Survey: Most law school grads say job hunt taking longer than expected

Recent law school graduates have been surprised to discover that finding work actually takes work, according to results of a survey released Monday.

Kaplan Bar Review asked 417 new JDs about their hunt for employment. According to the results, 52 percent said the job search process required more time than they anticipated; 11 percent said the job search required less time than they expected; and 37 percent said it required about the amount of time they had predicted.

However, law school graduates are getting hired. A report from the National Association for Law Placement found 10 months after graduation, 89.4 percent of the Class of 2018 had jobs. Although this is an improvement from the 88.6 percent employment rate for the Class of 2017, NALP was quick to note the smaller size of the 2018 class helped boost the job numbers.

Kaplan pointed out even with the rise in hiring, new lawyers are having to devote time and attention to finding employment.

“The job market for newly graduated lawyers has not been this strong since the start of the Great Recession, which is promising, but that doesn’t mean that jobs are just gong to fall into their laps,” said Tammi Rice, vice president of Kaplan Bar Review. “It requires networking, starting the process early, and often passing the bar exam, as many employers won’t hire you until you’ve secured your license.”

Those surveyed shared with Kaplan their biggest surprises about the job-hunting process. Their responses included:

  • “I think I overestimated the value of my (grade point average), class rank, journal experience and other qualifications. Not that those are unimportant, but I should have spent just as much time networking as I did studying.”
  • “I was surprised by the amount of people who don’t ask about your law school grades since professors and schools make it should like if you got any Cs in law school it is the end of your law career.”
  • “It was a bit of a surprise to learn that many firms do not hire pending bar results anymore, so navigating the limbo period between obtaining a degree and receiving bar passage results is a bit difficult.”

Overall, Kaplan found the graduates were pleased with their law schools. When asked about the quality of the help they received, 23 percent awarded their career services office an “A” and 30 percent gave them a “B” while 23 percent gave a “C”, 14 percent gave a “D”, and 11 percent an “F”.

Also, a large portion of graduates felt their law schools prepared them well. In terms of equipping them with the skills they will need as practicing attorneys, 33 percent of recent grads gave their alma maters an “A” and 45 percent awarded a “B,” but 16 percent gave their schools a “C”, and 3 percent each gave a “D” or “F”.

“Overconfidence can sometimes get law school graduates into trouble whether it’s thinking that they have allocated enough time to the job-hunting search to thinking they have the proper professional skills to easily transition to the workforce,” Rice said. “One thing we often hear from employers is that they wish their new lawyer hires were more work ready.”

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