Employment of New Law Graduates Continues to Rise

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) has announced publication of Jobs & J.D.'s: Employment and Salaries of New Law Graduates - Class of 1998, the only comprehensive study available on the employment experiences of recent law graduates. This 25th consecutive report, which was previously titled Employment Report and Salary Survey, documents the fifth successive increase in the employment rate of new law graduates. An increase in full-time legal employment accounts for most of the increase. The median starting salary for all full-time jobs rose from $41,000 for the Class of 1997 to $45,000 for the Class of 1998.

A total of 173 ABA-accredited law schools responded to the survey, providing employment information on a record 90% of all graduates of the Class of 1998.


  • Of those graduates whose employment status was known, 89.9% were employed as of February 15, 1999, representing an increase of 0.7 percentage points over the Class of 1997.


  • Of those whose employment status was known, 78.6% accepted legal positions and 11.4% accepted positions not directly involved in the practice of law. Employment in full-time legal positions rose to 74.9% (compared with 73.6% for the Class of 1997), the fourth increase since 1988.


  • As in all prior years that NALP has collected data, the most common employment setting was that of private practice within a law firm. Of graduates known to be employed, 55% obtained their first job in a law firm. The percentage of graduates employed in private practice has been between 55% and 56% for the last five years and is well below the high of 64.3% for the Class of 1988.


  • Public service employment, including government jobs, judicial clerkships, and public interest positions, accounted for 27.2% of jobs taken by employed graduates, a figure similar to that for the Class of 1997.


  • The median salary paid to the Class of 1998 for full-time jobs was $45,000, up from $41,000 for the Class of 1997. Compared to this overall median, private sector medians are higher - $60,000 in private practice and $50,000 in business/industry - while public service medians are lower - $37,500 for judicial clerkships, $36,000 for government jobs, and $31,000 for public interest jobs. The higher median in private practice notwithstanding, salaries of $35,000-40,000 were equally as common as salaries of $70,000 or more.

In addition to documenting employment experiences for the class as a whole, the report clearly demonstrates that employment experiences differ for graduates according to race, ethnicity, age, and gender. o About 40% of employed African-American graduates took jobs in private practice, while about 57% of employed white graduates and 56% of employed Asian/Pacific Islander graduates did so.


  • Public interest jobs were much more common among African-American, Hispanic, and Native American graduates (5.1%, 5.1% and 6.3% of employed graduates, respectively) than among white and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates (2.2% and 2.6% of employed graduates, respectively).


  • Employment patterns also differ between men and women, with women more frequently taking government, judicial clerkship, and public interest positions. Almost one-third of employed women took these types of positions, compared with one-quarter of employed men.


  • Older graduates were less likely to go into private practice and more likely to enter academic or business settings. About 42% of employed graduates age 41 or older entered private practice, compared with 59% of employed graduates age 20-25. Over one-quarter of employed graduates age 41 or older took jobs in business/industry, a rate twice that of employed graduates age 20-30.

How and when graduates obtained their jobs and the extent to which employed graduates continue to seek a different job are also documented by Jobs & J.D.'s, offering valuable information for everyone interested in understanding the legal employment market.


  • The most common means of obtaining a job was a letter or other "self-initiated contact" with the employer (reported for about 29% of jobs). Fall on-campus interviewing accounted for one in five jobs taken.


  • About 64% of the 28,011 jobs for which timing of offer was reported were obtained before graduation. One in five jobs was obtained after graduation but before bar results; the remaining 16% were obtained after bar results were issued. Jobs in the military and as judicial clerks were most likely to be obtained before graduation.


  • Among employed graduates, fewer than one in seven (14.8%) continued to seek another job. This figure varied depending on job and employer type and how the job was obtained, law school region, and demographic factors.

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