June 18, 2012
The National Law Journal
ABA: Only 55 percent of law grads found full-time law jobs
By: Karen Sloan
Slightly more than half of the class of 2011 — 55 percent — found full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage nine months after they graduated, according to employment figures released on June 18 by the American Bar Association.
The statistic was perhaps the most sobering in a season of bad news about new lawyer employment. Less than one week earlier, the National Association for Law Placement reported that only two-thirds of new graduates landed any type of job requiring their law degree, and that the overall employment rate hit an 18-year low at 85.6 percent.
This is the first time the ABA has required law schools to report the number of their graduates in full-time, long-term legal jobs — a statistic that transparency advocates consider the most important for prospective law students. Previously, schools could lump together recent graduates in part-time jobs and full-time jobs, making it difficult to know how many graduates secured the most coveted jobs.
The newly released data do not include any salary information, but are the most up-to-date numbers the ABA has ever made public.
In response to public pressure over the accuracy and availability of employment data, the ABA released that information nearly a year earlier than it has in the past. (The ABA released a similar — though less detailed — data set of employment outcomes for the class of 2010 in April.) The faster turnaround this year gives incoming law students access to the employment outcomes of the most recent graduating class before they show up on campus in the fall.
But the information may give some would-be lawyers pause. When including part-time and short-term jobs that require bar passage, less than two-thirds of new graduates — 63 percent — were in legal jobs nine months after leaving law school. Another 12 percent were in jobs for which a J.D. degree was preferred but not required. Another 5 percent were in business or non-legal jobs. Nine percent reported that they were unemployed and seeking work.
The nonprofit group Law School Transparency used the ABA's numbers to calculate what it calls the "underemployment rate," including graduates who are unemployed and looking for work, in short-term or part-time jobs, seeking additional degrees, and in nonprofessional jobs. More than a quarter of new graduates — 26 percent — fell into those categories. At 20 law schools, more than 40 percent of graduates fell into Law School Transparency's definition of underemployed.
"Law school still costs way too much money compared to postgraduation employment outcomes," said Law School Transparency executive director Kyle McEntee. "If you plan to debt-finance your education or use your hard-earned savings, think twice about attending a law school without a steep discount."
Slightly more than 4 percent of the class of 2011 were in jobs funded by the law schools themselves, according to the ABA data, and the trend appeared to be on the rise. Twenty-seven law schools had 10 percent or more of their 2011 graduates on their payroll.
In 2010, the City University of New York School of Law had hired the highest percentage of graduates, at 19 percent. But it was eclipsed by 14 other law schools in 2011. The University of Miami School of Law and the University of Notre Dame Law School both reported hiring 23 percent of their graduates, followed closely by Boston University School of Law at 22 percent and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law at 19 percent. Several of the country's most prestigious law schools, including the University of Chicago Law School, New York University School of Law, the University of Virginia School of Law and Yale Law School, hired 10 percent or more of their class of 2011.
Five law schools reported full-time, long-term, bar passage-required employment rates of 90 percent or more: Columbia Law School, Harvard Law School, NYU, Stanford Law School and Virginia. Thirty schools had corresponding percentages of below 40 percent. The three lowest were Golden Gate University School of Law at 22 percent, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law at 21 percent and Whittier Law School at 17 percent.
Slightly more than 10 percent of the class of 2011 landed in full-time, long-term jobs at law firms of 101 or more attorneys, according to the ABA data. Only three schools sent 50 percent or more of their recent graduates into major law firms: Columbia Law School, Northwestern University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
The ABA has provided its data in a large Excel spreadsheet format that allows users to compare statistics across schools, but also breaks the numbers out by individual law schools for those interested in particular institutions.