The legal employment landscape isn’t what it once was. A number of factors have affected legal job prospects in recent years, including technology, globalization, and economic changes. These forces have typically had a negative impact on the number of jobs available and, in some cases, have even replaced certain attorney job functions.
The fact that legal job prospects aren’t as promising as they used to be has been discussed in the media quite often as of late and potential law students have taken notice, resulting a decline in attendance in recent years. How much of a decline? In the 2015-2016 academic year, law school enrollment fell 5 percent from 2014. And, the number of law school graduates declined by 9.2% between the two years, from 43,832 in 2014 to 39,817 in 2015.
Not surprisingly, entry level jobs have been affected the most, with the actual number of bar-required jobs also falling from 26,248 in 2014 to 23,993 in 2015. That’s a large decline of 2,255 jobs or 8.6%. And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lawyer-job estimate declined considerably since just 2 years ago. The 2014 it predicted 74,800 new lawyer jobs through 2022. Between 2014 and 2024, the agency now estimates, the number of lawyer positions will grow from 778,700 to 822,500, adding just 43,800 jobs—a huge reduction of 41 percent.
The good news is that while job prospects for new lawyers may not be as favorable as they once were, the legal profession is holding steady overall and some practice areas are thriving in the new world economy. Hot practice areas for 2016 include corporate, real estate, litigation, IP patent, and tax law. Even more good news, as seen in the infographic below, is that the changing legal landscape offers many opportunities for solo and small firm lawyers. So be sure to check out the infographic for lots of interesting and intriguing statistics on how the practice of law in the 21st century is changing.
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