Employment data for 2015 law school grads is concerning, some law profs say

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Updated: Out of everyone who graduated from ABA-accredited law schools in 2015, 70 percent have full-time, long-term employment in positions that require or prefer a JD, according to data (PDF) released Tuesday by the ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Comparatively, 69 percent of the 2014 graduates had full-time, long-term employment in jobs that required or preferred law degrees. But making a comparison of those two percentages doesn’t give one a clear sense of the employment picture for new lawyers, which is not improving, says Jerry Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.He wrote a post about the new data at the Legal Whiteboard.

The class of 2015 was 8.8 percent smaller than the class of 2014, he notes. Also, the 2014 percentage for full-time, long-term, JD-related positions included law school-funded jobs, while the 2015 data did not. Organ made some recalculations by stripping out law school-funded positions from the 2014 data.

“I think that looking at the percentage change in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required and JD-advantage jobs—a modest increase from 69 percent to 70.1 percent between 2014 and 2015—does not give the full picture because it masks the fact that the number of such jobs actually declined” by more than 7 percent, he says.

The ABA information includes a table comparing the 2015 and 2014 data, which has a note about law school-funded positions not being included for the total of 2015 graduates with full-time, long-term, law-related work. Individual schools’ data can be searched online.

“The council is pleased to release data on law school employment outcomes for the class of 2015. We offer a summary of those outcomes, which shows that the employment market remains challenging for recent graduates even as law schools are substantially reducing enrollments,” Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, told the ABA Journal.

The 2015 data also shows a decline in law-firm hiring, Deborah J. Merritt, a professor at Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, writes at Law School Cafe. Law firms hired 1,574 fewer new graduates in 2015 than they did in 2014.

The data shows a decrease in government hiring too, Merritt told the ABA Journal. For the class of 2014, there were 5,102 people with government jobs. That number dropped to 4,655 for the class of 2015.

“I think most law schools were hoping that the number of jobs people could get had stabilized. Instead these job numbers are going down,” she says. “We’re graduating a lot more people than there are spaces available.”

See also: “Good news for new lawyers: Fewer grads mean better job prospects, report shows”

ABA Journal: “Latest employment numbers for 2014 law school graduates don’t add up to a clear trend”

Updated May 5 to include comments from law professors.

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