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Employment Patterns 1999-2009

NALP Bulletin, August 2009

Over time, women and minorities have been less likely to take jobs in law firms and more likely to take jobs with government and public interest employers. For those graduates who do take jobs in law firms, women and minorities are more likely to take jobs in the largest firms of more than 500 lawyers compared with men and non-minorities. The table on "Initial Employer Types" shows the kinds of full-time jobs taken by the Classes of 1999, 2004, and 2009.

  • Compared to men, women from the Class of 2009 were less likely to enter private practice and more likely to accept positions in government or public interest organizations or as judicial clerks - 29.5% for women compared with 24.1% for men. This pattern is similar to those of prior years, with some fluctuation in the differential. 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 500 lawyers and, until 2009, somewhat less likely to take jobs in small firms of 2-25 lawyers. The percentage of women going into private practice and taking jobs in firms of more than 500 lawyers has been 1-2 percentage points higher than the rate for men.

  • Minorities likewise enter private practice less frequently than do non-minorities. However, the differential of about 2 percentage points in 2009 contrasts with the 6-7 percentage point differential in 1999 and 2004.

  • Minorities entering private practice are considerably more likely to obtain jobs in firms of more than 500 lawyers 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 2009, the figures were 33.8% and 24.8%, respectively, a 9 percentage point differential. This compares with a differential of about 3 percentage points in 1999. The opposite pattern is noted for small firms.

  • Compared to non-minorities, minorities historically have been more likely to take public service positions — jobs in government, public interest organizations, and as judicial clerks. However, because of an overall decline in the prevalence of such jobs among minorities and an increase in public service employment among non-minorities, in 2006, for the first time, the percentage of minorities and non-minorities taking public service jobs was nearly equal. The percentages remain close, at about 27% for both groups, in 2009. The relative decline in government employment among minorities is noteworthy - from almost 17% of jobs in 1999 to about 13% of jobs in 2009. Similar to women compared with men, minorities remain more likely than non-minorities to take public interest positions.

For a longer term perspective on this topic dating back to 1982, see the June 2006 research column Employment Patterns — 1982-2004.

Employer Types — Comparisons for the Classes of 1999, 2004, and 2009

Men and Women

  1999 2004 2009
Men Women Men Women Men Women
Private Practice 57.5% 54.4% 58.6% 56.0% 61.0% 57.4%
By size of firm*
Solo 3.1 2.2 3.3 2.2 6.3 3.6
2-25 39.1 35.9 42.9 41.3 38.8 38.4
26-100 13.9 14.6 13.0 12.7 10.1 9.3
101-250 12.5 13.3 9.1 9.1 7.2 7.8
251-500 13.1 14.3 8.3 9.3 7.3 8.5
501+ 9.9 10.9 15.6 17.5 26.7 28.8
Business/industry 14.3 11.0 12.5 10.0 12.8 10.5
Government 12.9 14.1 12.1 11.9 11.7 11.7
Judicial Clerkships 10.5 13.3 10.7 12.8 8.8 11.0
Public Interest 1.7 3.9 3.4 6.1 3.6 6.8
Academic 0.8 1.2 1.4 1.7 1.5 2.0
Total # of full-time jobs 16,779 13,328 15,426 14,769 17,123 14,166

Minorities and Non-minorities

  1999 2004 2009
Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities
Private Practice 57.2% 51.0% 58.7% 51.7% 59.8% 57.5%
By size of firm*
Solo 2.6 2.7 2.7 3.2 5.2 5.4
2-25 39.6 28.8 43.9 36.3 41.7 32.1
26-100 14.4 13.4 13.4 11.1 10.3 8.5
101-250 12.7 13.4 9.3 9.0 7.6 6.7
251-500 13.0 17.3 8.7 9.4 7.5 9.2
501+ 9.9 13.3 15.3 20.8 24.8 33.8
Business/industry 12.8 13.6 10.8 12.8 11.6 12.4
Government 12.7 16.8 11.6 13.9 11.4 13.0
Judicial Clerkships 12.2 10.2 12.1 10.5 10.5 7.3
Public Interest 2.3 4.4 4.3 6.8 4.6 6.8
Academic 0.9 1.5 1.4 2.5 1.6 2.2
Total # of full-time jobs 23,623 5,027 23,014 5,590 22,263 6,098

Note: Percentages are based on graduates employed full-time, including those for whom employer type was not reported; hence percentages do not add to 100. In 1999, public defenders were counted in the government category; starting in 2004, they have been counted in the public interest category. Minorities are defined as Black/African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Native Americans, Hispanics of any race, and multi-racial graduates.

* 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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