Lawyer Employment Jumps by 40,000 in 2014


Don LeDuc, President and Dean | March 16, 2015

Now is the time to fulfill your dream of becoming a lawyer.

Football Coach George Allen famously said, “The future is now.” Those considering law school should listen to Coach Allen.

According to a just-released U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the number of employed lawyers in 2014 increased by 40,000 compared to 2013, while the number of unemployed lawyers fell by 8,000. The total number of lawyers in the U.S. labor market increased by 32,000 this past year.

That bears repeating—total lawyer employment increased by 40,000 in 2014, or 3.66%. The unemployment rate for lawyers fell to about 1.2%, remaining far below the national unemployment rate of 5.5%. And the unemployment rate for lawyers in the fourth quarter of 2014 was 0.6%.

BLS Employment & Unemployment for Lawyers 2008-2014*

Year Total
2008 1,034,000 1,014,000 98.1% 20,000 1.9%
2009 1,067,000 1,043,000 97.7% 24,000 2.3%
2010 1,056,000 1,040,000 98.5% 16,000 1.5%
2011 1,108,000 1,085,000 97.9% 23,000 2.1%
2012 1,076,000 1,061,000 98.6% 15,000 1.4%
2013 1,113,000 1,092,000 98.1% 21,000 1.9%
2014 1,145,000 1,132,000 98.8% 13,000 1.2%
2008 to 2014
+111,000 +118,000 +0.7% -7,000 -0.7%
2013 to 2014
+32,000 +40,000 +0.7% -8,000 -0.7%


These figures should end the debate about lawyer employment and the job market.  The improving economy in 2014 clearly supported not only the increased number of law school graduates, but also reduced the number of lawyers previously unemployed by one-third.  The job market absorbed a 2014 graduating class that resulted from a record number of entering law students in 2011.  Between October 6, 2013 and October 5, 2014, ABA-accredited law schools awarded 43,767 J.D. degrees.**

Summer 2015 will see about 3,000 fewer law school graduates entering the job market than did so in 2014.  At the same time, increasing numbers of lawyers will retire due to aging and the recovery of retirement portfolios.  The combined trend of fewer graduates and more retirements will continue for at least another three years, creating an increasingly favorable employment outlook.

The time of the law school critics has passed.  Now is the time for those whose dream is to become a lawyer to disregard the blog-fog and look at the clear employment picture that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has painted.  That dream’s future is now.

*Source: BLS Current Population Survey - Table 3. Employed and experienced unemployed persons by detailed occupation and class of worker, Annual Average for each year 2008-2014 (unpublished, obtained from BLS by request).

**Source:  2014 J.E. Enrollment and Ethnicity table.


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