2 bright spots in law-grad hiring: more BigLaw jobs, higher rate of JD-required employment

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The job picture improved for law school graduates in the class of 2018, with increases in both the overall rate of employment and the percentage of graduates who secured full-time, long-term jobs requiring bar passage, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

The percentage of graduates who landed the full-time, long-term, JD-required jobs was 70.9%, a higher rate than before the recession, according to a NALP press release and publication. The overall employment rate increased for the third year in a row, reaching 89.4%.

The figures are for 2018 graduates whose employment status is known and are measured as of March 15, 2019.

NALP Executive Director James Leipold said the employment findings for the classes of 2017 and 2018 “clearly mark the beginning of a new post-recession cohort.”

The latest employment numbers “more closely resemble employment outcomes measured in the years before the recession than they do the classes that graduated between 2009 and 2013 in the immediate aftermath of the recession,” Leipold said in an analysis.

One reason for the increased employment rates is the decline in class size. The size of the 2018 graduating class was about 27% smaller than for the class of 2013, which set a record when it produced 46,776 job seekers.

“In very simple terms” Leipold said in his analysis, “the rise in the employment rate can be explained by the fact that the size of the graduating class has fallen faster than the number of jobs secured.”

The actual number of jobs secured by graduates decreased by about 150 jobs compared with the previous graduating class. The number of jobs secured was flat or lower in virtually every sector, except for large law firms of more than 500 lawyers.

Large law firms increased hiring by about 160 jobs. In the last seven years, large firms added more than 1,900 additional jobs. Still, the number of large law firm jobs secured by law graduates was down more than 400 jobs compared to peak number for the class of 2008.

On the downside, law firms with between 251 and 500 lawyers provided only 966 jobs, about half the number of jobs they provided before the recession.

The national median full-time salary for the class of 2018 was $70,000, the same as for the class of 2017. The national average salary was $98,150, up 3% from the prior year.

Salaries of $180,000 and $190,000 combined accounted for 21.6% of the full-time, long-term salaries reported.

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