This post was written by Hatchet reporter Bronte Dinges.
A panel of legal experts warned aspiring law students Tuesday to stay cautious during the admissions process and scrutinize law schools’ employment statistics.
The advice comes during an uncertain time for law schools, which have seen fewer applicants and a shriveling job market. The panel was part of a series of programs following a law school fair for undergraduates in the Smith Center.
Gihan Fernando, executive director of the American University Career Center, advised prospective law students to take advantage of the American Bar Association website that shows employment data for new law school graduates.
Fernando stressed critically examining all statistics given, including sample size and response rate of surveys, adding that when it comes to law school, one should ânot be a skeptical consumer, but an informed one.
The experts spoke about how the recession has curbed career possibilities for law school graduates. Only 55 percent of law graduates nationwide last year earned full-time positions that required bar practice, according to an ABA report this summer.
About 56,000 legal sector jobs disappeared between 2008 and 2010, and those who could nab employment saw a 16 percent drop in average starting salary, said James Leipold, executive director of the Association for Legal Career Professionals.
Leipold said those declines have caused fewer law graduates to work in private practice firms, instead pushing them into business, which he called “the biggest growing sector.”
But there is hope for those students still wanting to pursue law school, Leipold said, citing the soon-to-retire baby boomer generation.
“[This will] leave a huge gap in leadership and labor forces for the future generations of law school grads,” he said.