Report: Law school Class of 2019 had best employment rate since Great Recession

A new jobs report from National Association for Law Placement says law school graduates in 2019 enjoyed some of the best of times while nodding to fears that the 2020 graduates may experience the worst of times.

Released Wednesday, the report, “Employment for the Class of 2019 – Selected Findings,” found that the Class of 2019 posted the highest employment rate in the 12 years since the start of the Great Recession. Overall employment hit 90.3% for last year’s law school graduates whose employment status is known. This compares to 89.4% for the Class of 2018 and marks the highest employment rate on record since the 91.9% rate was posted by the Class of 2007.

“The good news is that employment outcomes and salary findings for members of the Class of 2019 are among the strongest ever measured and set several new high water marks,” said James G. Leipold, NALP executive director. “The bad news is that they are not likely to be predictive of the employment outcomes for the next several classes, as the recession and other changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to provide a much more challenging job market for some years to come.”

The percentage of graduates taking jobs for which bar passage is required or anticipated grew to 76.2% in 2019 from 72.8% in 2018. Also nationally, 74.3% of graduates with known employment status were employed in a full-time, long-term, bar passage-required job.

In Indiana, 2019 graduates from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and Notre Dame Law School topped the national rate, according to data from the American Bar Association. Of last year’s graduates, 77.3% from the Bloomington school and 86.0% from the South Bend institution secured full-time, long-term, bar passage-required jobs.

At Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, 60.7% of the Class of 2019 obtained full-time, long-term, bar passage-required positions.

The ABA did not report any employment stats for Valparaiso Law School, which closed in June.

Other highlights from the NALP report include:

• Well over half (55.2%) of employed graduates obtained a job in private practice, a slight increase of 0.4 percentage points over the previous year and the closest the percentage has come to the 55.9% figure for 2009 since then.

• 30.2% of law firm jobs were in firms of more than 500 lawyers.

• The national median salary for the Class of 2019 based on these reported salaries was $72,500, up 3.6% compared to the Class of 2018, and finally surpassed the previous all-time high of $72,000 for the classes of 2008 and 2009.

• The national median law firm salary for Class of 2019 graduates was $125,000, up 4.2% over the previous year. Additionally, 35% of all law firm salaries were reported as $190,000.

The Selected Findings report is a synopsis of key findings from the annual “Jobs & JDs: Employment and Salaries of New Law School Graduates” which will be released in October.

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