That’s a loaded question and I’m sure it got your attention. I don’t have a the full answer but I know they can’t claim they have no clue as to the crisis.
In November of 2009 The ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crises on the Profession and Legal Needs presented a report called The Value Proposition of Attending Law School. I don’t know who it was presented to and how it was used as the disclaimer clearly says it’s not approved until passed by the House of Delegates. The report states:
Prior to the recession, starting salaries for associates at large law firms stabilized around $160,000 a year, and many prospective law students expect to be able to earn a comparable amount. In reality, however, only 23% of the graduates of the class of 2008 started with such a high salary, including only 37% of those who went into private practice. Shockingly, most of the rest of the graduates, about 42%, started with an annual salary of less than $65,000.10
Who was shocked? Those on the Commission? Who?
These numbers reflect the employment of the last cohort of law students whose initial employment was relatively uninfluenced by the economic recession. This year, the employment picture is even more bleak. Students are now competing for half as many jobs at top law firms—those most likely to pay $160,000 for first-year associates—as last year. Recruitment at many levels of the job market is declining by similar amounts. Although numbers are not available yet, many members of the class of 2010 and 2011 may graduate without a job, and those who are lucky enough to find employment likely will collectively have lower salaries than their predecessors. In short, the job market is more challenging than it has been in many years, as well-paying jobs are in short supply.
Why has the ABA been sitting on this document? Where is their responsibility? The House of Delegates too afraid to ratify or did they do so quietly and tuck it away somewhere so technically it was available if anyone knew to look for it? This is an explosive document and should have been pushed out into the daylight as soon as it was completed.
I have proposed on Twitter and my SPU Facebook page that the ABA mandate that all ABA accredited law schools include this document in every single law school application package given to any prospective student. Each law school should be required to include their graduate employment numbers and starting salaries for the past five years.
If this information is supplied to students at the time of application, half the battle is addressed. I’m not saying this will stop potential students from applying who still believe they will be one of the lucky ones, but it will stop the students from claiming they were uninformed or duped misinformed by the law schools and the profession as a whole.
My big question still remains, though? Why hasn’t what I’m suggesting already been done as a matter of common sense, fair play and professional integrity? (I know the answer…it’s called greed.)