Salaries and job rates up for 2019 law grads, reaching highest point since Great Recession

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Law graduates in the class of 2019 saw employment and salary gains that are the highest since the Great Recession, according to figures released Wednesday by the National Association for Law Placement.

The overall employment rate for the class of 2019 reached 90.3% for graduates for whom employment status was known, the highest since an employment rate of 91.9% for the class of 2007, according to a NALP press release and report with selected findings.

The percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage was at 74.3% among graduates with known employment status—the highest level ever recorded.

The national median salary among those who reported pay was $72,500, up 3.6% from the class of 2018 median, and a little more than the previous all-time high of $72,000 for the classes of 2008 and 2009.

The national median law firm salary was $125,000 for the class of 2019, up 4.2% from the previous year. The amount is still a little lower than the median law firm salary of $130,000 measured for the class of 2009.

The gains are shaped by a smaller graduating class size. The class of 2019 had 33,954 graduates, compared to the class of 2013 that produced an all-time high of 46,776 job seekers. At the same time, the number of jobs obtained was flat or down in virtually every sector except law firms of more than 500 lawyers.

In June, the ABA released slightly lower figures on job outcomes for the class of 2019 that were based on the percentage of graduates in jobs, rather than percentage of graduates for whom employment status was known.

The ABA job figures were measured March 16. James Leipold, NALP executive director, noted uncertainty ahead.

“Of course, all bets are off in terms of predicting employment outcomes for the next several classes. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc with the entire labor market, and certainly the legal services sector is not immune,” Leipold wrote. “Now it is all but inevitable that the employment outcomes for the class of 2019 will stand as a high-water mark for some time to come, though of course even some of the jobs they had secured are at risk in the current environment.”

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