What kind of jobs are JD advantage?

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The statistic isn’t surprising. The proportion of new law grads in JD advantage jobs goes up as bar passage jobs drop and unemployment rises.

For the class of 2013, the percentage of grads in JD advantage jobs nine months after graduation was 13.8 percent, according to the National Association for Law Placement. The number was the highest since NALP began tracking the figure in 2001.

The figure spurred Matt Leichter of the Law School Tuition Bubble to ask just what kind of jobs are JD advantage. NALP defined the term this way in 2012: “Jobs in this category are those for which the employer sought an individual with a JD, and perhaps even required a JD, or for which the JD provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but are jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license or involve practicing law.”

Leichter’s analysis for the American Lawyer (sub. req.) questioned whether some of the jobs underused the law degree. Leichter thought so, and pointed to these JD advantage jobs: law school research assistant or fellow, legal temp agency, law clerks, paralegals and “other business setting not specifically tracked.” NALP listed the percentages in these JD advantage jobs in its 2012 explanation. Nearly 20 percent of those in the class of 2011 with JD advantage employment were in the “other business setting not specifically tracked” category. When that was combined with Leichter’s other underused law-degree categories, the total was nearly 44 percent.

“While the remaining job categories looked like better fits for law school graduates,” the American Lawyer article says, “they only accounted for another 36.5 percent of JD advantage jobs. The ‘other business settings not specifically tracked’ subcategory is particularly troubling because of its vagueness. It’s pretty hard to use the JD advantage category as evidence of good law school outcomes when nearly one in five jobs can’t even be described with any specificity beyond saying they’re in the business sector.”

Leichter’s article suggests that JD advantage jobs should be restricted to positions that require professional judgment. “With this type of definition,” the story says, “it would be clear that paralegals don’t exercise professional judgment, but a communications director for a congressman—a JD advantage job obtained by a law graduate in one of the NALP’s videos—would.”

Updated Aug. 8 to clarify JD advantage employment percentages.

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