Jobs in Business and Industry: A 25-Year Retrospective, 1992-2017

NALP Bulletin, July 2018

Over a period of 25 years, the apex of law school graduates taking jobs in business, measured as either a percentage of all jobs taken or as a number, occurred for the classes of 2011-2014. In this 4-year period, these jobs numbered well over 6,000 and accounted for about 18% of jobs taken. Since then, the percentage has come down, and, based on preliminary figures for the Class of 2017, is comparable to levels seen throughout much of the period from 1995 to 2010. See Table 1.

Numbers are also down, reflecting both the declining percentage and the smaller overall graduating class sizes. See Table 2.

Over this 25-year time span, we can also see how growth in business jobs occurred in recessionary/post-recessionary periods starting in 1993 and 2010. It should be noted that both the number of graduates and the percentage for whom employment status was known has increased in the past 25 years. However, the broad contours of the trend remain, and it is clear that there has been a net gain in the number of jobs as shown by the additional chart on the number of jobs reported in business and industry from 1992-2016. And in fact, taking the figures back to 1992 shows that the number of jobs has more than doubled. Note that the number of jobs for the Class of 2017 is not presented here, as the full national data set was not complete as of this writing. For earlier versions of this column, see the NALP Bulletin research columns from November 2013 and February 2016.

Over the past 25 years the kinds of employers tracked within business have changed some, precluding comprehensive trends for all. For those employer types which have been tracked consistently, banking and finance has experienced net growth over the period, in contrast to insurance. Among more recently tracked categories, jobs in technology/e-commerce companies have seen modest net growth in the past ten years, while the number of jobs in legal temp agencies has fluctuated considerably and fell to its lowest point in 2016. See Table 3.

Although other kinds of employers within business are tracked, such as associations, management consulting firms, healthcare organizations, and entertainment/sports management operations, it remains the case that not quite half the jobs in business and industry are with "other" kinds of employers not specifically tracked. This encompasses a wide range of businesses, such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and various service sectors, to name but a few kinds of employers.

NALP has tracked the kinds of jobs taken in business (regardless of business employer type) since 2001. In-house lawyer jobs have accounted for about 14-15% of business jobs in recent years, with numbers ranging from just over 1,000 in 2014 to somewhat less than 700 in 2016. Starting with the Class of 2014, compliance jobs were tracked and have numbered in the 500 to 600 range, accounting for about 10% of business jobs. Compliance has been the next largest specific job type reported, after in-house lawyer. A couple hundred graduates obtain a job as a tax associate, a category tracked starting in 2015. See Table 4.

Finally, the growth of business jobs which are categorized as JD Advantage (JD Preferred prior to 2011) is evident. The percentage of jobs for which bar passage is required has drifted up and down. Prior to 2001, jobs were classified as legal, other professional, and non-professional, so direct comparisons with 2001 and later years are not possible. During the 1994-2000 period about 40% of business jobs were reported as legal. It is likely that some portion of these jobs were closer to the JD Advantage categorization than to a job for which bar passage, in addition to a JD degree, was required. Since 2001, the share of business jobs reported as JD Advantage has doubled, and since 2014 they have accounted for about half of business jobs.


Table 1. Jobs in Business and Industry, Selected Trends 1992-2016

Year Total # of Jobs
in Business/
Industry
% Bar Passage
Required
% JD Advantage # OF JOBS IN SELECTED EMPLOYER TYPES
Accounting Banking/
Finance
Insurance Technology/
E-commerce
Legal Temp Agencies
1992 2,263 NC NC 258 221 238 NC NC
1993 2,689 NC NC 271 302 253 NC NC
1994 3,241 NC NC 278 315 279 NC NC
1995 3,760 NC NC 393 376 312 NC NC
1996 4,149 NC NC 416 445 349 NC NC
1997 4,413 NC NC 507 476 338 NC NC
1998 4,388 NC NC 575 482 317 NC NC
1999 4,247 NC NC 557 453 278 NC NC
2000 3,977 NC NC 422 381 224 NC NC
2001 3,515 29.3 23.6 360 282 215 181 NC
2002 3,349 27.8 23.8 199 275 207 199 NC
2003 3,671 26.9 26.2 161 256 247 192 NC
2004 3,928 30.7 27.9 170 316 245 196 NC
2005 4,666 32.0 29.5 216 391 258 243 NC
2006 5,160 34.2 29.7 298 499 278 339 559
2007 5,223 34.2 29.8 298 536 214 318 636
2008 4,887 32.9 30.1 276 467 228 358 558
2009 4,861 28.9 28.7 192 434 230 356 418
2010 5,446 31.8 29.2 204 548 236 432 452
2011 6,442 29.8 37.2 246 654 256 544 701
2012 6,701 29.1 39.2 312 852 289 578 550
2013 6,935 28.4 42.3 364 957 311 555 510
2014 6,584 27.3 47.4 393 1,001 321 594* 349
2015 5,769 26.1 48.8 354 783 327 528* 378
2016 4,487 24.0 51.9 339 540 237 405* 305

*These figures include jobs with both law-related/legal technology companies and other technology/e-commerce companies. Prior to 2014, all such jobs were included in an overall technology/e-commerce category.







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