Mr. Anziska filed the lawsuit last summer, which coincides with a significant drop in law school applications. The number of students seeking entry into the nation’s nearly 200 law schools dropped by about 11 percent in the 2011-12 academic year, according to information from the Law School Admissions Council. Preliminary data for the 2012-13 term show that the downward trend is continuing, the possible result of more prospective students taking a more-thoughtful look at their postgraduation job opportunities.
The changing legal world doesn’t reflect a major drop in clients needing services — quite the opposite, analysts say, as the economic crisis has generated, for example, many more bankruptcy filings.
“There’s still a huge unmet need for legal services in America,” Mr. Morriss said. “Lots of modest, middle-income people still need lawyers to do things, from setting up a small business to handling a divorce or doing a will. But they just can’t afford to pay the price lawyers have to charge if they come out of law school with $150,000 of debt.”
Most U.S. law schools, he added, have done a poor job of adapting to the changing marketplace.
Reinventing the lawyer
Others have taken note of the trends and have begun gearing their curricula toward helping graduates open solo practices, or find work in high-demand, growing fields such as patent law.
One such institution is Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, which has used small class sizes and a revamped course structure to achieve higher-than-average placement rates in jobs requiring a law degree.
“What the Dewey bankruptcy illustrates is that there used to be a sense of security in a big firm, but when the whole big-firm model is coming unglued, you just don’t have that security anymore,” said Cleveland-Marshall Dean Craig Boise. “We’re focusing on the ways in which students can find niche opportunities to utilize their skills.”
About 15 percent of the school’s graduates, Mr. Boise said, go on to start private practices. Starting a small solo practice is a daunting challenge, one that often depends on referrals from higher-profile, more experienced lawyers.
In the future, Mr. Boise said, he expects more and more young lawyers to forgo large firms such as Dewey in favor of hitting the street and finding their own clients. That likely means no corner office at a prestigious address, the traditional dream of aspiring lawyers.
Instead, he said, they will run mobile offices out of their cars with little more than cellphones and laptops, driving from meeting to meeting with clients who often need less-than-exciting services such as help with wills.
Law school students also shouldn’t expect major firms to come calling with cash in hand, analysts say. In today’s marketplace, the responsibility is on them.
“In the new world, you’re going to have to go out there and hustle,” Mr. Morriss said.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ben Wolfgang is a national reporter for The Washington Times. Before coming to the Times, he spent four years as a political reporter in Pennsylvania. His focus is on education and science policy. Ben lives in southeast D.C. and has played guitar in several bands while still in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at email@example.com.
By Rand Paul
Obama acts as though we no longer have a Constitution
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
First over-the-counter column approved for fast and effective relief from even your worst media-induced headache.
Challenge the political status quo. Realize that you make better decisions than the bureaucrats in D.C.?
A politically conservative and morally liberal Hebrew alpha male hunts left-wing viper
Sometimes life requires a paradigm twist.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc