Professor Michael Simkovic's Study in the New York Times
Professor Simkovic's study cited in a Dealbook blog post, "Law Schools and Industry Show Signs of Life, Despite Forecasts of Doom"
In his New York Times Dealbook blog post published on March 31, Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon of the University of California at Berkeley asserts that Professors Simkovic’s and McIntyre's study may very well be on the mark. “A new study…provides a compelling reason to be optimistic about a career in law,” Professor Solomon writes.
The post, “Law Schools and Industry Show Signs of Life, Despite Forecasts of Doom,” provides an overview of the positive changes taking place in legal employment such as increased revenues among top firms and a growth in lateral hiring for lawyers in New York. If the trend continues, the shift in employment, coupled with the trend of smaller graduating law school classes, should lead to more opportunity for aspiring attorneys in the coming years.
Professor Solomon cites two works by Seton Hall Law Professor Michael Simkovic and co-author Professor Frank McIntyre, which assert that law school is an investment that, over the course of a legal career, yields a $1 million premium in compensation for graduates, as compared to individuals who never attended law school, and that a law degree effectively positions graduates to weather even the most challenging economic circumstances no matter when they choose to attend.
Summarizing "Timing Law School," Professor Solomon writes,
The co-authors found that unemployment in a bad economy hit lawyers in the first four years of their career, lowering the amount of money they made relative to similarly educated people who did not go to law school. Yet law salaries can climb rapidly. In another paper, the two authors found that such acceleration in compensation results in a premium of $1 million for lawyers over their lifetime compared with those who did not go to law school. Based on this growth and the ability to eventually find lucrative employment, the two authors found that over a 30-year period, the hit from early unemployment and a bad economy fades as times get better and graduates gain experience. Indeed, the lawyers caught up so much that the two found that “timing” law school — starting law school in a bad or good economy — did not matter.
A second study by the American Bar Foundation underscores this optimism:
The foundation’s After the JD project surveyed lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 to assess their career trajectory 10 years after graduation. The foundation found that as of 2012, lawyers had high levels of job satisfaction and employment as well as high salaries. Even graduates with low grades from low-ranked law schools had median incomes in the $85,000 to $95,000 range. This follows the fact that law firm salaries have risen by more than inflation since 1995, according to the National Association for Law Placement.
How is the legal industry changing? Professor Solomon sees an increasing need for compliance as industries become increasingly regulated, noting, “…corporate in-house legal teams are growing, replacing the work that outside firms once did. Microsoft, for example, has more than 500 in-house lawyers.” Yet, he concludes, over the long term, “Twenty years from now, whether the economy is up or down, there will still be lawyers, and plenty of them.”
Professor Simkovic has been discussing his research trends on the legal market at Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports. He was named among the “Most Influential People in Legal Education” in 2013 and 2014 by National Jurist Magazine and was recently awarded the American Law Institute’s Young Scholar’s Medal for his research on credit markets, bankruptcy and financial regulation.