New Research on Employment Outcomes for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Graduates

NALP Bulletin, November 2015

Starting with the Class of 2014, NALP expanded the demographic information collected on law school graduates to include sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, graduates had the opportunity to identify as transgender. In this first year of collecting such information, about 38% of graduates self-identified as to sexual orientation. Of those who did, not quite 4% — just over 600 graduates — identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB). Perhaps the most interesting finding about this group is that they are much less likely to take a job in private practice — about 42% of employed graduates compared to about 51% of employed graduates as a whole — and much more likely to take a job with a public interest organization — about 16% of employed graduates compared with just over 7% of employed graduates as a whole. (See Table 1.) In total 15 graduates identified as transgender, a group size precluding further analysis. Other findings include the following.

Overall, more than half (57%) of this group are males, and about three-quarters are white. Looking at race/ethnicity and gender together reveals that about 45% are white males, and not quite one-third are white women. A few LGB graduates additionally reported as identifying as neither male nor female.

As a whole, employer types for these graduates are unlike any other demographic group, since no other group of graduates combines a relatively low percentage of graduates in private practice with a relatively high percentage of employed graduates taking public interest positions. As Table 1 shows, this is also true of LGB graduates based on race/ethnicity, keeping in mind that percentages based on small counts will vary much more with a change in counts of just one or two than will percentages based on larger counts. For example, among LGB African-American graduates, private practice and public interest percentages were 41% and 14%, respectively. Interestingly, although employer types for Asian/Pacific Islanders as a whole are quite similar to those of white graduates, for LGB Asian/Pacific Islander graduates, employer types are distinct from both of these groups. Comparing men and women shows that women are less likely than men to take a job in private practice (37%), and more likely to take a job with a public interest organization (21%).

Employed LGB graduates going into private practice are much more likely to take that job in a large firm and less likely to take it in a small firm compared to graduates overall. Thus, among LGB graduates taking jobs in private practice, the percentage of jobs taken in firms of 251+ lawyers was almost 40%, compared with 27% for graduates as a whole. The shares of jobs in small firms were about 37% and 41%, respectively.

Looking at overall employment status, graduates identifying as LGB were a bit more likely to be employed than the class as a whole — 87.1% compared to 86.7%. However, the percentage of LGB graduates in a bar passage required job was about two percentage points below the average — 64.4% compared with 66.3% — and rates of JD advantage and other professional employment were higher, at 17.7% and 5.4% of graduates. Comparable national figures were 14.8% and 4.2%.

Among LGB graduates taking jobs in private practice, the percentage taken in firms of 251+ lawyers was almost 40%, compared with 27% for graduates as a whole. In this first year of collecting this information, not all schools collected or reported this information to NALP. About one-quarter of schools (47) did not report this information for any of their graduates, and an additional 23 reported this information for less than 15% of their graduates. Seventeen schools achieved 90% or better coverage, but the median percentage of graduates for whom this information was reported was about one-third.

This analysis was partially supported by a grant from Walmart, Inc. that recognized NALP's research in advancing diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.

Table 1. Employer Types for LGB Graduates

  Academic Business Judicial Clerkships Private Practice Government Public Interest
Total (529) 4.2% 16.0% 11.2% 41.6% 11.2% 15.9%
     Women (227) 3.5 15.0 11.9 36.6 11.9 21.2
     Men (299) 4.7 16.7 10.4 45.8 10.7 11.7
Whites (396) 4.8 22.7 9.1 42.9 10.4 14.1
All Minorities (124) 1.6 20.2 5.7 38.7 11.3 22.6
Asian/Pacific Islander (32) 0.0 21.9 9.4 37.5 9.4 21.9
African-American (22) 4.6 22.7 9.1 40.9 9.1 13.6
Hispanic (31) 0.0 9.7 3.2 38.7 16.1 32.3

Note: Figures in parentheses indicate the number of employed graduates in the category specified.

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