WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A few months after finishing college, Angela Achen sat in a hospital waiting room and took stock of her assets: A degree in art history, a knack for women's studies and almost no marketable job skills.
She asked her father, who doctors told her was in his final hours, whether he had any last wishes.
He paused, thinking deeply, then smiled and said three words: "Be a lawyer."
"I think he said it because he knew it was something that would make me happy," Achen said.
So Achen enrolled at the University of Minnesota Law School, encouraged by the school's statistics on graduates' salaries and hungry for a career in international business. But as graduation neared, she sought job advice from her professors and from practicing lawyers.
Extend your studies another few years, they urged her, or volunteer for a nonprofit. Anything but look for a job.
"The advice I got from all of them was don't even bother applying to law firms right now, because you're just wasting your time," said Achen, now 30. "They're not hiring."
New data released by the American Bar Association in June revealed that barely half of those who graduated in law school in 2011 found fulltime jobs as lawyers within nine months of graduation. A separate survey from the National Association for Law Placement in June found the overall employment rate last year was the lowest in 16 years.
Although the crisis has been brewing for about a decade, marked by a sudden jump in demand for law school seats, the warning signs until recently had largely been brushed aside, dismissed as another unfortunate symptom of the so-called "jobless recovery" that has left numerous industries in shambles.
The most obvious solution â¿¿ a reboot of the system to match supply with demand â¿¿ was off the table.