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A Record Low for 2010 Law Grads: Only 68% Have Jobs Requiring Bar Passage

Posted Jun 1, 2011 7:57 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law graduates in the class of 2010 have set a new record, and it’s not a good one.

Only 68.4 percent of 2010 grads were able to land a job requiring bar passage, the lowest percentage since the legal career professionals group NALP began collecting statistics.

Another 10.7 percent have jobs that don’t require bar passage but prefer or require a JD, while 8.6 percent are employed in other capacities, according to a press release (PDF). The statistics are based on jobs held nine months after graduation for those whose employment status is known.

The classes of 2009 and 2008 had higher percentages of jobs requiring bar passage, at 70.8 percent and 74.7 percent respectively.

Overall the employment rate for 2010 grads is 87.6 percent, the lowest percentage since 1996 when the rate was 87.4 percent. Only 71 percent of the jobs were both full-time and permanent, according to an analysis (PDF) by NALP executive director James Leipold.

“The tail of the ‘Great Recession’ is long and there are few bright spots in the employment profile for the class of 2010,” Leipold says in the press release. “Most of the structural weaknesses in the job market faced by the class of 2009 intensified for the class of 2010, and new high- and low-water statistical marks have been set.”

Other findings include:

• Only 50.9 percent of the 2010 law grads had jobs in private practice, compared to a range of 55 percent to 58 percent of grads with private practice jobs in prior years reaching back to 1993.

• Employment in business was at 15.1 percent, the highest that NALP has ever measured. About 32 percent of these jobs required bar passage, and about 29 percent were jobs preferring a law degree.

• The percentage of 2010 law grads who had private practice jobs in large law firms of at least 501 attorneys was 20.5 percent, compared to 25.6 percent for the Class of 2009.

The job outlook is unlikely to improve for 2011 grads since legal employment tends to continue to decline in the years after a recession, Leipold says.

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