Good morning, and happy September! If you like state-level employment projections and employed-lawyer-per-capita counts, then this post is for you! The powers that be have collected states’ employment projections, allowing us to peer into the future of lawyer employment. Find out what that means for law grads below…
I’ve updated the site’s most popular attraction, the Lawyers Per Capita by State page, thanks to updated population and lawyer counts. Kudos to the state bars for all reporting attorney numbers on time. Back in 2014, the Census Bureau’s press department honored the page by using its contents in a “Profile America” feature on the ABA’s foundation.
And for fun, here’s a time series chart depicting the saturation of lawyers by Bureau of Economic Analysis region.
To keep the analysis consistent with previous years, I used the class of 2013 even though data for the class on 2014 are available (and logged by moi). It’s a little problematic given that 2013 was the law graduate high tide, but that’s what happens when law schools enroll people without regard to employment outcomes.
I do not discussed the BLS’s proposed changes to its methodology for measuring occupational replacements. Assuming it’s approved, then for future versions, if the BLS separates annual replacement openings between those created by workers who leave the labor force and workers who move to different occupations, then I’ll use the labor force rate as the measure for “sustainable jobs.” It’s imperfect, but the same can be said of the current methodology.
I’ve also updated the site’s highly popular lawyers per capita by state page to include employed lawyers per capita and idle attorneys using the 2012 employment data. I am waiting on the ABA to update its national lawyer counts for 2014 and 2015. (They do plan on doing that right?)
At this time, I will brag that the Census Bureau’s press relations department cited my work on this topic last August.
…Is up on The American Lawyer.
I’m proud to say that unlike last year, there is no “Mississippi problem,” in which the net lawyer growth rate in any state exceeded its ten-year annual job growth rate, yielding a negative replacement rate, sky high surplus calculations, and a lot of time spent explaining math to the media.
[UPDATE: You can read the Am Law Daily version of this article here.]
Probably because students are still too busy protesting an $800 fee hike from earlier this year (Tamar Lewin, “In Puerto Rico, Protests End Short Peace at University,” in The New York Times). The university chose to compensate a $200 million budget cut with the new fee rather than a tuition hike, which led the students to take over buildings, frequently with professors’ support.
As at many public universities elsewhere in the United States, students here worry that the new fiscal realities will restrict who can attend.
This is definitely not a problem with Puerto Rico’s law schools, which are over-enrolled relative to the island’s market. When gathering and analyzing data on legal education, Puerto Rico is second only to D.C. in distorting my averages and standard deviations. So outside the mainstream is the Commonwealth that none of its three ABA law schools send their data to U.S. News. I’ve seen them, and I can tell you their tuition is much lower than elsewhere, probably due to their refusal to play the rankings game as well as the island’s low purchasing power parity per capita GDP relative to the rest of the U.S.
Here’s one datum that surprised me. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics connects us to the number of employed attorneys by state in 2008, and the ABA gives us the numbers of attorneys “active and resident” in American jurisdictions for 2008 and 2009, I can give you a statistic I dub, “idle attorneys,” which is the proportion of “active and resident” attorneys not “employed” as lawyers. Idle attorneys could very well be gainfully employed, but the high percentages and variance between the states suggest that their legal educations weren’t that useful unless they are the few who sit on the bench or are working for the government in some other capacity, e.g. as legislators. I’ve also calculated the number of idle attorneys per 100,000 residents.
|#||STATE (# ABA Schools)||Idle Attys||Idle/100k||←#|
|1||Puerto Rico (3)||66.44%||209||5|
|9||New York (15)||42.78%||331||2|
|20||West Virginia (1)||36.34%||92||30|
|27||Rhode Island (1)||33.17%||128||15|
|28||New Mexico (1)||32.60%||86||33|
|31||New Hampshire (1)||28.98%||73||35|
|35||New Jersey (3)||27.25%||124||18|
|36||South Carolina (2)||25.90%||52||40|
|38||North Carolina (7)||24.55%||50||41|
|45||District of Columbia (6)||9.16%||725||1|
|46||North Dakota (1)||7.81%||16||48|
|N/A||South Dakota (1)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|USA Average (199)||34.60%||130|
66.44% of Puerto Rico’s attorneys were active and resident but not working as lawyers in 2008, and it comes in fifth in number of idle attorneys per capita after D.C., New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, a clear misfit.
Now I’ll do something I’ve been avoiding: diving into LSAC employment data. Because I find the composition of these data so suspect, I’m going to limit myself to the percentages of non-responses to post-graduate employment surveys. If you look in the source pdfs, enrollments at Puerto Rico’s three law schools are distributed fairly evenly, so it’s not like Pontifical Catholic has only 12 graduates per year while the University of Puerto Rico has 500. Also, I had to exclude Puerto Rico’s fourth law school, Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law (founded 1995), for want of data.
First of all, Inter-American’s employment numbers are extremely suspect. The reason its line plateaus as it does is that all its employment numbers (# employed in law firms, # employed in “business and industry,” etc.) published in the Official ABA Guide for 2008 are identical to those from 2007, and the same goes for with 2005 and 2004. I’m surprised the editors of ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools wouldn’t notice that or alert its readers. I wonder if more is going on here…
Second: Look at the University of Puerto Rico. Even in its best year, only 46.7% of its 2007 grads bothered to return their employment surveys. And the Times says the protesting students are worried that enrollments will be restricted.
Third, I included the University of Hawaii in the graph because I think it makes a good comparison. It’s actually quite interesting.
|Law Schools (total)/10 million Residents (2010)||10.736 (4)||7.351 (1)|
|ABA Law Students/10,000 Residents (2009)||5.863||2.641|
|Percent Idle Attorneys (2008)||66.44%||28.02%|
|Idle Lawyers/100,000 Residents (2008)||209||90|
|Annual Grads/Job Opening (2008-2018)||5.54||1.47|
|Annual Projected Surplus Graduates/100,000 Residents (2008-2018)||11||2|
|Projected Job Growth (~2018)||4.07%||-0.67%|
Obviously, Hawaii still has a surplus of graduates relative to its own economy, and there’s no deficit elsewhere in the country, so the comparison doesn’t let the Five-O off the hook. That said, if Hawaii is over-enrolled, then Puerto Rico’s law schools are a disaster and badly need to be pared down, even if we can expect 4.07% job growth there.
So: What the buh?
The answer may lie in a fairly good analysis of Puerto Rico, a 2006 Economist article with a title that hints at the Gilligan, “Trouble on Welfare Island,” which closes with the following:
[B]ecause of the small private sector, too few well-educated Puerto Ricans are gaining useful skills and experience in the marketplace.
As he walked through Aguadilla’s town hall recently, [Mayor] Carlos Méndez boasted about each employee’s university or graduate-school credentials as he introduced them. The trouble, he says, is that “All they want to do is find security only. They have no ambition…Everybody wants to work for the government.”
Puerto Rico thrives on federal government transfer payments via Social Security and other programs, and because people can more easily claim disability there than elsewhere, they don’t work. The result is a moribund private sector and with it an unemployable—and occasionally overeducated—labor force. These circumstances differ from the mainland U.S. where educated Americans can’t as easily claim disability benefits and not work, and unlike the Puerto Rican government, holder of 30% of the island’s jobs, the U.S. government is trying to cut jobs when it should be expanding to utilize idle workers.
I don’t know whether students attending Puerto Rico’s law schools are debt peons like their American peers. I can say that if there’s any place not worth going to law school, it’s Puerto Rico. I just hope the students aren’t demanding cheap, over-enrolled higher education that will only hurt the poor more than help them.
(1) We have a David Lat piece at Above the Law on Louisiana College’s proposed law school, “A Law School Is Coming to Shreveport—Hallelujah!”
I have a few points to add to Lat’s piece. First, Louisiana, as you may know, has one of the worst ratios of law students to residents in the country (1 for 1,628.15 persons). It also fares poorly economically with 1 law student for every $80.54 million in GSP. Louisiana is in the top ten for both. A fifth law school there is an unusually bad idea.
Second point, unlike Lat, I use combined statistical areas rather than municipal populations. Here, the Shreveport-Bossier City-Minden CSA has 432,060 residents with ~200,000 in Shreveport. That doesn’t help much given the above, but with an opening class of 40, it’ll have an enrollment of about 120, leaving 1 law student per 3,600.5 residents. This is likely well offset by the J.D. cadres pouring out of Louisiana’s other law schools.
For the record, I have no taste for Frank Sinatra.
Okay, I’m in the mood for more number-crunching, so I shall inflict it upon you, faithless reader. In recent weeks, the dramatic regional law student saturation stuck in my mind. Because it’s a large and popular market, I turn to the other state I haven’t been disciplined in: New York.
For those of you who read the Charge of the Juris Doctor Brigade, you’ll recall that New York added four law schools between 1970 and 1983 (one opened in 1970, but I didn’t count it, sparing the state further embarrassment). All of these newer ones are in the New York metropolitan area. Interestingly, unlike other areas that’ve grown rapidly in the postwar era, New York City and state suffered a population decline between 1970 and 1980. That didn’t prevent these law schools from opening though, so we can predict that the city’s law school density issues are quite dire. Let’s see…