Choosing Between Law or Accounting Careers?

For many CPA candidates there is a choice between pursuing a career in law or a career in accounting.

The current job placement for lawyers is still quite weak.

Law schools reported that 57% of class of 2013 graduates landed long-term, full-time jobs for which passage of the bar exam was a prerequisite, according to figures published by the American Bar Association on Wednesday.

However, only 39% of students find jobs at law firms.

I suspect that the numbers for lawyers will only get worse. The legal profession has yet to be hit with a wave of technological disruption. However, over the last few years several online, national, “law firms” have emerged and they are eating a large portion of the consumer law market. Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer have the advertising budgets to go national with their branding campaigns. It is difficult for small law firms to compete when they have to market online against companies with an expertise in marketing. Most people would not want to compete with Kraft or Nestle in the packaged foods industry because the multinationals have distribution and branding them make them almost impossible to beat. Similarly, in due time, national brands will emerge in consumer law and this is going to skyrocket the number of unemployed lawyers.

The consumer and small business has voted with their wallet and they prefer discount wills and divorces. Of course, the cookie cutter solutions are not as good as customized legal solutions but most people do not have the desire to spend thousands on legal help.

The job outlook for accountants is more promising. Although the BLS does not predict a massive surge in demand or supply of accountants, it is still a more stable profession than law.

Since most accountants work for businesses, the threat of online national brands is less likely. The reason for this is that accounting salaries never skyrocketed like legal salaries.  For accountants, there was nothing comparable to the stories of multi-million dollar settlements that enticed would be personal injury lawyers.  Similarly, tax advice and auditing is a long way from being serviced by intelligent machines.