In thirty years, China has gone from having six law schools to having 634. Predictably, this is not entirely good news for the graduates of those schools, as law is now the hardest profession to find employment in:
Law has topped the list of the 10 most difficult professions to land a job in the country for two consecutive years, taking the No 1 slot in 2008 and No 2 in 2007, according to a joint study released in June 2009 by China’s Academy of Social Science and Beijing-based consulting company Mycos Institute.
However, I found this even more curious:
The other majors [that are difficult professions to find employment in] include computer science, English, international economics and trade, business administration, clinical medicine, Chinese literature, art design, electronic engineering and accounting.
To be fair, ‘Chinese literature’ and ‘art design’ might be the Chinese equivalent of an American liberal arts degree, the kind everyone derides as being not good for much in the real world. But clinical medicine? Engineering? Accounting? Business administration? These are the sort of majors that sensible, job-oriented students take that are, in the U.S., supposed to leave graduates happily having their pick of employment, while their lowly English lit classmates are waiting tables.
It suggests to me, anyway, that there is nothing particularly unique about the plight of law grads in China, but that the market for highly educated labor in general is somewhat stunted.
Still, this could very much be a hindrance to China’s long-term development.
“Law graduates have the most difficulty in job hunting, which means the supply has exceeded the demand,” Wang said.
“If there is no adjustment in place soon, it is not good for the development of law in the long run.”
Unlike the U.S. — which, I might reluctantly concede, may simply have an overabundance of lawyers in general — China has come no where near to meeting the potential demand for lawyers, but rather the legal infrastructure that would support all those theoretical legal jobs has yet to materialize. The creation of a political climate that respects the rule of law necessarily requires the presence of lawyers, however. China’s fledgling legal system is characterized more by the rule of men, but there is, at least in theory, a legal system in place. A healthy bar that continuously engage in litigation to resolve disputes may or may not eventually result in a robust Chinese legal system, but nothing else has a chance of doing so.
In other law school related news from China, U.S. law grads may eventually get some competition from China, if the Peking University’s School of Transnational Law succeeds in its plan of becoming the first non-American school to be accredited by the ABA.
The first thing I thought as I began to read this was “maybe we’ll start outsourcing legal work to China like we do IT to India”. I see I’m late to that particular party.