This nonsense signals the fact that it's time for our semi-annual debunking of the "unemployment rate" claim. Cooley Law School unveiled this pitch in August 2011, reporting the BLS estimate that only 1.5% of lawyers were unemployed in 2010. Denver's Law School is the most recent enthusiast for this factoid. The statistic suggests that 98.5% of the people who want to practice law, and who have the proper license, are able to do so. Right?
Wrong. The BLS number means that 98.5% of the people who have worked as lawyers, and who want to keep working, are able to work at least one hour a week in some job. They may have mowed their neighbor's lawn for $15. They may be working at Starbucks. They may even be running a locomotive, a job that requires only a high school degree and some hands-on training. Heck, as NALP says, "you can do almost anything with a law degree!"
If you want to review (yet again!) why the BLS unemployment rate is misleading, I invite you to join me here. Along the way, I note that the very same BLS numbers generating these positive-sounding unemployment rates also show:
- The number of practicing lawyers fell during the last year, from an estimated 1,085,000 in 2011 to just 1,061,000 in 2012. That's despite all of those 2011 graduates who were sworn in to the bar in November 2011.
- Although more than 100,000 women have graduated from law school during the last five years, there are 19,000 fewer women practicing law today than there were in 2008.