NALP Bulletin, July 2009
The first table below shows employment trends for new law graduates from 1985 to 2008. Because of changes in how jobs are classified, effective with the Class of 2001, exact comparisons are not available for all trends. However, it is evident that the market for new law graduates in the Classes of 1997 through 2008 was quite strong, with overall employment close to or above 89% since 1997, and increases over the prior year in 2005, 2006, and 2007. The 91.9% employment rate for the Class of 2007 represented a 20-year high, and the 89.9% employment rate for the Class of 2008, while reversing an upward trend, is considerably higher than the rates that prevailed during much of the 1990s. It should, of course, be remembered that much of the Class of 2008 would have obtained employment before the economic downturn intensified in late 2008, and some members of this class would even have received offers for employment in 2007. (It is also likely that some graduates reported as employed may have lost their jobs subsequent to survey completion, either through layoffs or firm dissolution.) More than half of employed graduates obtain their first job at a law firm — a fact that has not changed in the 35 years that NALP has compiled employment information.
A further analysis of law firm employment shown in the second table reveals that, in many of these years, small firms of 2-10 lawyers have supplied relatively more jobs than any other size firm. After declining through much of the 1980s and reaching a low of about 25% in 1989, the percentage of jobs in this category climbed back to about 41% in 1993. Another decline started in 1996 and continued through 2001. After a few years of growth, the figure declined again starting in 2006. These changes were mirrored by opposing changes for firms of more than 100 lawyers. The percentage of law firm jobs accounted for by these firms doubled during the 1980s, dropped noticeably between 1990 and 1993, and started to rise again in 1994. Since 1998, the number of jobs taken in firms of more than 100 lawyers has outnumbered those taken in firms of 2-10, although the differential has fluctuated. Also of note is the growing proportion of jobs in either very small or large firms, which since 2000 have accounted for more than 70% of law firm jobs taken by new graduates.
Employment Trends — 1985–2008
|OF THOSE FOR WHOM EMPLOYMENT STATUS WAS KNOWN|
|Year||% Employed||% Employed
|% of Jobs |
in Law Firms
|% Employed in Positions Requiring Bar Passage||% Employed in Positions Where JD Is Preferred||% Employed in Other Professional Positions||% Employed in Non-Professional Positions|
Note: Overall employment rates for 1990-1998 are based on all graduates for whom employment status was known, excluding a small number known to be employed but for whom basic job type was not known. Overall rates for all other years include such graduates, and thus may not necessarily be obtained by adding up figures for individual job types. Also, in 1985 and 1986, multiple jobs held by one person were reported separately; hence legal and other employment percentages for these years reflect positions taken rather than individuals and cannot be added to obtain the overall employment rate. The percentage not working includes graduates seeking employment as well as those neither working in any capacity nor actively seeking a job. New job classifications effective with the Class of 2001 preclude direct comparisons of job types with prior years.
Law Firm Jobs by Firm Size — Classes of 1982-2008
(percent of law firm jobs taken in each size firm)
|Year||SIZE OF FIRM (NUMBER OF LAWYERS)|
|Solo||2-10||11-25||26-50||51-100||101 or more|
Note: Figures for 1989 and 1990 reflect only full-time law firm jobs; for all other years figures reflect all law firm jobs acquired by graduates. Figures in this table differ slightly from those published in national reports (Employment Report & Salary Survey/Jobs & JD's) because law firm jobs for which firm size was not reported are excluded from the base.