Employment Rates for Law School Grads Inch Up

July 31, 2015, 1:41 PM

Just one day after newly minted law school graduates finished this year’s bar exam, the National Association of Law Placement said that 87 percent of last year’s graduates have found jobs, a slight increase from the rate for those finishing law school in 2013.

Despite the rosy-sounding rate, the class of 2014, smaller than the class preceding it, found fewer jobs in total than the year before. Also, the data were collected through March 15; previously the cutoff was Feb. 15, meaning the graduates had more time to find jobs.According to NALP, while the overall number of jobs was three percent less than for 2013 graduates, the class itself was six percent smaller, which caused the uptick in the employment rate.

James Leipold, the executive director of the organization, said in a statement that “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.”

Of the 2014 graduates finding jobs, 50.9 percent were in private practice, slightly lower than the 51.1 percent rate for 2013 graduates. The nadir for law firm jobs, not surprisingly, was for those graduating in 2011, the year when the effects of the recession as well as the deferrals of previous classes hurt hiring. For those graduating in 2011, only 46 percent landed jobs in law firms. By comparison, in 2009, 56 percent of graduates got positions in firms.

Additionally, the number of jobs in firms with more than 500 lawyers was “essentially flat after two years of growth.”

Jobs in the smallest firms — two to 10 lawyers — accounted for 41 percent of law firm jobs, which was a slight drop from 2013.

Leipold said in the statement that NALP expects “that the overall employment rate for the Classes of 2015, 2016, and 2017 will continue to improve.”

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