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Only 65 Percent of 2011 Law Grads Have Jobs Requiring Bar Passage, a Record Low

Posted Jun 7, 2012 10:07 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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New statistics from NALP paint a bleak picture of the job market for 2011 law grads.

The overall employment rate nine months after graduation was 85.6 percent, the lowest it has been since 1994, according to a NALP - The Association for Legal Career Professionals press release. But the employment rate doesn’t tell the whole, dismal story.

Among law grads whose employment status was known, only 65.4 percent were in jobs requiring bar passage, the lowest percentage ever measured by NALP. The number has fallen nine percentage points since 2008. Only 60 percent were working full-time as lawyers in jobs that required bar passage.

“The entry-level job market can only be described as brutal,” NALP executive director wrote in a published commentary (PDF). The class of 2011 may represent the bottom of the employment curve for this economic cycle, he said. Its members were caught up “in the worst of the recession, entering law school in the fall of 2008 just as Lehman Brothers collapsed.”

Other NALP findings for the class of 2011:

• Law school jobs programs made up an estimated 5 percent of all jobs for the class of 2011. Without these jobs, the overall employment rate would be about 81 percent. Many school-funded jobs are "excellent bridge-to-practice opportunities," Leipold wrote in his commentary, "while others seem almost nakedly designed to lift a law school’s overall employment rate without actually providing any sort of career advancing experience."

• The percentage of employed grads in private practice is near a record low. Only 49.5 percent obtained a job in private practice; the number has dropped below 50 percent only once before, in 1975. Usually the percentage in private practice ranges from 55 percent to 58 percent. “One of the lasting legacies of the recession has been the erosion of private practice job opportunities,” Leipold wrote in his commentary.

• The percentage of grads who found private practice jobs with large law firms of more than 500 lawyers is at 16.2 percent, down from more than 25 percent for both the classes of 2008 and 2009.

• The percentage of grads holding part-time jobs stands at nearly 12 percent, up from about 11 percent in 2010 and 2009 and from 6.5 percent in 2008. Almost 7 percent were in jobs that were both temporary and part-time.

• Employment in business was 18.1 percent, the highest percentage ever measured by NALP. “As has always been the case,” Leipold wrote in his commentary, “jobs in business and industry represent a wide spectrum of jobs from high level management and consulting jobs to service related jobs at much lower salaries.”

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