Alumni Report Improved Employment, Satisfaction

NALP Bulletin, October 2018

By Jennifer Mandery, Director of Research for the NALP Foundation, and James G. Leipold, Executive Director of NALP.


NALP recently reported that the Class of 2017 had stronger overall employment, higher bar passage required employment, and higher aggregate salaries than any class since the classes that graduated before the recession. Now NALP and the NALP Foundation are pleased to report on new research that shows the post-recession improvement of employment and satisfaction levels for law school alumni.

Law school alumni from the Class of 2014, when surveyed three years after graduation, reported higher employment rates, higher aggregate salaries, lower rates of intention to change jobs, were more often working as a practicing lawyer, and reported higher overall satisfaction with their current job than did graduates from the Classes of 2010 and 2011. The data give us another measure to assess the improvement in the law school graduate employment market following the recession.

Five years ago, NALP and the NALP Foundation came together to answer a call from the profession to develop a process or study for measuring law school outcomes beyond the ten-month (formerly nine-month) marker — a point that many agree is not an adequate measure of employment, career satisfaction, or the return on investment in a legal education. While the information about employment status and salary as of March 15 following graduation that NALP publishes every summer provides vital information, measures that assess employment status, salary, and satisfaction at points further out are essential.

Over the past five years, NALP and the NALP Foundation have conducted annual studies of law school alumni three years after graduation, and we are now able to present summary data comparing the results obtained from the Classes of 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Although the results of this study and the findings provided in this report are limited to a small number of law schools, we believe the outcomes provide a snapshot of data on some very important factors surrounding the value of legal education and how the economic recession impacted the career trajectory of these lawyers. The following chart details the number of participating schools and the number of responses collected during each year of the study.


# of Schools
# of Responses
2010 (Beta)
16
1,356
2011
35
3,041
2012
38
3,484
2013
32
2,324
2014
34
2,409

The overall employment rate three years out improved four percentage points from 93% for the Class of 2011 to 97% for the Class of 2014. See Table 1.

And, among those who were unemployed, far fewer members of the Class of 2014 reported they were not working because of job loss due to economic downsizing of their firm or organization than did members of the Class of 2011 — 11% and 22%, respectively. See Table 2.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the percentage of graduates from the Class of 2014 who reported making more than $150,000 also went up compared to the percentage of graduates from the Class of 2011, from 14% to 20%. See Table 3.

The survey asks alumni about their intentions to change jobs. Twenty-four percent of the members of the Class of 2011 said they were actively seeking another job, whereas only 18% of the members of the Class of 2014 reported that they were actively seeking another job. See Table 4.

Further, the percentage of alumni who reported that they were working as a practicing lawyer three years after graduation also rose, from 78% for the Class of 2011 to 83% for the Class of 2014. See Table 5.

Finally, the reported overall satisfaction levels with their current job also improved markedly. For example, those who reported that they were extremely satisfied rose six percentage points, from 44% for the Class of 2011 to 50% for the Class of 2014. See Table 6.


Table 1. Current Employment Status

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
All Respondents (n=1,345) (n-2,935) (n=3,339) (n=2,231) (n=2,286)
Employed 95% 93% 96% 96% 97%
Not Currently Employed 5% 7% 4% 4% 3%
     *Seeking employment as a practicing lawyer 1% 1% 1% 1% 1%
     *Seeking employment as other than a practicing lawyer <1% 1% 1% 1% <1%
     *Seeking employment as either of above 2% 3% 2% 2% 2%
     *Not seeking employment 1% 1% 1% 1% 1%

* Figures include rounded percentages; hence the added percentages may not total the percent of those unemployed.

 

Table 2. Reasons for Not Working

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
Unemployed Respondents (n=63) (n=194) (n=129) (n=81) (n=66)
Desire to take a break from work for awhile 2% 2% 9% 6% 8%
Pursuit of education 21% 7% 10% 14% 11%
Family or dependent responsibilities 9% 16% 17% 12% 14%
Desire for a new geographic locale n/a 4% 7% 7% 12%
Relocation of spouse or partner 9% 9% 12% 16% 12%
Actively seeking employment at this time 43% 61% 58% 59% 56%
Job loss due to economic downsizing of firm/organization n/a 22% 17% 15% 11%
Other 16% 23% 28% 21% 33%

May not sum to 100% because more than one reason could be indicated.

 

Table 3. Total Annual Compensation*

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
Employed Respondents (n=1,249) (n=2,630) (n=2,811) (n=1,919) (n=2,020)
$50,000 or less 12% 13% 11% 10% 9%
>$50,000-$100,000 42% 53% 50% 53% 51%
>$100,000-$150,000 21% 20% 20% 19% 21%
More than $150,000 25% 14% 18% 18% 20%

*Note: Total annual compensation figures are based on respondents employed in full-time jobs lasting a year or more. Total annual compensation includes salary, bonus, and profit sharing. May not sum to 100% due to rounding.

 

Table 4. Intentions to Change Jobs

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
Employed Respondents (n=1,278) (n=2,722) (n=3,200) (n=2,144) (n=2,210)
Actively seeking another job 22% 24% 22% 20% 18%
Not actively seeking another job 78% 76% 78% 80% 82%

 

Table 5. Current Position

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
Employed Respondents (n=1,278) (n=2,719) (n=3,196) (n=2,143) (n=2,205)
Practicing lawyer 83% 78% 81% 80% 83%
Professional (non-lawyer) 16% 20% 18% 19% 16%
Non-professional 1% 2% 1% 1% 1%

Note: May not sum to 100% due to rounding.

 

Table 6. Overall Satisfaction with Current Job

  Class of 2010 Class of 2011 Class of 2012 Class of 2013 Class of 2014
Employed Respondents (n=1,274) (n=2,704) (n=3,180) (n=2,135) (n=2,197)
Extremely Satisfied 46% 44% 48% 47% 50%
Somewhat Satisfied 38% 39% 36% 39% 38%
Neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 5% 5% 5% 4% 4%
Somewhat dissatisfied 8% 8% 8% 7% 6%
Extremely dissatisfied 3% 4% 3% 3% 2%

Note: May not sum to 100% due to rounding.


All of these figures provide additional documentation of the improving job market for law school graduates and alumni as we move away in time from the recession. We would expect to see most of these measures continue to improve for the Class of 2015, the next class that will be surveyed as part of the NALP/NALP Foundation Study of Law School Alumni Employment and Satisfaction. If you would like your school to participate in the Class of 2015 alumni study, please email Jennifer Mandery, Director of Research for the NALP Foundation, at jmandery@nalpfoundation.org. The Class of 2014 Study of Law School Alumni Employment and Satisfaction can be ordered from the NALP Foundation (www.nalpfoundation.org).

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