NALP Bulletin, September 2018
The overall employment rate for the Class of 2017 was 88.6% of graduates for whom employment status was known, up by 1.1 percentage points compared with 2016. The Class of 2017 is only the third to record an increase since 2007. (See Table 1. Employment Trends — 1985-2017.) Thus, the overall employment rate remains more than 3 percentage points below the 91.9% reached in 2007, which stands as the highest rate since 1988.
The rate of employment in jobs requiring bar passage also increased for the fourth year in a row, from 67.7% to 71.8% of graduates for whom employment status was known. This was only the fourth increase since 2007. However, this single year increase was greater than in the previous four years (2013-2016) combined. Moreover, the number of jobs found by graduates was down by more than 1,200 compared with 2016. However, since the number of graduates was also down according to the ABA, the employment rate increased despite a decline in the number of jobs.
Just over 54% of employed graduates obtained a job in private practice. Though well above the trough of 2011 when the measured rate was only 49.5%, these figures are nonetheless below the prevailing levels of 55-64% of jobs for the 25 years prior to 2010. As shown in Table 2. Law Firm Jobs by Firm Size — Classes of 1985-2017, the distribution of these jobs by firm size has changed over the years. For many years, jobs in firms of 1-10 lawyers outnumbered those in firms of more than 100 lawyers. In 1998, the pattern reversed, and up until the Class of 2010 the number of jobs taken in firms of more than 100 lawyers outnumbered those taken in firms of 1-10 lawyers. (The 1-10 category includes graduates who are working for a solo practitioner.)
Starting with the Class of 2010 there was a sharp reversal, with jobs in small firms outnumbering those in firms of more than 100 lawyers for the first time since 1997. The difference grew wider with the Class of 2011, but has shrunk since then as large firm hiring rebounded somewhat. By 2016, the two categories accounted for close to equal percentages. However, 2017 marked another fairly large shift, as the percentage of jobs in the smallest and largest firms approached their 2009 levels. It remains the case, however, that the proportion of jobs in either very small or large firms has accounted for at least 70% of law firm jobs since 2000. Finally, the percentage of law firm jobs reported as solo practice, that is, graduates who started their own solo practice after law school, has decreased considerably since 2011 and now is more comparable with non-recessionary periods, such as the late 1980s and the early 2000s, than with recessionary/post-recessionary periods. (Note that the firm size "101 or more" is used in this table in order to provide figures going back to 1985.)
|OF THOSE FOR WHOM EMPLOYMENT STATUS WAS KNOWN|
|Year||% Employed||% Employed
|% Continuing Studies||% of Jobs |
in Law Firms
|% Employed in Positions Requiring Bar Passage||% Employed in Positions Where JD Is an Advantage||% Employed in Other Professional Positions||% Employed in Non-Professional Positions|
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 seeking employment as well as those neither working in any capacity nor actively seeking a job. Starting in 2011, the figure includes graduates who had accepted an offer of employment but had not started the job as of February 15 (class years 2011-2013) and March 15 (class years since 2014). New job classifications effective with the Class of 2001 preclude direct comparisons of job types with prior years.
|Year||SIZE OF FIRM (NUMBER OF LAWYERS)|
|Solo||2-10||11-25||26-50||51-100||101 or more|
Note: Figures for 1989 and 1990 reflect only full-time law firm jobs; for all other years, figures reflect all law firm jobs acquired by graduates. Figures in this table differ slightly from those published in national reports (Employment Report & Salary Survey/Jobs & JDs) because law firm jobs for which firm size was not reported are excluded from the base.