19/12/2013 10:41 GMT | Updated 18/02/2014 05:59 GMT

While the US Law School Bubble Bursts, the UK Law School Bubble Grows


At some stage in their life, everyone thinks they should go to law school. I call this the law school complex. The "default career choice." A pathological and congenital societal obsession with the legal profession. (Research shows two-thirds of parents want their child to go to law school.) A perception that says, whoever so shall enter shall be automatically gifted with the automatic right to huge riches.

Spoof. This is a horrendous myth and spectacular illusion. Five minutes of research would tell you that jobs in law are scarce and remuneration incredibly tight. And being a lawyer is less Legally Blonde, Rumpole and the Bailey and Suits, and more endless, rolling and repetitive tedium.

In the face of this reality, I have a suggestion.

The United Kingdom needs to have an honest conversation about law school based on fact, not myth. A conversation like the one that has been going on in the US for years and which has even welcomed contributions from President Obama here.

In response to this honest conversation (like here, here, here, here, here, here and here ), enrollment into law schools in the US has corrected to reduced demand and adapted to a changing economy. This is a critical market correction which Andrew Sullivan reports on the development here.


Meanwhile in the UK, the law school delusion and illusion continues. Like sheep to the slaughter, our best and brightest walk into law schools blind to the realities of post-graduation. The UK has avoided the honest conversation and turned face on the unpleasant facts. In response to this, applications to law schools in the UK continue to rise, as you can see here and in the graphic above. This is madness.

In 2012, 103,613 young people went to law school in the UK.

In 2013, 109,140 young people went to law school in the UK.

The unpleasant facts really are very unpleasant. Only 1 in 5 trainee barristers will actually become a barrister (here). 100s apply for every paralegal role (here). On Radio 4's Law In Action here, Joshua Rozenburg pretty much said that we're produced too many lawyers. Legal futurist Richard Susskind said to barristers in Belfast that "we're over-producing lawyers." The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) here essentially accepted that there are too many law students and further said that many were ill-prepared for the labour market. The Chief Executive of the Law Society, Des Hudson has said that "thousands of middle class graduates... will never secure jobs in the legal profession."

And all because, as I've said many times before, "It's the Legal Economy Stupid."

In 2008 the world underwent a massive and permanent economic dislocation. The legal economy has changed irreversibly, and so minds and curricula must change. This has meant that there are fewer and fewer jobs in the legal profession and more and more jobs in other parts of the labour market. Educators and families need to change their plane of regard and facilitate the efficient allocation of young people towards the buoyant areas of the labour market. It is an unpardonable madness to channel and direct the best and brightest towards those professions that were traditionally lucrative but which are now stagnant.

As I wrote here, for interested parties there really is no business like law business. But where those students cannot get a job, that business is nothing more than a racket and its proprietor racketeers who extort and blackmail young people out of their money.

I propose as Richard A. Matasar said

"If a law school cant help its students achieve their goals we should shut the damn place down"

It's well past the time that the UK confronted its sickly love affair with law school. This is urgent. We need to have the honest conversation before we fail any more of our best and brightest young people.

Further Reading

Law School and The New Republic Article here.

Joshua Rozenberg - Are We Training Too Many Lawyers? here.

"It's the Legal Economy, stupid" - My thoughts on the LETR here.

John Armitt - Remaking Education To Make Young People Work-Ready here.