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Planning for the Future

February 19, 2018

The Age of Volatility is upon us. Not only is the stock market gyrating, but so are law school application rates.

Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

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The Age of Volatility is upon us. Not only is the stock market gyrating, but so are law school application rates.

According to a blog by Paul Caron, dean of Pepperdine Law School, that appeared last week, the projected pool of applicants this year is going to be up about 10 percent — the largest group in seven years. And the composition of that pool includes a lot more people with high LSAT scores.


For years, students were smart enough to stay away from legal careers because there are already lots of lawyers and not enough law jobs to go around. Sure, there were careers to be had suing law schools for claiming bogus employment rates, but those jobs were taken pretty quickly. So why would smart kids suddenly see things differently?

I don’t have a definitive answer but I do have some theories.

The most obvious is the Trump Bump. America has been made great again, so there are lots of jobs for everyone.

Just kidding. The Trump Bump is actually the enormous amount of legal work generated by lawsuits against the government. You need attorneys on both sides of disputes over whether the government should stop doing its job.

It’s also a lot easier to become a federal judge these days. Qualifications aren’t relevant, so a quick run through law school should be enough to get into that job market. Almost anybody could be the next Supreme Court justice. (Justice Hannity?)

Or it may be that all the other jobs are taken. For years, potential law students have gone into other fields. Those fields could be full. Combine that professional-choice shift with automation and artificial intelligence and it’s possible that the only job left is arguing with each other.

Politics and law.

The other possibility is that smart kids are foreseeing a future with many more defendants needing lawyers. I say this because computers now may be able to predict crimes before they happen so all police have to do is show up at the crime scene to make arrests.

I know this sounds like something out of a movie but a group called Stop LAPD Spying Coalition claimed in a petition filed in Los Angeles last week that the police have a computer program called Palantir that predicts where crime is most likely to occur and who is going to commit it.

The Coalition thinks that will lead to more profiling and harassment of minorities, and it might be right. But what if the coalition and all those students expecting jobs are not right? After all, there is another way to use that predictive software. Instead of nabbing predicted criminals after their crimes are committed, we could intercept them on the way to crime scenes and give them jobs, training or medical marijuana instead.

People will start planning crimes just so they can get the help they need.

But perhaps the real reason for the uptick in law school applications is that smart kids are looking to the future. There are whole new areas of law practice to look forward to.

For example, an Oregon outfit called Centric Law last week issued a press release that begins with this sentence: “The biggest practice area coming to the legal profession in the next decade is climate change.”

If things are falling apart, there has to be someone to sue.

There are many other potential new future practices. Lawyers, naturally, will be needed to sue our computer overlords and those computers will need lawyers to carry them into court.

And lawyers will be interested in the advancement of science. For a fine example of this, check out a surprisingly long story that appeared last week in the San Bernardino Sun about a lawsuit that seeks to have a couple of state agencies acknowledge the existence of sasquatches.

Favorite line from the story: “Ackley’s (the plaintiff’s) lawyer, Bobby Garcia, did not respond to telephone calls seeking comment.”

The poor man has been embarrassed enough.

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