Every June, the National Association for Law Placement releases its annual job report on employment trends for new graduates. And every year, at least for the past few years, it has been a time for muted optimism about the distant future and commiseration with the plight of others in the present.
How did the Class of 2013 shake out? Despite having a larger than normal fleet of graduates flooding the workforce, the news was basically flat: some good, some bad, but mostly "meh."
Going solo out of school? Spend more time developing practice skills and leave the marketing work for the experts.
More Jobs, More Graduates
NALP's report begins on an optimistic note: there are more jobs and more school-funded positions! Alas, there are also more graduates to fill those jobs, which means the employment rate dropped for the sixth straight year, to 84.5 percent. The 24-year high was 91.9 percent in 2007.
Salaries Are Up, But Weaker Jobs
By any measure, salaries went up for the Class of 2013:
- Overall median increased from $61,245 to $62,467
- Law firm median increased from $90,000 to $95,000
- National mean was $82,408, up from $80,798 a year prior.
That's salaries for full-time jobs lasting at least a year. The trick is finding one of those jobs: while a few law firms increased hiring (raising the overall median), here are some less happy numbers:
- 64.4 percent of grads obtained a job for which bar passage is required (tied for the lowest ever measured with last year's lot)
- 13.8 percent worked in "JD Advantage" (bar passage not required) positions (the highest ever)
- 12.9 percent were unemployed (up a 0.1 percent tick from last year)
NALP Executive Director James Leipold summed up the situation: "In general, the legal sector is best described as mostly flat in the Spring of 2014, with overall sector headcount still off by more than 40,000 jobs from its pre-recession high according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The entry-level job market reflects that mostly flat business environment for the legal sector generally."
We've Already Hit Rock Bottom (Knock on Wood)
If you are a frustrated job seeker, look no further than those who thought, "Hey, it's a recession. Let's wait it out in law school!" While the 2013ers didn't see marked increases in employment rates from the real rock bottom (the Class of 2011), that's just because there were simply too many of them.
The Class of 2013 was the largest in history, and subsequent classes are expected to be significantly smaller, with the Class of 2017 expected to shrink by 30 percent from this year's lot. If the trend of a gradual increase in the number of jobs continues, the outlook isn't too shabby for this year's 1Ls, the wise ones who waited to "buy low" on a law school education.
- This is How a Top Law School Plummets 17 Spots in the Rankings (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- 'White Flight' Hitting Nation's Lesser Law Schools? (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)
- No Gawker, Law Firm Hiring is Not Back to 2007-- It's Still Awful (FindLaw's Greedy Associates Blog)