Some aspiring lawyers are waiting right now. Waiting to see whether they will get the letter from the law school of their choice. The lucky ones who have been admitted are waiting, too. Waiting until they have to plunk down their deposit to hold a slot.
What sort of reading is available in the waiting room?
An article in last Saturday’s New York Times managed to scare half the “litigators” in the United States with tales of how e-discovery software is cutting the time and money required to respond to an adversary. Predictably, there is some debate as to the points in the article; what caught my eye was this:
Mike Lynch, the founder of Autonomy, is convinced that â€œlegal is a sector that will likely employ fewer, not more, people in the U.S. in the future.â€
Mr. Lynch went on to hazard as guess as to some orders of magnitude on this loss specific to e-discovery which I found confusing. The focus here today is on trends, from the perspective of a potential lawyer making a career decision.
Then I spotted this gem yesterday, again in the New York Times, from op-ed columnist Paul Krugman. Entitled “Degrees and Dollars,” it grabs you right from the get-go:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that education is the key to economic success. Everyone knows that the jobs of the future will require ever higher levels of skill. Thatâ€™s why, in an appearance Friday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Obama declared that â€œIf we want more good news on the jobs front then weâ€™ve got to make more investments in education.
But what everyone knows is wrong.
Mr. Krugman then goes on to mention the e-discovery article specifically, and while confusing e-discovery with legal research, gets to the crux of the issue:
In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.
So I guess if you are waiting on law school acceptance letters, the first thing you do is stop reading the New York Times.
The problem is, even when you turn to some lighter reading, it’s there. Let’s say our aspiring JD is in New York, and so checks out the Observer for some entertainment. Yeah, that’s it, here’s an article about someone else with career challenges: the venerable publishing assistant (collectively the “Assisterati”; no it’s not about law firm associates). Today an over-credentialed latte-fetcher, tomorrow a titan of new media in the Big Apple.
Oops, publishing is also hit hard by technology and competition, so some of these assistants tire of the drama and lack of upward mobility. Naturally, their thoughts turn to more education:
Assistants who fail to form a productive connection with their masters often make a lateral move, to try again under another editor or with a different company […]. Others defect for M.F.A. programs, law school, a journalistic stint in a Third World country or a follow-your-bliss move like pastry school.
Oh my God, law school is number 2, and trending down. Pastry school?
So our intrepid law school candidate is more confused than ever. Hopefully they haven’t found Above the Law yet.
Tomorrow and Friday I will try to give some insight to prospective law students on their career choice. It’s not just technology that’s making things difficult. As you might expect, I will focus on what the changes on the inside, with the corporate client, mean for the major law graduate employers, outside law firms.
The good news for the JD wannna-be crowd: there’s more information out there than ever about the challenges in the law, employment-wise. Our potential law student is much better positioned to decide than those who started law school in 2008 right as the economy was tanking.
They are now about to graduate. LLM, anyone?
(And let’s not count out choice #4. You get to wear a sweet white hat , learn tortes and eat your mistakes.)