The year 2010 was a contradictory one for law schools. The early warning signs about the slowing legal hiring market were clear but had yet to go mainstream. By the time the mass media began questioning the value of a juris doctor it was early 2011, about seven months after 2010′s huge incoming class sent in ­deposits to secure their spots in law school.
Now those students have graduated — and it’s time for an update on how they’re doing.
The facts back then were these: New associate hiring at large and midsize firms took a major hit following the financial crisis, and the percentage of employed graduates in the class of 2010 hit its lowest point since 1996. And yet, applications to American Bar Association-accredited law schools increased by 7 percent that year and the total number of applications reached an all-time high: 602,300. Some schools saw their applicant pools swell by 30 percent or more. Collectively, law schools enrolled their largest incoming class ever with 52,500 students — some of them recent college graduates waiting out a dismal jobs market.
The National Law Journal spoke with some of those incoming law students in July 2010, about a month before they began their legal studies. We asked why they were pursuing a legal degree amid such uncertainty, and about what they aspired to do in the law.
For the most part, the students expressed cautious optimism that the legal job market would improve by the time they graduated in May 2013 — which hasn’t happened to any meaningful degree. Some described wanting to become lawyers since childhood. Most acknowledged that the decision to go to law school was a costly one that they would likely spend many years paying off.
The incoming class of 2010 graduated in May, took the bar in July, and now are launching their legal careers. We recently caught up with three of them to see what they are doing now, how they feel about their law school experience and what advice they have for those following in their footsteps.