The vast majority of Class of 2005 law school graduates — 89.6% of those for
whom employment status was known — were employed as of February 15, 2006. This
rate is the highest rate measured since 2001, and compares with a rate of 88.9%
for 2004 and 2003, 89% for 2002, 90% for 2001, and 91.5% for 2000. In the last
eight years the employment market for new law graduates has remained relatively
strong and remarkably stable, standing close to or above an 89% employment rate.
This differs dramatically with the early and mid-1990s, when employment rates
were in the 84-85% range.
In addition to a rising employment rate, starting salaries for the Class of
2005 also saw gains. The median starting salary for full-time jobs was $60,000,
an increase of $5,000 over that for the Class of 2004. These are among the
findings reported in NALP’s newly released Jobs & JD’s: Employment and
Salaries of New Law Graduates — Class of 2005, the only comprehensive study
available on the employment experiences of recent law graduates. This 32nd
consecutive report reflects a total of 178 ABA-accredited law schools
participating in the study, providing employment information on 92% of all
graduates of the Class of 2005. Among the findings:
Of the graduates for whom employment status was known, 74% obtained a job for
which bar passage is required. An additional 7.5% obtained jobs for which a JD
degree is preferred, or may even be required, but for which bar passage is not
Among graduates for whom employment status was known, 10.4% were not working
— 2.2% were pursuing an advanced degree, 3.1% were actively seeking a job, 3%
were studying for the bar exam exclusively, and 2.1% were neither seeking a job
nor studying for the bar.
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, 55.8% 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 27.1% of jobs taken by employed
graduates, and compares with 27.7% for the prior year. Jobs with public interest
organizations specifically, which includes public defenders, accounted for 4.8%
Compared to the overall median starting salary of $60,000, the law firm
private practice median was higher — $85,000, an increase of $5,000 over the
Class of 2004. Medians for public service jobs, those in government, public
interest organizations, and as judicial clerks, increased modestly, but remained
considerably lower, at $46,200, $40,000, and $45,000, respectively. The higher
median in private practice notwithstanding, for all full-time jobs, almost half
of salaries were $55,000 or less, considerably outnumbering salaries of more
In addition to documenting employment experiences for the class as a whole,
the report clearly demonstrates differences with regard to demographics and
About 43% of employed Black/African-American graduates took jobs in private
practice, while about 58% of employed white and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates
Employment patterns also differ between men and women, with women more
frequently taking government, judicial clerkship, and public interest positions.
About 31% of employed women took these types of positions, compared to just over
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 44% of employed graduates age
41-45 and 39% of those age 46 or older entered private practice, compared with
60% of employed graduates age 20-25. About 22% of employed graduates age 41-45
and 31% of those 46 or older took jobs in business/industry, a rate about three
times that of employed graduates age 20-30.
In some cities, such as Atlanta, Dallas, and New York City, jobs in private
practice accounted for 70% or more of the jobs taken by new graduates. In
contrast, cities such as Boston, Columbus, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul,
Miami, and Phoenix offered more government or clerkship opportunities.
Opportunities in business were relatively abundant in Cleveland, Minneapolis/St.
Paul, Pittsburgh, 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 &
JD’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) and a letter or other “self-initiated contact” with the employer, each
accounting for just over one-fifth of jobs. Overall, 32% of law firm jobs were
obtained through fall OCI; few jobs at small firms are obtained in this way.
About 65% of job offers were received before graduation. Somewhat less than
one-fifth of jobs (19%) were obtained after graduation but before bar results;
the remainder were obtained after bar results were issued. Jobs in the military,
as state or federal judicial clerks, and at large law firms were most likely to
be obtained before graduation.
Among employed graduates, 14% were still seeking another job, a figure very
close to that for the prior two classes. Minority graduates, and graduates age
41 and older, were most likely to be seeking other employment, as were those who
attended law school part-time.
The complete Jobs & JD’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.