Employment Patterns — 20-Year Trends — 1982 - 2002

NALP Bulletin, August 2003 

NALP's graduate employment data show that, historically, women and minorities are less likely to take jobs in law firms and more likely to take jobs with public sector employers. The table below presents data on jobs taken by the Classes of 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000, and 2002. Note that minorities are defined as African-Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders (including East Indian/Pakistanis), Native Americans, and Hispanics of any race.

  • Compared to men, women from the Class of 2002 were less likely to enter private practice and more likely to accept positions in government or public interest organizations or as judicial clerks. Although this pattern is similar to those of prior years, the differences in how many women take jobs in private practice, government, and clerkships have narrowed. Women, however, remain about twice as likely as men to take public interest jobs.

  • It is also the case that, compared with men going into private practice, women are somewhat more likely to take jobs in firms of more than 100 attorneys, and somewhat less likely to take jobs in very small firms of 2-10 attorneys. The percentage of women going into private practice and taking jobs in firms of more than 100 attorneys has been 2 to 4 percentage points higher than the rate for men, with the largest differentials in 1988 and 2000, and the smallest differential in 2002.

  • Minorities likewise enter private practice less frequently than do non-minorities. However, the 6.5 percentage point differential in 2002 is well below the 15.9% percentage point difference in 1982, and also contrasts with an 11.3 percentage point differential as recently as the mid-1990s.

  • Minorities entering private practice are more likely to obtain jobs in firms of more than 100 attorneys than are non-minorities, even as the share of jobs in large firms has generally increased over the period for both groups. For the Class of 2002, the figures were 44% and 37.8%, respectively. The difference has fluctuated from 5.1 percentage points (in 1988) to 11.3 percentage points (in 1994).

  • Compared to non-minorities, minorities have been and remain more likely to take public service jobs, particularly jobs in government and public interest organizations. However, because of an overall decline in the prevalence of such jobs among minorities and an increase in public service employment among non-minorities, the difference in 2002 is less than one-third what it was in 1982 (3.6 percentage points versus 12.6 percentage points), but is somewhat higher than in 2000 (3.3 percentage points). The relative decline in government employment among minorities is noteworthy — from a high of over 20% of jobs to approximately 16% of jobs.

Initial Employer Types —
Comparisons for the Classes of 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000, and 2002

Men and Women


1982 1988 1994 2000 2002
Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women Men Women
Private Practice 60.4% 54.2% 66.4% 61.6% 58.9% 51.4% 58.0% 53.5% 60.5% 58.2%
Size of Firm*
Solo 7.7 5.8 3.0 2.1 5.7 4.1 2.6 1.8 2.4 1.8
2-10 38.9 36.9 28.3 26.9 36.0 35.6 27.6 25.4 28.2 27.5
11-25 14.4 13.5 14.3 13.6 12.1 10.8 10.2 9.7 10.3 9.8
26-50 10.7 10.1 12.1 11.4 7.6 6.5 7.3 7.0 6.7 6.4
51-100 9.5 11.7 13.0 12.8 7.6 7.9 7.0 7.2 7.0 6.9
101+ 13.9 17.0 26.2 30.1 22.4 26.0 36.7 40.6 38.3 40.4
Business/Industry 11.5 8.5 7.5 6.0 12.2 10.9 13.3 10.6 10.9 8.5
Government 12.8 14.2 13.1 14.8 12.6 14.9 12.9 14.5 12.8 12.9
Judicial Clerkships 9.4 13.8 11.2 14.6 11.4 15.2 10.3 14.0 10.9 13.2
Public Interest 1.4 3.4 1.0 2.2 1.8 3.8 1.7 3.8 1.7 4.0
Academic 1.1 1.9 0.8 1.3 0.8 1.4 0.9 1.3 1.2 1.4
Total # of Jobs 15,695 7,139 13,252 8,839 13,936 10,076 16,344 13,626 15,320 14,077

 

Minorities and Non-minorities


1982 1988 1994 2000 2002
Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities
Private Practice 59.4% 43.5% 65.3% 55.3% 57.5% 46.2% 57.5% 50.2% 60.6% 54.1%
Size of Firm*
Solo 7.2 6.5 2.6 3.0 5.2 4.7 2.1 2.4 2.0 2.6
2-10 38.4 35.5 28.2 23.3 37.4 27.5 28.1 21.7 29.0 25.5
11-25 14.3 11.1 14.2 12.2 12.1 8.9 10.6 7.7 10.9 7.4
26-50 10.7 8.1 11.9 10.9 7.5 5.6 7.5 6.1 7.1 4.9
51-100 10.1 10.0 12.9 12.8 7.6 9.3 7.2 6.8 7.1 6.1
101+ 14.5 21.3 27.3 32.4 22.7 34.0 36.8 45.6 37.8 44.0
Business/Industry 10.5 11.4 6.8 7.4 11.7 11.4 11.6 13.8 9.4 10.8
Government 12.8 21.0 12.8 22.5 12.4 20.8 12.9 17.1 12.3 16.1
Judicial Clerkships 10.9 9.6 12.9 9.8 13.3 11.6 12.6 10.1 12.4 10.3
Public Interest 1.7 7.4 1.3 3.4 2.2 5.4 2.4 3.7 2.4 4.3
Academic 1.3 1.8 0.9 1.5 0.9 1.8 1.0 1.5 1.1 2.0
Total # of Jobs 21,495 1,339 19,935 2,156 19,622 3,298 22,993 5,332 22,530 5,216

Note: Percentages are based on all graduates known to be employed, including those for whom employer type is unknown. Percentages for unknown employer types are not shown; hence percentages may not add to 100. Data for 1982 and 1988 were adjusted to conform with classifications used in 1994 to 2002. Graduates pursuing an advanced degree full-time are excluded from the academic category for 1982, and public defenders are counted under government rather than public interest for 1982 and 1988. Because of these adjustments, the figures shown here may differ from those published in Jobs & J.D.'s or ERSS reports. Class of 1994, 2000, and 2002 figures are based on full-time jobs only. Figures based on all jobs vary only slightly, generally a few tenths of a percent.

Percentages by size of firm are based on law firm jobs only and do not add to 100 because the unknown size category is not shown.

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