NALP announces the publication of Jobs & J.D.'s: Employment and
Salaries of New Law Graduates - Class of 2002, the only comprehensive study
available on the employment experiences of recent law graduates. This 29th
consecutive report documents the second decrease in the employment rate of new
law graduates since 1993, with a figure of 89% of graduates for whom employment
status was known. This compares with a figure of 90% for 2001, and 91.5% for
2000, and is evidence of the effect of the general economic downturn on the
employment market for new law school graduates. The recent drops
notwithstanding, in the last five years the employment market for new law school
graduates has remained relatively strong, standing at or above an 89% employment
rate. This contrasts with the early and mid-nineties, when employment rates were
in the 84-85% range. The median starting salary for all full-time jobs rose from
$55,000 for the Class of 2001 to $60,000 for the Class of 2002. For the first
time since 1996, the median starting salary at law firms did not increase,
remaining at $90,000. Medians for public service jobs increased by
$1,000-$2,000. As a result, for the first time since 1996, the differential
between private and public sector salaries did not widen.
A total of 175 ABA-accredited law schools responded to the survey, providing
employment information on 91.5% of all graduates of the Class of 2002. Among the
Of the graduates for whom employment status was known, 75.3% obtained a job
for which bar passage is required. An additional 5.2% obtained jobs for which a
J.D. degree is preferred, or may even be required, but for which bar passage is
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, 58.1% obtained their first job in a law firm. The
percentage of graduates employed in private practice has fluctuated only between
55% and 58% since 1993 and is well below the high of 64.3% for the Class of
Public service employment, including government jobs, judicial clerkships,
and public interest positions, accounted for 27% of jobs taken by employed
graduates, slightly lower than the 27.6% figure for the Class of 2001.
Compared to the overall median salary of $60,000, private sector medians are
higher - $90,000 in private practice and $60,000 in business/industry; public
service medians are lower - $42,000 for judicial clerkships, $42,000 for
government jobs, and $36,000 for public interest jobs. The higher median in
private practice notwithstanding, for all full time jobs, salaries between
$35,000 and $55,000 were as common as salaries of more than
In addition to documenting employment experiences for the class as a whole,
the report clearly demonstrates differences with regard to demographics and
About 47% of employed African-American graduates took jobs in private
practice, while about 60% each of employed white and Asian/Pacific Islander
graduates did so.
Employment patterns also differ between men and women, with women more
frequently taking government, judicial clerkship, and public interest positions.
About 30% of employed women took these types of positions, compared to
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 46% of employed graduates age
41-45 entered private practice, compared with 64% of employed graduates age
20-25. One-quarter of employed graduates age 41 or older took jobs in
business/industry, a rate almost three times that of employed graduates age
In some cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, New York City, and San
Francisco, jobs in private practice account for most of the jobs taken by new
graduates. In contrast, cities such as Minneapolis/St. Paul and Miami offer
relatively more government and clerkship opportunities; opportunities in
business were relatively abundant in Columbus and Seattle.
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 two most common means of obtaining a job were fall on-campus interviewing
(OCI), which accounted for about 25% of jobs taken, and a letter or other
"self-initiated contact" with the employer (reported for about 20% of jobs). .
Overall, 36% of law firm jobs were obtained through Fall OCI; few jobs at small
firms are obtained in this way.
About 70% of jobs were obtained before graduation. Somewhat less than
one-fifth of jobs (17.6%) were obtained after graduation but before bar results;
the remaining 13% were obtained after bar results were issued. Jobs in the
military, state or federal judicial clerks, and at large law firms were most
likely to be obtained before graduation.
Among employed graduates, 12.7% were still seeking another job. This compares
with 11.3% for the class of 2001. Graduates of color, and those age 41 and
older, were most likely to be seeking other employment, as were those who
attended law school part time.
The complete Jobs & J.D.'s report provides more detail on these
topics as well as others, including salary levels and the nature of jobs by law
firm size, level of government, and type of business; salaries for all states;
full-time law firm salaries for over 200 cities; geographic mobility of
graduates; job status by demographic characteristics; and employment patterns
for all states and selected cities. The report is available for $75 plus $7.50
shipping and handling, and may be ordered through NALP's online bookstore.