Job market somewhat improved for law school grads

Perhaps this is the new normal.

The National Association for Law Placement’s new analysis of the job market heralded the first rise in the employment rate in eight years for new law school graduates. However, the uptick comes with two caveats – the method for measuring employment has been tweaked, which could be contributing to the better rate and the small size of the 2014 class provides an improved jobs rate despite a lower actual number of jobs secured.

According to a report from NALP, the employment rate for law school graduates has risen for the first time since 2007 and the onset of the Great Recession. The “Selected Findings from the Employment Report and Salary Survey for the Class of 2014” found 86.7 percent of the members in the most recent class of law school graduates got jobs, a jump of more than 2 percentage points over the 84.5 percent of their predecessors from the Class of 2013.  

Yet, NALP pointed out the employment rate for the Class of 2014 is not directly comparable to the previous classes because of the change by the American Bar Association to collect employment status information 10 months after graduation rather than nine months. Since 1996, the ABA has collected the employment rates in February following a May graduation.

Also, NALP noted the Class of 2014 is not only substantially smaller than the preceding class but also found fewer jobs. For the Class of 2014, the overall number of jobs secured was 3 percent lower than the Class of 2013 but, because the size of the graduating class was more than 6 percent smaller than the previous class, the overall employment rate increased.

“These data present a picture of a complex employment market and it is virtually impossible to tease apart the twin forces of a shrinking class and an overall job market that continues to improve (albeit modestly),” said NALP’s Executive Director James Leipold, “but it is clear that the shrinking class size did indeed have a positive impact on the overall employment rate, and that is a dynamic that will likely continue to be in play for the next three graduating classes, each of which is projected to continue to come down in size in fairly dramatic steps.”

Survey findings

Other findings for the Class of 2014 include:

  • 66.3 percent obtained a job that required bar passage, the highest rate since 2010.
  • 14.8 percent secured a position for which a J.D. was an advantage but bar passage was not required. The number of such law-related jobs has been growing steadily the past seven years since just 7.7 percent of the Class of 2007 obtained J.D.-advantage employment.
  • 62 percent of the reported jobs were full-time, long-term and required bar passage, a jump of 3 percentage points from the Class of 2013
  • 50.9 percent of the employed 2014 graduates had jobs in private practice, down from the 51.1 percent of the Class of 2013. Meanwhile, just under 30 percent had jobs in the public sector and public interest and just under 20 percent secured positions in business.
  • $63,000 was the national median salary for the Class of 2014. The total was little changed from the $62,467 for the Class of 2013 but less than the $72,000 for the Class of 2008.
  • $95,000 was the national median salary for class members who got jobs at law firms. This is down from $125,000 for the Class of 2008.
  • $52,700 was the median salary for government jobs.
  • $45,000 was the median salary for public interest organizations including legal services providers and public defenders.
  • $54,000 was the median salary for judicial clerkships.

jobs-pullout-PG5.jpg“It is clear that the overall jobs profile for the Class of 2014 has improved considerably from that for the Class of 2011, the class that will come to be seen as having faced the worst overall post-recession job market, and we fully expect that the overall employment rate for the Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 will continue to improve,” Leipold said. “Nonetheless the changes facing the industry are enormous and it is all but certain that the job market will continue to change for new law school graduates in the years ahead.”•

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