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As the economy continues to climb back to equilibrium private and public employers continue to identify ways to create jobs and work toward a speedy economic recovery and a renewed economic prosperity.

One job market that has been identified as a particularly reeling profession is the legal field, and the American Bar Association has set out a task force to help identify ways to get law school graduates into full-time employment. The Task Force on the Future of Legal Education is tasked with looking at issues related to students, recent graduates and their relationship with law schools, professional organizations and even the role of the government in addressing the matter, according to information from the ABA.

Ira Pilchen, Communications and Media Relations Division of the American Bar Association said the Task Force is expected to deliver a report on these issues in the fall.

According to documents from the ABA some of the items on the agenda are “the impact of economic trends on the rising cost of legal education and declining legal employment prospects; innovations, methods and advocacy efforts by state and local bar associations and other groups to reduce the cost of legal education, improve practical skills training, match new lawyers with job opportunities, and provide student loan debt relief,” and, “the impact of structural changes in law practice to the nature of lawyer work and the number and distribution of attorneys in the bar.”

Information from the National Association for Law Placement shows the job rate for the graduating class of lawyers in 2011 was 85.6 percent, the lowest since 1994, where the rate was 84.7 percent.

With numbers falling each year steadily since 2008, the employment figures reveal an “underlying structural weakness,” in the system, according to information from the NALP.

However, while there have not yet been concrete gains, there is some hope, as recruiting numbers seem to at least begin to point in the right direction.

"I am often asked if there are signs that the entry-level job market is recovering," said NALP Executive Director James Leipold in a statement. "Certainly the employment outcomes data for the Class of 2011 document a very distressed job market. This class may represent the bottom of the employment curve for this economic cycle. Our fall recruiting data from the last two years indicate that at least recruiting activity for the Classes of 2012 and 2013 increased, if somewhat modestly. Absent another significant national or international economic setback, I would expect to see some aspects of the employment profile for the next two classes begin to inch up, though there is nothing to indicate a rapid recovery or a likely return to pre-recession employment levels any time in the near future.”

Some of the discussion topics addressed by the task force include: law schools use of “knowledge and experience from other disciplines to support innovation in teaching methodologies;” ways to “remove barriers to innovation in legal education, particularly those that would better prepare J.D. students for practice;” the creation of a “Center For Law School Innovation, the mission of which would be to promote innovation and affordability in legal education;” and how “state authorities should create a framework for licensing persons other than lawyers to provide a limited range of legal services.”

Last modified on Monday, 17 June 2013
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