New data from the American Bar Association indicates that the legal employment market for new law school graduates is still struggling, and may have shifted altogether. The data was released at least in part due to growing concerns about the employment fates of newly minted lawyers. The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) that this is the first time the ABA has released employment data on the percentage of the previous year’s graduates who have secured permanent, full-time jobs requiring a law degree.
Nationwide, the overall numbers are dismal, with only 55% of 2011 law school graduates obtaining full-time, long-term employment requiring a law degree. There is better news for graduates of more elite schools. University of Virginia, Columbia, Stanford, NYU and Harvard all posted employment rates greater than ninety percent, and most schools ranked highly by U.S. News & World Report also reported high employment rates. Several lower-ranked schools, such as Louisiana State and the University of Alabama, also reported that more than 75% of their graduates had employment meeting the ABA’s definition.
But many schools reported alarmingly low employment rates. Even when employment is expanded to include jobs for which a law degree is preferred but not required, and jobs for which a law degree confers no special advantage, a remarkable number of schools reported less than 50% employment. Among them: Whittier College, University of the District of Columbia, Golden Gate University, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and Western New England University. It should be noted that all 198 schools on the list are ABA-approved – the ABA did not include statistics for unapproved schools in this release.
Law school deans provided a number of explanations for these results, including the fact that students at lower-ranked schools may need to obtain bar membership before being considered for certain jobs. Other school representatives noted that some students attend law school specifically to advance their careers in other fields, not to become lawyers. But the schools are not unconcerned. Says Whittier Law School dean Penelope Bryan:
“We consider this a problem… We have redesigned completely our career development and we expect to see some improvement, but in the meantime we’ve had to live with this transition.”
Unfortunately for the law students graduating during this transition, that improvement may come too late.
Posted by Emily Fisher
The Low-Cost Lawyer is Not a Lawyer (April 6, 2012)