Trends in Graduate Employment — 1985-2002

NALP Bulletin, June 2003

The table below shows employment trends for new law graduates for the 18-year period from 1985 to 2002. Because of changes to the job classification question effective with the Class of 2001, exact comparisons with prior years are not available for all trends. Nonetheless, it is evident that, despite a slight drop in the overall employment rate in the last two years, the market for new law graduates has been quite strong in recent years, with overall employment at or above 89% since 1997. Also of note is a continuing decline, now in its ninth year, of the percentage of law firm jobs in very small firms of 2-10 attorneys.

Year OF THOSE FOR WHOM EMPLOYMENT STATUS WAS KNOWN % of Jobs in Law Firms % of Law Firm Jobs in Firms of 2-10
% Employed % Employed Legal Full-time % Employed Legal Part-time % Employed Other Full-time % Employed Other Part-time % Not Working % Pursuing Advanced Degree
1985 91.5% 81.6% 2.6% 6.7% 0.8% 7.0% 1.5% 60.6% 35.7%
1986 91.3 81.8 2.5 6.2 0.8 7.2 1.5 62.3 32.4
1987 92.2 84.1 2.0 5.6 0.5 6.6 1.2 63.5 31.6
1988 92.0 84.5 2.0 4.9 0.5 6.9 1.1 64.3 28.6
1989 90.8 82.7 2.2 5.2 0.5 7.9 1.3 62.4 24.6
1990 90.3 82.1 2.4 5.2 0.7 8.2 1.4 62.9 28.7
1991 85.9 76.1 3.3 5.6 0.9 12.6 1.5 60.8 33.1
1992 83.5 72.5 4.0 5.9 1.1 14.5 1.9 59.0 38.0
1993 83.4 70.3 4.6 7.0 1.5 14.6 2.0 57.1 41.5
1994 84.7 69.6 5.2 8.1 1.8 13.1 2.2 55.0 41.0
1995 86.7 70.7 5.4 9.0 1.6 11.2 2.1 56.1 40.9
1996 87.4 71.4 4.7 9.7 1.6 10.5 2.1 55.7 39.3
1997 89.2 73.6 4.4 9.9 1.5 8.6 2.2 55.6 36.4
1998 89.9 74.9 3.7 10.0 1.4 7.9 2.2 55.0 33.5
1999 90.3 75.5 2.9 9.8 1.1 7.8 1.9 55.1 31.4
2000 91.5 77.3 2.5 9.6 1.0 6.4 2.1 54.8 30.2


% Employed in Positions Requiring Bar Passage % Employed in Positions Where JD Is Preferred % Employed in Other Professional Positions % Employed in Non- Professional Positions



2001 90.0 75.9 6.0 5.5 1.5 7.6 2.4 57.8 29.9
2002 89.0 75.3 5.2 5.8 1.6 8.5 2.5 58.1 28.9

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 both seeking and not seeking employment. In order to provide consistent trend data, figures for the percent of law firm jobs in firms of 2-10 are calculated using a base that excludes law firm jobs for which firm size was not reported. New job classifications effective with the Class of 2001 preclude direct comparisons of job types with prior years.

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