Why it may become harder to recruit talented lawyers for law departments

The number of graduates from US law schools has stayed almost flat for years (about 38,000 new JDs); worse, LSAT scores of law school students – thus, presumably, academic intelligence – have declined (See my post of July 31, 2005 on emotional intelligence.).

During those same years, the premier law firms have swollen and now suck up increasing numbers of the top law school graduates. To retain their talent, those same law firms have fashioned different career paths and alternatives than the old-school up-or-out. Other industries lure top drawer lawyers, especially consulting and investment banking.

Associate salaries rise steadily, yet companies are being required to expense the value of option grants, the grants that allowed law departments to compete on total compensation packages.

Will the steady rain of disenchanted or passed over law-firm associates dry up? The skies are clearing of smart eligible recruits, and a drought is in prospect.

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