Employment Patterns — 1982-2006

NALP Bulletin, August 2007

NALP’s graduate employment data show that, historically, women and minorities are less likely to take jobs in law firms and more likely to take jobs with public sector employers. However, for the Class of 2006, while a higher proportion of non-minority than minority graduates continued to obtain private practice positions, for the first time non-minority and minority graduates were equally likely to be employed in public service positions. The tables below show the kinds of jobs taken by the Classes of 1982, 1994, and 2006.

  • Compared to men, women from the Class of 2006 were less likely to enter private practice and more likely to accept positions in government or public interest organizations or as judicial clerks — 31.2% for women compared with 24.6% for men. Although this pattern is similar to those of prior years, the differences have narrowed. Women, however, remain about twice as likely as men to take public interest jobs.

  • It is also the case that, compared with men going into private practice, women are somewhat more likely to take jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers, and somewhat less likely to take jobs in very small firms of 2-10 lawyers. The percentage of women going into private practice and taking jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers has been somewhat more than 3 percentage points higher than the rate for men.

  • Minorities likewise enter private practice less frequently than do non-minorities. However, the 3 percentage point differential in 2006 is well below the almost 16 percentage point difference in 1982, and also contrasts with about an 11 percentage point differential in 1994 and a 6-7 percentage point differential as recently as 2004 and 2005.

  • Minorities entering private practice are more likely to obtain jobs in firms of more than 100 lawyers than are non-minorities, even as the share of jobs in large firms has generally increased over the period for both groups. For the Class of 2006, the figures were 48.5% and 34.8%, respectively. The difference has fluctuated considerably over this time: from about 7 percentage points in 1982, to 10-11 percentage points in the mid-1990s to almost 14 percentage points in 2006. It is worth noting that this 14 percentage point difference marks a second year of increase in the spread (from about 10 percentage points in 2005), after a period of several years in which the differential shrank to less than 7 percentage points.

  • Compared to non-minorities, minorities historically have been more likely to take public service positions — jobs in government, public interest organizations, and as judicial clerks. However, because of an overall decline in the prevalence of such jobs among minorities and an increase in public service employment among non-minorities, in 2006, for the first time, the percentage of minorities and non-minorities taking public service jobs was nearly equal, at just over 28%. The relative decline in government employment among minorities is noteworthy — from over 21% of jobs to about 12% of jobs, making rates close to that for non-minorities for the first time. Time will tell is this represents a lasting change or a one-time anomaly.

Initial Employer Types — Comparisons for the Classes of 1982, 1994, and 2006

 

Men and Women


1982 1994 2006
Men Women Men Women Men Women
Private Practice 60.4% 54.2% 58.9% 51.4% 59.2% 54.8%
By Size of Firm*
Solo 7.7 5.8 5.7 4.1 3.2 1.7
2-10 38.9 36.9 36.0 35.6 31.5 30.0
11-25 14.4 13.5 12.1 10.8 10.0 9.5
26-50 10.7 10.1 7.6 6.5 6.6 6.5
51-100 9.5 11.7 7.6 7.9 5.7 5.7
101+ 13.9 17.0 22.4 26.0 36.5 40.1
Business/Industry 11.5 8.5 12.2 10.9 14.2 11.7
Government 12.8 14.2 12.6 14.9 11.7 12.2
Judicial Clerkships 9.4 13.8 11.4 15.2 9.4 11.7
Public Interest 1.4 3.4 1.8 3.8 3.5 7.3
Academic 1.1 1.9 0.8 1.4 1.1 1.6
Total # of Jobs 15,695 7,139 13,936 10,076 17,759 16,188

 

Minorities and Non-minorities


1982 1994 2006
Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities Non-minorities Minorities
Private Practice 59.4% 43.5% 57.5% 46.2% 57.6% 54.5%
By Size of Firm*
Solo 7.2 6.5 5.2 4.7 2.5 2.4
2-10 38.4 35.5 37.4 27.5 33.0 25.7
11-25 14.3 11.1 12.1 8.9 10.6 7.5
26-50 10.7 8.1 7.5 5.6 7.1 5.1
51-100 10.1 10.0 7.6 9.3 6.0 4.8
101+ 14.5 21.3 22.7 34.0 34.8 48.5
Business/Industry 10.5 11.4 11.7 11.4 12.7 14.2
Government 12.8 21.0 12.4 20.8 12.0 12.6
Judicial Clerkships 10.9 9.6 13.3 11.6 11.7 8.3
Public Interest 1.7 7.4 2.2 5.4 4.8 7.4
Academic 1.3 1.8 0.9 1.8 0.6 2.1
Total # of Jobs 21,495 1,339 19,622 3,298 24,445 6,257

Percentages are based on all graduates known to be employed, including those for whom employer types are not shown; hence percentages may not add to 100. Information for 1982 was adjusted to exclude graduates pursuing an advanced degree from the academic category and to include public defenders in the government category, as they were in 1994. However, effective with the Class of 2004, the public interest category once again includes public defenders. Minorities are defined as Black/African-Americans, Asian/Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics of any race.

*Percentages by size of firm are based on law firm jobs only and do not add to 100 because the unknown size category is not shown.

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