Have JD, Now What? Many Law Grads Get Jobs, But Not Dream Careers

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Although the economy seems to be picking up and many new law graduates are employed, they often are not pursuing the dream careers they anticipated when they went to law school.

Many are working temporary or part-time jobs, and others have had their start dates as new law firm associates deferred for months, according to a new survey by the National Association for Law Placement concerning employment and salaries for the class of 2009.

There’ s also a big group of employed law graduates who are still looking for work, suggesting that they’re not happy with the jobs they have. More than one-fifth of the members of the class of 2009 who do have jobs are seeking work, and that number—nearly 22 percent—is much higher than the previous year’s 16 percent, explains a NALP press release.

Similarly, fewer working graduates report that they are in law practice (70.8 percent in 2009 versus 74.7 percent in 2008), and many more who are in law practice have done so on their own. Sole practitioners accounted for 2.9 percent of all jobs reported this year, up from 1.9 percent last year.

The biggest change appears to be the number of temporary jobs, which accounted for nearly a quarter of all reported employment for the class of 2009, NALP found. Although this figure includes prestigious judicial clerkships, it also reflects big boosts in the number of temporary public interest jobs (41 percent of all public interest jobs were temporary), business jobs (30 percent were temporary) and even private practice (8 percent).

A total of 88.3 percent of the 2009 law graduates whose situation is known are employed, down 3.6 points from 91.9 percent two years earlier, in 2007. And the total employment figure could fall further in the future, the release notes.

As far as BigLaw employees are concerned, the 2009 figures reflect what happened in the summer and fall of 2007, when most received offers for 2008 summer associate positions. However, the legal economy at that point was more robust than it was in much of 2008 and 2009.

A NALP article by executive director James Leipold provides additional perspective.

Additional coverage: “NALP Numbers Tell Sad Story: Offers & Recruiting Plunge, But Law School Help Boosts Jobs Stat”

Am Law Daily: “NALP Employment Numbers: What to Believe? “

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