Highlights of Employment Outcomes for the Class of 2015

September 2016

The overall employment rate for the Class of 2015 was unchanged from that for the Class of 2014, at 86.7% of graduates for whom employment status was known. Additionally, the broad contours of the employment settings in which graduates take jobs and the kinds of jobs taken are similar to those for the Class of 2014. However, all of this is within the context of a smaller graduating class and a smaller number of jobs. Additionally, some changes in those contours are worth noting, though none are dramatic. Highlights include:

  • All but one of the U.S. law schools that were accredited at the time that the Class of 2015 graduated provided graduate employment information to NALP. Collectively these schools reported on 39,298 graduates, with employment status known for 38,727, or 98.5%, of graduates at these 202 schools.

  • The number of jobs found by this class was down by more than 3,000 compared with the Class of 2014. However, the number of graduates for whom employment status was known was also down, resulting in no change in the overall employment rate.

  • The percentage of graduates taking jobs for which bar passage is required/anticipated increased for the second year in a row, but the increase, from 66.3% to 66.6% of graduates for whom employment status was known, was much smaller than the nearly two percentage point increase from 2013 to 2014.

  • For the first time since 2007, the percentage of graduates taking a job for which a JD was an advantage decreased, but again the change was small, from 14.8% to 14.5% of graduates for whom employment status was known, and it is not possible to know what will happen next year.

  • The percentage of jobs in private practice has wavered in a small range of 50.7% to 51.3% of jobs in the past four years, with 51.3% achieved with the Class of 2015.

  • With the number of jobs overall down, it follows that the number of jobs in more discrete segments of the market would also decline. This is largely the case, with a few exceptions. Specifically, the number of judicial clerkships was off by less than 20, and the number of jobs taken at the largest firms — those with more than 500 lawyers — increased modestly to push their share of law firm jobs up by two percentage points, from 21.3% of law firm jobs to 23.3%, even as the number of law firm jobs overall was off by about 1,400.

  • Schools are funding far fewer fixed duration job opportunities for their graduates. Fixed duration funded jobs numbered about 950, compared with 1,445 for the Class of 2014.

  • Salaries were reported for about 70% of jobs that were reported as being full-time and lasting at least a year. (All NALP analyses of salaries for new law school graduates are based on salaries reported for full-time jobs lasting at least a year.) The distribution of reported salaries remains decidedly bi-modal, virtually a carbon copy of that for 2014, with salaries of $160,000 accounting for about 17% of salaries reported for full-time jobs lasting at least a year, and salaries of $40,000 to $65,000 accounting for about half of reported salaries. Recent moves on the part of many firms to a starting salary of $180,000 occurred after Class of 2015 graduates started their law firm jobs, and so won’t be reflected until findings are compiled for the Class of 2016.

For more detail and commentary on the employment outcomes for the Class of 2015, see the Selected Findings for this class posted at www.nalp.org/classof2015. The full report on the Class of 2015, NALP’s Jobs & JDs report, will be available this fall.

Changes to the Graduate Survey Form for the Class of 2017

At its July meeting, NALP’s Board of Directors agreed to the recommendations of the Research Advisory Group concerning the graduate survey form for the Class of 2017. The changes are as follows:

  • There is a new question as to whether the graduate was or was not a transfer student.

  • The timing of the job offer question will be in two parts to better accommodate those graduates who do not intend to take a bar exam. The first part will ask if the job offer was received before or after graduation; if after graduation there will be a follow-on question with three options: before bar results; after bar results; and timing relative to bar results is not applicable, no bar exam taken.

  • There are two new choices under type of business employer: real estate, and retail trade or hospitality sector. Previously jobs with such employers had to be reported in the “other business or industry” category. The addition of these two options, along with the health care option already in place for the Class of 2016, should help pare down the prevalence of the “other” category.

The graduate survey form and FAQs for the Class of 2017 have been posted at www.nalp.org/erssinfo.

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