Friday, July 10, 2009

"Market for Class of 2008 Law Graduates Shrinks — Employment Rate Registers First Decline Since 2003"

NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals, recently issued a press release concerning its analysis of employment figures for the country's law school graduates for the class of 2008. A portion of NALP's press release is reproduced below:

"Although most Class of 2008 law school graduates — 89.9% of those for whom employment status was known — were employed as of February 15, 2009, this rate represents the first decrease in the employment rate for recent law school graduates since 2003. Thus, while the economic downturn did have an effect on employment opportunities for the Class of 2008, it should be remembered that much of this class obtained employment before the downturn intensified in late 2008, and in fact a number of members of this class would have received offers for employment in 2007.

The employment market for new law graduates remained relatively strong and remarkably stable for the classes of 1997-2008, standing close to or above an 89% employment rate. However, for 2008, the rate of part-time employment was up somewhat, to 6.5% of jobs, compared to about 5% in recent years, as was the percentage of graduates opting to pursue an LLM or other graduate studies full-time, both of which are indicative of the softening job market.

It is also clear that not every new graduate started work at a large firm at one of the much publicized $160,000 salaries. Although 23% of salaries were $160,000, a larger portion, 34%, were $55,000 or less. Many more graduates started work in small firms of 50 or fewer lawyers or in non-firm settings (72% of those employed) than at firms of more than 100 lawyers (just 23% of those employed). Read more about the disparate starting salaries for the Class of 2008 here.

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Among [other] findings:

• Of the graduates for whom employment status was known, 74.7% obtained a job for which bar passage is required. An additional 8.1% obtained jobs for which a JD degree is preferred, or may even be required, but for which bar passage is not required.

• About 2.4% of graduates for whom employment status was known were pursuing an advanced degree, typically an LLM. This figure is slightly higher than in previous years.

• 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, 56.2% 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.

• Public service employment, including government jobs, judicial clerkships, and public interest positions, accounted for 26.8% of jobs taken by employed graduates, and compares with 27.3% for the prior year. Jobs with public interest organizations specifically, which includes public defenders, accounted for 5.4% of jobs.

• . . . for all full-time salaries reported, over one-third were $55,000 or less, compared with about 47% at more than $75,000. . . .

• About 48% of employed Black/African-American graduates took jobs in private practice, compared to 59% of employed white graduates and over 62% of employed Asian/Pacific Islander graduates.

• Employment patterns also differ between men and women, with women more frequently taking government, judicial clerkship, and public interest positions. Not quite 31% of employed women took these types of positions, compared to about 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 45% of employed graduates age 41-45 and 37% of those age 46 or older entered private practice, compared with 61% of employed graduates age 20-25. About 26% of employed graduates age 41-45 and 33% of those 46 or older took jobs in business/industry, rates more than double that of employed graduates age 20-30. . . . ."

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