NALP announces the publication of Jobs & J.D.'s: Employment and
Salaries of New Law Graduates - Class of 2003, the only comprehensive study
available on the employment experiences of recent law graduates. This 30th
consecutive report documents an employment rate — 88.9%, a figure that includes
employment of all types — that is virtually unchanged from the 89% figure for
the class of 2002. This compares with a figure of 90% for 2001, and 91.5% for
2000. The recent drops notwithstanding, in the last six years the employment
market for new law school graduates has remained relatively strong, standing
close to 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 full-time jobs was $55,000, compared to $60,000 for the
class of 2002. For the first time since 1992, the median salary at law firms
decreased, from $90,000 in 2002 to $80,000, reflecting a small but measurable
increase in the percentage of law firm jobs taken in smaller firms. Medians for
most other major employer types were steady, except that the median for public
interest jobs increased from $36,000 to $37,500.
A total of 176 ABA-accredited law schools responded to the survey, providing
employment information on 92% of all graduates of the Class of 2003. Among the
Of the graduates for whom employment status was known, 73.7% obtained a job
for which bar passage is required. An additional 6.5% obtained jobs for which a
J.D. degree is preferred, or may even be required, but for which bar passage is
A new category, introduced with the Class of 2003, revealed that 2.3% of
graduates for whom employment status was known were studying for the bar
full-time and neither working in any capacity nor actively seeking
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, 57.8% 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 26.9% of jobs taken by employed
graduates, a figure that is virtually unchanged from that for the class of 2002.
The percentage of jobs in public interest organizations specifically - 3.1% -
was the highest since 1990.
Compared to the overall median starting salary of $55,000, private sector
medians are higher - $80,000 in private practice and $60,000 in
business/industry; public service medians are lower - $42,000 for judicial
clerkships, $43,000 for government jobs, and $37,500 for public interest jobs.
The higher median in private practice notwithstanding, for all full time jobs,
salaries between $35,000 and $55,000 outnumbered 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 46% of employed African-American graduates took jobs in private
practice, while about 60% of employed white and 59% of employed 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 51% of employed graduates age
41-45 entered private practice, compared with 63% of employed graduates age
20-25. Almost one-quarter of employed graduates age 41 or older took jobs in
business/industry, a rate about 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 70% or more of the jobs taken by
new graduates. In contrast, cities such as Phoenix, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and
Miami offer 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 23% of jobs taken, and a letter or other
"self-initiated contact" with the employer (reported for about 22% of jobs).
Overall, 34% of law firm jobs were obtained through Fall OCI; few jobs at small
firms are obtained in this way.
About 68% of jobs were obtained before graduation. Somewhat less than
one-fifth of jobs (17.4%) were obtained after graduation but before bar results;
the remaining 15% 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, 14.1% were still seeking another job. This compares
with 12.7% for the class of 2002. 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.