Tackling the Decline in LSAT Takers, Decrease in Law School Enrollment and Attorney Unemployment

Nicole Britton-Snyder, Diversity Pipeline Program Manager, Justice & Diversity Center

recent-law-grads-recurring-themesAs manager of the Justice & Diversity Center’s Destination Law School Program, I meet students who express an interest, desire and passion to attend law school. Part of my role is to educate, encourage and empower these students as they begin their law school endeavors.

Being able to support the next generation of diverse lawyers is an inspiring and rewarding experience. However, as a recent law school graduate, I can’t help but think of the challenges that lie ahead for many of our students.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoyed law school. I attended Northeastern on a full ride tuition scholarship. It was a remarkable experience to gain practical experience through five full time internships representing survivors of domestic violence. However, my law school experience does not diminish the frightening reality of life after law school.

I have had countless conversations with recent graduates through my personal and professional relationships and there are recurring themes: I have a job but I have to pass the bar exam. I passed the bar exam now I have to find a job. I failed the bar exam, I need to take it again but I have to work because I can’t defer my loans. I submitted my resume to countless employers and have not heard back from any of them. I have been unemployed over a year. I have student loans and living expenses; volunteering is not an option for me.

Unfortunately, recent statistics convey similar trends. The National Law Journal reported that since 2012 the number of students taking the LSATs in October has dropped by 11 percent. According to the American Bar Association, in 2013 there was an 11 percent decrease in the number of students enrolled in law school since 2012. The enrollment rates from 2010 to 2013 showed a 24 percent decrease in student enrollment. The National Association for Law Placement reported that for the class of 2012 only 58.3 percent of survey participants had full time employment positions requiring bar passage that would last at least one year.

Solutions

With such gloomy statistics, how do we tackle this uphill battle?

By alleviating some of these challenges through our diversity initiatives. As a result of the financial burdens associated with affording law school, for the last 16 years BASF has awarded students with our Bay Area Minority Law Student Scholarships.The $30,000 tuition based scholarship is awarded to diverse students attending a Bay Area law school who have financial need.

When considering post graduate unemployment we tackle the issue while our students are still in law school. For the past nine years, BASF has partnered with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to host the Bay Area Diversity Career Fair. The fair is open to rising second year law students who interview for summer associate positions with law firms, government agencies and nonprofits.

For recent graduates, we have the Mind the Gap Program, an initiative of 2013 BASF President Chris Kearney. The program provides recent unemployed and underemployed law graduates with training, work experience, mentorship and debt reduction information.

Of course BASF cannot eliminate law school debt and unemployment but we can acknowledge that these problems come up and tackle them with creative solutions for reducing their prevalence.

For more information on how to get involved with the diversity pipeline programs of the Justice & Diversity Center, email me at nbrittonsnyder@sfbar.org.

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