Employment Rate Falls Again, but Law Firm Jobs Are Up
NALP Bulletin, August 2013
The overall employment rate for the Class of 2012 was 84.7% of graduates for whom employment status was known, matching the rate of 1994, and continuing a decline that started in 2008. (See the table entitled "Employment Trends, 1985 – 2012.")
The employment rate for new law school graduates has fallen more than seven percentage points since reaching a 24-year high of 91.9% in 2007. Nonetheless, the employment picture for this class contained some bright spots. For more insight into the employment picture for the Class of 2012, see the related article "Class of 2012 Employment and Salary Findings Show First Positive Signs Since 2008" in the August 2013 edition of the NALP Bulletin.
Just over half (50.7%) of employed graduates obtained a job in private practice, almost returning to the level of 2010, but nonetheless below the prevailing levels of 55-64% of jobs for the previous 25 years. As shown in the table entitled "Law Firm Jobs by Firm Size," the distribution of these jobs by firm size has changed over the years. For many years, jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers outnumbered those in firms of more than 100 lawyers. In 1998, the pattern reversed, and up until the Class of 2010 the number of jobs taken in firms of more than 100 lawyers outnumbered those taken in firms of 2-10 lawyers.
Starting with the Class of 2010 there was a sharp reversal, with jobs in small firms outnumbering those in firms of more than 100 lawyers for the first time since 1997. The difference grew wider with the class of 2011, and then shrank some in 2012. It remains the case, however, that the proportion of jobs in either very small or large firms has been growing, accounting for at least 70% of law firm jobs since 2000. Finally, the percentage of law firm jobs reported as solo practice decreased in 2012. Nonetheless, the rate of solo practice remains relatively high compared to non-recessionary periods such as the late 1980s and the early 2000s.
Note: Overall employment rates for 1990-1998 are based on all graduates for whom employment status was known, excluding a small number known to be employed but for whom basic job type was not known. Overall rates for all other years include such graduates, and thus may not necessarily be obtained by adding up figures for individual job types. Also, in 1985 and 1986, multiple jobs held by one person were reported separately; hence legal and other employment percentages for these years reflect positions taken rather than individuals and cannot be added to obtain the overall employment rate. The percentage not working includes graduates seeking employment as well as those neither working in any capacity nor actively seeking a job. For 2011 and 2012, the figure includes graduates who had accepted an offer of employment but had not started the job as of February 15. New job classifications effective with the Class of 2001 preclude direct comparisons of job types with prior years.
Note: Figures for 1989 and 1990 reflect only full-time law firm jobs; for all other years figures reflect all law firm jobs acquired by graduates. Figures in this table differ slightly from those published in national reports (Employment Report & Salary Survey/Jobs & JD's) because law firm jobs for which firm size was not reported are excluded from the base.