Detailed Analysis of JD Advantage Jobs

May 2013

Starting with the law school Class of 2011, a new term of art entered our lexicon — “JD Advantage.” It is a phrase that NALP and the ABA use to describe a category of jobs for which bar passage is not required but for which a JD degree provides a distinct advantage. (Prior to 2011, NALP called these jobs “JD Preferred” jobs; although the definitions of the “JD Preferred” and “JD Advantage” jobs are not identical, the kinds of jobs represented by these two categories are largely the same.) The ABA’s Questionnaire Committee (now the Data Policy and Collection Committee) coined the term “JD Advantage,” and, in collaboration with NALP, arrived at the definition.

The jobs that new law school graduates take can be categorized in many different ways. Traditionally we look at both the type of job and the type of employer, as these two categories taken together provide the most information about the entry-level labor market. Historically, jobs for which bar passage is required make up the largest group of jobs, followed by law-related jobs (these are the JD Advantage jobs) that do not require bar passage.

With the persistently weak entry-level job market for law school graduates that has followed the 2008 recession, interest in jobs that can be categorized as JD Advantage jobs has grown. In fact, the extent to which law school graduates take jobs for which a JD provides an advantage in obtaining the job has been growing steadily since NALP began tracking this kind of job in 2001. For the Class of 2011, 12.5% of graduates for whom employment status was known had obtained such a job, more than double the rate of 6% in 2001. Also, this year for the first time the US News & World Report law school rankings changed their methodology so that jobs that require bar passage and jobs that provide a JD advantage were given more weight than other categories of jobs.

Nearly one in seven jobs taken by the Class of 2011 was reported as a JD Advantage job. In numbers this translates to more than 5,200 jobs. These jobs were most common by far in the business realm, which accounted for 46% of the JD Advantage jobs obtained by the Class of 2011. (See pie charts below.)

  • Over two-thirds of JD Advantage jobs were reported as full-time and lasting at least a year. This figure varied by sector however, from just 39% in academia to 79% in business. (See Table 1 below.) This means that most graduates who were hired by their own law schools into jobs that were categorized as JD Advantage jobs were working in jobs that were either part-time or short-term, or both.

  • Within specific business sectors, banking and legal temp agencies were the biggest source of JD Advantage jobs, and the specific job types most frequently reported were management and consulting. However, the single largest category of JD Advantage jobs in business were “other,” suggesting a wide range of jobs outside of those tracked specifically and that do not easily lend themselves to categorization. No other sector accounted for more than 19% of JD Advantage jobs. In the smallest sector — academia — law school research assistants/fellows accounted for over half of the reported JD Advantage jobs. (See Table 2 below.)

  • About one in ten JD Advantage jobs were reported as funded by either the graduate’s law school (9% of JD Advantage jobs) or by an outside grant (1% of these jobs). This too varied greatly by sector: over 46% of the academic jobs were law school-funded, one-third of the public interest jobs were law school-funded, and virtually none of the jobs in private practice and business settings were law school-funded. (See Table 3 below.)

  • The median salary for JD Advantage jobs — those that were reported as full-time and lasting at least a year — was $59,000. The median for JD Advantage jobs in business was highest, at $65,000, and lowest in law firms at $40,000. Overall, salaries in the $45,000 to $75,000 range are typical. (See Table 4 below.)

  • The prevalence of JD Advantage jobs is about the same for men and women and higher among minorities and graduates who were age 31 or older when they graduated. The percentage of JD Advantage jobs reported as law-school-funded was highest among women and minority graduates. (See Table 5 and Table 6 below.)

What Kinds of Jobs Does the JD Advantage Category Include?

Jobs in this category are those for which the employer sought an individual with a JD, and perhaps even required a JD, or for which the JD provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but are jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law. Examples of positions for which a JD is an advantage include a job as a corporate contracts administrator, alternative dispute resolution specialist, government regulatory analyst, FBI agent, and accountant. Also included might be jobs in personnel or human resources, jobs with investment banks, jobs with consulting firms, jobs doing compliance work for business and industry, jobs in law firm professional development, and jobs in law school career services offices, admissions offices, or other law school administrative offices. Doctors or nurses who plan to work in a litigation, insurance, or risk management setting or as expert witnesses could fall into this category, as could journalists and teachers (in a higher education setting) of law and law-related topics.

See also NALP's series of videos of law school graduates who obtained JD Advantage jobs.

Note: The category of jobs for which type (e.g., bar passage required or other) was not specified accounts for 0.6% of jobs but is not shown on the chart.

Note: For clarity, the category for unknown employer type, representing 0.6% of jobs, is not shown.

Table 1. Characteristics of JD Advantage Jobs Taken by the Class of 2011

  % of Jobs That Are
Full-time and Long-term
# of Jobs
All JD Advantage Jobs* 67.3% 5,107
By Employment Sector:
Academic 39.2 472
Business 79.2 2,363
Private Practice 55.2 928
Government 74.7 799
Public Interest 49.7 519

* Figures are based on jobs for which both duration and full-time/part-time information was reported and thus exclude 107 of the JD Advantage jobs reported taken by the Class of 2011. Job counts by sector do not add to the total because employment sector was not reported for some jobs.

Table 2. JD Advantage Jobs — Employer Detail
Class of 2011 — As of February 15, 2012

Employer Setting or Job Type % of JD Advantage Jobs
Academic Settings 9.2%
   Law School Research Assistant or Fellow 4.7
Business Settings 46.0
   Banking/financial institution 6.8
   Legal temp agency 4.2
   Technology/e-commerce company 3.6
   Management consulting firm 3.4
   Accounting firm 2.9
   Other business settings not specifically tracked 19.7
Government 15.6
   Federal executive/administrative agencies* 4.0
   State executive/administrative agencies* 3.2
   State legislative positions 1.4
   Local executive/administrative agencies* 1.9
Private Practice Law Firms 18.6
   Law clerks 12.3
   Paralegals 3.0
Public Interest Organizations 10.1
   Policy/advocacy organizations 3.7

*Includes jobs categorized as 'other', i.e., not specifically reported as legislative, with the military, the court system, an honors program, or as prosecutors.

Table 3. To What Extent are JD Advantage Jobs Funded by
the Law School or an Outside Grant?

Employer Setting % of JD Advantage Jobs Funded by Law School % of JD Advantage Jobs Funded by Outside Grant
Overall 9.3% 1.1%
   Academic 46.4 1.5
  Business 0.6 0.6
   Government 9.5 1.2
   Private Practice Law Firms 0.3 1.2
  Public Interest 32.2 2.3

Table 4. Salaries for JD Advantage Jobs

Employment Setting or Job 25th percentile Median 75th percentile Average # of salaries reported
Overall $45,000 $59,000 $74,872 $63,995 1,771
Academic 42,000 48,500 60,000 54,878 120
  College or university administration 41,000 53,500 70,000 63,588 36
  Law school research assistant or fellow 40,000 45,000 49,000 43,009 21
Business 50,171 65,000 80,000 72,944 960
  Accounting 60,000 70,000 77,000 71,401 91
   Banking/finance 50,000 65,000 90,000 76,451 165
   Entertainment/sports management 40,600 60,000 80,000 72,017 35
   Insurance 48,000 59,000 74,000 68,106 50
   Management consulting 60,000 75,000 125,000 88,137 83
   Technology/e-commerce 50,000 63,000 85,000 72,859 81
   Legal temp agency 42,500 46,270 52,000 46,605 20
Government 44,000 53,000 67,000 57,807 366
  Federal government executive agency* 51,935 62,483 87,000 70,556 128
  State government executive agency* 40,000 50,000 60,000 50,075 58
  State government legislative position 40,000 44,000 58,710 48,769 33
  Local government executive agency* 28,000 47,019 55,000 46,723 42
Private Practice Law Firms 32,000 40,000 52,000 45,794 198
  Law clerks 30,000 40,000 50,000 40,972 114
   Paralegals 35,000 42,000 50,000 43,536 39
   Administrative positions 39,000 60,000 75,000 59,798 28
Public Interest Organizations 40,000 48,000 60,000 50,961 124
  Policy/advocacy organization 42,000 50,000 60,000 52,539 66

*Includes JD Advantage jobs categorized as "other," i.e., not specifically reported as legislative, with the military, the court system, an honors program, or as prosecutors.
Note: All salary figures are based on full-time jobs lasting at least a year.

Table 5. JD Advantage Jobs and Demographics

Demographic Group % of jobs taken by this group which are JD advantage jobs
Men 14.4%
Women 14.8
Minorities* 17.3
Non-minorities 13.6
Age 30 or younger 13.8
Age 31+ 17.4

Table 6. Funding for JD Advantage Jobs — By Demographics

Demographic Group % of JD Advantage Jobs Funded by Law School for this Group % of JD Advantage Jobs Funded by Outside Grant for this Group
Men 7.6% 0.8%
Women 11.5 1.4
Minorities* 11.6 1.4
Non-minorities 7.7 0.9
Age 30 or younger at graduation 8.5 1.1
Age 31+ at graduation 6.2 1.5

Note: All figures are based on graduates for whom the appropriate demographic information was reported. *Refers to race/ethnicity and includes all graduates who reported a race other than White/Caucasian.

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