs created by growth from the number of jobs created annually. Consequently, it’s possible to explore which category of jobs states think will (or won’t open up). Consistent with the BLS’s national-level employment projections, state governments predominantly predict jobs created by economic growth will plummet while jobs created by vacancies will fall at a smaller rate.

Notably, among states that reported employment data for 2012 and 2014, the cumulative number of annual openings (18,870) is much higher than the BLS’s more dour prediction (15,770). This suggests that the BLS is much more pessimistic about lawyer job growth than state governments are. Specifically, about 41 percent of lawyer job openings will be created by growth according to the state projections as opposed to 28 percent as reported by the BLS. Hopefully the former will pan out for new graduates who pass the bar.

Overall, it’s good news that lawyer surpluses are falling, even if it isn’t a widespread phenomenon and not due to a bright future for the legal profession. It’s unclear why state governments and the BLS are so pessimistic about lawyer job growth compared to two years ago. The ultimate cause may be due to predictions of slow job growth in general and not lawyer jobs specifically. Although that development is discouraging, the crash in law students is compensating for it, meaning fewer graduates will struggle to find work.

High School Grads Get a Big Raise, College Grads? Not So Much

Last week, the Census Bureau published the 2015 edition of its Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance tables. This information is my favorite source for understanding the value of higher education: More young people are getting college credentials, but their aggregate income isn’t rising much, which means they’re not much better off.

aggregate-personal-earnings-by-education-25-34-both-sexes

Indeed, in the mean-average year since 1991, people who didn’t start high school have received bigger raises than any other category. College graduates barely do better than high school grads. Meanwhile, many more people have gone to college and fewer just stop at high school.

earnings-growth-rates-by-education-for-25-34-year-olds-1991

As for 2015, the high-schoolers got a much bigger raise than the college grads.

percent-change-in-earnings-by-education-25-34-year-olds

(The data are highly erratic, but it’s still fun to do the horse-racing.)

That’s all, folks.

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