It seems like a yes-no question, doesn’t it? So you could answer, if you are sufficiently delusional: Yes, there is a significant unmet need for legal services, and even though few of these potential clients can afford to actually pay a lawyer, surely the government and private foundations will step in with sufficient funding. The New New Deal is just around the corner.
Or you could answer: No, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, nationwide, fewer than 50% of new lawyers will obtain law jobs through 2022.
But there is yet another way to answer this yes-no question, the evasive scammer way. For instance, you could respond by noting that it is a really good question, and then spout a torrent of enthusiastic and empty verbiage about the civic virtue of the law. You could reach all the way back to the early years of our republic in order to name-check John Adams and then zip forward to the "globalized, digitalized world" of the near future. You could carefully deploy the phrase "the question is. . ." or "really the question is. . ." or "that, I think, is the real question." Maybe the questioner and audience will get so disoriented by this gaseous fog of words that they will imagine that the initial question has been answered in a highly sophisticated way, which in a way it has been.
Albany Law Professor Mary Lynch, the Director of her school's "Center for Excellence in Law Teaching," chose the third option in an interview broadcast on WYNT television on August 22, 2013. Interviewer Phil Bayly asked: "Before we even get to their education, you know what people are asking their television right now. Do we need [so many] new lawyers every year?" Lynch responded as follows:
"I think that’s a really good question, and I think the question is what is it that lawyers can do for society. And if we really think about, law is a civic profession. Our country was founded on law. John Adams. You think of all the people that founded our country. So what are lawyers? Lawyers are involved in industry. Many of our Presidents, our senators, you know, government, not-for-profit. So really the question is what kind of lawyers do we want to be? Are they going to be effective problem solvers as we go into the 21st century, and into a globalized, digitalized world? And that I think is the real question. Are we equipping them with the kind of skills that make them the kind of folks that we want helping us solve the problems of the world."
[This comment appears about one minute into the nine-and-a-half minute long interview]I must say that this nonsense disappointed me given that it came from a Professor with a genuine, though not recent, background in practice, consisting of four years as a district attorney (1985-1989). Imagine if Lynch, in her long-ago role as a prosecutor, had posed the original question to a witness, and the witness had responded by commending her "really good question," and then launched into a stream of gibberish pertaining to what she deemed the "real question"? Wouldn't Lynch have said "Objection, nonresponsive" or "Objection, please direct the witness to answer the question"? Wouldn’t the witness have been sternly admonished by the court to answer the question posed? Wouldn’t the jury have snickered at the fool on the witness stand?
Lynch purports an interest and involvement in legal educational reform and clinical education. I don’t dismiss this completely. For instance, Lynch ran her school's clemency clinic, which is absolutely a worthy project. (Preparing clemency petitions is unlikely to lead to actual jobs for grads, but it is a genuine unmet need, something that benefits society). But I want to tout one additional reform that law professors can undertake, on their own, that could make a significant difference: Listen respectfully to your recent grads, and tell truth about job prospects, especially to your students. Or, if that is too tall an order, simply avoid the temptation to shill your lousy law schools.